Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Simple Pleasures

Dear friends,

I like to think of myself as a mindful person. 

But sometimes I need to be REminded to pay attention to the little things, the simple pleasures in life.

One reminder came in the form of a video clip by retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, as he recommended tossing our lifetime bucket lists, and instead filling our buckets with small daily joys. You can watch here. (I still have my "big" bucket list, too.)

Yesterday as I was just starting to emerge from several days of being sick in bed, I stopped to think of the many things that had given me pleasure recently. I thought of more this morning. I'm filling my bucket with happy moments and memories:

  • My 12 year old son took such tender care of me: fixing food for me, tucking me in, bringing me medicine, checking on how I was doing, and urging me to get more rest - even when he wasn't feeling well himself. I often remind him, as I drop him off at the bus stop, to have an amazing day filled with compassion and joy, and he sure showed that to me in his actions at home.

  • My 10 year old daughter, who was also sick, brought me food and a get well card, and gave me plenty of "big squeezy hugs." After missing a couple of days last week, we started up home schooling again yesterday and managed to chunk away several good library books and work on multiplication drills. And I think we laughed most of the time. She has such an imagination and sense of humor! We had a delightful time looking at silly videos she made a few years ago.

  • I was driving around with two of my teenagers yesterday and loved hearing them sing "Yellow Brick Road" in the van. It's so catchy! I looked up the lyrics and I'm amused to see they are about enjoying the simple life instead of chasing fame and high society. A few lines?

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough 
Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny black toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road.

  • My daily "plough" of duty is the kitchen. I am relieved to see an orderly pile of rinsed dishes in the sink after I run yet another dishwasher load. (This is not a job I want to share. I like loading.) It's a fresh feeling of wellness to be up to doing at least some of my nightly kitchen clean up again. I also tidied up my van while waiting at the high school for my son teen to finish an ROTC color guard event.

  • Eating fresh blackberries, what was left after my kids got a hold of them, capped off my evening as I tidied up the kitchen. I had to miss my weekly Bible study last night (didn't want to share germs by coughing on everyone!) but since I'd signed up to bring some of the snacks, I stopped by at the grocery store to pick up some fresh fruit to drop off. I bought an extra tub of the berries for home since my kids love them. I'm glad to make them happy with wholesome nourishment.
  • Though I missed the Bible study last night, I can still enjoy this week's lesson from our featured book, Becoming: Identity, compiled by Shannon Basso. Not only is this inspirational journal profound, it is also visually gorgeous. Somebody appreciates simple beauties. I also love how my friends in the group are so supportive and affirming. I commented to them last week how God has met some of my needs through them in ways I hadn't expected.

  • My young adult son, who started college two weeks ago, keeps my brain active by discussing current events and life philosophy with me. He's a deep thinker and really stretches me. 
  • I caught up on my financial record keeping last night. I've been using Mint which is nice because it downloads bank transactions and two people can access it from their own computers. But it is hard to compare budget vs. actual on it, and the iPhone app often has a several day delay on transactions. Earlier this month I downloaded the GoodBudget app which I love. Though it doesn't import from the bank, it's still really easy to enter the information and it gives me a quick visual on how much I have left to spend in the several categories of expenses that I personally pay. I love little things that make my life more efficient AND more effective. And I love sharing useful information with you. Read more here: GoodBudget. (I use the free version, but there are more goodies and mult-device synching with a paid subscription.) These are several of my favorite phone apps.

  • My clothes felt so soft as I finally folded them - a big pile that had been shoved into a basket. My blankets, with which I have held close communion since last Thursday, have also been so comfortable. The sense of touch is a gift, too. My daughter must have snapped this picture of me, as I found it on my phone this morning.

  • I step outside and see that Thad planted my seven pansy plants for me! They had been sitting outside in pots getting blown over. (Yes, this is Florida. No blizzard here, thank God, but a good soaking rain storm or two!) He also took the kids to youth group and brought groceries twice when I couldn't get out to shop.

  • As I walk through the front hallway, I see the flower poster I put up this month after I took down the Christmas decorations. It was a serendipity: I found it tucked behind the tall antique cabinet in my hallway. (I don't know where we got it, but you can find it here.) I remembered the remains of an large IKEA poster frame that was in my closet. The outer frame had been broken and discarded, but I still had the hard plastic cover and the cardboard backing with mounting hardware on it. Hmm. Three bright pink and orange clips attached the three layers, and up it went. Simple solutions are good enough for me. Cheers! 

There's more I could write about - but that's just a small taste of my simple pleasures.

What about you?

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Winter in Bloom at Leu Gardens

A quick trip to Leu Gardens with my second daughter, her two children, and my seventh daughter. I'll let the pictures speak.

The overlook at Lake Rowena is finally open again!


~ trunk of thatch screw-pine ~

~ the rose garden ~

"Mother and Daughter" by Peter Otfinoski

Mother and daughter - real life!

More botanical garden photos!  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bring Me (Advent Poem 2015)

Bring Me
Advent Poem 2015
by Virginia Knowles

Bring me to wholeness, healing wholeness
That I may become a balm of mercy
In this shattered, splintered world.

Bring me to peace, perfect peace
That I may make harmony
Where there is chaos and conflict.

Bring me to hope, holy hope
That I may shine your gracious light
In the midst of darkness and despair.

Bring me to joy, genuine joy,
That I may sing a merry melody
To lift and fill a weary heart.

Bring me to love, lasting love
That I may practice compassion
Wherever there is a hungry body or wounded soul.

Bring me to Jesus, just Jesus
And I will find in Him
Wholeness, peace, hope, joy, and love.


This year - a challenging one among many - I know how much I need to receive wholeness, peace, hope, joy, and love. And that what I receive for my spiritual sustenance must be a constant fresh flow. It is easy to disconnect and run dry. I am no Super Saint here to save the world. I am one who is coming to Jesus and then turning around to share what he offers. I can only give what I have received. 

This Christmas, all year: Jesus.

Virginia Knowles

P.S. #1: I try to keep this practical and not just theoretical. Tonight I am going to a monthly outreach organized by my daughter Julia at a motel where families live in transition. Many of our friends who live in the nearby woods will also attend. We are caroling, serving cookies and hot chocolate, and giving out Christmas gifts and clothing. I am bringing new fleece blankets, new socks, and some gift cards to the local dollar store. What can you do to help homeless neighbors near you? Here are some ideas: 13 Ways to Help People Who Are Homeless

P.S. #2: Every year I write at least one Advent poem. Here are the others:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 in Pictures

Our family
Thanksgiving 2015
Ten children and two sons-in-law
Five grandchildren plus one on the way
(photo by my friend Jessica)

I bought an extra card table,
the very last one available at Walmart!
My autumn table cloth shrank last month,
so I bought another shorter plaid one
and layered it over a white linen cloth.
I doubled the first one over and used it for
one of the card tables.

Our side dishes, most of which
my adult daughters prepared.
I did two kinds of stuffing,
one without meat products for a
vegetarian daughter.
We also don't serve pork,
since one daughter's family eats kosher.

Challah bread surrounded by brown rolls.

Roasted vegetables served in an
antique china bowl from my grandmother.

My fifth daughter, who is a ceramics major,
crafted this bowl.

My oldest daughter's family.

Baby #4 is a girl!

My second daughter's family

He found the butter!
Too bad he's on a dairy free diet!

My third daughter

My fourth daughter

My fifth daughter

My first son and first son-in-law

My second son

My sixth daughter

My third son,
with Nerf gun

My seventh daughter

We invited my sweet friend Jessica and her five kids for dessert.
I am so glad they came.

Counting for hide and seek

I remembered to give my daughter
a Hanukkah box before she left.

That was our Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoyed our photos!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

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