Happy Birthday to My Hero, My Dad


“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”  

~Clarence Budington Kelland



Reblogged, and edited from an earlier post on my other blog, Gardens Eye View.



Today my dad (Eugene J. Abel, Sr.; better known as Gene) would have been 82  87 years young.  Born as the Great Depression was starting, to a mother who wanted a girl, in the city of Philadelphia, so began my dad’s life.



He was the second son of two children.  His mom, who came from a poor Irish background, stayed at home although I think she may have worked at some point. His German father was strict and worked on the railroad.  They did not have much money, and both his parents came from large families of 13 children each.  And my grandmother revealed to me later in her life, that she married at 19 to get out of the house and away from her unhappy life.  It did not turn out to be a happy adult life for her either, as she viewed it.



Isn't he the cutest baby
Isn’t he the cutest baby

My Dad graduated high school, went to work and met my mom.  He was drafted into the Korean War towards its end, but did not see any action due to drinking foul water on maneuvers in Texas.  The war ended and he came home gladly as he always said, he hated the army.  As opposed to his older brother, my Uncle, who made a career from it.



He married my mom in 1954 after she graduated from nursing school as an RN.  He was going to night school after the war to get his accounting degree.  He could only go part-time because he had to earn a living.  They started a family in 1956, and had 4 children in 5 years.  During this time, my dad continued to work during the day, and go to school at night, while my mom stayed home and raised us kids.  She would work on weekends while my dad took care of us.  To say this was non-traditional is putting it mildly.  How many fathers in the 1950s cooked and cleaned and took care of the kids?  Not many.  And how many parents really shared everything:  work, kids, household?  Not many!



We moved to Indiana, in the fall of 1962, where my dad had a new job.  From the city to the country without batting an eyelash.  Mom stayed home at this point, and dad drove an old clunker of a car, an hour each way to work, always making sure my mom had the station wagon.



So you can see my role models were very different (at least that’s what my friends always said).  And my dad was the consummate kid.  He loved to play with us.  When we were growing up in Indiana, he came home from work, and was always playing ball with us or some other game.  He even made folding the laundry fun.  We never folded laundry without having a sock fight, and he would usually start it.  My mom used to say she had 5 kids, and she was right.  But first and foremost, he was always our father.  He disciplined us, even though I think it hurt him more than us sometimes.



1949-my dad as a young man
1949-my dad as a young man

But what I remember most was the love.  The complete unconditional, non-judgmental love and acceptance of all of us with all our faults.  He never dwelt on those faults either.  He would look at the positive.  He would talk with us.  He would let us make up our minds, and make our own mistakes.   He let us live our lives even if he didn’t approve.  And you never really knew if he didn’t approve, because again he did not pass judgement.  He was the proud dad, and he always made you know just how proud he was of all of us.



My dad was loved and admired by all who met and knew him.  I used to work summers, in the same company where he worked, when I was going to college.  You could see the admiration of his co-workers and the employees he supervised.  He had many friends, and I never remember anyone ever saying an unkind thing about him.



And his sense of humor, and story telling was legendary.  It was the Irish in him, I suspect.  That dry, slightly sarcastic way he had of saying things that was so endearing.  We loved to hear him tell the same stories over and over again, or have him sing his silly songs.  Those that know me well know I inherited his sense of humor; dry and sarcastic as well.



My dad on the left with a friend
My dad on the left with a friend

And I think the garden was his solace.  It was where you would find him puttering in peaceful happiness.  He even planted cactus, at their house, when my parents moved to Arizona.  That was when the bottom dropped out though for my dad.  He had lost his job at about the age of 50, and tried a few of his own businesses that failed.



He fell in love with the weather in Arizona when he took me to graduate school there.  So they moved there in 1985.  My mom knew something was wrong…I think we all did even though we tried to believe it was just depression.  It turned out to be early onset Alzheimer’s.  My dad suffered with this disease for almost 15 years until it took his life in 1998 soon after I was married. He was only 68.



Amazingly though he never lost his sense of humor or his love for his family.  He would continue to garden until the disease took so much of him he did not know us anymore.  He suffered in silence, never wanting his family to be hurt or affected by the disease because that was the kind of person he was.  And for his sake we never showed the pain we felt, or made him feel like he was incapable of anything he wanted to do.  It was the little triumphs, like when he could walk from the car to the house or still feed himself, that sustained us and at the same time pierced our hearts with a searing pain.



So I remember the man with the song in his heart and all the things we shared:  gardening, our love of old movies, story-telling, discussing politics and the news.  He was the listener and I was a talker.  His were the huge shoulders that I cried on, and that held me up when I needed them.  His voice, the heart of my father, was silenced long before his body gave out.  I really lost him soon after the disease started.  I was 28.  To say I miss my father can’t even begin to express the love, pain, sorrow I feel daily.  I feel his presence, though, whenever I am in the garden.  In that place of peaceful solitude that sustains my soul, that puts me in touch with him and his memory.  And maybe that is why I love it so, why I feel the compulsion, the yearning to be out there.  To be with him if not on this plane of existence then in another with his spirit.  So today I am celebrating the man, and my memories of my dad, on this his birthday.  It is the least I can do after all he has done for me….I love you daddy!!!




“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”
~John Ruskin




Special Note:  

Thank you to all who have read this celebration of  my dad’s life.  It seemed fitting to bring this memoir back.  I hope my siblings read this, and hopefully find some solace.  The picture at the top of the post was taken when my dad was in the middle stages of the disease.  The disease even made it hard for his brain to tell his body how to smile, but smile he did even though he had to work at it.  He is pictured with his trusty buddy, our dog, Banditt.  They were never apart until my dad was so sick he had to live in a group home.  It broke Banditt’s heart, I think, and his health declined until he died a few years before my dad.  They are together now, and I know Banditt was there to greet him.  I wonder what my father would have thought of this blogging thing, and of his daughter’s writing.  I am sure he would be proud smiling that fabulous grin beaming ear to ear…..


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Poetry Sunday-Crocus








Petals unfurl,

with shouts of joy!

A youthful gladness-

finally enjoyed.


 © Donna Donabella 2012



One of the first bulbs to bloom, early in my garden, are the snow crocus pictured here.  They shout spring with splashes of color all over the garden.   Wishing everyone a joyous Easter!




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

crocus collage

I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday, and Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles 2016.





I leave you with a few additional words about first spring crocus.  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, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.


Shedding My Bark


“Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind.

Their leaves are telling secrets.

Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks.

And their roots give names to all things.

Their language has been lost.

But not the gestures.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration




A week ago, I wrote about finding the balance between the masculine and feminine sides of me.  Of embracing my feminine side more, and how it has served me well as I stay in touch with this softer me.



And I am reminded of this deeper, dreamier side as I gaze at my garden in early spring.  The trees stripped bare.  These tall, stalwart soldiers seem to be standing guard.  Strong, straight and unyielding, at times, to even the strongest winds.



But if I look closer, I see that trees cannot survive if they are unbending, and too stiff.  If
DSCN4123they cannot be flexible, they break under the wild winds, and heavy bitter snow.  It is their ability to remain loose and shed their bark, that makes them stronger.



And like a tree, I grow from Mother Earth with strong roots reaching deep down into the enriching soil.  Creating a strong foundation to draw from in time of need.  To allow layer upon layer of bark to grow as it is needed for protection.  And when that bark is no longer needed, it is stripped away letting the next layer grow to accommodate the growth in me.



Recently, I found I needed to throw off the bark that had been protecting me for so long.  It felt as if it were strangling me, not allowing for the changes coming.  A need was growing to let go of what was no longer serving me.  And allow this new strength, I was finding in the softer side of me, to begin to grow.



DSCN3640I had been asked to testify at a hearing regarding work issues.  I had been gone for over a year, and wanted no reminders of my old work experiences.  Of reliving the stress.  But without a choice, I was forced to make the 2 hour trip twice.



I had forgotten so much of my job, in such a short time, which was telling.  I was hiding from much of this excruciatingly stressful time.  When I worked for a bully in a toxic atmosphere.  It felt almost surreal to recount the work….the sometimes humiliating treatment of my superior.



And if that wasn’t enough, I had to endure the ridiculous, overbearing and intimidating questioning by one lawyer in particular.  Not for any real purpose, but to try to rattle me, and waste time in order to have time to prepare for subsequent testimony by others.  To say it was a total waste of my time would not be correct.  Hopefully my testimony would help others.  And I know it helped me.



As I went through the experience, I found I could draw upon my foundational strength, still flowing deep in my roots.  DSCN6904And I kept my head about me.  Not drawn into the aggressive, assertive, tense me of old.  But now a calmer, cooler head prevailed.  And when it was done, a release was felt through out my mind and body.



I was able to shed the bark of the past.  No longer having to use the strategies of old.  I could feel an evolution unfolding inside of me as I followed my intuitive side.  A swelling of new growth, bending and yielding as the winds of this situation blew about me.  And I knew at once I was home in this new place.  This new Yin of me.  And when I returned home, it was time to get busy, and start my journey along this new passage….to the softer side of me….feeling stronger than ever.



Have you experienced a shedding of your outer bark?  What new lessons are you learning?







Special Note:  The pictures here are of old, 80 foot trees growing in my garden.  The stump at the beginning of the post is of an ash tree that suddenly fell in the garden one day.  It had become too brittle to yield to the prevailing winds.  I thought it perfectly summed up the post.




I leave you with a few additional words on trees.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Poetry Sunday-Perennial Life




Perennial Life



A beautiful spring.

Next a strong summer,

Moves to a waning fall

As blossom and leaf are shed.


To winter slumber,

Emerging slowly.

Renewed with the warm spring breezes,

To flower once more with vigor-

Begins the cycle again.



 © Donna Donabella 2016


As a gardener, I often see my life’s journey as parallel to the seasons in the garden.  This poem was written after one of those reflective moments.


Pictured here are Oriental Poppies and their seedheads.  They have such a unique look, and I am struck often by their mandala tops.



poppy collage

These are the same poppies in bud and flower.  I love the crinkly, papery petals resembling crepe paper.



I am joining in with Poets United for their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog, and with Gillena@Verses for her Monday WRites link-up.

poppy seeds

I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.




I leave you with a few additional words about a perennial life.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

perennial life

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden: On Finding My Power


Message from the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers:

“As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.

You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.

Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.

Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.”




With spring rapidly approaching, I feel the pull of my garden.  It sings sweet, soft songs to me.  A welcome back to the land.  To the rebirth, and growing of all things green.  It is a cherished time….a reunion of the soul with the soil.  A time to plant seeds and watch them come to life.



And it is a time when I feel I have recouped my power.  I am stronger, clear-headed and DSCN9053more balanced once spring comes.  I have been working on this balance for a long time.  Ever since I entered the world of administration, from teaching, I found myself in an unfamiliar world.  A place foreign where I just did not feel at home.



I was always in battle…..feeling like I had to have my guard up.  Thrust into a more outgoing, aggressive atmosphere.  A place that was most uncomfortable, especially for this sensitive introvert.  But I felt I was learning, and I could be me once I learned to navigate in this new place.



Fifteen years later, I retired from this battle-weary life.  This world of tension, and constant action.  I had become ill from the unyielding stress.  And I knew I had to leave, or I would literally die.  I thought of my exit as retreating, giving up, and that I was just not strong enough to make it in this world of work I had chosen.



DSCN9030And this defeat has preyed on my mind for 2 years, until recently I was given a life line in a letter I received from a most generous and precious soul, Sandra Pawula.  I have talked about Sandra’s wonderful Joyful Wisdom Guide’s before.  They are thoughtful, poignant and so very helpful.  Although I had no idea how life changing they would be, until she sent me the one on balancing the masculine and feminine.



Once I read more, and understood this balance between the Yin and Yang, it was clear I had made the right choice in my exit.  The battle had been fought in my old life, and I had given myself over to a life of continual action….more, more, more….running from pillar to post….the masculine side in which my career was steeped.  I had given up fighting for my feminine side….where I had been relying more on my intuition, receptivity…..which had served me well when I allowed this side to flourish.



Now instead, for these past 2 years, I have yielded to this inner struggle of the Yin and DSCN9046Yang; the masculine and feminine.  Now instead, I have given myself over to this introverted woman.  Cocooned her, nourished her and allowed her to live….to speak to me.  I let my fears come alive, and faced them learning the messages they held.  The lessons I was destined to learn.  To embrace the less perfect me.  The softer side where things are messy.  Where I have faced my vulnerabilities and give them voice.



I have rested much in this time of refueling.  Living in my garden.  Watching, complacent in the knowledge that I must let it all be for now.  Let nature take hold and give it what it needs….what I need to rekindle.  Healthy food, water, rest, simple exercise.  And now I know the winds are changing for me.  As I learn to use the Yin of me.



And as the Indigenous Grandmothers pointed out, this new journey is not toward a goal, but a journey within.  I feel their words deeply knowing ‘in my gut’ that this is how it MUST be for me, and for humanity now.  To embrace my feminine side, as she softly calls to me, when the moon rises and I lay awake hearing the inner voices of wisdom speak.  Feeling what it means to be in the flow.



DSCN9049Where is this all going?  What lies in store?  I do not know.  I just know I will follow the voice of this woman; her wisdom water.…a slow meandering creek where she makes her way, and carves her path.  I will follow-up here, as lessons unfold, and issues crop up.  As life takes hold, and I finally soar in the sun with my own strong wings supporting me.




Have you felt this pull to embrace your feminine side….to connect with your intuition?  What new lessons are you learning?







Special Note:  The pictures here are of pink flowers from my indoor garden (Amaryllis or Hippeastrum throughout the body of the post), and outdoor garden (Lily-of-the-Valley at the top of the post, and Hellebores at the bottom).  Pink represents the feminine side, friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace and tenderness.  It is the color of love of oneself and of others.  A perfect color for this post.




I leave you with a few additional words On Finding My Power.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Wildlife Lesson-Squirreling Around


“Not much goes on in the mind of a squirrel.

Huge portions of what is loosely termed “the squirrel brain” are given over to one thought:  food.

The average squirrel cogitation goes something like this: I wonder what there is to eat.”
~ Kate DiCamillo




I have not always been fond of squirrels….eastern gray squirrels that is, or Sciurus carolinensis as they are also known. As a matter of fact, in my old garden that grew beneath an orchard of old black walnut trees, I actually loathed these beasts.  They dug up my plants, chewed all the flowers off my tulips and crocuses.  We waged a battle of wits to keep them from our bird feeder…..yes, I was not fond of squirrels back then.



But here in our present garden, the squirrels are not as big or plentiful.  They are part of the native landscape…residents that hunt up food, and are food for those who hunt them.  So they are kept in check.  Even the small Common Wrens chase them from the spring and summer garden trees when they are nesting.





And as part of our wildlife garden, I have found them cute and amusing…we’ll see how long that lasts if they destroy my tulips again.  For now, though, I actually get a kick out of them.  Especially in winter when they are wrapped up in their thick winter coats.  We  can see their frequent visits, and even their typical pathways once winter arrives.  They have very distinctive footprints.




squirrel (1)

Last March, the squirrels found the suet feeder as the winter’s frigid cold was harsh and all the critters needed extra fat for energy and survival.  This winter they tore it down once as they swung on it.




DSCN1322And this little squirrel, was likely born in winter as Eastern Gray Squirrels breed in summer and winter.  Brrrr!  Not a time I would think of breeding and raising young ones….although all those bodies in a nest must make it toasty.  I am assuming he is one of a few gray squirrels still frequenting the garden.




We don’t have any squirrels actually living in the garden in hollow tree nests, but we have had leaf nests, also known as dreys.  Gray squirrels usually use these dreys primarily in summer as they are supposed to be temporary.  But here we see the nests built and used in winter too.  It is said that if the nests are built high in the trees, then the winter will be harsh.  This year, the squirrels seemed to be unsure with good reason…it has been an atypical winter.



And within the last year, we have noticed a new visitor…..a Black Squirrel.  The Black Squirrel is a subgroup of our gray squirrel, and not usually seen in these parts.


This squirrel is pretty aggressive as is usual for Black Squirrels.  When he hopped into our garden, he liked what he saw.  He has taken over the yards of 5 houses as his territory, and if a gray squirrel is found anywhere near, he chases, and chases, and chases them.  Of course the gray squirrels sneak in and make themselves at home when he is gone.




tree squirrel collage

As tree dwellers, squirrels are at home in our trees.  Especially this fellow.




pumpkin squirrel collage

This pumpkin was smashed in front of our house in late November.  We decided to put it in the veg garden so perhaps the seeds would germinate in summer.  But our friendly gray squirrel is making himself at home.  We watched him take one seed at a time and bury them throughout the garden, especially near the veg beds and in the veg beds.   He even came back later and found a few for a snack.  And the black squirrel has buried several black walnuts, from the nearby woods, in the veg garden….we find the shells all over the garden in fall and winter.





I do love their faces…too cute and they have the best expressions.  Recently we even had one come to the back stairs to peer in through the kitchen glass door.  He lingered a bit on the railing of the stairs…..





All I could  capture of him was his tail end.





As a matter of fact, I often photograph them from the tail side.  After all it is a rather handsome tail.



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 with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday, and 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.



I leave you with another thought about the lessons I am learning from nature.  Feel free to download the photo and share.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-16.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.