An Interview with Susan Troccolo (and a Giveaway)


“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw




A while back, I was given the distinct honor of being awarded recognition for this blog by a reader, Julie@Gardening Jules.  And I promised that I would do a few interviews in recognition of the honor.  Finally, I am getting around to the first interview, and it is indeed a special interview with author and blogger, Susan Troccolo.



I met Susan Troccolo in this wonderful blogging world almost 3 years ago when Susan found my garden blog, Gardens Eye View.  Somehow we both found our way to writing for the wonderful website, Vision and Verb, which is no longer online.  When I heard she was writing a new book, I decided I had to interview Susan.



Susan has been on this journey of writing a book for a while now, and I am learning so much from her.  She has just released her first ebook, , which consists of 4 essays.  As Susan says this will be ‘a taste of what’s to come’.  Eventually these four stories will be among the twenty or so included in her next collection, and I can’t wait for that collection.  So sit back, relax and enjoy this wonderful conversation with an amazing woman and author…..




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1.  Susan I am so glad to have found you online through blogging.  I always find it interesting how folks get into blogging.  Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog because I knew that I had another book in me and I wanted to connect with more readers, the kind of readers that I thought might like my stories. You know, it’s funny, even traditional New York based publishers are advising their authors to start up a blog. This is not just for the Indies anymore. All book promotion is basically done by the author herself. I also was hoping, really hoping, that I could create something beautiful and fun and make new online friends. It has worked out that way!



2. Susan I really enjoy my visits to your blog, and have always been intrigued by its name.  What is the significance of the title of your blog?

Well, at first, it was purely a funny thought that came into my mind. It was me poking fun (in a tongue-in-cheek way) at all the three word titles out there now. My humor is a little quirky. Also, my blog covers so many topics that I needed to find something that would embrace a lot of life using the metaphor of the garden. It was: Life (with a big L), Change (our own aging process,) and Compost, (the mess it all makes in the process!) Gradually other people started providing other ideas that had significance for them regarding the significance of compost. They saw it as the gradual breaking down of all the elements of life into something rich, and nurturing for new growth. It became a metaphor that had more than one meaning and I like that: readers can make of it what they want. I always try to give readers an opportunity to make something I write their own.



HD-28 #1


3.  The creative spirit seems so much a part of you.  What are some of your creative endeavors that make your heart sing?

I’ve been a guitar player since I was seven. Teaching guitar was my first job at fifteen, through the Parks & Recreation Department where I lived. I love bluegrass—I used to be a pretty mean flat-picker, and I love blues. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed arthritis in my hands and so a lot of that skill is lost. But I’ll always play the guitar, I just love it. I also love speaking Italian. The sound is like singing.  And I get to use my hands to make a point-:)





4.  And what is your creative process?

That’s a tough one. I have to work really hard not to sabotage myself with thinking that my creative work needs to be  good coming out of the gate. I think it was Anne Lamott who said: Write shitty first drafts! Those were her words exactly. For example, if I just scratch things out when I’m in a vulnerable and open space and write in a plain, lined, school-type notebook, then I’m less concerned with expecting great things from the writing at first. (There will be plenty of drafts and editing to follow!) I guess I’d have to say my creative process is trying to get free. Also, my best stories have come to me in the middle of the night. I have woken up laughing; honestly it’s happened three times with pieces I’ve sold to online magazines.  Usually it’s something that makes me laugh or makes me cry.



5.  What new form of arts or craft would you like to learn?

I’d like to get better at cooking. I’m the one that always brings the salads to the Pot Luck Dinners! They are pretty good salads, but I get tired of making them.





6.  Do you have a favorite space or spot that is sacred in or around your home?

Two places really. My office and the garden. My office has a Tibetan Thanka on the wall and I meditate there. In the spring, summer, and fall,  I like nothing more than to take my coffee outside in my jammies and putter in the garden.



7.  I know you have traveled to many places in the world, so where would you like to travel next?

I’ve never been to Scotland and I’ve never seen Alaska, the inland passage. I’d also love to rent a cottage in the Cotswolds and just relax after the year I’ve had! So many losses.



Delphiniums & Dalhias watermarked


8.  Oh I would love a cottage in the Cotswolds.  Let’s shift gears now.  Tell me what famous person or not so famous person would you like to meet?

I’d love to meet Michelle Obama and her mother. What a mother she must have! I’d also like to meet Anne Lamott and the Jungian writer James Hillman. Oh, and Michael Pollen—what a thoroughly enjoyable writer he is!



9.  Now that is an interesting collection of people.  Susan, what is or would have been your dream career or job?

I wish I could have made it as a Country Western Singer in the old days, not now though, when everything is so over-produced. I know that sounds silly; but what a hoot! Unfortunately, my singing isn’t up to snuff. I play guitar better than I can sing.


Here’s a little treat.  Susan singing and playing the guitar.  I think she would have made a fine entertainer….




10.   If it is possible to pick a favorite book, what would you choose?

Two very different ones come to mind: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard  and the most exciting adventure story I know:  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Oh, and anything by MFK Fisher.  Oh, and A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.





11.  You just finished writing the ebook, , and are writing a bigger collection of stories.  Can you tell us a bit about why you wanted to write this collection?  How does it fulfill part of your soul’s journey?

I want to write about aging to help myself understand it. I have found that the garden is the perfect metaphor for the process of life and death, the seasons of our lives. I also know that because of the cancers that I’ve had and recovered from, I still hold fear in my body. I want to learn to release that fear. I’m hoping the book—as much work as it is—will give me some peace at heart.

The larger print book will come out in early 2016.



Susie&Fly at the Beach


12.  Can you tell us anything about the process that you went through in creating your book that was a great lesson or an aha moment…words of wisdom?

I really push myself too hard. And my body always pays the price. I would never think of someone like Clint Eastwood as being a model of aging (!?!), but I read the other day that he said: “if you just relax, it can be fun.” Good old Clint. Imagine that. But I liked what he said. In that moment I got it. Just kick off your shoes, and relax. There is nothing to prove.  Also I have a note in one of my garden journals that reads: Dreamt I was Clint Eastwood. Woke up. I AM Clint Eastwood! It cracked me up. That’s the post-menopausal woman for you—we are forces of nature.



13.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?

Right now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all I need to learn to put forth my best work. Whether you go traditional , or indie, writing a book is hard work. The social media piece alone is daunting. I pray to be able to do it with joy…in fact I have a note on my computer from Jennifer Richardson that says: “As easy joy about it all.” That’s all I want. But I can tell you that the people who have shown up on my blog have really helped me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. These readers and other bloggers keep me writing. They make me want to tell my truth and to keep putting it out there. I couldn’t be more grateful. Beyond that, it really is day by day.



Well I really enjoyed this time with Susan.  Like I said, I always learn so much when I talk with Susan.  Please make sure you visit Susan Troccolo in all the wonderful places she hangs out:

Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page






If you would like a free copy of Susan’s new ebook, just subscribe to her blog, Life-Change-Compost.  You can also .  If you have any problems downloading the ebook, please email Susan at at



Susan will have a print copy of The Beet Goes On for purchase from Amazon soon.  If you would like to win a print copy of The Beet Goes On, leave a comment here, and LIKE Susan’s Facebook author page.  Then your name will be placed in a hat for the chance to win this wonderful book.  I will choose a name at noon on August 2nd, and email the winner.



All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Photos are the sole property of Susan Troccolo and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

Morning Time

feb sky

“Have you ever seen the dawn? Not a dawn groggy with lack of sleep or hectic with mindless obligations and you about to rush off on an early adventure or business, but full of deep silence and absolute clarity of perception? A dawning which you truly observe, degree by degree. It is the most amazing moment of birth. And more than anything it can spur you to action. Have a burning day.”

~ Vera Nazarian





I never really paid attention to the dawn until about 6 years ago.  It was then that I was commuting an hour each way to work…traveling east in the morning and west in the late afternoon.  It wasn’t a job I was particularly excited about, but one that would get me to retirement as there were so many lay offs, and I was 3 years away from retirement.




jun skyAnd each morning, usually at the crack of dawn, I would travel east many times dreading the day, the tedious work.  I was very good at my job, but it did not allow me to use many of my skills or creativity.  And as I traveled that long stretch of highway, I knew there were many who traveled with me that were in the same boat.  Not excited about the early morning, long commute to a job that was not their ideal.




But each morning as the sun rose with me in my travels, there was something magical about the day.  Something that would awaken inside of me.  An incredible spirit that lifted me through my day.  I only wished I could linger longer with the sunrise, capture it and just be with it in silence.



nov skySo when I retired, I vowed to watch the sunrise on as many mornings as possible.  Go to the windows facing east and wait for it…..with anticipation and excitement much like a child experiencing the wonders of seeing a baby bunny or a fawn walking into the meadow for the first time.  And that wide-eyed wonder has not faded, as I watch sunrise after sunrise.  On those mornings, when the sky has blessed me with its incredible magic, I take my camera outside (even in the 20 degrees below zero weather), and snap picture after picture as the sun slowly kisses the horizon and hugs the sky just for me!  I want to wake the whole world, and share the new day shouting, “You’re missing it”.



And my first thoughts, in the first rays of daylight, are of thankfulness with a mouth stretching smile…and yes many times tears of joy for this blessed morning.  There is a peace that descends on the world in these first moments of the morning.  You can hear the joy from the birds, and watch other animals come out to greet the sun too.



aug sky 2This is the time of my deepest reflection.  It is when I am alone with my day…when I descend into myself and contemplate my life and all I have.  It is when I let go, and just revel in the moment.  It is the best time for me to meditate too.  A practice that has become part of me, much like the dawn.




On these inspired mornings, as my little corner of the world is waking, I feel energized and renewed.  A new day, a new time….a beginning that holds a promise born in the sky…ablaze in my eyes, my heart and my mind.  A gentle kiss from the Universe welcoming me again to be here in this moment of joy.



morning sky collage


Do you greet the dawn?  Does something in nature inspire you?





Special Note:   The pictures here are from sunrises over the past 3 years, and they represent each month.  I find the dawn in late spring and early fall are far less colorful, but the sun blazes brighter those days.







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

morning-dec sky

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 Judgment


“Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed.
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.”
― Alfred Lord Tennyson




When spring rolls around, my garden is filled with birds all looking for a spot to nest and raise their young.  They are very territorial, and inevitably fights break out as they did this past May with the hummingbirds.  There are clashes as one bird runs another out of a nesting box or destroys a nest or fights over a feeder.  And there are times when some try to run me out of my garden….darn swallows.



But there is one rule in my garden, that we must treat each other with respect and kindness.  I know these are birds, and they are driven by primal instinct, but I still do have to have a few words with some birds.



IMG_3579Yes, I know I am judging the actions of birds based on my own perceptions of life, and it is rather silly.  But no more silly than when we judge others and their actions based on how WE think they should act.  I find not judging ourselves and others is a difficult habit to break.  Last week I focused on accepting myself more, and judging myself less.  Now I am drawn to this habit of judging others, and how I am trying to lessen these instances of judgment too.



Of course it is only natural that we judge.  We judge someone innocent or guilty in a court of law.  We make ‘judgment calls’ as we make decisions.  And it is human to look at a situation, and think if we would do the same thing or how we might change a situation.  Most of the time, these judgments are based on our way of looking at the world.  It does not usually consider the other person’s life and reasons for their actions as we don’t always know these.  And am I so perfect, that I know for a fact that I have never behaved in this way or ever will.



Is there so little compassion for other’s and their lives, their trials, their imperfections?  Can we not forgive, move on or try to help instead?  And here’s another thought….their life and actions are not about me.  Someone did not just cut me off on the highway because they didn’t like me, or my car or simply because they were a jerk (OK not usually though).  Perhaps they were delayed and know that if they don’t get to work on time they will be fired.  Have I ever been in such a hurry that I cut someone off…I am sure I have, and usually I wasn’t even aware of it or said, ‘oops sorry but I’m in a hurry.’   No excuses for our behavior, just the reality of life as it streams by.



DSCN5616When I hear my judgy voice start, I also hear my dad’s voice saying….’now Donna, you don’t know the circumstances…have you never felt like this before.’  And I begin replacing the judgment with either compassion or a ‘let it go’ attitude instead.   After all when I am in a judgment frame of mind, it is usually followed by anger and frustration.  And who wants to feel upset.



We all have our own taste in things…we know what we like, and what we don’t like.  But it is when I start judging others by my likes, that I need to step back.  This is where I started my change in thinking about judgment.  So I don’t like Rap music.  OK, but I don’t have to judge someone as having no taste in music if they like it.  You’ve heard the judgements:   why can’t a neighbor keep a more attractive yard free from clutter….then there are those outfits we see some people wearing out in public…what were they thinking….it goes on and on.



So I am starting to practice less judgment and more compassion.  I can dislike someone’s behavior, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them or think they are a jerk.  I have a choice really.  I can let it go or have a compassionate talk with them about it.  I can educate them, and model a different way.  But in the end their behavior is about their lives, and where they are on their journey.  I cannot change their behavior, only they can if it is what they want.



IMG_2807And there is no point in labeling their behavior selfish, stupid, mean or any other name you want to pick.  Because it has no meaning for them, and it just adds to negative feelings for me.  I can’t stop anyone else from judging others, but I can be a model of compassion instead.  And hope that with my showing more compassion toward others, they might judge less.





Special Note:   The flowers shown here are yellow marigolds.  In The Language of Flowers, yellow marigolds represent self-judgement.







I leave you with more thoughts about judgment.  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.



“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh


Am I beautiful?  I think now I can say that I am.  Oh not in a conceited, ‘love me, look at me everyone’ kind of way.  No just for myself.  I would not be judged a beauty in today’s world if we looked at outward beauty only.  But I am not consumed with being or thinking myself beautiful.  No instead I like and love myself…that is beauty to me.



And it has been a long time coming to accept myself as a beautiful person inside and out.  When I started high school I was 5 feet tall, and weighed about a 100 lbs soaking wet with naturally curly frizzy hair that did its own thing.  I wore tortoise-shell glasses (all the rage) which of course made me a ‘four-eyes’….or in other words an easy target for bully-types.  And I had not blossomed yet, so there were no big stares from the boys.



DSCN4441We were and still are bombarded with messages of being beautiful, and trying to achieve an image of beauty that is outside ourselves.  Add to that I was not outgoing, but instead a shy, introverted girl who was a dreamer in a sea of 3800 students.  So I was content to keep myself to myself…not letting many people in.



Now some 40 years later, and many experiences under my belt, I am just beginning to accept me for who I am…and I am learning about who I am again.  I think I was always trying to play a role in an effort to be liked or accepted never quite understanding that keeping these masks on would do more harm.



And although it is scary to strip off the masks, that is what I have done in the past 10 years.  And it was not always easy being alone with myself.  I had been learning in the last few years to be more accepting of others and not to judge them, but I had not given myself the same courtesy.




It wasn’t until I started listening to the messages coming from within, that I saw just how judgmental I was with myself.  Being with those feelings and messages, has helped me to realize that I too deserve a break.  I am only human.  I am still learning, and will be for a long time to come.



I think the biggest lesson was when I could finally stop beating myself up for things I did or didn’t do, and finally accepted some self-compassion.  The self-sabotage ended, and the messages were ones of self-healing.  If I was trying to change a habit or incorporate a new healthier one, I no longer berated myself when I slid a little down the slippery slope.  Instead I just got back up and started again.  And it has become easier starting fresh each day.



The biggest thing I have done for myself has been to finally say, “I AM ENOUGH”, and really mean it.  Warts and all….imperfections, bad habits, fits of temper…you name it, it is me….beautiful, wonderful me.  I am really grateful for myself as I am.  And as I feel I want to change things within myself, I do.  Mostly to feel better, and be a better person…to be happier.  And isn’t that what it is all about.  Being happy in our own skins!



DSCN8317We are all on our own paths….we can only be where we are, and who we are right in this moment.  So let’s celebrate that.  Let’s celebrate all the wonders that make up our unique selves.  I’ll start….





Here’s to this 58 yr old, 5 foot tall woman who doesn’t look her age….who is kinder and gentler with herself and others….who is having more fun, practicing healthier habits (as I must now)…who is still the introvert and the dreamer….a creative being who loves to tell stories and share them.  She is my hero….I love her and I like her a lot….she is my best friend and fierce protector.  She is beautiful and enough just as she is right now!



Special Note:   The flowers shown here are pink lilacs.  In The Language of Flowers, lilacs represent beauty and love, and pink represents admiration and appreciation.  A perfect flower to herald the message of self-love and acceptance.







I leave you with more thoughts about acceptance and being enough.  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.

Poetry Sunday-Be Like A Seed




Be Like A Seed



See not the hopeless, helpless time.

Go instead underground

And be like a seed.



Seek instead the nourishment within your own soul.

Bringing refreshment and urging you to grow.

Letting go of your outer shell.



Draw your courage from deep inside,

It is there waiting to be summoned,

With perseverance and resilience.



To push you through the weeds and hard rocky soil.

To grow as you dreamed bearing flower or fruit.

Finally becoming the seed once again.




 © Donna Donabella 2015


I love the perseverance and resilience that seeds and plants show as they bust through any barrier to grow.  This poem was written in response to this and how I feel as I heal and grow, create and expand my life.



Aunt MaryAnd as I think about seeds, I think of the strong influences in my life.  One being my Aunt Mary who is 93 years old.  Her story of courage and strength is being printed today.  I wrote her memoir to add to the stories of women who helped in the fight during WWII; referred to as Rosie the Riveters.  You can read Aunt Mary’s story and other Rosie’s stories to at the Rosie’s Daughters website.

And if you do like the story, please leave a comment at the end of the story.  And don’t forget to read some of the other Rosie stories you will find on the website!







I am joining in with Poets United for their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog.  Visit them to read some more wonderful verse.

seed collage

I am also linking in with the I Heart Macro meme hosted by Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday, and with Judith@Lavender Cottage who is hosting Mosaic Monday.  



If you enjoy reading this blog, I welcome you to share it with others. I enjoy spreading the blog love, and I appreciate all who come and read my blogs. 







Special Note:  The pictures here are of our native swamp milkweed plant, Asclepias incarnata, sporting its seeds that will spread out across the land growing more of this beautiful plant that is an important nectar source for pollinators and an even more important larval host plant for the monarch butterfly.




I leave you with a few additional words about Being Like A Seed.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.


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-Hummingbird Wars


“may my faith always be
at the end of the day

like a hummingbird…returning
to its favorite flower.”
― Sanober Khan



Every spring as the garden renews, we wait in anticipation for flora and fauna to return.  And just as we know that when the trees begin to leaf out the orioles will return, we know right on their heels will be the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds returning.



There is something so magical about this tiny bird that we do everything we can to enticeDSCN3492 them to live here for the season.  I plant many native flowers that they love including monarda, and bulbs like gladioli that will keep them happy and nourished with nectar.  And we make sure spider webs and garden debris are still around for their nests….they also love to use the lichen on our trees to camouflage their nests.



Most importantly, we put up a feeder.  In fact we keep the oriole feeder and hummingbird feeders next to one another as the hummers will grab a quick drink from the oriole feeder as well.  So just as the trees sport their new coat of green, two feeders are filled with sweetened water, and placed on the shepherds hook just off the patio in full view of our back windows.



And right on cue, the orioles arrived followed in a day or two by the male hummingbirds coming back to where they had found food sources before.  Soon after the females returned to their nesting sites to once again spruce up their old nests and begin again.



Hummingbirds never cease to amuse us, and they each have their own personalities it DSCN3534seems.  But the most interesting behaviors, are those of the first males staking out their territory.  And there are no birds quite so territorial about food sources than male hummingbirds.  In fact, we often see one who will dominate the feeders, lurking in the big trees nearby to swoop down and chase any other hummers from the feeders.



But this year was most unusual as we witnessed an epic battle as soon as two male hummers found the feeder.  I must say I thought it was going to be a fight to the death as the battle raged on for a couple of hours with neither bird relenting.



DSCN3496One male had made it to the garden first, and found and claimed the feeder.  It was his, and as all others discovered he was not sharing.  The fight started when a second male was taking a drink from the feeder.  Soon after, the first male swooped down, and attacked the male at the feeder.  In the past when a male hummer attacked others at the feeder, the other hummers retreated quickly not wanting to go to war over the sugary liquid.  They would then wait until later to go to the feeder, or find nourishment amongst the many nectar-filled flowers.



But this time was different.  The second male was not thwarted.  As the first hummer went to the feeder and was drinking, the second hummer came back and attacked the first male.  And with that action, the fight was on.  Each bird swooping down to attack the other once they came near the feeder.



You can see in some of the pictures, that the birds would crane their necks and look DSCN3506carefully before they tried to get a drink…..I don’t think I have witnessed a display like this since seeing 2 year olds fighting over a toy…..or a swarm of people fighting over money dropped into the street.  You can see the damage inflicted to the back of the one of the birds here.



The hummers took many breaks in the viburnum bush nearby.  It was funny to see them both sitting in the same bush, and resting for periods of time like in a boxing match.  After watching on and off for a couple of hours, the battle ended with one bird the victor.  Although I have not witnessed one dominant male attacking others at the feeders since the battle, so perhaps they limped off calling it a draw, but not likely.



And while we hope all nature lives in harmony in our garden, there are battles that are waged for the critter’s survival and not because they are greedy.  And so it is with hummingbirds.


hummer war

Here are some interesting facts about Hummingbirds:

Hummingbirds are a symbol of love, but do not seem to live in peace and harmony with each other.  Of course there is an important reason for the hummers being so territorial:

  • The male hummer claims a territory and then breeds with several females.  The females then use the territory to nest and raise their young.
  • The males will chase off all other males to protect their females and the nests.
  • And they lay claim to this territory for food for themselves and their large extended family.
  • Interestingly, males have nothing to do with making the nest, caring for the eggs or raising the young.  No wonder the females look exhausted.




I did try to get a short video of the birds but once I figured out how to get the camera to focus, the battle had ended.  So you can see the birds swooping each other, but they are not in focus.


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.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.





I leave you with another thought about nature and all its wonders.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

hummer wonder

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.