reaffirming the gratitude jar

I have mentioned for years now that I have a gratitude jar. I had read about it a few years ago and it was just a simple thing to make us as human beings focus on the positives and the good things in our lives.

Sometimes when a bunch of negative things happen all in a row, it’s hard to stay positive. I find it hard to stay positive because I do not think by my very nature I am naturally positive. I have to work at it.

I think positive for me has been learned behavior, and it’s something I have to relearn and reaffirm again and again. Hopefully, someday it will be second nature to me.

A quote I found on another blogger’s post about gratitude jars is something I would like to share:

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~Lao Tzu

I think that’s a pretty powerful statement. In the instant gratification social media-centric world in which we live, this quote which is pretty damn old is still current, isn’t it?

Lao Tzu was known as the father of Taoism. Mind you, many modern writers feel this is NOT a real person at all, but a legendary figure whose writings were actually created by many different people. And yes I got off on a tangent, so back to the gratitude jar.

Having a gratitude jar is a simple reminder that life is not all bad or all difficult. Having a gratitude jar helps you focus on the things that are wonderful in your life. Even every day little things are wonderful.

Having a gratitude jar helps us reaffirm the many positives in our life. Life can be hard. I am not trying to be Pollyanna and say everything is always wonderful with fuzzy caterpillars that turn into magical butterflies. I am more of a realist than that.

I just think we live in a completely crazy world at times and a simple thing like a gratitude jar is a great way to keep us honest and keep us thankful and keep us grateful.

Here is an old post from girls on the run on how to make a gratitude jar with your children (click on the hyperlink).

Some people empty their gratitude jars on an annual basis and re-read everything at the end of the old year or beginning of the new year. I don’t do that. I intermittently check out what I have written in the past and add a new note to the jar. I don’t add notes every day. Sometimes I go quite a while without adding anything. This morning I added two notes.

I will close with something I learned as a small child while attending Saint Peter’s School in Philadelphia. We used to learn songs seasonally for lack of a better description, and in the fall around harvest time or what would’ve been harvest time since we were at school in the middle of Society Hill, we used to sing a song called Simple Gifts. It was a Shaker song / hymn written by a Shaker Elder named Joseph Brackett in the 1840s.

Even Yo Yo Ma has recorded a version of it. It’s a classic in my opinion and it’s very beautiful. And I am not a particularly religious person although I have my faith.

The song was largely unknown outside of Shaker communities until the composer Aaron Copland used its melody for the score of Martha Graham’s ballet Appalachian Spring (Shakers once worshipped on Holy Mount, in the Appalachians), first performed in 1944.

Mr. Copland also reportedly used “Simple Gifts” a second time in his first set of “Old American Songs for voice and piano”, which was later orchestrated

Here are the lyrics and thanks for stopping by:

Simple Gifts Lyrics

Joseph Brackett (1797 – 1882)

(Shaker dancing song)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

  ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,

  To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

  Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

why i like hallmark movies

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Quite the post title, isn’t it? But it’s true, I like Hallmark movies. Yes, I watch Hallmark movies.  I especially love the Christmas movies, because well, I love Christmas. (But I digress.)

I know some who know me only by what I write here might find this all surprising.  Or even laughable. Those who know me off this blog might find it surprising. But it’s true.  And why is it?

The people in the movies are nice. Even the bad guys have redemption.

Yes, a completely unrealistic perception of the current world we live in, but it provides nice escapism.  It’s nice to see communities come together even in a fictional way.  They love local traditions like fairs, festivals, and carnivals and the Hallmark ones look like so much fun!  Even their fictional bake sales look good! And in Hallmark movies people fight to save small independent businesses like local bookstores, so for this bookworm, what’s not to love about that?

With regard to the world we live in today, definitely too much social media. And yes, I am as guilty of it as the next person.  I love when I get criticized for posting something that isn’t bubbly and sweet, because ummm I don’t always feel bubbly and sweet.  Plus I have to wonder if the seemingly perfect lives and families I see portrayed across social media very day are that? How can they be so perfect? Are they really not so perfect? I now make an effort to try to be OFF of social media at times.

Hallmark movies show us the little niceties in life that people like to forget.  Like take this for example: I received a newsletter recently from an organization I belong to and it showed their 2019 schedule including garden tours and visits.  They had asked me in the fall to tour my garden for potential inclusion and then never followed up after thanking me for taking the time to show them around.

I guess I now know why I never heard a peep again, and truthfully it is fine that they did not choose my garden (it’s an ungodly amount of work to prepare especially if you don’t have a minion squad), but how about a follow-up note or a call to say they went in a different direction but thanks for playing along?

And that is not the only group which toured my garden but never followed up.  My own high school alma mater sent employees from the alumni office to tour my garden in the fall but no one from the committee ever followed up.  It’s like they are too important for the actual details of planning  their garden tour event.

With regard to ths event  (like many others) , I know it depends geographically where they are going and I am in Chester County, but I also know realistically a cottage and woodland garden in Chester County would never hold much interest for most of today’s Main Line private school mommies, but still. Manners, ladies. Manners. Is it so bloody hard to be polite and say thank you?

Now sadly, this behavior seems somewhat pervasive because I have two friends with two lovely businesses who received similar treatment at the hands of their annual holiday shops event committee members.

Imagine being an alumni with a high end accessories and jewelry business that by rights should fit nicely into their holiday shops mix and submitting your information for consideration multiple years and one year someone was overtly rude to you who was a committee member and the other years you were just completely blown off without even an acknowledgement? Or imagine being an alumni with another business who was also declined as to  type to find out said business type appeared probably because they were somebody’s buddy?

(But hey a couple of years ago like a certain non-profit’s Fall Classic Shops they had LuLa Roe. Priorities, natch’. )

We are all grown-ups here, right? Many of our mothers served on committees which were predescessors to today’s events and they would not have dreamed of being rude to alumni or anyone for starters, and would have handled turn downs of businesses for things like the holiday shops well…differently.   How differently? A decline would have been so polite and handled with such finesse that the recipients would not have felt there was a rejection.

Whether by handwritten note or phone call thanking someone for their interest, a simple nicety goes a long way.  Everyone goes away happy.

And events like garden tours? You would have had committee members who were active in their garden clubs, and more.  And they never would have sent staff to preview anyone’s garden, they would have gone personally – after all it was supposed to be their event, their volunteerism for the school, right? And those who were interested in participating who for whatever reason weren’t chosen? It would be a nice little outreach again thanking them for being interested and hoping they would subscribe to the tour anyway, etc.

But the truth of the matter in my opinion is most of the parents on these committees today don’t care about the alumni, or their feelings.  Ironically of course, some day their children will be alumni, but hey whatever floats their boat.

Having attended these events to try to support my alma mater I also haven’t been able to help but notice how these parents volunteering at these events often appear as cliquey as their kids.

Now how does this fit into my whole I like watching Hallmark movies of it all? Simple.  When these events are portrayed on Hallmark movies even if there is event committee drama, everyone is nice to everyone else.  And they love when fictional alumni take the time to be interested. And manners.  Old fashioned manners.

Hallmark movies can teach us the life lesson of it is just as easy to be pleasant as it is to be a jerk. That it is as easy to be inclusive and takes far less negative energy to be rudely exclusive.

Hallmark movies are not the real world.  But they are a nice place to visit. Sadly they seem to be representative of times gone by.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

in the winter garden

Camellia buds!!!!

Yesterday was not a fun day in the garden because sadly tree guys working at a neighbor’s property took out our electric fence in our woods while taking down dead trees in our neighbor’s woods. But all is not lost as I heard from the company owner today and they told me they are going to pay for my repair, so I will take them at their word.

But it’s stuff like this that happens in the garden that drives me bananas. And we live in the woods so it’s happened before. It was an accident, and it could have been worse, because the tree that came down came down 14 inches from our shed (give or take an inch.) And thankfully the tree when it came down didn’t damage any of my plantings or younger trees.

I am much more Zen about it today, yesterday afternoon not so Zen.

Today I knew I had to put out deer repellent. I have had a herd of more than 10 going through the very back of our woods at our property line every day for weeks now. Truthfully, I’ve never had such a big herd go through back there. So if I don’t keep the repellent up and alternate repellant come spring I may have a munched plant problem. But while I was out today putting out anti-deer stuff I had a reminder that life still is pretty cool in a winter garden!

My Camelia japonica “Bloomfield” has flower buds!!! I am so excited! This was an experimental shrub for me and it was developed at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia originally.

Also super cool? One of my new winter blooming Witch Hazels also is loaded with buds! I lost the tag I think the cultivar is named “Diane”.

I have bought a bunch of different Witch Hazels now after being inspired by Jenny Rose Carey and her own personal garden. I have bought my Witch Hazels from three sources:

1. Yellow Springs Farm

2. Rare Find Nursery

3. Go Native Tree Farm

The Camelia came from Camellia Forest Nursery.

I also checked on my rhododendrons today. Rhododendrons and azaleas can take a beating in the winter and I lost my blue azaleas last year except for one. I for the most part have red rhododendrons that I have planted, but I also bought two yellow ones to experiment with.

How my yellow rhododendrons survive in particular it will be interesting because they are towards the front of the property and I put up reflective markers so my Township snow plows don’t plow them over (fingers crossed!) Yellow rhododendrons can be a little finicky in general in our planting zone of 6A, so we shall see.

Most of my rhododendrons come from Oregon and the nursery is Rhododendrons Direct. A couple of rhododendrons I have came from Applied Climatology who are at the West Chester Growers Market in season.

Other things I checked on included my new Japanese Maples – Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’ which also came from Applied Climatology. We are at the end of January and so far so good.

I know spring is coming because I got my David Austin Roses catalog. I am in a holding pattern on roses I might order one but that’s all.

I also got my newsletter from the Delaware Hosta Society . If you live in the greater Philadelphia/ South Jersey /Wilmington area and are a hosta fanatic like I am you should consider joining. It’s very reasonable for the year and they have lots of great events with interesting speakers. And they always have raffles at their events. I have some very cool hostas from them!

My other plug goes to Jenkins Arboretum. I have been a member of Jenkins for a few years and it is one of my favorite local arboretums, if not my absolute favorite local Arboretum. Jenkins does events and classes and workshops all year round, and if you go through their events calendar you will also notice they have events for children as well! It was because of Jenkins Arboretum I fell in love with Chestnut and Burr Oak trees. I live for their winter emails there’s always something fun to learn.

If you decide to join the hosta society or Jenkins please make sure and tell them you read about their organization on this blog.

Also note I’m not compensated for talking about any of these places. I belong to both Jenkins and the Delaware Valley Hosta Society, and the nurseries I mentioned I am a regular customer of.

I have also been gobbling up streaming British gardening shows. I find them through Amazon Prime streaming.

Well that’s it for me for the day. Take the time to enjoy your winter garden, it’s bones are skeletal but it has form and life all on its own. And plant some witch hazels if you have the room!

Thanks for stopping by!

Witch Hazel flower buds!

nice ker-feal article in county lines magazine

capture ker feal

Courtesy of County Lines Magazine

So….no secret….I am the lover of what some consider to be more obscure or less popular bits of Chester County history. Among those bits would be Ker-Feal, the country home of Dr. Albert Barnes.

“When I looked out the window at Ker-Feal this morning, God went over the head of all artists in my estimation: He had made a picture of wide fields and luscious hills covered with an immaculate white; and holding the fields and hills together in the composition was a beautiful network of white lines made up of lacy patterns of branches of trees and twigs of bushes.”

~ Letter from Albert C. Barnes to Mrs. Owen J. Roberts, March 30, 1942 (courtesy of County Lines Magazine February 2019 article)

Ok so yeah. THAT. Makes me itch  to see Ker-Feal as I have never been and have never been invited to tour the property and take it all in.

Sigh. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Which is why I am so glad that County Lines Magazine’s February, 2019 issue will feature a terrific article on Ker-Feal!

You heard it here first, make sure you pick up the February, 2019 County Lines Magazine – follow this LINK for Flipbook link on issu

Click here for article which is now available online.

The article was written by my pal Kirsten at Natural Lands.  Partway down the article you will see a photograph of the cover for a 1942 House & Garden Magazine. That is my personal contribution to this article as I have that magazine.

County Lines Magazine: Thursday, January 24 2019 9:29

Fidèle’s House … Forever Green
Written by Kirsten Werner, Natural Lands

Most people who know of Albert Barnes think of the extraordinary art collection he left in trust for the public, first at his Lower Merion home and then later moved to a modern museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The world-class collection includes over 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and so much more.

But few know about another residence in Chester County, home to a different type of collection.

Here’s a short version of that story.

…Dr. Barnes and his wife, Laura Leggett Barnes, acquired an 18th-century farmhouse in Chester Springs, Chester County in 1940 and called it “Ker-Feal.” Named after Barnes’s favorite dog, Fidèle de Port Manech, Ker-Feal translates to “Fidèle’s House” in Breton. Dr. Barnes adopted the Brittany spaniel mix on a trip to France.

(Now go and read the article – it’s amazing, well-written, and interesting)

Here are my other Ker-Feal posts:

is chester county’s ker-feal at risk?

AWESOME! conservation easement placed on dr. barnes’ ker-feal!

on hired muscle and sinkholes

On Sunday shortly before dinner time my cell phone exploded with text messages and calls. News of another sinkhole opening on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland.

Now a sinkhole opening up after heavy rains in our part of the county is not so unusual is it? Is it not true we are rife with sinkholes because of the geological formations under the ground? All that stuff about schist, karst, and what some describe as a veritable limestone fault line?

See this from water-research.net:

Or check out this map from the geology section of the Chester County website:

So why does it always seem like the pipeline companies don’t care about the actual geology of our area where they are shoving their pipes?

In addition to the geological life of it all underground (which is why there were so many mine and quarries, etc right?) we are an area with lots of old farm pits and whatever a lot of developers have buried at old construction sites of years past? Today most construction debris gets hauled away properly but in times past? Was a lot of debris removed or buried?

Anyway my point is in my opinion all these things add up to giving a lot of people the ability to have sinkholes on their property. My other point is neighbors and residents seem to be more aware and fearful of sinkholes, yet these pipeline companies seem to just move blithely forward don’t they?

So we have another sinkhole and I’m told it’s a property that Sunoco bought on Lisa Drive. The pipeline that was exposed was the old pipeline Mariner One. What makes all the difference in the world now in my opinion is how Sunoco proceeds and thus far is it anything that business as usual? Or the continuing saga of Chester county residents versus Sunoco?

Why do I say that? Hired muscle, thugs, security take your pick of describing people who reportedly called themselves constables. Does that mean they want people to think they are law-enforcement?

WFMZ reports:

Chester County DA: Sunoco hired private security to protect pipelines

CHESTER CO., Pa. – Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced that after investigating a new sinkhole that opened up last weekend in Chester County, his office discovered that Sunoco hired constables from outside of Chester County to act as a private security force around the pipelines…According to a release from Hogan’s office, when the sinkhole appeared, citizens reported it and a plain clothes Chester County Detective approached the scene. When he arrived, an armed man flashed a badge and identified himself as a constable from Northumberland County.

When asked by the detective, the man admitted he had been hired as security by Sunoco, according to the release.

Is it just me or is that like welcome to Crazy Town?

I have had friends tell me of being in their own back yards and having the pipeline workers photograph and video them going about their everyday life. So they are allowed to do that yet if residents do the same they are criticized?

I have to ask if municipalities getting ready for other pipelines like Adelphia Gateway to come in are paying attention? Do they think realistically it’s going to be any different than what the residents dealing with Sunoco/Sunoco Logistics/Energy Transfer Partners experience every day?

Are we as residents of a county that played a huge part in the birthplace of our American freedoms supposed to just live in a factory town paid police state? Every time I hear one of the stories about the pipelines it reminds me of the tales of factory towns and factories and mining towns and mines where literally some company owned everything: where you worked, where your laid your head to rest each night, where you went to do your shopping and so on.

And when it comes to these pipelines what are we getting out of the deal? These are transport lines correct? So they are taking stuff taken out of the soil in other parts of the state and shipping them out of the area and overseas, correct? And for this privilege of living with this in our area what do we get? Oh yeah, things like experiencing eminent domain, declining property values, valid safety concerns, polluted drinking Wells, sinkholes, being harassed, and more?

Does Governor Tom Wolf give a damn? Does Attorney General Josh Shapiro give a damn? Do most local mucicipal reprsentatives in each township and counties give a damn?

Before I lived in Chester County, and even when I first moved to Chester County I thought people were being overly dramatic with regard to the pipelines. Because that’s what the PR spin doctors wanted me to think.

As I started to look beyond the spin and began to call some of the affected residents friends, and realized I already knew some of the affected residents, my perspective began to right itself towards the truth.

First I realized that if life had been different, we (as in my family) might be living in Marydell in West Chester with a pipeline now in the back yard. Then when I realized where we currently live is 1030 feet and 1060 feet from exisitng pipelines and where Adelphia Gateway wants to repurpose an old line like Sunoco-lite I really knew this was actually scary stuff.

And that knowledge has made realize we can’t really trust these pipeline companies can we? And that lack of trust extends to elected officials who do nothing to support the residents who elected them, doesn’t it?

As residents we are heavily scrutinized, perhaps even unfairly scrutinized because we are tired of the pipeline status quo. Is it just me or does it seem we as residents are held to a more stringent set of rules or a higher standard for wishing to protect where we call home and are raising our families?

That is why I am glad Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan is taking a hard look at what is going on. Maybe more officials will follow suit. One can only hope.

In the meantime, like thousands of others I live every day with grave concerns as to what the pipeline companies are doing. After all, we aren’t revolutionaries we just live here.

#DefendWhatYouLove (responsibly, please)

Here is more media coverage:

WFMZ 69 News: Sinkhole exposes Mariner east pipeline in Chester County

Philly.com: Another sinkhole appears in Chester County neighborhood, exposing Mariner East pipeline by Katie Park

Philly.com: Mariner East 2 worker’s ‘obscene’ comments draw ire of Chesco DA by Vinny Vella, Updated: January 16, 2019

Daily Times: The Heron’s Nest: Sinking feeling for Mariner East By Phil Heron pheron@delcotimes.com @philheron on Twitter

Dragonpipe Diary

StateImpact Pennsylvania

StateImpact: JANUARY 21, 2019 | 07:34 AM UPDATED: JANUARY 22, 2019 | 10:12 AM

Sunoco to ‘purge’ part of Mariner East 1 after new sinkhole opens at Lisa Drive by Jon Hurdle