Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

"So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, love, work, family, or life. 
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it."
~Neil Gaiman

Cindy La Ferle


Dear Friends,
Before we all head out for New Year's Eve parties, or sit down to list our resolutions, I want to take a moment to thank you for your support and friendship this year.

I left Facebook and Twitter at the end of 2016. Out of sheer laziness, I've stopped using Instagram, too. Some friends still tell me I'm crazy for cutting back on social media use -- and I won't argue with that.

When I started this blog in May, my intention was to create an online journal where I could experiment with my photography and personal writing. I also needed a creative comfort zone -- a place where I could freely express my thoughts and opinions without the worry of boring (or offending) others in a social media feed. If a few friends wanted to stop here for a look, that was fine too. 

But I didn't expect to have many followers, and I didn't actively try to solicit a readership. So I'm humbled and surprised to find this site now has nearly 1,000 subscribers, thanks to friends who've shared it with friends and made my little circle wider.

Thank you so much for your kind words, good thoughts, and companionship on the journey. I wish you all a beautiful 2018.

~Gratefully,
  Cindy





Saturday, December 30, 2017

Living in the present

"Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." 
~Thomas Carlyle


Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Draining the toxins

"Toxic thoughts create a toxic life. When you heal your thoughts, you heal the health of your happiness. Stop focusing on old problems and negative things you don’t want in your future." 
~Marc & Angel Hack Life


Apothecary bottles from the Henry Ford / Cindy La Ferle


If we're not mindful, toxic thoughts will spoil our mood, taint our relationships, and even make us ill. 

After so many years of reviewing self-help guides and quoting their authors' best advice in my newspaper columns, you'd think I'd be much better at managing my own noxious thoughts. Not so.

I used to think of myself as a positive, good-natured person, even in the midst of a crisis. But this year, more than ever, I've succumbed to near-toxic doses of negative thinking -- mostly involving North Korea, skin cancer, air travel, political turmoil, gun violence, pesticides on vegetables, Trump's tweets, difficult people, and driving in snowstorms. 

Whenever these toxic thoughts swerve out of control, I tend to get anxious, stressed out, gloomy, cynical, resentful, helpless, or discouraged. Working overtime, my imagination keeps flashing a series of worst-case scenarios. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar aptly named this disease "stinking thinking." And it's definitely something I need to work on. 

As the late author Louise Hay wrote, "Every thought we think is creating our future." 

Hay believed in the power of positive self-talk (affirmations) and in our ability to reimagine a better world for ourselves. For starters, she advised, we must believe beyond any doubt that we are worthy of all the love, robust health, good fortune, and inner peace we desire. We can't allow negativity to occupy the sacred space in our minds. To that end, we must spend more time with positive people who support our values and dreams -- and avoid exposure to people and situations that make us feel used, abused, insulted, or hopeless.

It's a tall order, I know, but I plan to banish my stinking thinking in 2018. Starting this week, I'm clearing out the toxins and polishing my windows for the brighter view ahead.  ~Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Snow days

"A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky—unbidden—and seems like a thing of wonder." 
~Susan Orlean
Coco / Cindy La Ferle


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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Comfort zones

"There are times when we should try something different, make new friends, or push past our own limits.  And there are times when our old comfort zone is exactly where we need to be." 
~Cassandra Augure

Snowed in / Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Wishing you a beautiful Christmas

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." 
~Norman Vincent Peale


Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Angels in unlikely places

“In almost every situation, there are ways that we can fly higher, at fuller wingspan.” 
– Marianne Williamson


Cindy La Ferle

The following holiday story was first published under the title "Thrift Shop Angel" in The Christian Science Monitor, and is included in my book, Writing Home. The book is sold at Yellow Door Art Market and Paper Trail Books.

These days, you can't predict the shoppers you'll encounter at our local thrift shop. And you probably don't expect to hear the flutter of angel wings amid the racks of used clothing.

Over the years I've frequented resale shops in search of upscale secondhand treasures -- the Chanel business suit in mint condition; the Ralph Lauren blazer worn only once. I visit these places because I love a good bargain and I'm intrigued by beautiful vintage clothing. In my holier-than-thou fashion moments, I also like to remind people that I'm not a thoughtless slave to trends, but a link in the recycling chain. And I love the thrill of the hunt.  

More often than not, I rub elbows with serious shoppers who aren’t stalking vintage finds or designer labels from Paris. They are the careful spenders who can’t afford to pay top dollar for the latest trends. Some are looking for warm, practical clothing that won’t break the grocery budget, especially during Michigan’s frigid winters. 

The week after Thanksgiving last year, I visited one of my favorite thrift stores with the hope of finding a perfect pair of broken-in jeans. Perusing a rack of faded khaki and denim, I overheard another customer at the sales register. 

“Is this sweater on sale this week?” the shopper asked hopefully, holding up a gently used cashmere sweater in pastel pink. “I’d like to buy this for my daughter for Christmas, but twenty dollars is more than I can spend.” 

The saleswoman behind the counter examined the price tag and shook her head. No, the sweater wasn’t on sale that week -- only the blue tags were half off -- and it wouldn’t be marked down until next month.

Within seconds another shopper spoke up: “Please, let me buy that sweater for you,” she said. “I woke up feeling blessed today, and I want to pass it on.” 

The entire shop fell silent, as if every customer in it had been momentarily stunned. It was, after all, a very brave and uncommon thing to do – asking a stranger if she’d let you buy her a cashmere sweater. 

During the season of giving, most of us gladly donate what we can to various charities or mission projects overseas. It’s easy to scribble a check to a faceless organization whose needy we will never meet. Likewise, staying at an anonymous distance, we clean out our closets and bundle up our old clothes, then drop them in boxes outside the church social hall. 

Somewhat reluctantly, the woman who wanted the pink sweater agreed to let the stranger purchase it for her. But her gratitude was sincere and palpable, and the whole store seemed to breathe again. A heartwarming conversation about real-life goodness followed, and before long, all of us remaining in the shop were fighting tears. I dried my eyes on a pair of vintage Calvins I’d just discovered. 

Composing myself, I walked up to the counter, hoping for closer look at the generous soul who’d just bought a cashmere sweater for someone she’d never met. I wanted to thank her for rekindling the holiday spirit I thought I’d lost in the seasonal frenzy of shopping, housecleaning, and baking. 

But like most angels, she slipped out the door as quietly as she’d arrived – most likely on her way to oversee another miracle. ~Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Friday, December 22, 2017

Make it your own

"There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections and traditions." 

~Bill McKibben, Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas


Cindy La Ferle

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The spirit of generosity

"When you take the time to acknowledge the abundance in your life and share the wealth, you attract even more blessings and reasons to feel grateful. In this way, receiving and giving creates a circle of energy that serves us all."
 ~Cheryl Richardson


Holiday decorations 2017 / Cindy La Ferle

Throughout the year, my inner grinch has been grumbling privately about how self-absorbed and self-centered some folks can be. But now that the Christmas season is here, my faith in humanity has been rekindled by the sight of so many unselfish people going out of their way to give something of themselves. 

You needn't look too far to find these angels. Here are just a few examples ...

*The caring shoppers who pause long enough to stuff one more bill in the Salvation Army kettle at the grocery store, or pop another check in the mail to support a favorite charity. 

*The tireless volunteers who sign up to work extra hours in the local soup kitchens, or deliver toys and groceries to families in need.  

*The benevolent strangers who practice "festive acts of kindness" -- such as paying a lunch tab, anonymously, for another table of diners in a restaurant. (If you're on the receiving end of a lovely gesture like this, please pay it forward.)

*The gracious hosts who open their homes and offer yuletide hospitality to family, friends, and neighbors. I've always believed that entertaining guests in one's home is a memorable act of generosity.

*The thoughtful friends who share batches of Christmas cookies, treat you to a holiday meal, or leave you a homemade gift wrapped in a heartfelt message that says, "I am grateful for you, every day of the year." 

All said and done, there's a simple reason why A Christmas Carol has such enduring appeal. We are deeply moved by the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, the bitter old miser who finally opens his heart to the true spirit of Christmas, which is generosity. ~Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Holiday humor

“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.” 
~Dave Barry

"Oy to the World" / Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Learning from the past

“To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.” 
~Elie Wiesel

December morning on the St. Joseph River / Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Managing seasonal stress

“Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering
 we can make to our spirit.” 
~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart


Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas memories

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time."

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

A few pieces from my mother's Santa collection / Cindy La Ferle

I've written a few newspaper columns and magazine essays about the bittersweet task of sorting through your parents' belongings while preparing for an estate sale. The whole process takes you on a winding trail of memories, starting from your early childhood and leading you right up to the moment you find yourself putting price tags on your family heirlooms. 

After my mother died, I couldn't part with her collection of folk art Santas, shown above. A few of the pieces, including the signed chalkware, have collectible value. For the most part, though, I've kept the collection because Mom enjoyed displaying it every year at Christmas.

Religious origins aside, the Christmas season revolves around nostalgic traditions, rituals, and memories. Especially memories. I find comfort and happiness, for instance, in recalling favorite Christmas moments of my son's childhood -- watching him slide down the steps to witness the wonder of a new train set that Santa left under the tree -- as well as the Christmas mornings of my own childhood. 

But it's hard not to feel a void when we pause in the middle of holiday busyness and remember that the parents and grandparents who made our Christmas magic are no longer with us. 

"We honor our loved ones by talking about them," suggests Allison Gilbert, author of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. "We also pay tribute by celebrating the loving relationships that remain." If you're struggling with a loss this season, I highly recommend Gilbert's book. It's packed with tips on how to preserve and honor family treasures and memories.

Now on display in our dining room, Mom's Santa collection inspires heartfelt conversations -- and reminds me of her generous spirit every time I look at it. 

One last note regarding today's quote: I have my mother to thank for introducing me to Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books when I was a child. I still recall unwrapping a new hardcover edition from the series one Christmas morning more than 50 years ago. ~Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."


Friday, December 15, 2017

Why stories get old

"The stories we tell ourselves narrow our perspective. When we enter an experience with a story about how life is 
or how it should be, that tends to be all we see." 
~Angel Chernoff


Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Blazing our own trail

"One who walks in another's tracks
leaves no footprints." 
~ Celtic proverb 

Coco was here / Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Snow days

“Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people's legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.” 
~Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen


Doug & Coco in Vinsetta Park / Cindy La Ferle
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A wicked sense of humor

"I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy." 
~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest


Carved statue of a saint in the Medieval Wing at the Detroit Institute of Arts / Cindy La Ferle


I'm a longtime fan of Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright and poet. My favorite of Wilde's plays, The Importance of Being Earnest, was first performed in London in 1895. The reason for its enduring popularity? Wilde's social satire is still funny -- and still spot-on relevant -- more than a century later. Today's quote is a perfect example. ~CL
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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Monday, December 11, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Looking for common ground

“We’ll never solve the problems we don’t talk about.”
 ~Justin Young

An odd couple / Cindy La Ferle

While clearing out the last of the summer planters and perennial beds, Doug found the tiny gnome (above) buried in a tangle of expired morning glories. Setting the little guy next to a garden angel on the window sill, he didn't realize that he'd gifted me with a photo opportunity -- and inspired a philosophical reverie.

As soon as I noticed the unlikely pair perched together, I thought about the courage it takes to find common ground with people who are different or don't share our point of view. And then I thought about how our nation has become so tribal and polarized on matters of politics and policy. I've been struggling, unsuccessfully, to come to terms with this awkward divide in my own social life.

With the exception of my most intimate friends, everyone seems to be avoiding the difficult conversations. 

The safest thing to do, of course, is to stick with non-controversial topics. My late father believed that discussing one's religion and politics in public was impolite. (Does impolite behavior even bother anyone now?) My father's post-Edwardian mindset still makes perfect sense if you're trying to maintain your professional boundaries with colleagues or coworkers, or if you prefer keeping casual friends or relatives at a well-guarded distance. 

But as any psychologist will tell you, the key to building close and enduring friendships is honest self-disclosure. If we conceal our problems, withhold our strong opinions, and never discuss our core values with each other, our relationships will likely remain superficial or transient. 

I'm equally guilty of practicing avoidance techniques. Over the past year, I've had in-depth political discussions only with my trusted tribe -- the friends with whom I feel safe and comfortable. Whenever I'm the least bit unsure of someone, I tend to soft-pedal my viewpoint or hide my beliefs out of fear of being judged or shamed.  

I know this is a painful topic. And I'm not promoting hostile or confrontational discussion. We get enough of that on our cable news stations.

But I am talking about opening our hearts and minds to each other on a much deeper level. As sociologist Brene Brown writes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead: "Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." 

I enjoy few things more than engaging with fair-minded people who are willing to discuss the important stuff, the big issues. I want to know what my friends and family are thinking about current events. I want to understand the moral compass that guides them, how they study the issues, what they're reading and watching, how they make hard choices, and what truly matters to them politically as well as personally. Today, more than ever, the political is personal. I'm willing to listen -- and learn -- even when I'm not comfortable with what I'm hearing. 

Our country is in deep crisis. If we can't begin to talk about it, well, I guess I'll have to leave it at that. ~Cindy La Ferle


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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Entertaining guests

"Entertaining isn't a sport or a competition....You can twist it and turn it into anything you want—a way to show off your house, a way to compete with your friends, a way to earn love and approval. Or you can decide that every time you open your door, it's an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, 
your goal is nourishment.” 


Cindy La Ferle
To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Being open to new ideas

"We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. 
Yet our opinions have no permanence. 
Like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away." 
~Zhuangzi


Cindy La Ferle


To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dining out

"Make treating yourself a priority and always remember your life is happening now. Don't put off all your dreams and pleasures to another day. In any balanced definition of success, there has to be a powerful element of 
living life in the present." 
~Mireille Giuliano


Dinner at Due Venti in Clawson / Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Watching what we say

"What we say matters. The unkind or careless things we communicate can soil the best of relationships, even if we have the deepest of regrets. Wounding words are like feathers released in a harsh wind: Once said; we will never get them back." ~Jason Versey 

At the historic Royal Oak Township Cemetery / Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Monday, December 4, 2017

Perspective

"Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world." 
~Dr. Wayne Dyer


Sunrise on Vinsetta Blvd. / Cindy La Ferle

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To view additional content on this blog, please visit the home page of "Things that make me happy."

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Old memories and new traditions

"Family traditions help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world." 
~Susan Lieberman


Thanksgiving at Nate & Andrea's, 2017 / Cindy La Ferle


My late parents loved holiday traditions, and I think of them often this time of year.

Right after Thanksgiving, my mother would adorn every tabletop and wall in the house with beautifully crafted decorations that rivaled those at Colonial Williamsburg. My father's favorite carol was "Joy to the World," and he would belt it out, off-key, every time it was played on the radio in the car or on the stereo at home. 

My folks also loved to entertain our extended family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I recall helping Mom set the dining room table for both holidays, typically using her favorite set of Blue Danube china and a natural centerpiece of fresh fruit and evergreens. 

After Mom died three years ago, my son, Nate, and his wife, Andrea, agreed to keep that set of china rather than relegate it to the estate sale. I wasn't sure, at the time, if the kids were humoring me or if they were too kind to refuse the sentimental gift. (Most millennials, I'm told, are not eager to inherit their parents' heirlooms.)  

So you can imagine how touched I was to see Mom's china on the kids' table this Thanksgiving -- the first Thanksgiving they've hosted in their new home. Andrea combined my mom's china with a few of her own dishes and a gorgeous set of gold flatware that had been given to her by her maternal grandmother. 

It was a beautiful table of old and new traditions, overflowing with delicious food and surrounded by great company. My folks would have been so very proud. ~ Cindy La Ferle