Saturday, July 01, 2006

gifts and giving...

Brew of the Day: Aniseed & Fennel

Smile ~ it improves your face value!

Today I worked with what I had

And longed for nothing more,
And what had seemed like only weeds,
Were flowers at my door.

Today I loved a little more
And complained a little less,
And in the giving of myself,
I forgot my weariness.

Author unknown

Gifts & Giving

Each of us receives gifts and for the most part we’re probably unaware of the fact that they are gifts as they can come in all sorts of ways.

Our beloved cat is my most ardent gift giver. Usually near midnight she’ll bring an offering to the foot of our bed…mouse, bird, rabbit…she doesn’t mind. And if we haven’t noticed her playing ‘soccer’ with it, she’ll start yowling at several decibels till we crawl out of bed.

Boy does she purr when I acknowledge her gifts. Paul doesn’t see it quite in the same way...mutters somewhat when he has to remove them. I praise her for thinking about me and wanting to bring offerings. Paul finds a container to remove the ‘offending’ gift (and hoping that wherever he throws it to in the garden, she won’t find it and bring it back). Thankfully we’ve wooden floors in the bedroom so rabbit blood doesn’t get to stain any plush carpet. Peasants!

A few blogs back I mentioned my girls loving cross stitch and sewing. Imagine their delight when a parcel came from a reader of this blog full of cross stitches, cushion panels, cottons, etc. I truly wished I had photographed or videoed their reaction. It was ever so beautiful!

Not long after, someone I’ve not been in touch with for a couple of years had heard via a mutual friend that 2005 was my ‘annus horribilus’. Bless her, she sent me a lovely note with a sandalwood candle to light up my life. Such simple, yet deeply meaningful and precious actions can truly change someone’s day (week, month, year!).

Years ago, in my single days, I was walking along a promenade in Cornwall with some friends when a bunch of men walked past us. One of the men caught my eye (or maybe I caught his?)…. Well, it’s funny, but as a kid my mum had various sayings and poems up on our kitchen wall which I’d read every day while eating. One of them was called Smile.

A smile costs nothing, but gives much.

I still remember his smile. Maybe it was past life stuff or something, but in those few split seconds there was a connection made that went beyond words. I know, without doubt, that I will always remember the gift of his smile. I’ve probably had hundreds of men smile at me over the past twenty or so years, but his was special.

Last Saturday night a friend looked after Bethany and Eliza for a few hours so Paul and I could have a rare night out. I don’t tend to ask friends to child mind if I can help it. The gift of having someone care for your children and knowing they’re absolutely safe is something I don’t take for granted.

A subscriber from New Zealand who came and did some woofing (willing workers on organic farms) a couple of years ago on the organic orchard we had at the time, went to visit my mum in Tasmania a couple of days ago. Apparently they had a great time together. Even though the visit was between them, it felt like a gift from her to me since I’m too far away to visit my mum myself.

My gratitude journal is such a source of inspiration to me. It reflects the journey of my life and paints a picture of the people who’ve touched my life whether it is with a gift like a Wailin Jennys CD (fab Canadian trio!) or good luck charms. I had five charms on my necklace at one point! They got rather heavy so I now wear them one at a time. I write down when someone has smiled or phoned just to say hello.

The articles that come into The Mother magazine…always, always, always, feel like such a gift…our writers aren’t paid, so somehow it feels even more precious when someone has dedicated their time and energy to TM. And today, July 1st, is due date day for our Autumn issue….what a bundle of goodies await in my inbox….savour, savour, savour!! It feeds me immensely. Had a peep at some of them earlier this morning and one of them made me laugh and another made me cry. It wasn’t that it’s sad but so insightful. That someone can put into words exactly how you’re feeling about a topic when you didn’t even know you felt that way is incredible. I do indeed feel blessed to have these heartfelt pieces coming in each quarter.

Every day, often two or three times, my husband tells me he loves me. My mum used to do that too when I was growing up. These aren’t just words that slide off the top of the tongue, but heartfelt and written in another’s eyes.

I’ve got so many friends who never hear those words from their life partner. A friend told me the other day that her mum has only said it to her about five times in her whole life. Expressing our love and affection for friends, family and lovers is the greatest gift we can give, surely? My own kids hear it from me several times a day ~ though they’re quite crafty at the mo and often say, ‘if you love me, why did you get cross when…’

My mum often puts things in the post….dvds, cards…clippings from magazines or newspapers, little beautiful things to brighten my day. Of course when I try and send her goodies like incense or tea, Australia Post nicks it and sends her a stern letter saying what can and can’t go into Australia! Beasts. Apparently some tea I sent her had ‘orange peel’ in it ~ a real no-no.

At our local bookshop, the owner is forever undercharging me…it’s quite funny now coz the girls stand there and tell him he’s not given them the right change...that he’s given them too much. And can’t he count??!! (He has a degree in maths!) Of course they have to say all this in their loudest voices… Not quiet, my girls. What side of the family did that come from then?

I don’t own many clothes… I gave a lot to charity when I first went travelling...and then came kids…well, you simply don’t need fancy clothes when you spend your days in baby spit and t-shirts covered in breast milk leaks and then advance to mud pies. But lately I’ve bought a couple of pieces from a fairly new boutique in town. Not that I’ve got anywhere to wear them to!! I was admiring some fab linen trousers one of the assistants was wearing when the owner (always a vision of beauty and elegance) pulled out a pair and said I could have them for half price! Dead chuffed I was.
One of our subscribers knitted both my girls beautiful ponchos…and then knitted me one…so I begged her to knit one for my mum too. Three generations wearing something that must take days, if not weeks, to make.

Recently someone sent me a bag of lavender with dried tiny roses …I keep it right beside the computer so I can breathe in the gorgeous scent and be reminded daily of the love and thoughtfulness that does exist in this world.

The landlord gave us some tiles for the kitchen floor so we were ‘kicked out of the house’ last week while the tiling was going on in there and the dining room. It meant the girls and I ended up outside under our dining table which the girls covered in a sheet and converted into a den…the joy I received from them as I snuggled up was such a treat. How often do we count the laughter from our children as a gift? My life would be blank without it.

Last night when I tucked them into bed, I was reminded of how much I loved that part of the day as a kid. My mum always made the effort to tuck us in; kiss us; tell us she loved us…sometimes she’d play her mouth organ or mandolin to lull us asleep. My mum gave us time. Genuine, authentic, unrushed time. I still feel that gift now and pass it on to my girls the best I can. (Useless compared to my mum, but then she had 8 kids to practise on!) If we’ve managed to not completely trash the planet, in a decade or two my girls will be passing on that gift of love and time. We should never underestimate those magical moments we share with our children. They become part of their being and help to forge how they see the world.

The girls were sent a book a few weeks ago by a subscriber I’ve never met. Eliza is currently reading it each night before bed. When gifts like this arrive in the post I’m always a little gobsmacked by the kindness that has precipitated it ~ but I’m learning, as with everything else, not to ask “why” but to say ‘thank you’.

Another friend in Ireland recently sent some beautiful writing sets. Another subscriber in Cornwall always sends the girls packages full of goodies fit for princesses ~ always loved and ecstatically received….and always full of sparkly things like angels and stars that line the floor for days.

Truly not a week goes by without gifts coming my way.

In yesterday’s post I had two donations come in to The Mother. Paul made a comment from the kitchen along the lines of ‘no one ever sends me anything’.

“You better change that thought!” I suggested. “If you believe it, that’s what you’ll create”. I do believe though, that keeping a gratitude journal has somehow increased this sort of abundance in my life. It means I make a very conscious note of what has come my way. I honestly give thanks for each item. By doing so it becomes an invitation to more goodness.

Some of the greatest gifts are those which have come from nature…the sunsets at this time of the year fill my kitchen and dining room and for the first time in the year I actually don’t mind washing the dishes! I look out onto the herb garden and watch the small birds coming to the bowl of water from a blue clay pot I once made. The catnip is abundant with beautiful, delicate lilac flowers. The fennel catches me with its scent as does the honeysuckle. I don’t wear perfume, other than the occasional dab of essential oil of jasmine, so when I walk past the honeysuckle bush I always think we’ve got a female visitor. I turn around smartly to see who’s there and realise I’ve been tricked again! It always catches me out. You’d think I’d learn that nature’s scents are far more exquisite than anything man could create. When we’re in town the girls and I always marvel at the flowers in people’s gardens and spend ages smelling the roses.

Our family chiropractic centre is a brilliant example of giving. Apart from the warm welcome every time we go, they always have a bowl of fruit, FAB magz to read, pure spring water and a selection of herb teas. There are body care products in the loo that clients are free to use and they say that if you’re ever passing by you’re welcome to pop in to use the loo. It’s the little things, isn’t it? I find it such a welcoming place to go and am absolutely touched that our family’s weekly wellness plan is with such a brilliant place. And that’s not even counting the fact Paul and I get our treatments at half price and the girls go free! Imagine that sort of care on the National Health Service?

My mother in law passed away in January and her estate has been dealt with by Paul’s sister-in-law, a solicitor. She’s done so with love and voluntarily. Couldn’t imagine there’d have been a penny left if it had been handled by a fee charging solicitor.

When Paul and I cleared his mum’s house of her belongings I was going through a particular dresser full of Christmas cards and post cards. His brothers had already been through the place to see if there was anything they wanted so we were literally down to sorting through the last items for recycling or rubbish. I stood there feeling really uncomfortable and said to Paul that it just didn’t feel right to ‘throw away’ all these cards which she’d kept for so long. I was about to grab the bundle and pop them in a bag when a ‘voice’ told me to go through them one more time. As I did so, I came to a white envelope which had ‘Paul and Veronika’ scrawled on it in very spidery writing...inside was a Christmas card she’d written (but had been too ill to give us) and £200 in cash. Even in death she was still giving. And to think I might have thrown it away and never known. I reckon she was ‘standing over me’ telling me to go through those things one more time to make sure we got the gift.

It would be easy to feel guilty with all the gifts that come into my life. I love receiving! I just can’t help but think I don’t give as much as I get. OK, I make 95% of the family’s meals, do the odd bit of housework when the mood strikes, but it is always Paul who’ll make us a cuppa or who’ll make sure there is plenty of wood cut for the fire so I don’t freeze to death in winter. He’s got an awareness and thoughtfulness that hasn’t quite become second nature to me. You’d think it might have transferred over by now, but no!! Sadly, not.

I am conscious, however, of wanting to be more giving. Everything I ever learnt about life, I learnt from my cat! Right, who’s for baby rabbit then?


A smile costs nothing but gives much.
It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give.
It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor that he can be made rich by it.
A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship.
It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature's best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.
Some people are too tired to give you a smile.
Give them one of yours, as no one needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give. ~~Author unknown~~

1 comment:

barrydh said...

Hi Veronika

at last I've had a chance to come and visit. Beautiful. Not only great and really entertaining writing, but what I love is how 'YOU' shine through it. Great integrity and authenticity - a real gift. And interestingly on the Smile side of things, I was interviewed today on the Radio and referred to as Mr Smiles! Maybe that's why I had to come visit your page tonight.

Wishing you an abundance of joy and peace