December Experiments …Floral Friday

Some ideas have been trying to catch my attention this week. A few of those ideas relate to floral design. In order to flesh them out, I needed to tinker around with them. Three containers that have been idle for awhile were the basis for some experiments.

A mid-century revival hand-blown red glass vase needed just the right finishing touch–nothing complicated. After trying several different types of solo blooms that didn’t quite satisfy the itch, I decided to use these golden “orbs”. There is a certain space-age quality about the finished project.

The brown with fire-orange drip glaze detail is a “California Designs” vase. There are three holes on the vase lip to be used for suspension twine. The vase has been waiting for a suitable, period appropriate vintage macramé hanger. I don’t know if the right hanger will be found soon, so why not use the container as a conventional vase? This arrangement is suitable as both a table accent or a hanging display.

The ivory-white Haeger vase provides the base for some archived 1990s silk flowers. All of the elements, vase, flowers, and accents were manufactured within the same time-frame.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this quote by Henry David Thoreau: “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”

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Tie One On

Yesterday, I was all agog about socks. That got me to thinking about the humble, yet luxurious necktie. Either as gifts from friends or purchased second-hand, I have more than enough ties for every occasion.

Since retirement, there are very few reasons to wear ties aside from weddings and funerals. These days, it’s mostly funerals. Earlier this year, I served as one of the pallbearers for the funeral of an aunt. Most of us wore neckties. The ties were marks of honor and respect for the departed, beloved aunt.

Except for corporate executives, bankers, preachers,lawyers, and wait staff in restaurants, the wearing of ties has become an endangered practice. The only articles of menswear that are even less common is the wide-brimmed dressy fedora hat and the topcoat. Maybe I was born too late because I like the look and feel of a good tie. A tie is the cherry on top of a man’s outfit. Wearing a tie, for me, is one of life’s little pleasures.

“You’re dressed in a tuxedo, you wear a bow tie. A bow tie with a tuxedo is more formal than a straight tie with a tuxedo.”–Bill Nye

I’ve only owned three or four bow ties throughout my life. There was the “pre-tied” clip-on bow tie of my childhood. It was a brown sateen tie that had two steel mechanical clips that opened and closed when the tie’s two bows were manipulated. I now have two bow ties that must be tied by hand–a black one and a white one–just in case I must ever attend a formal event. If that happens, I’ll need help tying one on. That’s a skill I don’t have. I suppose I should watch a YouTube video in order to learn how to tie a bow tie.

We older men can get away with wearing a natty sport coat with a nice pair of jeans and a pair of loafers in a small-town environment. When that mood strikes, I wear one of the vintage, thrift store ties. A person can buy them for pennies on the dollar. I once purchased a food storage baggie full of top notch silk Armani ties for $5. I wonder if they came from the estate of a prominent attorney or businessman. They are classic neckties that will never go out of style.

Something I’ve noticed nearly every time I wear the right necktie, people treat me more respectfully. The act of wearing a tie encourages me to have better posture; my shoulders are further back and the neck holds my head more level. Even the most basic necktie makes the outfit a touch more dynamic.

I inherited a leather bomber jacket from a recently departed old friend. Perhaps it was a final practical joke aimed at my vegetarian lifestyle. Regardless of my veggie ways, I sometimes wear the leather jacket. It feels ironic and macho at the same time. A real power outfit includes dressy jeans, a solid color button down shirt with a necktie and topped with my friend’s old leather jacket. He often dressed that way.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. “I know there are like, twelve rules for late night: a desk, a band…. Will people take me seriously if I don’t wear a tie?”

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I finished putting away the fresh laundry yesterday afternoon by trying to cram a pair of colorful, striped socks into the over-stuffed socks drawer. They wouldn’t fit in. So, I set them aside to wear today. The fact of the matter is, I have way too many pairs of socks.

I don’t have a socks fetish, but I do enjoy the luxurious sensation of wearing fresh socks. The multi-color striped socks on my feet now, will be exchanged for a different pair of socks this afternoon. This is a practical concern due to health concerns that affect my feet. Health concerns or no health concerns, socks have been some of my guilty pleasures for many years.

I still enjoy wearing athletic white socks, but I rarely wear them in public. My go-to socks are crew socks–the kind of socks that, are actually athletic socks manufactured from colored yarn. White socks are just crew socks without the colors. Crew socks are appropriate for nearly every occasion and are comfortable year around. Oddly enough, my favorite pair is olive green, and plush to the touch.

The socks drawer contains several pairs of boot socks. I bought them when I went through a cowboy boot wearing phase. I suffered through sock creep. Regardless of the type of socks, after walking very far in cowboy boots, the socks would bunch up at the toes and arches of my feet. I tried socks garters, but they only delayed the socks creep. The bunching up of socks is the reason I don’t wear cowboy boots anymore.

Foot liner or shoe liner socks are a bone of contention between my BF and me. He prefers them over conventional socks. I’m OK with him wearing the liners with sneakers, but wearing them with penny loafers bothers me. At least he wears something between his feet and the shoes and hasn’t followed the trend among some men of wearing loafers sans socks altogether. The convicted criminal, Roger Stone, prefers wearing loafers without socks. The Philippine strong-man dictator, Rodrigo Duterte says he wears cheap shoes without any socks. I guess I’m just old fashioned. I like the look and feel of crew socks with penny loafers.

“I’m also a fan of ridiculously coloured and patterned socks.”–Daniel Radcliffe

Many of my friends have been wearing outlandish, patterned socks for quite some time. I finally, succumbed to that fashion a year ago and purchased a variety pack of those socks. The striped socks I’m wearing now, came from that package. Besides looking wild and crazy, they have just the right amount of support to help keep my unhealthy feet happier.

Our choices of socks are inexpensive, simple ways to express ourselves. Regardless of the circumstance, socks are the finishing touch to a personalized wardrobe. Life is better when we’re wearing our favorite pairs of socks.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the late astronaut Neil Armstrong. “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer.”

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On Generosity

Last month, during Veterans’ Day, an old  Army Veteran was selling simple “poppies” near the front entrance of the supermarket. So, I gave him a few bucks and he gave me one of the little paper flowers. I wrapped the wire stem around a pocket button on my jacket and went about my day. That night, I removed the “poppy” and placed it in one of my artificial flower arrangements.

I glanced again at that little paper flower last night. The overthinking, introverted part of me re-enacted the scenario that happened on November eleventh. That morning, I felt pretty pleased with myself for buying the tiny artificial flower. I blush now, thinking about the little bit of conceit I showed by displaying the poppy as some sort of “status symbol”.

More than one philosopher and more than one public relations executive know that very often what passes for generosity is actually just the vanity of appearing generous. We often enjoy the vanity of giving more than any selfless act of giving and sacrifice. Thankfully, most of the time, the gifts given to charity or a non-profit, do end up in the service of needy people.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. For they love
to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to
be seen by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full

Some Christian theologians believe that praying in secret is a sign of true piety while publicly praying is an act of vanity. This has a parallel in regards to generosity. This is evident in how I felt after buying the little paper flower. Like everyone else, I want to have a reputation for generosity. Don’t we want to acquire the reputation at bargain basement prices?

The situation of public generosity becomes more complicated when it comes to billionaire-class philanthropic giving. Some wealthy people tend to be quite generous in giving back to society. However, proportionately, their gifts are comparatively modest when compared to middle and lower income givers.

I’m of two opinions about philanthropic organizations named after the benefactors. For instance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed vast amounts of funding towards worthy causes and needy organizations. While the benefactors do sometimes enjoy having their names attached to the gifts, many other gifts are granted anonymously. Overall, I have a very positive opinion about the Gates Foundation because it continues to perform much needed work around the world.

The gifts that give me pause are the huge grants given to charities and public works anonymously. By my way of thinking, such benefactors are truly generous and genuinely want to pay back society. They are akin to the people who pray in secret, not the people who make a public spectacle of their prayers. Anonymous philanthropists do not distract us with their wish for public recognition of their gifts. Their foundations’ efforts go towards helping society, not towards making a big deal about the people in charge of paying the bills.

There are subtle reminders of this type of thinking on reply cards from many charities that solicit via the mail. A small box can be checked if the giver does not want a token gift or plaque in exchange for the financial gift. I’m sure the charities appreciate not having to send out “thank you gifts” so they can use more of their funds to serve charitable ends.

“He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self sacrifice.”–writer and civil servant, Henry Taylor

Thrift store “donations” come to mind when I see Taylor’s insightful proverb. Too often, people use thrift stores like the Salvation Army or Goodwill as alternative refuse stations. These stores must lease large, industrial size dumpsters and buy industrial size trash compactors in order to get rid of the unusable stuff that is “donated” each day. My friends who work at Goodwill have told me about some of the useless items that they receive. Broken, hazardous appliances top the list. Dirty clothes that need laundering are close behind. The store cannot sell appliances that could cause injury or death. The store does not have washers and dryers to launder “donated” clothing.

Appliances that are obviously useless or dangerous are tossed into the garbage. The same garbage dumpster is the destination of obviously stained, dirty, torn garments. The necessity of having vast amounts of trash to be hauled to the dump is costly. The public practice of discarding unsuitable items only increases overhead costs of the thrift store. Hence, giving useless, dangerous junk to charity is not generosity.

All things considered, generosity is a part of being human. We relate on the person-to-person level. We hear, speak, see, and touch one another. Our interactions involve the sharing of things and kindness. Being human can include the values of compassion and generosity. Today is “Giving Tuesday”. This is a day set aside to practice generosity. Our society needs more “holidays” like this; but today is still a good start.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a quote by pop artist, Nate Lowman. “I’m really interested in the difference between selfishness and generosity. It confuses me to no end because sometimes it all just feels like pure indulgence on my part.”

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I see Eduardo downtown nearly every day. English is not his second language, nor is Spanish my second language. We always greet each other with simple phrases. He usually begins our brief interactions by saying, “Good Morning”. I return his politeness with a simple, “Buenos días”. He usually chuckles and replies with, “Cómo estás”. I normally say the usual, “Bien, ¿y tú?” Sometimes, I’m with my friend, Jonathan, who speaks Spanish better than me. He acts as a rudimentary translator.

Last week, Jonathan and I greeted Eduardo. The weather was rather nippy so Eduardo was bundled up in a dark blue parka and wore a knit scarf around his neck. I wanted to know how and why he shows up every morning regardless of the weather. Jonathan asked him in Spanish.  Then Eduardo smiled at me and said, “¡Entusiasmo!” and chuckled. I immediately understood the reply without needing a translation.

I should add that Eduardo is an elderly gentleman who stands approximately five-and-a-half feet tall. He’s not at all frail, and looks younger than his 80-plus years. Although his English skills are less than rudimentary, his body language and facial expressions communicate enthusiasm.

My Mexican acquaintance has carried the spirit of youthfulness well into old age. He appears to honestly enjoy life and obtains pleasure from the most simple things. His attitude about life plays a huge part in his day to day life. His joyful entusiasmo is contagious to everyone he meets.

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”–mime, actress, and journalist, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

We innately know that if we have passion for something or someone, that there is no need to manufacture false enthusiasm or to “fake it ’til you make it”. If we have primal enthusiasm, negativity and excuses for non-action are irrelevant. Entusiasmo or enthusiasm wins the day.

To know Eduardo, even slightly, is to be inspired. He may have grown old in years, but he is certainly young at heart. His spirit has not withered away. He is proof that entusiasmo is the not so secret elixir of youth. Eduardo’s enthusiasm and humility make him pleasant to be around. His entusiasmo, certainly bridges the language gap.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the filmmaker, painter, musician, actor, and photographer, David Lynch. “Meditation is to dive all the way within, beyond thought, to the source of thought and pure consciousness. It enlarges the container, every time you transcend. When you come out, you come out refreshed, filled with energy and enthusiasm for life.”

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Wow! December Already!

I flipped the calendar page last night before bedtime. I do this twelve times each year on each month’s last evening. When I saw the page for December, I realized how quickly the year has elapsed. It’s probably a safe bet that 2019 has been a mixed bag for everyone. We’ve experienced some harsh times and we’ve had some auspicious days, as well. Overall, it’s turning out to be another peculiar year.

“And last December drear,
With piteous low-drooped head,
In a voice of desolation
Crying out, “The year is dead!”
And so, with changeful gear,
With smile or frown or song,
The months, in strange variation,
Are ever gliding along.”
–Edgar Fawcett, “The Masque of Months,”

This is the month of the holiday season, which means many belief systems and religions celebrate special commemorations this month. I always buy “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” cards to send out to family and friends because so many family members, friends, and acquaintances belong to various religions and a few of them belong to none.

Regardless of whether or not we embrace some sort of “faith tradition”, this is the time of the year that our civilization celebrates being alive. As I write this short blog post, I remember that the December Solstice has been the ancient “reason for the season” ever since prehistoric times. I wonder if the desire to celebrate and party in the wintertime has become part of our DNA.

By the way, this year’s December Solstice will happen on the 22nd at 04:19 UTC. Have you ever pondered the fact that the December Solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere? I’ve often wondered how if feels to celebrate the holidays during very early Summer. My friends in Sydney, Australia tell me they have Santa Claus in winter garb and decorated Christmas trees. How many Santas suffer heatstroke in Australia in December? Wouldn’t it be more humane to allow Santa to dress in cargo shorts and a festive short-sleeved print shirt when he makes his rounds down under?

Meantime, here in the North, where most of the modern December holidays were invented, Santas who are wearing heavy coats and boots are dressed appropriately.

Here in Nebraska, we have frosty fields and lawns. Frequently, there is snow-cover on the ground as well. We bundle up in thick coats and sometimes actually use the hoods on our hoodies and parkas to keep our ears warm. Most adults gripe about the winter. Some Nebraskans wish the cold and snow could be restricted to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (I wonder why they only want snow during the most heavily trafficked time on the highways.) Meantime, little kids “get” December. Children are disappointed when the snow fails to fall.

“I started playing the guitar when we started filming the pilot to ‘Lost in Space,’ which was way back in December of 1964, and there’s a little bit in the pilot that was used in the first season where Will Robinson is sitting around some bad foam rubber rock playing and singing ‘Greensleeves.'”–Bill Mumy

Who doesn’t have special memories of December? There’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, HumanLight, Yule, Kwanzaa, and Saturnalia. I probably overlooked several others.

Meantime, December is our last chance to finish what we wanted to complete this year. At the most personal level, December is a good time to do something very good for yourself. We can be more reflective. We can contemplate about the people in our lives. December can be the time to mentally get to a better place. We can take a break from the hustle-bustle of the season and live more mindfully.

Today is the first day of the rest of the month and the year. Have a good December.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Dr. Seuss. “How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

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Personal Space

A few of my acquaintances have the unnerving habit of sharing much more of their personal life and problems with me than I care to know. They epitomize the phrase “TMI–too much information”. They don’t tell me TMI as a way to manipulate me to reveal my close personal secrets; they talk about their personal lives so much that I can barely get a word in edge-wise.

I’ve often thought to myself, that I should have become a psychotherapist or some sort of mental-health professional because so many people confide very intimate details of their lives with me.

My budding awareness of the importance of boundaries and personal space has resulted in watching a lot of YouTube videos about psychological topics. I especially enjoy the capsulized information provided by certified mental health counselors like Dr. Todd Grande. He is one of the precious few professionals on YouTube who do not focus primarily on narcissism.

Dr. Grande and perhaps one or two others have helped me to better understand issues around personal space and boundaries without demonizing people who suffer from co-dependency, narcissism, and other disorders. His short lectures have helped me better deal with people who regularly share TMI. Grande has also helped me to better understand my own peculiar behaviors.

I believe it’s very important to keep one’s personal life to oneself as much as possible. Confiding embarrassing or intimate details to casual acquaintances is not healthy. Such confessions on social media, like Facebook and Twitter are especially problematic. Sharing such confessions should be limited to people like one’s spouse, a very close friend, a physician, a licensed mental health professional, or a legitimate member of the clergy.

Being mindful of personal boundaries and personal space not only protects one’s sanity, such care can help prevent serious issues like manipulation or emotional blackmail. Also, others have no inherent right to barge into our personal lives, nor do we have the right to pry into other people’s lives.

Even if manipulative people or TMI are not problems in one’s life, there are other aspects about personal space to consider.

Private space can be thought of as food for the soul that is best consumed during introspective moments. As long as a person doesn’t indulge in rumination over the past, claiming personal space and time are very rejuvenating. Being within one’s healthy personal space allows for more mental clarity because of less intrusion by others.

Sometimes, we simply need to use our space in order to ponder the big questions of life. If we’re going through an existential crisis of some sort, respecting personal space is important. Such times in our lives require time for contemplation. Some extra time in a quiet place can help us sort out our thoughts and beliefs without interference by others. We all need such space at some points in time in order to privately delve into deep thoughts.

In relationships such as marriage, family life, or close friendship, it is important to give and to claim personal space to and from each other. Patience and provision of space are ways of showing respect and love for one another. Respect for others is respect for personal space.

One other practical reason to enforce boundaries and personal space is that creativity springs forth from this place. The great philosophers’ and inventors’ most captivating ideas arose during private moments. Even the social act of brainstorming respects personal space. Each participant gets credit for contributing an imaginative idea to discuss with the group.

Basically, it is important to respect our loved ones’, and others’ private space and to assert our own rights to private space. People might have specific reasons for private space or we might simply want to have time and space for ourselves for no particular reason at all.

Sometimes, having personal space just feels good. That’s perfectly OK.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Pakistani writer, spoken word artist, and teacher, Raheel Farooq. “The missing link between humans and apes? It’s certainly those brutes who haven’t yet learned to respect privacy.”

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