Feb 2013

Dear Friend

This new year has gotten off to an exciting start. I feel a surge of energy moving forward with the excitement of my new book publication. The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters: The Timelessness of Simple Truths will be published with the publication date of April 2nd.

April 2nd at 7 PM I will give a talk at a favorite independent bookstore, R.J. Julia, in Madison, Connecticut, to launch my 28th published book, one I especially hold dear because it is a love story about my daughters, Alexandra and Brooke. It is a story about all mothers and their adult daughters about sharing this intimate, unique relationship.

Just as everyone else was putting away all of their holiday decoration, our evergreens were finally put into our window boxes because the geraniums were still in bloom through Christmas Day. We’ve now had several snowfalls and it has indeed been beautiful to see the snow from the windows surrounding our cottage.

Our visit to Naples, Florida was an exciting experience on many important levels. I was thrilled to be at an inaugural conference sponsored by e’ Bella Magazine aimed at inspiring and empowering woman. Bella Vita – the beautiful – good life is key to our happiness and sense of well-being. My talk, Living A Beautiful Life made me realize how my message is timeless in our need to live life fully in the moment, mindful of all the beauty we can create for ourselves and others. My favorite thought of the late Eleanor McMillen Brown, my former boss, mentor and friend, born in 1890, believed that “If we create beauty for ourselves, if we create beauty for others, we will live a long, healthy, happy life.”

The entire conference was most inspiring and I believe we all left feeling we were enriched, educated and transformed as we went back to our normal lives, seeing the world from a larger, more enlightened consciousness.

Our dear friends, Barbara and Garry, drove from Illinois to Sanibel, Florida, in order to be with us. Garry had never been to a women’s conference but found it enormously stimulating and had lots of fun with 200 attractive ladies!

My father retired in Naples and died there in the early 80’s. His favorite restaurant was The Dock. Garry and Barbara drove us there after my book signing following the conference. We’d been there together many times and this ritual return was touching as we toasted my father and each other, joined by more friends.

The four days in the beauty and warmth of the Florida community by the water was delightful and a great break for Peter and me from the cold January weather in New England. Aside from seeing old and good friends, we met many new people we enormously enjoyed, and friendships were made. I'm constantly amazed at the generosity and graciousness of strangers who know me only through my books. At first, I was a writer, and by the time we left, we’d made some few friends that brought us great joy.

Returning home from our wonderful time in Naples, we were picked up at the airport in Harford by Heidi, a young friend and helper. Snow was falling and was quite heavy upon our return to Stonington. Our blood was thinned from going from 81 degree temperature at noon to 20 degrees at 6 PM, but we enjoyed some hearty soup made by a local chef before going home to the cottage.

We have experienced frigid weather since we’ve been home. It’s been so cold, many people just stay home, too miserable to venture out. Peter and I put on many layers of clothing and tried to live our normal lives, but I admit the cold was not for the faint hearted. More snow, more ice, more freezing temperatures. Finally, the snow is melting and we are having warmer weather, even feeling the warmth of the sun on our bodies. In Florida, the warm weather was such a treat, such a contrast. We all try to make the best of our situation, but winters in Connecticut can be challenging. However, home is home, and our cottage is cheerful, colorful, and cozy no matter how cold it is outside. Spring flowers and plants help us remember that Spring is coming and the days are longer.

Another one of Mrs. Brown’s maxims was, “When one thing changes, you have to re-think everything.” How wise this grand dame was and how much I value her advice every day. After 26 years of using the local laundromat, they went out of business. One day we suddenly had no way to have clean clothes. How quaint we never had a washer or dryer. Why should we have? Just because you can, doesn’t automatically mean you should. Debbie picked up and delivered; she folded so beautifully, I didn’t need to iron (although I did because I enjoy this peaceful, practical ritual so much). Having our laundry done by others freed up my time to do other things.

Yes and no. Our daughter Brooke, especially since Cooper was born four years ago, would have a washer and dryer. I was in denial. Friends laughed, “All you have to do Alexandra is give up a closet and stack them.” Ha. Give up a closet? We live in an 18th century house and there weren’t any closets. When we renovated the cottage nearly five years ago, we built in two precious closets for our clothes, and for children and grandchildren to use when they visit.

I’m not a basement person. I’ve never liked going down there. How adaptable we are. I finally woke up to reality. In order to live a civilized life, we need to have a proper laundry room. The light came to me. We could turn an old carpenter’s room in the basement into a bright, cheerful clean space to do the laundry, and perhaps a second place for me to iron.

Immediately, there was extra grab bars installed to make the steep narrow cellar stairs less dangerous. Once we decided to rip out all the cabinets and shelves, exposing the pure space, I fell in love with the authentic 17th century boulders and stones, the old brick work that is holding up our 238 year old house. The space has now opened up and has great potential. I’m wildly excited to anticipate this opportunity to have a laundry room in our home. Something that is automatic to most people, who have a washer and dryer, will become a thrill for me when things are installed and the water flows. To be continued …

I received a letter from a woman who thanked me for a column I wrote in 1989 for McCall’s magazine, The Act of Putting Your Life in Order. I wrote her back a postcard and asked her if she could send me a Xerox copy! I’d love to strive to do just that!

January always seems to be the month to get organized. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because that seems like pressure to me. Instead, I focus on how I can make our home and lives more enjoyable and how we can delight more in all the familiar, private details. Living a Beautiful Life’s subtitle, 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life reminds me freshly that all the small details of our lives make all the difference to our well-being and our contentment, moment-to-moment.

I’m not being efficient necessarily but I’m having a splendid time puttering, and somehow things do get accomplished in a pleasant manner. Now that the postage prices have gone up, I’ve reorganized my massive stamp collection. I’ve organized our candles, our teas, our matches – who used matches? We do. I love the romance of the match boxes from places we’ve enjoyed.

Mrs. Brown also taught me that “living takes time.” She truly took time to live well. Because of her love of beauty and her philosophy, she was able to live a long, healthy and happy life, dying peacefully after a well-lived life, five days shy of her 101’st birthday in February 1990.

Happy Valentine's Day! May we celebrate the whole month of February in a loving spirit of gratitude, compassion and understanding.

Great love to you.

Love & Live Happy

A sneak peek! I love the cover! Sunflowers always move toward the sun!

An exuberant picture of Alexandra and Peter!

At least once a year we must remind ourselves about love!

Often we catch ourselves being surprised by joy!

Enjoy Valentine's Day with someone you cherish, who makes you feel loved.

I've added some love stamps to my collection!

Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.

Grace Note

The more we love, the more capable we are of achieving our highest aspirations.

~~ Alexandra Stoddard