Hygge – Do what the Dane’s Do!

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special.   Even though this word is really hard to say it seems that people like having this recipe for a happier life.  In fact, hygge, was chosen by Oxford Dictionaries as one of their Words for the Year 2016!  Hygge simply requires being present and recognizing a moment that feels so sweet, cozy, charming, special or nice that you just have to name the moment.  So whether it’s making tea a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cozy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal. Hygge is being aware of a good moment whether it’s simple or special.

It basically describes an ultimate feeling of coziness and relaxation. Since Denmark has been named the Happiest Country in the World, several times over, the rest of the world has been left wondering what makes the Scandinavian country so special. The answer? Hygge! (Along with, you know, free health care, education, and other social benefits.)

Hygge is also really a form of escapism. It’s about giving yourself a break, and retreating into a familiar, comforting bubble — and that’s anything from small gestures like lighting candles or drinking tea, to bigger ones like having a leisurely dinner with friends. With the world being particularly insane right now, it seems only natural that people would like the idea of a safe space away from all of that.

Some refer to hygge as an “art of creating intimacy” (either with yourself, friends and your home). While there’s no one English word to describe hygge, several can be used interchangeably to describe the idea of hygge such as coziness, charm, happiness, contentment, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness.

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of Hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, months or years. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of a candle glowing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a home cooked evening meal with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

By creating simple rituals without effort {such as drinking a glass of wine in a crystal glass to keeping fresh flowers on the table} the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not every drudgery to get away from. They incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event.

Hygge is about being present enough to recognize and acknowledge an act, moment or feeling when the ordinary feels extraordinary.

So go make your ordinary day, extraordinary through recognizing simple moments and trying to have slow life lifestyle in a busy world.  Meik Wiking wrote “The Little Book of Hygge” if you want to pick it up for some inspiration and guidance.  Or just list those things you find happy and cozy and start there.  You might also check out the Happiness Research Institute!


I’m going to plan a week of hygge!  Join me.





Found this cool soundtrack on Soundcloud!

I have a very dear friend who recently turned me on to an app call Calm.  I am making this ten minute daily mediation a part of my morning practice.  And I am so grateful to her for sharing this with me. This app, I have learned, is the number one app for mindfulness and mediation with it’s purpose to bring clarity, joy and peace to our daily life. I am learning there are truly life-changing benefits to having a meditation and mindfulness practice. Today we focused on “meraki.”

meraki [may-rah-kee]   is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.  Meraki, a verb, or adverb, I guess, is derived from the Turkish “Merak” (Labor of love, to do something with pleasure), is applied to tasks, usually, creative or artistic tasks, but can be applied to any task at all.  It means to do something with passion, with absolute devotion, with undivided attention.  Meraki is to put your soul into something, to put a little bit of yourself into it, be it singing, dancing, or painting.

Meraki is often used to describe cooking or preparing a meal, but it can also mean arranging a room, choosing decorations, or setting an elegant table.  You do it with a good feeling, with a light heart and a smile. With all your heart. Perhaps we can translate it as “Whistle while you work…” No matter how difficult a task, it is done with all your effort, with enthusiasm, with eagerness,
with complete love; it is done with all your heart, again like a labor of love.  It can be the simplest of tasks, such as making a cup of coffee for your husband; you made it with love, with devotion, with meraki!  Someone who loves life, lives it to the hilt, does everything with zeal, someone who lives for  the moment, for the now, is often, in Greece referred to as a “Meraklis”.  Every single thing he/she does, day in, day out, is done with meraki.

Everything made with meraki tastes, sounds, looks, smells and feels a bit better. Your attention, your dedication, your love, you being present in that exact moment – that’s the only thing required to live with meraki. In our busy lives we tend to lose sight of that exact moment. We are continuously living in the past or in the future. Quick, fast-paced, stress, schedules, emails, social media – hours, days, weeks, months pass by in the blink of an eye.  Maybe by living more with meraki we can lessen the stress, say no to things that are not serving our best interest or the interest of those we love, learn to turn off the phone and turn up the music, choose to put down the burden and pick up the paintbrush.

I think God wants us to live this way.  We are all works in progress and I have learned that the path towards something is as important as reaching the destination itself, therefore I invite you to join me on this journey of meraki.

Go and make someone happy!
Do something with meraki!




The Life of a Caretaker / Book of Awakening

Each morning I make an effort to spend some time in prayer and mediation.  There are a number of books I pull from to get my day started, each speaking to a part of me.  Jesus Calling, Bible in A Year, Daily Gratitude and Book of Awakening, just to name a few.  This morning I was brought to tears by my reading from the Book of Awakening.  I would like to share it with you.

“Accept this gift, so I can see myself as giving.”

I have been learning that the life of a caretaker is as addictive as the life of an alcoholic.  Here the intoxication is the emotional relief that temporarily comes when answering a loved one’s need.  Though it never lasts, in the moment of answering someone’s need, we feel loved.  While much good can come from this, especially for those the caretaker attends, the care itself becomes a drink by which we briefly numb a worthlessness that won’t go away unless constantly doused by another shot of self-sacrifice.

It all tightens until what others need is anticipated beyond what is real, and then, without any true need being voiced, an anxiety to respond builds that can only be relieved if something is offered or done.  At the heart of this is the ever-present worry that unless doing something for another there is no possibility of being loved.  So the needs of others stand within reach like bottles behind a bar that, try as he or she will, the caretaker cannot resist.

In truth, caretaking, though seeming quite generous, is very self-serving, and it’s urgent self-centeredness prevents a life of genuine compassion.  In all honesty, to heal from this requires as rigorous a program of recovery as alcoholics enlist, including sponsors who will love us for who we are.

Within one’s self, the remedy of spirit that allows for true giving resides somewhere in the faith to believe that each of us is worthy of love, just as we are.

For me, I have experienced this with my daughter.  I go to great lengths to help her even when she does not ask for it or want it.  I can see, in hindsight, that I have forced my choices and my will on her and have only hurt her and made a bad situation worse in my efforts to show I care.  Maybe caring means doing nothing.  Maybe caring sometimes allowing our loved ones to fall down and pick themselves back up.  I know I will be going back to Al-Anon meeting next week and sharing this new “nugget of honestly” with the group.

Many times I have heard that we are a reflection of our addict.  I have rejected this until today.  I have had another epiphany on my own road to recovery!

I pray this reading may help someone like me today.

Here are some things to do suggested by the author, Mark Nepo:

 Center yourself and bring to mind a loved one you seem to meet more than halfway.

Meditate on what makes you take the extra step.

Imagine them loving you if you did nothing.

Imagine loving yourself if you did nothing.

Breathe and do nothing until you feel a sense of love rising for yourself.



St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Paddy’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century.  This celebration commemorated the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This “Feast Day” always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD. In the early 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the tradition over to the American colonies, and it was there that Saint Patrick started to become the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As more Irish came across the Atlantic, the Feast Day celebration slowly grew in popularity.  In 1737 the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston.

A massive influx of Irish immigrants arrived on our shores during the mid 19th century hoping to escape the Great Famine. This transformed the relatively small-scale Feast Day observance into a full-blown celebration that people wanted to be a part of whether they were Irish or not. In 1903, Feast Day became a national holiday in Ireland, and over time it transformed into what is now called St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday has since been celebrated all over the world in countries like the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Russia, and even throughout Asia. As it happens, St. Paddy’s Day is so popular, it’s thought to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. What was once a fairly chill day of going to mass, watching a parade, and eating a hearty meal with family has transformed into the biggest party in the world.

Here are some fun and true facts about St. Patrick.  Although he is considered the patron saint of Ireland, he was actually born in England sometime in the late 300s AD. That’s right, Patrick wasn’t Irish. And his name wasn’t Patrick either—it was Maewyn Succat, but he didn’t care for that so he chose a couple of monikers during his lifetime but he came to be known as Patricius.

Even though his father was a deacon in the church, Patrick wasn’t much of a believer himself. It wasn’t until he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and enslaved for six years as a shepherd that he chose to convert to Christianity. During that time he also learned the Irish language, culture and customs.  He attempted to escape only to be captured by the French who later released him back to England.  Patrick continued to study Christianity into his twenties and after having a vision that told him to return to Ireland, Patrick made his way back to share his beleifs with the predominately pagan Irish.

When Patrick arrived back in Ireland, however, he and his preaching ways were not welcomed, so he had to leave and land on some small islands off the coast. There he began to gain followers, and he eventually moved to the mainland to spread Christian ideologies across Ireland for many years to come. During this time, Patrick baptized thousands of people (some say 100,000), ordained new priests, guided women to nunhood, converted the sons of kings in the region, and aided in the formation of over 300 churches.

Although folklore tells us Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland, there were never actually any snakes on the island to begin with. Legend has it however that shamrocks were used by Patrick to teach the Irish the concept of the Christian Holy Trinity. They already had triple deities and regarded the number three highly, so Patrick’s use of the shamrock may have helped him win a great deal of favor with the Irish.  Oh, and one more fun fact.  The Catholic church does NOT recognize him as a canonized saint.
Why wear green?
There’s more to it than protection from pinching fingers!  It goes back to the Irish Rebellion, when Irish soldiers wore green as they fought off the British in their trademark red. Until then, the color associated with St. Patrick and Feast Day was actually blue. From then on, people wore green on St. Patrick’s Day in solidarity. Then in 1962 the city of Chicago had the idea to dye their river green which started And when the practice of wearing and decorating in green.
Why drink?

It’s part historical subtext, part us succumbing to advertising, and part stereotyping. Originally, St. Patrick’s Day,which is a feast day, was a day to lift Lenten restrictions in the Catholic church. It gave Christians a breather as they made their way to Easter. Basically, it was a day to eat and drink as much as you please in celebration.  But imbibing on whiskey and beer was not part of the equation. In fact, pubs in Ireland were forced by law to shut down for the holiday until later in the 20th century, and drinking alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day was greatly frowned upon until the late 1970s.

So grab your green, turn on some Irish fiddle music, kick up your heels and try not to spill the beer while you dance!


A Wish – Photo Challenge

A WISH is the theme for this weeks photo challenge.  The suggestion came from Jen’s visit to Japan where in the Shinto shrines people can purchase small wooden plaques called ema, upon which they can share their hopes and dreams. Then, they hang them amongst other ema from people who have come before them, in the hopes that spirits will grant their wish.  What a beautiful idea!

The first time I heard the song “My Wish”by Rascal Flatts, I was driving in my car and I had to pull over because I began to cry so hard I was afraid I would have an accident.  The tears were not sad but more of pure love.  It was as if the writer reached deep into my heart and pulled out all my feelings. These “wishes” are what I hold for my children and for all those whom I hold dear in my life.  That day, I went home and burned a CD with that song and left one on each of my children’s pillows.

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you wanna go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.
I hope you never look back, but you never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you live,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish. Yeah, yeah.
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish (my wish, for you).
This is my wish (my wish, for you)
I hope you know somebody loves you (my wish, for you).
May all your dreams stay big (my wish, for you)
Songwriters: Steve Robson / Jeffrey Steele
Rascal Flatts

Woman – A Poem


Our collective voice wields power

Don’t try and break our chain for we were shacked for too long

Our desire for equality cries out

There is no denying our contributions

Curie, Parks, Nightengale, Thatcher

Winfrey, Pankhurst, Roosevelt, The Queen


Don’t silence us

Don’t put us down

For as the sun and phoenix rise we too rise

Hand in hand, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder


So listen and learn from women

For we are mighty and powerful indeed

We are more than Mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend

We are light and love – strength and passion – drive and determination

A tribe  –  unified

A voice  –  collective


Lea Austen

The Road Taken – Photography

My husband and I have three go to walks that we choose from with our three canine family members.  Willie, Waylon and Chewie live for these daily jaunts in and around our neighborhood and their excitement builds even before we actually say the word “walk” to them.  They have this uncanny ability to read us and instinctively know when we are getting ready to walk them.  The short walk is literally a short walk around our neighborhood, one big circle.  The intermediate walk will take us about a mile and it includes the adjoining neighborhood.  The long walk takes us onto the West Ashley Greenway and we walk maybe a little over two miles.  When I read about “The Road Taken” challenge these walks easily came to mind.  I grabbed the camera to see what I would see and I can tell you for sure that Spring has sprung in Charleston.  I hope you enjoy just a few of the blossoms I shot along the way.  What a delight to see these simple signs of Spring on the road taken!

“who knows if the moon’s
a balloon,coming out of a keen city
in the sky–filled with pretty people?
( and if you and I should

get into it,if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we’d go up higher with all the pretty people

than houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away sailing into a keen
city which nobody’s ever visited,where

Spring)and everyone’s
in love and flowers pick themselves”
E.E. Cummings, Collected Poems

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