heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 4 of 7: Celebrate life… every damn moment of it!

(Image via Pixabay.com)
“Serenity is the balance between good and bad, life and death, horrors and pleasures. Life is, as it were, defined by death. If there wasn’t death of things, then there wouldn’t be any life to celebrate.”
Norman Davies, British-Polish historian

Here today, gone tomorrow. I’m in the throes of an existential crisis at the moment… thinking about how fleeting and finite life truly is.  There are many questions (about life and death) that none of us can really answer – questions like, “Is there life after death” or “Is this all there is, and then there’s nothing?” I have these “crises” every now and then… and when they happen, I always reach the same conclusion: celebrate life… every damn moment of it. Don’t worry about the alternative.

It’s a great coping mechanism. For example, for decades, my husband and I have enjoyed candlelight dinners every single night – complete with music (usually jazz or blues). And we still do. Also, I take the time to dance – even when I’m alone in the house (although my cats find it quite disconcerting). I plant trees and flowers in my yard… it’s wonderful to see things grow and flourish. There are so many ways and reasons to celebrate life.

The rest will happen… at one time or another. No need to preempt it. Just seize the moment and savor it.

“Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, essayist and journalist


heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 2 of 7: Walk the walk

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
— Edith Lovejoy Pierce, American Poet & Pacifist

When Opportunity knocks, by all means open the door. But what happens if it doesn’t knock, or ring, or fall down from the sky right into your lap? And you keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

The reality is that we create our own destiny. I know this is a cliché, but it’s worth repeating. If we keep waiting for good things to happen to us, we may be sorely disappointed when they don’t. When you work long and hard on something – be it a passion or a project – you will likely see a return on your investment. By investment, I mean your time. And time is precious.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
Michael Altshuler, Speaker & Trainer

So begin the new year by shelving anything and everything that simply didn’t yield anything for you. Then start fresh. Make a strategy, hatch a realistic plan and then see it through. By “seeing it through” I also mean spreading the word. Networking with people is a surefire way to create a domino effect of opportunity. If you ‘walk the walk’ (translation: work diligently and follow through), you will most likely be smiling like a Cheshire cat by the end of the year.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big…. as long as you’re not being delusional. For instance, if your big dream is to be a singer when, in reality, you’re kind of tone deaf… then you may want to rethink your strategy.  I have always been in awe of Barbra Streisand and dreamed of singing (with a voice like hers) in Carnegie Hall. But I’m a realist. I will never have That Voice. So I sing in the shower instead.

Don’t wait for Opportunity to knock. Steer your own ship. Make 2017 your flagship year and wake up each morning, excited about what you’re doing.  Keep at it and don’t let anyone dampen your spirits or weaken your resolve. Here’s to a great year – for all of us!

“Sow a thought and you reap an act;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Spirit of Thanksgiving


 “For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends. I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.”    

Ralph Waldo Emerson

May you and  yours have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving!



Image via Shutterstock.

heatherfromthegrove’s story spotlight for today: “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

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Monday, July 15 – Saturday, July 20


@ heatherfromthegrove!

Enjoy some good summer reading.

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It should be noted that these book recommendations are not necessarily recently published works.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Never read a book that is not a year old.” 


“I looked and looked at her, and I knew, as clearly as I know that I will die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth. She was only the dead-leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago – but I loved her, this Lolita, pale and polluted and big with another man’s child. She could fade and wither – I didn’t care. I would still go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of her face.”  ― Vladimir NabokovLolita

Although Vladimir Nabokov’s first nine novels were written in Russian, it was his intricate English prose that brought him the most distinction and international prominence in the literary world. Lolita is Nabokov at his best.  He wrote what would become his most famous and controversial book in 1955… in English. A decade later, he (himself) translated it into Russian. It is a tale about a middle-aged man, “Humbert Humbert” (this is not a typo!), who is both protagonist and erratic narrator — and his mad, obsessive (and very unseemly) love for a twelve-year old girl, Dolores Haze. “Lolita” is his private nickname for her.  As Humbert narrates, he draws from the disturbing, broken fragments of his own selective memory. Needless to say, the love story is doomed from the start.

This book is a masterpiece.  Listed as one of  The 100 Best Books of All Time, Lolita was adapted for film (in 1962) by the brilliant director, Stanley Kubrick and then again (in 1997), by director Adrian Lyne.

Other novels (in English) by Vladimir Nabokov:

In addition, he wrote a vast body of work:  many  short story collections, plays, poetry, Russian novels and novellas, and a wide selection of non-fiction works (critical reviews, memoirs, etc).

New Year’s Revelation No. 4 of 7: Practice a Little Patience


“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The duck and her ducklings were not too fussed about bringing heavy road traffic to a halt.  They’re just trying to go from point A to point B safely and at their own pace, regardless of any red-faced, honking drivers who are raising their blood pressure in outrage at being inconvenienced for five minutes or so … by ducks!  The wiser attitude would be to smile, enjoy the scene and take that five-minute opportunity to sit back and relax.  No car can move on until the ducks make their way across the street, anyways.  So, isn’t it a pointless waste of energy to be angry and impatient?

When we are impatient, we act irrationally.   Then, we appear ridiculous (to others … and even to ourselves, if we’re really being honest).

Take, for example, the number of times we engage in a war of words (via email),  where we receive an email that makes us angry and we immediately write a response and press “send.”   This has happened to me a few times and I always, always regret having responded so quickly.  The end result is never what we want it to be.  It would have been smarter to chew on it for a bit and then respond sometime later, when rational thinking and proper perspective has kicked in.

When we are impatient, we make mistakes that we can’t take back.  Then, we’re forced to do damage control.  Patience is the antidote to anger and aggression.  Seethe and then breathe.  You can sit in the energy of your anger, feel the anger and then slowly let it go.

Did you ever stand in the check-out line at the supermarket and, fifth in line, you’re waiting and waiting …. and then you see the cashier having a nice chat with a customer?  Oh, they’re laughing and talking, impervious to the long line of now highly annoyed people.  Does it really hurt to share a few pleasantries?  Are we so important (in our own mind) that we need to be served immediately, chop-chop?

When we are impatient, we forget to breathe.  Just inhale slowly and, then exhale slowly … and repeat.

Patience is all about self-mastery and control.  We cannot control what people say or do to us, but we can control how we conduct ourselves and how we respond. 

In Buddhist thinking, the perfection of patience (ksanti) has three essential dimensions: 

  • The ability to endure personal hardship.
  • Patience with others.
  • Acceptance of the truth.

1. Enduring personal hardship:  Personal hardship encompasses a wide spectrum of issues, such as illness, financial problems, the death of a loved one, devastation from a natural disaster … and so on.   Patience, in these instances, comes with the acceptance that there are times in our lives when we are faced with trials and tribulations, that they are most often temporary, and that we must not let ourselves be defeated by despair.  To face difficulties constructively, rather than destructively, is to endure personal hardship with patience.  Think of the expression “This, too, shall pass.”

2. Patience with others:  Anger is a very destructive energy.  It can explode or (if we allow it to) it can fester.  The way to nip anger and impatience in the bud is by cultivating a sense of equanimity (calm and balance).  And to treat others with kindness, even if our knee-jerk reaction is to throttle them.  Think of the expression “kill him with kindness.”

3. Acceptance of the truth:  In Saint Augustine’s words, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”   It peels away the layers of arrogance, ingratitude and judgmental thinking.  It allows us to accept the things we cannot change and to accept our experiences as they are — suffering and all — rather than how we want them to be.  This translates to people, as well as experiences.  We must be patient with people and accept them for who they are, not who we want them to be.

The lessons that we learn from Patience will have an irrevocable, positive effect on our lives.  It will lift our spirit, cultivate good character, and we will receive that end-of-the-rainbow treasure that we all seek:  not a pot of gold, but something much more precious …. Happiness.

I’ll leave you with this really sweet commercial video, called “Patience …pass it on.”

Image (ducks) via bookerpetcare.co.uk

A Writer’s Primer on Fitness and Ergonometry

I am by no means a fitness guru, although — once upon a time — I did have a 24-inch waist and could sit (effortlessly) in the lotus position with perfect posture.

Once upon a time.

The ravages of time and (admittedly) neglect have taken their toll.  It wasn’t an overnight transformation, and there were definitely plenty of warning signs.

My mother always used to say: “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”  Modern day translation:  “As long as we’re still breathing,  we can do damage control!”  We can’t turn the clock back, but we can certainly turn things around — for the better. 

Our bodies speak to us. Sometimes the messages are subtle, like a slightly stiff neck, a tingling sensation in the hands, or a split-second numbness in the feet.  Often (too often) we shrug them off, until our bodies send us more urgent signals like swollen legs, severe back pain/spasms, insomnia, and shortness of breath or even arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).  These messages and signals, if unheeded, may possibly lead to a deterioration in health, mobility, and lifestyle — or worse.

Listen to your body.  Try to be proactive. Get out of the chair, stretch and move around. A sedentary lifestyle is a prescription for poor health.

“We are under exercised as a nation. We look instead of play. We ride instead of walk. Our existence deprives us of the minimum of physical activity essential for healthy living.”

~ John F. Kennedy (b.1917 – d.1963)  — 35th President of the United States – In office from January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963

As writers (and, indeed, anyone who spends 8+ hours per day sitting in front of a computer), we face several “occupational hazards.”  We sit for prolonged periods of time (especially when the creative juices are flowing) and, more often than not, our backs are crouched and tense, our hands are curled over the keyboard (when not clutching the mouse). Sometimes we squint at the screen, because it’s either too bright or we lost track of the time and forgot to turn the light on (which happens to me very, very frequently when I’m caught up in an intense writing spurt).  Knees are bent and legs are in the same position for hours on end. I have a nasty habit of placing one foot over the other – and leaving it there.  It’s easy to forget to take a break, to have a bite to eat or drink a glass of something refreshing – like water, juice or tea.

“Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular activity.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (b.1803 – d.1882) — American essayist, champion of individualism, lecturer, and poet

Yes, we need to move our muscles, so that we can be mentally alert, energized, and physically able to continue doing what we love to do … write.

Fitness 101 for Writers

Invest in a good chair. The two tools that a writer should not scrimp on is (a) a computer and (b)  a chair.  Your writing chair should have the right amount of cushion, back support, and adjustability (for height). There are some superbly ergonomic chairs on the market —  designed specifically for writers and computer users.  More on that  further on in this post.

Minimize eye strain. Place the monitor directly in front of you (so you don’t have to turn your head). The top of the monitor should be directly in front of your eyes, at a distance of 18-24 inches. Reduce the screen glare and adjust the brightness/contrast. Periodically look away from the screen and focus your eyes on something else. Consult your ophthalmologist and/or optician, should you encounter any problems with your vision.

Maintain good posture. It’s all a matter of simple geometry. Specifically, right angles (90°): feet and lower legs (at ankles) must be 90°; lower legs and thighs (at knees) must be 90°; buttocks and back (at hips/waist) must be 90°; lower arms and upper arms (at elbows) must be 90°.  If your elbows aren’t on a 90° angle, this means that your desk is too high.  Simply adjust the chair height.  Do not slump your back!!!

Take care of your hands. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is, according to the  Mayo Clinic (.com)“a progressively painful hand and arm condition caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist.”  Take a break from time to time. Typing continuously will have an adverse effect on your hand and wrist. Do finger and wrist exercises.  Move your fingers, do wrist stretches and rub (massage) your palms.

Use a timer. When you’re “on a roll,” it’s easy to get lost in your writing and forget that you need to move and stretch your muscles.  Why not set a timer/alarm every hour, to remind you that you need to get up and walk around for a bit, just to get that circulation going once again.

Exercise at your desk. If you’re feeling a little numb or stiff, consider doing some stretching exercises right at your desk.  Do neck rolls; loosen your hands with circular motions – clockwise, and then counter-clockwise; shrug your shoulders and release, then repeat (loosens neck and shoulders); do torso twists, and leg extensions

Take a break! If you can, break up your time with a walk (or run) outside. Maybe you could do an impromptu yoga or pilates session.  If you don’t want to lose your writing mojo, you may want to consider carrying a voice recorder with you. Remember to eat and, repeat after me, “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!”  


Ergonometry 101 for Writers

When we use the word “ergonomics,”  we are referring to “the applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.” And, if anything reduces user fatigue or discomfort, it’s an ergonomic chair!

This is the Ergohuman V2 Chair V200HRBLK  – High Back with Black Frame and Mesh. This chair also comes in either leather or fabric.

Need I say more? 

One final word about exercise.  Running is not for everyone.  Walking is always a good thing. But, if you want to boost your spirit (as well as your fitness level), grab your nearest and dearest …. and dance!  You’ll be rejuvenated and ready to write that next chapter … !

Note:  Before commencing any physical exercise or fitness program, please consult your physician.

Images via bodyandsoul.com.au, brainmass.com, ergonomics-info.com, and ergohuman.com.