End of Month Potpourri-June 2015

seedhead drawing

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”  ~Maya Angelou



One of the people I was introduced to in the April Love course, I wrote about last week, was Andrea Schroeder.  She has a wonderful website called, Creative Dream Incubator.  And it is here where I was reconnected with my creative dream, and began drawing again.



daylily drawingAndrea has a great free 10-day course called, Give Your Dream Wings, and I loved this easy 10-minute a day class.  It finally gave me the push to connect again with that wonderful artsy side of me that has been hidden and tucked away to languish for almost 50 years.



That side that colored in coloring books for hours….who made her own paper dolls, clothes and all, and loved every one of them…..who adored the messy paints in art class, was never really nurtured or encouraged.  In fact quite the opposite.  I was told in veiled comments that I had no real artistic talent.  Art classes became drudgery and painful in middle school.  And I was politely asked to leave the chorus in 8th grade…..I was enthusiastic, but tone deaf so it was best for me to leave so there weren’t any awkward moments during concerts.



coneflower drawingI was asthmatic and uncoordinated too so no sports for Donna.  Actually my Physical Education teachers never marked me absent, so I never had to make up classes as it was best for me not to be there since there were less accidents in PE class when I wasn’t there.  So I knew I had to take to my books, and my studies, and excel there as all other outlets were closed off.




“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”

~ Georgia O’Keefe, artist



Maybe had I been introduced to artists like O’Keefe, and given encouragement, I could have stopped the constant messages of not being good enough, not being creative, not having any talent except for being book smart.



hosta leaf drawingBut no matter, that is all old, old water under a bridge I care not to cross anymore, as I have found my inner creative again.  And I am once again connected to that dream of exploring this once closed off area…..no fears, no judgments….just creating, trying and moving on with exploring more and more ways to create.



So where did I start?  Well I got a little boost from my dear, very talented friend Mary…she is a wonderful artist (although she will not say she is….but she is).  And 5 years ago, we started a little weekly ritual called, Art on the Patio.  She was working part-time and so was I, and she offered to teach me to draw and use watercolors.  At that time, I was not in a good place with self-confidence….actually I was at a very low spot, but wanting to stretch myself a bit and try things I had long put off.



pot in chair drawingWe met almost weekly for 2 months, and here in this post you can see my first attempts.  The first drawing at the top of the post is my first drawing of a seed head in my garden.  Our art studio was my garden where we would sit at my patio table, under the umbrella, surrounded by a garden with healthy goodies to munch on.



And if it weren’t for Mary, I would not have had the courage to begin this creative endeavor again….we are thinking of getting our Patio Art time started again as we are both retired.  In the meantime, I watched a video of Andrea’s on her website about drawing Mandalas.  And you can see the start of one below.  I draw them daily in my journal after meditating.



mandela 2So where is all this heading?  I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care….I am just so excited as the creative spirit is with me again, and my child-like anticipation and wonder has taken control.  I plan to take a free art journaling class next that is offered on Andrea’s site.  It is wonderful to find so many things offered for free especially when finances are a bit restricted with retirement.



I have my new journal waiting to be filled with even bigger mandalas and other creative works.  And those blank pages, are not scary to look at any more.  I believe wholeheartedly that we can live an inspired, creative and thrilling life by doing what excites us.  And exploring things we want to know more about or see and do.  Each little step we take in this direction opens up new paths, new doorways into new aspects of our lives we never thought would come about.



pink flower drawingWho knows what the next big thing will be….and I am so OK with that.  I want to open that new box of crayons again, and smell that new smell….see the new perfect tips ready for me to wear them down to a nub.  This has been a long time coming getting back to my artsy side….and even acknowledging that I have an artsy side is a big first step.  Because we all do….we just forgot it, or never had the chance to explore it.



And I promise, Mary, if we do some more art on the patio, I won’t get all judgy and try to compare myself to you or anyone.  I will just be me, and let the experience wash over me like a gentle wave of water bringing me new life and exhilarating every cell of my being.




Special Note:   All the drawings here were done in my first attempt at drawing, under the tutelage of my friend Mary 5 years ago on my patio in the summer.  I am sharing these drawings for the first time, and that is a huge step for me.  These are a great start, and I hope to continue to draw often as I meditate with my creative side.







I leave you with more thoughts about creativity.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

leaf drawing

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations in the Garden-On Self-Nourishment


“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by my self.” ~Brian Andreas



A few months ago I participated in a free online course where 30 inspiring people shared their thoughts and practices on self-love.  It was coordinated by Susannah Conway and called April Love.  It was a time to explore and celebrate ourselves, so it was right up my alley.



One of the early subjects was about self-care.  The question posed was, “Where did you learn about self-care?”  I was intrigued because I had never thought about this question specifically.  And when I tried to recollect where I had indeed learned about self-care, I couldn’t recall anything concrete, which wasn’t unusual as I found out.



Sure I had heard about good nutrition from my parents and teachers…read about it throughout my life as I tried diet after diet.  Knew my diet was atrocious as I was a sugar addict.  I knew it was important to be active, and that once I graduated high school, my college days found me putting on weight that was hard to take off.  I participated in exercise programs and did the yo-yo diet thing.  So this was really the sum total of my knowledge on the subject for quite a while.



My parents were great always encouraging us to try new things, do our best, work hard and cheered us on.  They let us stumble, and they were there to help us pick up the pieces if we needed them.  So I had positive experiences, and had learned problem solving and resilience.



And as I delved into this topic of self-care, it seemed it was asking me to consider so much more when thinking about self-nourishment.  What were the practices that helped to nourish more than just my body? And why is nourishment so important?  Well if we don’t fill our bodies and souls with nourishing foods and practices, then we will be empty, depleted and not able to give to ourselves and others.  I saw this happening when I was working in my 9-5 or really my 7-7 job getting little sleep.



And I see it now with friends and family who are caring for aging parents….we empty DSCN4806ourselves, get sick and our bodies are in turmoil.  We consider our needs last many times, or we think we can push ourselves through and then find time to replenish…a mistake I made too many times as I never did find enough time to replenish all I was taking away from myself in terms of nourishing food, sleep, time for myself to be quiet and at peace.



So that is why in my first year of retirement, I learned finally about self-care and about how to nourish myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  I discovered that complete health requires all these pathways be nourished.  I am no longer shy about setting limits for myself, and adhering to them when I feel my body, mind or soul out of sorts.



So what do I do to nourish myself these days?  Sleep…lots of sleep as my body dictates.  I have also cultivated some wonderful habits and routines that really bring me peace of mind.  I start my day with meditation, journaling and quiet solitude.  It is a must for me to wake with a quiet mind so my soul can feel nourished.  No crazy busy schedules to ruminate on.  I now make sure my schedule is workable for me, and change it if it is not.



After about a half hour of quiet time, I roust my husband and we take a half hour walk in the neighborhood.  It is great to have him walking with me as this close personal time is also nourishing both our spirits.  And we each crave the quiet time watching and listening to the world wake around us….breathing in the cooler air scented with grass and flowers.  We watch baby birds and bunnies stretching their young bodies and trying to forage on their own.  What a delight and such immense peace and solace gained from being immersed in nature.



Of course a healthy breakfast is a must (lovingly prepared most mornings by my husband), and then it is on to the daily chores and appointments and my work of gardening and writing.  I have settled into this new role as a writer, and it is nourishment as well for my mind and spirit.  Finding this new work that brings so much satisfaction.



I have discovered recently that I need an evening routine that helps to soothe me and quiet my mind so I can sleep more restfully.  I am a voracious reader, and always find reading at night helps to tire me, and quiet my mind somewhat.  But I need something more.  So I am working to add a short meditation and stretching routine.  My old habit of “vegging out” in front of the TV is not the best, but at one time it was an effective numbing technique I used to use.



My garden is always a great teacher.  Recently it has been nourished by the rain, DSCN4807replenishing itself by putting on new growth, sending up more flowers.  Without the needed nourishment from the soil, air and rain, it would not thrive.  We are like that garden needing to replenish and feed our bodies, minds and spirits lest we dwindle too.  So as my life changes and I grow older, I am finding it even more important to nourish myself in new ways I may not have considered before.  Stretching my mind as well as my body, and touching deep into my soul to fill up the wellspring of my being.



So where did you learn about self-care?  Were you self-taught?  And what do you do to nourish yourself these days?




Special Note:   The velvety foliage pictured here is from Lady’s Mantle or Alchemilla mollis, a wonderful plant to capture raindrops or dewdrops.  They look like they are bedazzled with diamonds.  In The Language of Flowers, Alchemilla mollis, means “the little alchemist”.  A perfect plant to feature as I talk about self-care.


I am also featuring my dwarf willow tree in the picture below.  The Ancient Celts used the willow in bringing about psychic visions that produced a clearer understanding of the world.







I leave you with more thoughts about self-care.  Feel free to download this photo and share.


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

You Are What You Think

DSCN7942It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about. ~ Dale Carnegie




It has been almost a year since I started this blog…well 10 months really.  And in that time I have been on a journey to reconnect to my inner happiness.  It lies within me, within us all…all the time…available.  We just have to tap into it….to allow it to come into our lives.



Seems simple really, but it has been a bumpy road filled with so much learning, knowing, joy and some sadness that had to be wiped away occasionally.  When I read this quote by Dale Carnegie recently, it really stuck with me.  Simple and not so simple sometimes.  Just change your thoughts…



But in reality, it takes time to change our thought patterns…and we need patience DSCN7941with ourselves.  If we have been in a worrying frame of mind….my legacy given to me by my mom and my aunt who raised her….forever worrying about every little thing, thought, detail….we won’t just stop worrying at the drop of a hat.  Or maybe in a negative cycle where we think everything is going to go wrong…nothing ever works out….we just aren’t meant to be happy or to have nice things….well you get the picture.  I remember hearing some of this too growing up.  Part of a generation plagued by a Depression and war.



And when you have been exposed to or been part of these limiting thoughts for so long, they become you.  There is a fear in letting them go because they have been part of your identity.  Long engrained habitual thinking.  And there is the thought….If I stop the worry, what will I replace it with?   We even have long-held social interactions with family and friends around the worry…the negative.  Now how do I or who do I talk with if I give it all up?



I know this may sound crazy, but the fear and not wanting to let it all go can be real.  And it can completely change who and how we interact with those closest to us….some friendships may even slip away because the negativity is too much for us once we begin to change.



I have been dealing with changing thought patterns for a long time around family.  You DSCN7938can easily get sucked back in, as I did early on years ago as I began this change.  Especially when family doesn’t want to change.  But now I think about what I want for myself.  How I want to feel.  I think about the happiness always there for me….something I choose to tap into as often as possible.



And I want to enjoy my life…connect with people over mutual interests and celebrate the achievements we all are making.  So I continue to be a role model for some family and friends turning conversations to the positive….talking about the good things happening.  Changing the perspective, seeing the gifts laid before me each moment.



The flowers blooming and shifting, the cries of laughter of children playing outside my window, the birds…new ones visiting daily with new songs to witness.  The flowers are springing up all over dotting the landscape with a rainbow of colors….oh the heavenly perfume.  These wonders keep me connected to my inner bliss.



DSCN7939Will there be sad times…the loss of loved ones….the worry when a loved one is sick?  Absolutely.  That is just part of life.  But I try not to dwell there for long….I look for the gifts always around me, and lift up those who may be in pain with kindnesses….a bouquet of flowers or just a smile.  Trying to always see the magic, the tingly joyful times before me.






Special Note:   The flowers pictured here are columbines, specifically Aquilegia Vulgaris Nora Barlow Pink’.  In The Language of Flowers, columbines represent being anxious and trembling.  Such a lovely flower to have such worries, but I will dwell on their beauty not their meaning.








I leave you with more thoughts about the power of positive thinking.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

think positive

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Wildlife Lessons-Rabbits Return


“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were–Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ”  ~Beatrix Potter



Is that not the sweetest little face you have ever seen….for me it is pure joy…and a bit of mayhem.  But I should start at the beginning.  Last summer we discovered baby rabbits in the garden.  One met his demise and the hands of our new young fox, Hunter.  The other grew up in our garden and we fondly named her Beatrix….Bea for short.



At the end of Bea’s story in late fall, she had left our garden and we thought she went to live under the garden shed next door.  My parting words to Bea were:


“Perhaps she will raise a family close by in spring.  Of course, we only admit well-behaved rabbits to our garden as Beatrix can attest to.”


Little did I know what was to happen this spring….and as my mother always told me, ‘be careful what you wish for’.  Apparently I have not mastered this wise lesson yet!



It was a chilly April dawn, cloudy and drizzling….bone chillin’ weather.  As I was looking out DSCN2186over the flooded garden, I spied a bit of activity.  There was a rabbit around the berry bed.  Now a few days before this, I had found a hole in my garlic bed….the perfect size and shape for a rabbit’s nest not yet lined.  Well that could not be allowed so I filled it in, replaced a few moved garlic bulbs, and never thought more about it.



Not until this rabbit was suspiciously hanging about.  So I decided to go out in the rain and chase it.  As I approached, the rabbit was reluctant to leave, but I was successful in chasing him.  And as I glanced over to the raised bed where he had been, I saw another rabbit laying on top of the bed.  It was a very large rabbit, the color of the leaves, hard to see in the murky gray dawn.



My first thought was how did it get inside the netting we had over this bed….netting specifically put there to protect the plants from the rabbits!  Huh, well that didn’t work….and as all this was running through my head, I never once thought about the hole in the garlic bed, or why were 2 rabbits hanging about this bed, as there was little to eat here….



DSCN2703All I could think about was shooing the rabbit out of the bed.  It finally left jumping under the netting loose on one side. Well that must be how she got in.  The rabbits ran off behind the gazebo, not far.  And as I walked over at the bed to secure the netting, I saw why they were there….a nest of newborn baby rabbits were exposed to the elements…actually called kits or kittens.  They were blind, hairless and writhing in the nest….and OH MY GOD, they were not covered and it was cold and raining.  So I quickly moved back to the house in hopes the parents would come back and cover them.  It took 5 minutes, but they returned…the male rabbit, or buck, to stand guard, and the female momma rabbit, or doe, to nurse and cover the nest.



She entered through a hole in the netting, not discernible to me until I later went over and DSCN3194felt around for it….clever rabbits.  Females will return only once or twice a day to nurse  because their milk is so rich in fat.  They come when it is dark or just about dark near dusk and dawn.  Most of the pictures here are taken at these darker times and hard to see details.



We didn’t see momma coming into the garden or even around the meadow for days.  So of course the worried godmother, me, was obsessing about these babies.  After about a week, I had to assure myself they were OK.  After all it had been in the 20s at night and barely 40 during the day with pouring rain.  I slipped out to the nest, carefully uncovered the nest (wearing gloves), and saw the furry little balls sleeping.  I gently nudged one to make sure they were alive and was reassured when one moved a little.  I quickly covered them, and worried a bit more until the end of week 2.




I read that at around 2 weeks, the kits are supposed to come out of the nest now, and move about getting used to their surroundings and munching on plants found nearby.  I was concerned about them wandering since the nest is in a RAISED BED about 1.5 feet off the ground.  And if in their wandering they were to fall out of the bed, they would not be able to get back in….not to mention they might get tangled in the netting.  Yes we left the netting on as the rabbits chose this protected bed for a reason…birds of prey, cats, fox, etc would not be able to get to the babies.  The only predator who might get inside the bed was a snake, which we did find later caught in the netting dead, at the base of the raised bed.



DSCN3037So exactly 2 weeks after I spotted the nest, momma came just before dusk…which was good as we finally had a better view.  She took her time getting to the nest so as not to draw attention to herself.  And she stood and looked at the bed from all angles before approaching the opening in the netting.  Once she leapt inside, she quickly uncovered and nursed the kits.  We had spied 4 adorable little bunnies with little wiggly feet and ears (just under momma on the right) just like Thumper (from the Bambi movie)….look carefully below to see all four.



DSCN3050Then she left them uncovered, so they could wander about the 4′ x 4′  bed, and she left.  SHE LEFT…OH MY GOD….what is going to happen to them…should we go out and cover them.  The voice of reason (my husband) said we can’t do anything its nature, and we have to leave them alone.  So we did.



The next morning I was going to check that nest though.  And as daylight dawned, I was peeking out the window surveying the garden and the bed from afar.  Just about the same time my neighbor decided to mow his lawn right next to our fence.  As he got close to the corner, I saw something jump….OH MY GOD, it was a baby bunny.  So I raced outside and tried to find it to no avail.  I checked the nest and it was covered.  My worst fears were realized…one of the babes had fallen out of the raised bed, and thankfully found cover in the garden.



DSCN2712I mentioned it to my husband, and we decided to see if the momma came back at dusk.  Momma did come again, fed the bunnies quickly….and as she was feeding and letting them wander, I spied a little baby bunny head jumping at the side of the raised bed trying to get back in.  Of course it couldn’t…it just kept running around the bed.  The mother left rather quickly, and the baby took after her hoping to get his dinner….can we say heart breaking.



DSCN3210The next day as we were working in the garden near the beds, I saw the nest looked caved in a bit.  As I looked to the side of the bed, I spied a little baby bunny between the bed and chive plants that grow alongside it.  My husband thought it would be good to put him back in the raised bed so he grabbed his net and easily captured the little cutie pie (also pictured at the top of the post).  The baby wasn’t afraid, rather I think he was confused.  He just looked at us and laid down, and waited until we walked away.  Then he jumped out and ran away.



DSCN3212We weren’t sure what to expect the next day. So we decided to check the nest and found it empty.  Sadly the bunnies were gone.  They are not old enough to be weaned or to leave the nest, so we think momma moved them for the next several weeks where they could do their wandering and exploring without worrying about anyone falling out of the raised bed.  Fingers crossed, we hope to see them eventually running around the garden or meadow.



Oh and we do think it was Bea who brought her babes to our garden…the momma rabbit is living under the shed where Bea was, and since Bea was born in the garden we think she came back to give birth in the garden again.  And speaking of returning mothers, our crazy robin returned in April.  We awoke one morning to a familiar banging at our front windows to see the robin sitting there saying, ‘I’m back’……oh no here we go again!



UPDATE:  We have seen a young bunny in the neighbor’s meadow living under their shed.  And we have seen the parents back in the garden checking it out.  I think they have another nest somewhere…so around the middle of July we may see baby bunnies again roaming the garden.



And the robin’s built a nest next door, but we just had the babes fledging in our garden….cute as a button.  I named this one Stanley….he was already looking for his own food and flying high into the trees.  I think he is an overachiever already.


With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.



And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  Please check out all these great blogs.



Also as the solstice approaches, please join me join in at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations, where you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the new seasons around the world.



I leave you with another thought about my garden lesson learned this spring.  Feel free to download the photo and share.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.