What are You Thankful For?

Hey http://www.aweber.com, here’s what I’m thankful for in my business in 2010.

Hey http://www.aweber.com, here’s what I’m thankful for in my business in 2010.

We can so easily slip into longing for what we don’t have, neglecting to notice the riches we enjoy. I hear people around me complaining about the smallest things while partaking of luscious meals, traveling freely to places they want to go and passing displays of Nature’s magnificence everyday.

“I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet.”

This Indian quote always pulls me back from taking my blessings for granted.

I made a promise to myself this year to start each day being thankful.

And so each morning when my feet hit the floor I say” Thank you God for this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s a slight variation on the scripture, but I don’t think that diminishes its power.

Starting my day in this way helps me keep uppermost in my mind the tremendous number of things around me that I could so easily take for granted.

When Justin Premick of Aweber, set up a social experiment asking his readers to post a photo holding up a sign about what we are thankful for in our businesses, I jumped at it.

We were to take a photo holding up a sign that says “I’m thankful for. . .” and list the things we were most grateful for in our businesses.

I listed health first because it is my physical and mental well-being that allow me the energy, flexibility and stamina to create and conduct my business. I don’t take my health for granted.

Then I listed family and friends next because they create the context from which I run my business.

And finally, I’m thankful for my clients who seek, value and willingly pay for receiving my products and services.

Take a look at the video in this post and reflect on what you’re thankful for as we enter this holiday season.

Celebrate Color Your Life Happy Day on August 9th

momMany of us begin the year making resolutions, but within a few weeks our promises to ourselves have been forgotten.

A Wall Street Journal article shared plans some people made to help them stick to their resolutions. Some kept their goals small and achievable. Others asked friends to help them stay on track by holding them accountable. Others found success when they changed their environment to support their new behavior.

Here we are at the start of the second half of the year. How did you do with your resolutions this year?

Regardless of how you fared in this annual practice, here’s an opportunity to start anew.

On August 9th join me in celebrating the first “Color Your Life Happy Day”, a day to participate in something you enjoy, some activity that will make you happy and others too. Then make a decision to make it a habit to continue finding joy, pleasure, a way to help others for the rest of the year.

Happiness is not a destination, but the things we do along the way as we live our lives. At the end of their lives, many wish they had slowed down, worked less and spent more time enjoying family, friends and fun activities. Don’t let this be you. Regrets are a waste. Do the things that bring you joy and happiness everyday.

This special celebration was inspired by the memory of my mother, Mildred S. Morris, who would have turned 100 years old on August 9, 2010 (she passed at age 92 in 2002.) She spent her life making people happy with her music. She played piano and organ from childhood through her mid 80’s for many churches, organizations and events. Everyone who ever heard her play was touched by her lively and fervent style.

I invite you to join me in celebrating Color Your Life Happy Day on August 9th. Then between August 10th-15th send me a photo or video of how you celebrated to my email at flora@florabrown.com

You may choose to enjoy a simple pleasure such as taking time off to read a neglected book. You may join the courageous who use this day to get control of the clutter that has been making them very unhappy.

I’m thinking of creating a new vegetable garden or maybe I’ll do some long-neglected scrapbooking.

So get busy thinking of how you will celebrate “Color Your Life Happy Day.” Then on August 9th take a picture showing how you celebrated. Email it to me at flora@florabrown.com with your name, activity, and city/state/country. I will post all entries on my blog and Facebook.

I’m looking forward to the wonderful array of celebrations.

Practical Happiness Tips: Are We There Yet?

texter assembly 2+--resized copy

One day many years ago when our kids were young we finished packing the car, loaded the  kids and soon eased onto the freeway to start an 8-hr drive from Los Angeles, CA  to Yosemite Park for our vacation. Happiness was in store.

Less than one hour into the trip one of the kids started.

“Are we there yet?”

Children aren’t the only ones who are impatient to arrive at a destination. Most of us are so busy anticipating an arrival at a destination or completion of a goal that our minds seem to be absorbed with what we will do and how happy we will be at some future date.

There’s one big problem with this type of thinking, however.

It’s summed up in the joke, “Tomorrow never arrives, because when it gets here it’s today.”

Missing the present.

Here’s another example of missing the present from my book, Color Your Life Happy.

We recently attended the retirement ceremony of
one of my nephews, who served twenty years in the Navy. While enjoying
the delicious food and hospitality on his patio, I asked my daughter,
“How do we get to the freeway from here?” The reception had barely
begun and I had already raced to the future, thinking about our route

Fortunately, my daughter chided me: “Mom, be here and now.”

I snapped back and engaged in conversation and enjoyed the beauty of my

Are we here yet?

Then there’s the other phenomenon of being physically present but not fully present such as in the cartoon above.

It reminds me of my recent first-time experience of a live baseball game.

While attending my oldest grandson’s graduation from Air Force bootcamp we went to a baseball game. I was looking forward to experiencing the game in the open air, watching the action and maybe even eating hot dogs.

What I discovered, however, that the baseball game on the field was the least of what was happening. My grandkids were listening to music on their iPods or playing word games on their Blackberries,  the groups all over the stadium were chattering throughout the whole game, and at frequent intervals there were contests, a webcam zeroing in an unsuspecting couple in the stands, advertisements on the screen and even one advertiser rolling on the field in a cart shooting rolled up t-shirts into the stands.

I caught one.

My goodness!

Occasionally a baseball game was in progress.

Continuing to look ahead or multitask is like spending our entire lives blindfolded or our hands over our ears blocking out the sound or swallowing a  piece of chocolate without it ever touching your tastebuds.

We are missing out on here and now.

And what a loss it is.

I can still remember

  • the awesome feeling of seeing palm trees lining the streets of Los Angeles when I was a new California resident
  • the joy of watching the ground slowly loom closer over London as the plane was landing for my first trip to Europe
  • the huge shot of love in that tiny pillowy palm of my first baby

Wouldn’t it have been a shame to miss these when I was there?  These precious memories always bring me joy, warmth, a smile. They sustain happiness.

Look around you.

What is going on today that you can observe, absorb and enjoy while you are here and now?

More important than the question “Are we there yet?’ is “Are you here now?”

Well, are you?

The Daffodil Principle

The private Daffodil Garden planted by Gene Bauer, Running Springs, CA

The private Daffodil Garden planted by Gene Bauer, Running Springs, CA

In her newsletter today, Linda Miller of ZeroPointRevolution shared the following story. Rather than summarize it, I thought it would be more powerful for you to read the full version for yourself.

The Daffodil Principle
by Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, “Mother, you must come and see the daffodils before they are over.” I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. Going and coming took most of a day–and I honestly did not have a free day until the following week.

“I will come next Tuesday, ” I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove the length of Route 91, continued on I-215, and finally turned onto Route 18 and began to drive up the mountain highway. The tops of the mountains were sheathed in clouds, and I had gone only a few miles when the road was completely covered with a wet, gray blanket of fog. I slowed to a crawl, my heart pounding. The road becomes narrow and winding toward the top of the mountain. As I executed the hazardous turns at a snail’s pace, I was praying to reach the turnoff at Blue Jay that would signify I had arrived. When I finally walked into Carolyn’s house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren I said, “Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these darling children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!”

My daughter smiled calmly,” We drive in this all the time, Mother.”

“Well, you won’t get me back on the road until it clears–and then I’m heading for home!” I assured her.

“I was hoping you’d take me over to the garage to pick up my car. The mechanic just called, and they’ve finished repairing the engine,” she answered.

“How far will we have to drive?” I asked cautiously.

“Just a few blocks,” Carolyn said cheerfully.

So we buckled up the children and went out to my car. “I’ll drive,” Carolyn offered. “I’m used to this.” We got into the car, and she began driving.

In a few minutes I was aware that we were back on the Rim-of-the-World Road heading over the top of the mountain. “Where are we going?” I exclaimed, distressed to be back on the mountain road in the fog. “This isn’t the way to the garage!”

“We’re going to my garage the long way,” Carolyn smiled, “by way of the daffodils.”

“Carolyn,” I said sternly, trying to sound as if I was still the mother and in charge of the situation, “please turn around. There is nothing in the world that I want to see enough to drive on this road in this weather.”

“It’s all right, Mother,” She replied with a knowing grin. “I know what I’m doing. I promise, you will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience.”

And so my sweet, darling daughter who had never given me a minute of difficulty in her whole life was suddenly in charge — and she was kidnapping me! I couldn’t believe it. Like it or not, I was on the way to see some ridiculous daffodils — driving through the thick, gray silence of the mist-wrapped mountaintop at what I thought was risk to life and limb.

I muttered all the way. After about twenty minutes we turned onto a small gravel road that branched down into an oak-filled hollow on the side of the mountain. The Fog had lifted a little, but the sky was lowering, gray and heavy with clouds.

We parked in a small parking lot adjoining a little stone church. From our vantage point at the top of the mountain we could see beyond us, in the mist, the crests of the San Bernardino range like the dark, humped backs of a herd of elephants. Far below us the fog-shrouded valleys, hills, and flatlands stretched away to the desert.

On the far side of the church I saw a pine-needle-covered path, with towering evergreens and manzanita bushes and an inconspicuous, lettered sign “Daffodil Garden.”

We each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path as it wound through the trees. The mountain sloped away from the side of the path in irregular dips, folds, and valleys, like a deeply creased skirt.

Live oaks, mountain laurel, shrubs, and bushes clustered in the folds, and in the gray, drizzling air, the green foliage looked dark and monochromatic. I shivered.

Then we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight, unexpectedly and completely splendid. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. Even in the mist-filled air, the mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.

Each different-colored variety (I learned later that there were more than thirty-five varieties of daffodils in the vast display) was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.

In the center of this incredible and dazzling display of gold, a great cascade of purple grape hyacinth flowed down like a waterfall of blossoms framed in its own rock-lined basin, weaving through the brilliant daffodils.

A charming path wound throughout the garden. There were several resting stations, paved with stone and furnished with Victorian wooden benches and great tubs of coral and carmine tulips. As though this were not magnificence enough, Mother Nature had to add her own grace note — above the daffodils, a bevy of western bluebirds flitted and darted, flashing their brilliance. These charming little birds are the color of sapphires with breasts of magenta red. As they dance in the air, their colors are truly like jewels above the blowing, glowing daffodils. The effect was spectacular.

It did not matter that the sun was not shining. The brilliance of the daffodils was like the glow of the brightest sunlit day. Words, wonderful as they are, simply cannot describe the incredible beauty of that flower-bedecked mountain top.

Five acres of flowers! (This too I discovered later when some of my questions were answered.) “But who has done this?” I asked Carolyn. I was overflowing with gratitude that she brought me — even against my will. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Who?” I asked again, almost speechless with wonder, “And how, and why, and when?”

“It’s just one woman,” Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory.

We walked up to the house, my mind buzzing with questions. On the patio we saw a poster. ” Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”

There it was. The Daffodil Principle.

For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun — one bulb at a time — to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. One bulb at a time.

There was no other way to do it. One bulb at a time. No shortcuts — simply loving the slow process of planting. Loving the work as it unfolded.

Loving an achievement that grew so slowly and that bloomed for only three weeks of each year. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world.

This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principle of celebration: learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time — often just one baby-step at a time — learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.

When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

“Carolyn,” I said that morning on the top of the mountain as we left the haven of daffodils, our minds and hearts still bathed and bemused by the splendors we had seen, “it’s as though that remarkable woman has needle-pointed the earth! Decorated it. Just think of it, she planted every single bulb for more than thirty years. One bulb at a time! And that’s the only way this garden could be created. Every individual bulb had to be planted. There was no way of short-circuiting that process. Five acres of blooms. That magnificent cascade of hyacinth!

All, all, just one bulb at a time.”

The thought of it filled my mind. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the implications of what I had seen. “It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!” My wise daughter put the car into gear and summed up the message of the day in her direct way. “Start tomorrow,” she said with the same knowing smile she had worn for most of the morning. Oh, profound wisdom!

It is pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson a celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, “How can I put this to use tomorrow?”

Fill Your Mind with Empowering Thoughts

Click the musical note at the lower right if you wish to enjoy the music along with the pictures.