From top going clockwise: Simple Abundance workbook, Gratitude Journal, a small Peter Pauper Press Notebook used for the Conversation Journal, and the Simple Abundance Day Book.
Summer of 2016 was too hot and too humid for me to want to go anywhere. Rather than fight the way in which the weather slows everything down, I just went with the flow. Work was very busy throughout this time which was very good for all of us. Since I had to keep my energy and focus on work I found different ways of coping with the heat.
One was to get up very early in the morning and resume my work on the Simple Abundance program. Writer Sarah Ban Breathnach worte the Simple Abunance Daybook in the early-mid 1990s when the world economy was in a recession. Her message of finding happiness in a life aligned with joy, harmony, order and simplicity still resonates for many harried women today. My late Mom used the Daybook on and off until the time she had to go live in a residence because of the advance symptoms of Parkinsonism. The focus she brought to our daily lives bore her own interpretation of Simple Abundance and created a chapter in the last years of our household that were creative, productive and life enriching despite sickness, unemployment and financial difficulties. Together we realized these things can be problems that overwhelm us or they can be looked at as challenges we would overcome. A great deal of the enjoyment we got each day came from such such simple activities as walks, planning a tea time, selecting a muffin mix, feeding the squirrels and birds in the park. Seeing programs on PBS such as “As Time Goes By” and “Keeping up appearances” was another way we slowed down and enjoyed ourselves at home. Following soap operas like “All My Children” or renting DVDs of Hollywood Classic films was another activity we enjoyed at home. We also shared and supported each other’s creative projects such as latchwork, sewing and journaling. These are just some of the ways we were able to focus on the present. The rush to the next thing we felt compelled to do was controlled and we regained our ability to slow down.
During the Summer of 2016, I worked through the program using the Gratitude Journal every night. Having to write down five things to be grateful for every evening was not as difficult as I thought. I found that the Daily Conversation Journal, used each morning, complemented the Gratitude Journal at night. At first I started to complain in my journal about the weather each day. At night the Gratitude Journal contained negative entries with comments like “Another hot day over at last!” After a few days like this I was bored with myself and wanted to find something happy and spontaneous to enter to the journal. What happened was that my mind recollected many happy memories.
Concentrating on simple enjoyments like a juicy orange or piece of watermelon, a smooth and frosty ice coffee, along with memories of childhood visits to my Grandmothers made the staycation days a journey to other times and places long gone but not forgotten. These memories helped me create collages for another book I’m using in the Simple Abundance program: the creation of a visual autobiography through the creation of collages. The workbook offers guidelines for the creation of each collage but the focus and results spring up from a place deep within. I was amazed at how the pieces came together using clip art, printouts of vintage illustrations, stickers and text. Each collage flowed out a little at a time and during certain sessions when I created them I was so delightfully involved that the heat, humidity and noise outside were forgotten.
One theme for a collage centers around what activities kept one amused and happy as a child. I created two collages over the summer. One each focusing on visits for my paternal and maternal Grandmothers. Visiting Grandma Josie Serrapede was always a very relaxing and happy time for me. I loved to take naps after Sunday afternoon supper at her house. Another favorite nap time was early on a Saturday morning at home. After starting first grade my naptime took place only on weekends. Sometimes I retreated to my room at home and made a sort of ritual out of the time I spent before going to sleep. I loved to look through my Mom’s childhood story books with beautiful illustrations. Having all my toys around me also felt very good. Playing with paper dolls in my room or using the little chain stitch sewing machine Grandpa Sam and Grandma Josie gave me also helped me relax. When I finally went to sleep I had happy dreams and awoke ready to play with Tressy, Tammy or Barbie.
Other favorite activities with my Mom and Grandmothers were reading books, playing with little girl versions of lipstick and nailpolish, writing greeting cards and going to the supermarket. Since I was with my Mom and Grandmothers so often I didn’t miss having many little girls my own age as friends. The only girl my own age I was close to was my paternal cousin Jackie. My parents encouraged the relationship. In this way they maintained and knew the sources of influence during my formative years. Very few children on the block were close to me which may account for why I found people of my parents and grandparents generation so much more interesting and easier to converse with.
So many memories, some striking and others comforting came back to me this summer because of these activities. What is most important is that I finally had some realizations about why things were a certain way in the past. It helped me better understand my family and upbringing in a more balanced way. So even though I didn’t travel physically, I did so mentally and returned to the present with an improved outlook. This is one goal of a vacation and I learned a staycation can also be a learning experience.