There are several “givens” when it comes to happiness: my husband and my kids, my family, but I want to talk about the other gifts that God has given to us, either collectively or individually.
My dogs. I have had several dogs in my lifetime, some more memorable than others. Sasha, my Siberian Husky who I got as a present form my dad when I was 19. I was heartbroken over a breakup and my daddy told me, “You don’t need a boyfriend; here’s a puppy.” She was my comfort when I was down, my running partner, and my guardian. When she died, at the age of 15, I was crushed. Shortly after her death, I found out I was pregnant with my only little girl. My dog Penny sits on my lap when I grade papers and she is cuddly and mellow and sweet. God gave us dogs to bring out the best in us and for unconditional companionship. My dogs have been blessings; I can’t help but feel God brought them into my life to teach me to trust and love, so I am better at it with actual people.
Books. I am an English teacher and the focus of my day to day life is books. There are so many favorites: the Bible (of course,) Jane Eyre, Love in the Time of Cholera, Black Beauty, House of the Spirits. All these books have taught me about myself. I have explored other worlds, become different people, and known interesting characters. My life has been enriched through reading. People from across time and the globe have affected little ole me. These books are friends. They are concrete in many ways, and they are figurative in most. Books enable me to have great conversations with people and get my students to think about ideas and actions. Books are lessons learned and morals revealed. The talent evinced by writing is invaluable in my world because it turns the microcosm of our tiny existence into a macrocosm of worlds possible.
Colors. My favorite color is red. Red is passionate and painful; red is exciting and flashy. It expresses multiple moods and personalities. Black is deep and mysterious. It is night and the universe; it is limited and expansive. Yellow is cheerful and bright; while also being smooth yet sometimes sickly.
Blue is the color of the Blessed Mother. It reminds me of peace and motherhood, since my first baby boy was wrapped in light blue blankets with a stretchy blue cap on his head. Blue is the color of sea and sky and morning glories, and most importantly, my husband’s eyes. White is brilliant and of course invokes images of brides and my favorite, white roses. For me, it is reminiscent of the Transfiguration when Christ’s clothes became brilliantly white. That is the kind of white that to me is perfection, just as the Holy Spirit is.
Cheese. I love all kinds of cheese: Swiss, brie, cheddar, mozzarella, you name it, I love it. Cheese makes or breaks a dish, and almost every ethnic food has its way with cheese. Cheesy enchiladas, pizza, and lasagna are comfort foods. Cream cheese can make any dessert or dish better as well. Cheese and crackers, simple, yet perfect, shredded cheese sprinkled on a salad or cheese sauce poured on broccoli or cauliflower improves any vegetable. Yes, cheese is given to us by God; it has to be.
Mountains. I am fortunate to live in a city surrounded by beautiful mountains. We always are certain of our sense of direction because of the huge mountain east of the city. Visitors are told, “Mountains are east.” The mountains are our landmark; our view is always based on the mountain; the view is either OF the mountain or FROM the mountain. Hiking the mountain is an exercise in resilience; climbing its majesty is triumphant. Sitting within the forest of the mountain is peaceful, filled with the smell of pine and the chirping of birds and the colors of flowers. Mountains are proof that God exists. The small mountains to the west of the city are dormant volcanoes, which at one time, 100,000 years ago, held such power within, they exploded under the pressure and left remnants throughout the valley. Mountains signify simultaneous strength and beauty, quite the way I imagine God Himself to be—steadfast and my landmark as well.
These simple things in life, though there are many more, remind me of my blessings and God’s presence in my life and my world.
What simple things remind you of God’s beauty and love?
Charla is a life-long Catholic, married since 1995. She has three children who attend Catholic school and university. Charla has been teaching high school English literature at the same Catholic high school she attended for over 15 years. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Latin American Studies, and Secondary Education, as well as a Masters degree in Education. Charla has served as a lector and Eucharistic minister at her parish and school. She enjoys reading, cooking, running, and all activities involving her children. Her special devotions are to the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the Holy Rosary.