Happiness

Dear Readers,

Perhaps 2020 can best be described as dichotomous. We can all enumerate the sacrifices we’ve made, but we are also invited to reflect on our many blessings. Despite what has happened to us and our loved ones this year, we are still here, with books to read, food to eat, and a healthier environment. These, plus focusing on the positive, can give us reasons to be happy and celebrate! Then, we can pay that happiness forward because there’s sure to be someone nearby who needs it.

For the holidays, I give you the following words of wisdom I received the other day in a Christmas card:

“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself; and, flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is . . . life is good when you are happy; but, much better when others are happy because of you.”  –Pope Francis

So, get a clue, Readers. I wish you peace, joy, good health, and happiness today and in the days ahead. And I hope you’ll share your abundance with those in need.

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Birthday Reflections

Dear Readers,

Since it’s December, I’m figuring that about 75% of us have already experienced a “Pandemic Birthday”–a very different kind of birthday since last March when the lockdowns began, and our friends and favorite restaurants were closed to us.

My birthday just occurred on December 7, and for many months prior to it, I’d been wondering how I would react this year. I knew that I wouldn’t be spending it in my usual place, which is with my East Coast family. I also knew that I would probably be home with my sweet dog Jimmy Lambchop there to celebrate it with me, but no humans. The date approached with some trepidation on my part, given that I like raucous holidays and birthdays with loved ones and good food near.

Once the day arrived, I was hit with some important thoughts. I’d like to share them with you:

  1. I was so glad my birthday had arrived! It beat the alternative, after all. Far too many people have left us this year, succumbing to the virus. I was still here and healthy!
  2. I wasn’t at all lonely or feeling “deprived” (or depraved!). I received an overabundance of good wishes on social media, by phone, and by mail.
  3. This pandemic has forced all of us to sacrifice in on way or another, and when the going gets tough, I’ve discovered that I am tough, strong, and perseverant.
  4. All of us, no matter what our situations, have so much to be thankful for! I took a walk and looked around. Did the same inside my house. The word that came to mind repeatedly on my birthday was “GRATITUDE.” I had a smile on my face all day. (The cupcakes I made helped, too.)
  5. By the end of the day, I realized that I am a much happier person than I was on my last birthday. I think it’s a result of an important choice we are asked to make in extraordinary times like these, which is to live life well or live life ill. I choose to live it well and, therefore, look for joy and positivity now more than ever.

So, get a clue, Birthday Folks. I hope you had or will have a very joyous Pandemic Birthday, with an avalanche of gifts–the kind that can’t necessarily be wrapped.

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas in Tinseltown

 

Dear Kids and All Readers,

On the first of each month, I find a treat in my email inbox. It’s the monthly “Now Playing” program guide from Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

I have been a movie buff of Hollywood’s Golden Age films (uh, kids, that’s from the 1930s and ’40s) since I was a kid myself. I fell in love at the age of ten with those black and white works of art while watching “The Early Show,” a weekday cavalcade of the old movies shared by a local television personality in San Diego, California. I would race home from school every day to tune in. Instead of commercials, the program host would share the actors’ bios, some history of the time, and anecdotes of incidents that happened on the set when the movies were being made. He was a true movie aficionado. (Kids, that means someone who’s a big fan and very smart about a particular subject.) Such was my earliest schooling in those film that would remain important to me as I grew up.

Happily, there is a fabulous line-up for my December holiday viewing on TCM! Just in time to spread some joy. Here are a few I will be watching:

One of my all-time favorites is The Bishop’s Wife (1947). The story is about Dudley the angel (Cary Grant) who comes to Earth to help a stressed bishop (David Niven), whose priorities need realignment; and, the bishop’s wife (Loretta Young), who’s unhappy because their life together has taken a wrong turn since her husband rose in power in the church.

Next is Christmas in Connecticut (1945). A New York City cooking columnist (Barbara Stanwyck) pretends to be something she isn’t on a farm in Connecticut to keep her publisher boss (Sydney Greenstreet) from finding out her secret. Rounding out this rom-com’s cast are Dennis Morgan, S. Z. Sakall, and Una O’Connor.

And I can’t omit It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947), which features a homeless man (Victor Moore) and his dog Sam, who take up residence every year in an industrialist’s vacated mansion on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The poor man suddenly finds that he has company from persons who want to share “his” digs for a variety of interesting reasons. He teaches them all valuable lessons about forgiveness, true wealth, and gratitude. Others in the cast include Charles Ruggles, Don DeFore, and Gale Storm.

So, get a clue, Readers. Movies are a part of who many of us are. So true for me, personally and as an author! Please don’t overlook the classics from Tinseltown for the holidays–or for any day. Kids, I hope you’ll come to appreciate these works of art that are the forerunners of many special features, effects, and storylines you enjoy in movies made nowadays. Happy viewing!

 

 

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Time for a Sea Change?

Dear Readers,

A few weeks into the pandemic, there arose an opportunity–blessing, actually–for me to tune in via Zoom to “Friday Reflections” sponsored by San Diego Oasis, an organization that offers classes to those 50 and better for enrichment and lifelong learning.

“Friday Reflections” are just that–reflections by the incomparable Peter Bolland, professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Southwestern College in San Diego, CA. I have watched and listened, enthralled each Friday, to what Peter has to offer. His mission is to bring into the present some enlightenment from ancient and current masters and prophets of philosophy, poetry, and world religions. (Buddha, Jesus, Eckhart Tolle, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Cicero, Wordsworth, and Mary Oliver to name a few.)

On Friday, November 20, Peter’s topic was “Gratitude.” He posited that gratitude isn’t merely thanking someone for what we receive. On the contrary, it isn’t an endpoint, but rather a beginning where we have to reprogram, or retrain, ourselves to intentionally look for the beauty, abundance, and support the world has to offer daily. To consciously and aesthetically appreciate life. To leave off with cravings since they create dissatisfaction. And isn’t that a powerful message to send during the pandemic, or maybe because of it?

Peter explained that according to psychology, our minds have a “default negativity bias.” We are rewarded for worrying and finding the threat, problem, scarcity, and solutions in our lives. Important, yes, for survival, but bad if it becomes calcified as our daily mindset and action plan. We must start with accepting what is to create a well of peace within ourselves, then take steps to correct injustices through our right actions. He said that this is what Buddha called “The Holy Yes,” or what Jesus called “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Peter quoted Cicero as saying, “Gratitude is the parent of all the virtues” because from it are born courage, warm relationships, kindness, friendliness, balance, and compassion to help us weather the storms of our lives.

Peter asked, “What if we choose to make this radical shift in perception and assessment to see and measure things differently? To ascribe value to things differently?” He challenges us to remember kindness, not mistakes–ours and others’. To rise up out of negativity since it is in Peter’s words, “fake news,” factually a distortion of reality coming from within us.

So get a clue, especially at Thanksgiving, dear Readers. Isn’t it time to reprogram our operating software–if we haven’t already–to see what is going right, not wrong, and what is supportive and generative, not depletive, in our lives? Even amidst the horrors and revelations of the pandemic, we can come into an appreciation of what is and count the miraculous abundance the Universe has already given us. This is the fruit of the consciousness of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving and Every Day!

 

 

 

 

 

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Interest in Pinterest

Hello, All Readers,

I recently learned that with 175 million active members on Pinterest, including many teachers, author such as myself should jump on it!

I already have a personal page, but watch for a link to my author page soon.

The list of pin-worthy topics I’m considering are as follows:

The Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries; Mystery Books for Kids; Classic Mystery Books and Movies; Vintage Book Covers; Anything Nancy Drew; Anything Sherlock Holmes; My Newsletter Archive; Characteristics of Mysteries; Ancient Egypt; Gemstones; Synesthesia; and ???

So, get a clue, Readers. What on-topic pins would YOU like to see on my Pinterest page? Let me know at http:sherrilljoseph.com/contact. I look forward to your ideas! Then watch for the announcement that my Pinterest page is ready to see if YOUR idea made the final cut. Thanks in advance.

 

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Hello, Blackbirds!

Hi, Kids and All Readers,

I am so honored to announce that I have been accepted as a member of Blackbird Writers!

This is a group of nineteen writers of mystery, crime, cozies, thrillers, and suspense for adults and children. It was founded during the COVID quarantine by author Tracey S. Phillips. In her words, Tracey “wished to create a community of like-minded authors willing to help promote each other and share their love of stories with readers.” Tracey is the author of Best Kept Secrets, an adult mystery. More information is available at http://blackbirdwriters.com.

Why “Blackbirds”? Blackbirds represent knowledge and quick wit. They are very intelligent birds that flock to care for one another. Think crows and ravens.

So, get a clue, Readers. Check out Tracey’s and other members’ books, including mine, at http://blackbirdwriters.com/bookstore. You can find something for both adults and kids. And please subscribe to our quarterly newsletter at http://blackbirdwriters.com. Click on the black and white subscribe button at the top of the page. Thank you!

 

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