Amazing Grace–a happy human condition.

I have this habit of seasonally taking stock in things.

In the fall, I tally how much wood I have for the fireplace.

In the winter, I measure the amount of scotch in storage.

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In the spring, I size up what made it through the harsh winter and then I toss whatever didn’t.

In the summer, I keep my fingers crossed that I was one of those things that survived the spring cleaning.

My birthday is this week, and each year when it arrives, the first thing I do before sticking a toe out from beneath the covers is to make a balanced body account:

Anatomy-wise, what is still chugging along cooperatively? What is barely keeping up? What buckled under the pressure and was left on the side of the road and is currently being pecked into bite sized morsels for turkey vulture vittles? If I find that the scale hints even slightly in the positive direction, I will roll over and begin my morning ablutions. If I have a deficit, I will try again in an hour.

I have been lucky thus far. Rare has a birthday come and gone with me spending most of it hitting the snooze button. I have been criticized much of my life for being uncommonly, uncomfortably and annoyingly happy. But this quibble regarding my nature is inaccurate. It’s not that I’m continually popping perky pills, it’s much more simple than that.

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I’m grateful.

And gratitude can be a heady drug.

I cannot walk by a blooming bush or a cluster of planted posies without detouring in order to inhale a lungful of their inebriating fragrance. Occasionally, I find I am nose to nose with another individual who is not particularly thrilled with me overseeing his work, and can make a painful point about territorial rights.

I can easily be swept away by the colors that explode around me: greens that are so intense they are nearly pungent, hues of blue that suggest a depth of travel for which there is no end, blushing bursts of color that flare across fields and hillsides beckoning the eye and tossing in an extra heartbeat to my normally steady rhythm. I am a sucker for a rich palette, whether displayed on canvas, or within a shock of teenage hair; it is eye candy and I am drawn to it hungrily.

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My appetite for conversations with the small brood I care for is insatiable. I want to know what they’re thinking, how they’re thinking and if they’re thinking. Their learning process has been so different than mine, so foreign to my intuition and intellect, that I find myself wanting to study them like an entirely new species. And they are. Their alien intelligence is something I may have paid for, but am denied access to. Still, I am granted the license to observe and appraise, to curiously examine, and to marvel at the mechanisms of learning. I also marvel at the fact that most nights I am not face down in my soup, having exhausted all reserves of energy in attempting to follow their rapid fire, warp-speed conversations about topics I couldn’t even classify. Copious amounts of their words are not in my lexicon.

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They are a foreign species, but I’ve found I have a taste for the exotic. Another tick on the gratitude graph.

My appreciation scale widens further with the component of a truly savory experience. The phrase Food and Wine is one of the greatest string of words mankind has thrown together. With every adventure into a grocery store, a restaurant, or even my own refrigerator, I am continually caught by delighted surprise with what is available and creatable. I am also caught by surprise—not the delighted kind—with what is available and creatable.

Yum and yuck.

Ultimately, whether I am drawn to something new, something bold, something blue, or something old, the notion of feeding my body, feeds my soul. And many times I have found myself tempted after a particularly delectable adventure to turn to someone next to me and ask, “Does this make my soul look fat?”

Fingers crossed it does.

Lastly, true sensation–the ability to feel both physically and emotionally–is not without risk. At one end of the spectrum floats blissful nirvana. The other is the lead weight of despair. Somewhere betwixt is balance, but the gamut is wide with a breadth and depth that needs to be explored to claim the title of ‘a life well-lived.’

And this is what I seek: the taste and touch, the sights and sounds, the extraordinary, the humbling, the awakening, the challenging, and that which steals your breath away, but hopefully returns it.

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If I stop to think about it, I’ve been spinning in a reeling pirouette from the moment I was a cluster of human cells. Rightly so, I should be dizzy enough to ask for pause to untangle myself from the one way spiraling road trip, but thankfully, I am determined to remain in my seat.

Each day I continue to purchase a ticket, find an open stool, and buckle up my safety belt.

Destination: Life



June Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for June!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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81 thoughts on “Amazing Grace–a happy human condition.

  1. Taking inventory of yourself is always a good idea. As you get older it takes a little longer to list the parts that need adjustment. I really enjoyed your take on your kids. It has been a while for me but I can remember both the wonder and frustration of raising children. You also were spot on regarding the thrill of living. Everyday is one of discovery and newness. Life was never meant to be a spectator sport. I hope you have a Happy Birthday; and your Scotch is always plentiful.

    • Thank you, as always, Benson, for your kind words–and the important reminder to live life in the game and not on the sidelines. I’m determined not to hear a whooshing sound whiz by my ears and realize that was the train of life I missed stepping aboard.
      (And from your lips to God’s ears on the last phrase!) Cheers 😉

  2. Well, first off, happy birthday for your birthday! It’s a happy life! My personal favourite for the winter, is rum. Vodka for the summer. Beer…. Goes to the waistline. Young broods? They have a whole different lexicon( and more) that they live by

    • Thank you, thank you, Raj. And it sounds like you’ve got your seasonal stock well underhand. One can rest easier after that task has been accomplished. And those ankle-biters of ours? I’m choosing to see them as necessary, daily, cognitive calisthenics.

  3. Your gratitude and upbeat vibe is positively (sorry for the pun) contagious! Reading your posts always prompts rosier views of my own amazing world. It’s a key element in teenager survival as a parent! And, Happy Birthday my friend!!

    • Many thanks, Kami. And if ever I’m feeling I need a good solid dose of encouragement and must see a wonderful example of family life I’d like to emulate, I pop on over to read your blog. It’s truly inspiring. Cheers to you and your amazing world.

    • Diolch I chi, David! Did I get that right? And right backatcha as far as the happiness factor for meeting someone such as yourself. You’re a fella who seems to have figured out that everyday is worthy of remembering, and worthy of sharing with others. ❤

  4. Delightful post Shelley! Your waves are most definitely the same length as mine own! Have a great birthday – I shall raise a glass and toast you with a virtual dram of Ardbeg! Jane

    • Ooh, Ardbeg! Throw in a haggis sandwich and I’m yours!
      Thanks, Jane. It somehow makes my smile a little bit broader whenever I imagine your own little paradise. All I need do for a quick break around here is visit your blog for the perfect visual holiday. It costs nothing, but the rewards are unending. One of these days, it will not be virtual!

  5. Many Happy Returns to you, and thank you for being such a bright ray of sunshine. You are proof positive, if any were needed, that being an introvert absolutely does not mean being sad, depressive or lacking in joie de vivre!

    Your blogs brighten my day, so please do carry on. 🙂

    • Laura, your words have stirred me in the place that every writer wishes to be touched. It means a great deal to me to find folks whose mindsets and ideas resonate with me, and who also find the jumble of letters I toss on to a page meaningful too. I so appreciate your sentiments. 😀

  6. Beautiful, your post resonates with me, Shelley. I constantly pause to be grateful, to smell a flower or gaze at the sky. Happiness…contentment – it’s all about perspective. 🙂

    (Happy bday!!)

  7. Happy birthday Shelly!! I love how you experience life–so refreshing to read of a fellow everyday life lover!! Ha, I love your description of extra terrestrial children too!

    • Thank you, Sasha–and you too shall be gobsmacked once your adorable E.T. tots have nestled into school life with others from their planet. Start a dictionary now, as it’ll come in handy shortly.
      And of course, simply reading your posts, it’s wholly clear that we are birds of a feather. One of the many reasons I truly enjoy your take on motherhood. 🙂

  8. I hope you have a wonderful, bliss-filled birthday, Shelley! You deserve nothing less. During one of my many tumbles into the depths of despair, a wise woman told me, “Have an attitude of gratitude.” I’ve never forgotten that, and I strive to follow that advice. I do, however, think some of us are more wired than others to experience the vibrant colors and smells and tactile sensations in all their glory. Your love of life is infectious, and just reading your post makes me gaze out the window and really NOTICE how green the leaves of the gum tree are, and how flawlessly blue the sky is. So thank you for this gift of a post, Shelley.

    • You make a very valid point, Miranda, and one I’ve spent a good deal of time researching: why some folk are born with the lottery winnings of a happy gene and others with smaller variations of it–or sadly, none at all. The distribution is fickle and inequitable. And I certainly don’t think that simply “thinking” one’s sadness away is the answer. I do, however, appreciate the enormous energy many put into the process of practicing gratitude. Effortful attempts to invite it in. It often acts as the balm of a small vitamin. And I think it can make a little bit of difference. And sometimes, just a little bit can seem abundant.

      I LOVE the new photo, Miranda. It speaks volumes to the beautiful nature of someone whose friendship I am growing quite fond of.
      Cheers to you. 😀

      • You’re exactly right, Shelley. It’s easy to believe that some folks are just naturally happy, but we all have our own struggles and fears, our crosses to bear. And we’re constantly bombarded with news of tragedy and downright evil in this world, which makes staying positive even more of a challenge. I love your description of “effortful attempts to invite” happiness and contentment in. And thanks very much! I figured after a year, it was time for a change. I hope you know how fond I am of your friendship as well–you really are an inspiration, Shelley.

  9. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

    ― Mark Twain

    It’s thundering now, the skies are turning dark and yet another day of rain is on its way to soak our trees… I love it. Nothing like a storm, a cup of tea and a fascinating blog to read on a foggy Sunday morning.

    Much love, respect and a very happy birthday Smelley. I miss your company. 🙂

    Best regards,

    Stoshu Katrinka Vanishlosh Quashibrougha Obsterfinni Fultivacavich

    • Wait … was that your name too?

      And I love that quote. I’ve actually never come across it, but it will be put into my “favorites” file. Thanks for sharing it, buddy.

      I’m glad you’re finding solace in the comfort of a summer storm. We’re obviously cut from the same cloth.
      Thinking of you,

  10. Rob,

    I forGott to mention your piano “happy birthday” drawing reminds me of Van Gogh’s Tree Trunks in the Grass from 1890. Love it, you have such talent.

    Keep drawing,


    • Hat’s off to you, my friend, for mentioning me in the same sentence as Vincent. He was an early influence and i still love that movie with Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh and Anthony Quinn as Gaugin. Magic 🙂

  11. I love your cheerful banter and good spirits. Its so contagious!
    Happy Birthday when it comes … take stock of how well you celebrate it 😉
    “Does this make my soul look fat”? LOVE that!!

  12. Happy Birthday week, hope you enjoy it as much as i enjoy reading your posts,always fun and a fantastic look at life. Keep on taking stock for many more years to come :))

  13. Happy Birthday, Shelley! I hope you have a great week. 🙂 I loved wandering through your “one-way spiraling road trip.” And I agree, bring on the colours! Why is it that designers keep telling everyone to paint their walls beige or grey? Yuck!

    • I totally agree, Sue! Beige is not a color–it’s a compromise. And grey is reserved only for brooding skies. I’d much prefer to take a chance with splash and have a painter ask, “Are you sure about this, lady?” YES I AM!
      Here’s to brilliance splashed across our “living” rooms!

      • Colour is so wonderful, I’m not sure why some people are afraid of it – at least as far as painting their houses goes. It’s only paint, if it really doesn’t work it’s not as expensive a mistake as some you can make when renovating a house.

        When we first moved in our eldest chose the room at the top of the house to be his, but it needed re-insulating as it was in the roof space and technology had moved on since it was last done. When it was all finished he had his choice of colour for the walls, and Arsenal red was his decision. They’re still that shade now, 14 years later.

        • Arsenal? Oh, dear, our boys would be rivals. One cannot say the word Arsenal in our home without the hound throwing up a howl of unhappiness. The colors of blue and white are splashed across my 15 yr old’s walls. Funny how those fellas are.
          Regardless, I think red is fabulous color to wake up the soul with. Good for him!

          • Oh dear, sorry about harbouring a nest of Arsenal supporters. 😉

            Still, if that’s all they would disagree on that would be progress in terms of human conflict resolution.

            • I’m so right with you, Laura. Maybe we should simply send all our world leaders out onto the field with a ball and a net–let them all get rid of a little excess physical aggression and then have them grab a burger and beer after the match and sort out things out with a clearer head. Could be a lot less expensive than State dinners and chances are they’d all be a lot more comfortable in sweat pants and hoodies. I’m going to guess that a lot of past conflicts were resolved hurriedly and unsatisfactorily if only to get out of neckties that were ratcheted too tightly and sequins that were digging into tender flesh.

              • I’m now picturing all world leaders playing at once in something that resembles the early origins of football, before there were rules.

                Thanks, you’ve put a big grin on my face. 🙂

                • I’m sure you’ve seen it, but just in case you haven’t and are hungering for a slightly larger grin, YouTube the Philosophers’ Football match from Monty Python. That still cracks me up to this day and I’ve seen it dozens of times. 😛

  14. Happy, happy birthday, Shelley! (And thank you for the wonderfully sweet wedding gift!) Especially now, I appreciate your words of gratitude and reflection, and the reminder to take stock periodically.

    • Hey wait a second, lady … aren’t you supposed to be on something called a honeymoon? Swigging champagne and splashing about in a hot tub someplace? I thought the general rule was NO EMAILS ALOUD.
      Still, congratulations to you, Abby (and Josh!). Many, many happy days ahead!

    • Why thank you, my cheerful friend whose fabulous recipes have helped to fatten my soul (not to mention a thousand other places as well). I appreciate all you’ve done to help make it so. 😛

  15. Oh my – there were so many parts of this essay that I just loved … beginning with the end – Destination:Life! How appropriate 🙂

    If there is only one thing I’m going to walk away with it’s “Does this make my soul look fat?” and hope the answer is YES!!

  16. Happy birthday Shelley. The happy person enjoying every moment of life-reflects in your writing. This is an excellent spirit to live an enjoyable life. Looking at things around us, taking account of them and trying our best to understand them is the best way to make the most of life. Enjoy your special day with your loved ones and keep flowing smoothly in whichever direction life takes you and it will be good for a person like yourself. You will make the most of it since you have the spirit. Take care and God bless. P.S I enjoyed the post very much. Thanks.

  17. Love this post. I get criticized for the happy bit, too. Though I have those yawning canyons of depression sometimes… those awful things just sneak up and take hold while my brain recalibrates for the stars. Thankfully my partner knows when the warning signs are upon us, and suggests the necessary relaxers, so I don’t fall too deeply.

    The other thing I get scolded for is saying “sorry” too much. 😛

    • Oh, Alex, count yourself a lucky duck to have someone who has your back. Those are people you need to duct tape yourself to for the long haul.

      And women are trained from early on to do all that apologizing. It’s an awful habit so many of us have. I say we start a campaign for girls where the first thing we do is hand out t-shirts that say, “I’m not sorry, dammit. Now stand back.”

  18. Dear Shelley,
    This is a wonderfully upbeat post. Your writings never fail to amaze and bring smiles. You have a gift and thank you for being so generous with it.

    If I could sing, I would burst into song. Alas I cannot. But I can offer this one up by Mitzy.
    Hope you like it. Always one of my favorites and yes, I have been accused too many times of being a cockeyed optimist.

    And happy Birthday!

  19. Wow Shelley, What a wacky, wise and witty review and perspective on life. I am learning to be more grateful and love your playful way to share. Thanks for the fun romp and visiting my blog. blessings, Brad

  20. When someone (you) so eloquently describes my view of life I cannot help but follow. And thank you for liking “About” on Thanks again and Aloha – pjs.

    • Paul, what a lovely thing to say! Thank you. And if I may return the compliment, I’d have to say I have great admiration for someone who has as many talents as you. There’s a great deal to explore on your blog, and I for one plan to make good use of it.

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