It’s So Easy to Be Critical

Colorado blizzard March 2016 | Happy Simple Living blog

This Wednesday we had a nice spring blizzard in Colorado. It snowed sideways here from about 4:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon, and the blowing snow caused Denver International Airport to close for the first time in ten years. I shot the picture above from my home office at the height of the storm’s blizzardiness. When it stopped, we had over a foot of heavy snow.

My First Mistake

Yesterday morning, just before I put on my parka and snow boots to begin the task of shoveling the driveway, I happened to read this headline from The Denver Post:

Denver Won’t Be Plowing Residential Streets After Wednesday’s Blizzard

The article was accompanied by a dramatic photo of cars buried under snow, and included a partial quote from the Denver Public Works spokesperson Nancy Kuhn that the Post put in quote marks like this:

Kuhn said the decision not to deploy residential plows came after “careful consideration.”

My Second Mistake

I don’t know what possessed me, but for some reason I clicked on the Comments section of the article and began reading the various remarks. (Is this ever a good idea? I read somewhere that you lose a minute of your life for every minute you spend reading online comments – ha!)

Here’s an example, from someone whose forum name is Tony T.:

“You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s going to snow again on Friday night, so they’re just going to shrug their shoulders and hope it gets warm!? This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to pull this crap, and it won’t be the last.”

It bears mentioning that we don’t live in Denver proper, and the main street circling our neighborhood was plowed. However, I was steamed as I tromped out and began shoveling the driveway.

My Third Mistake

I felt increasingly indignant as I shoveled. My mind latched on to this issue and filled my head with angry thoughts. How dare the city not plow and help the residents of Denver? Why don’t we have the budget for proper plowing? What about all the new tax revenue we’re supposedly generating with marijuana sales? 

The problem soon escalated to much larger-scale thoughts like: Our government is such a mess. Our infrastructure is crumbling and cities are going bankrupt. In this day and age, why is it so difficult to find good political leadership? And so on, and so on…

Does your brain ever lapse into an endless loop of negativity like this? I hate when that happens!

What Brought Me Back

The snow started melting quickly yesterday (part of the reason Denver Public Works decided not to plow) and a large, wet clump fell off the front locust tree and hit me right in the face. What a blessing! The friendly snowball made me laugh, and it also knocked some sense into me. What was I doing? Why was I in such a huff?

I re-set my mind on the glorious sunshine and glittering white landscape against a blue, blue Colorado sky. I sent thoughts of light and love to the DPW spokesperson Nancy Kuhn, who must need extra grace and a thick skin sometimes to defend the city’s actions. I vowed to stop reading anonymous online comments.

And I decided to save figuring out the world’s problems for another day.

Hugs and happy Easter,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

No Better Time Than Now to Speak Up About Guns, and Here’s How

Flowers on a casket | Speak up now about gun control

Some journalists have called last week’s shooting massacre at Umqua Community College in Oregon a “tipping point” for the American public. The debate about gun violence has never raged louder, and if ever you’ve thought about sharing your opinion, the time is NOW.

No matter which side of the issue you’re on, your elected officials need to hear your opinions about gun control right now. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do that is simple — just pick up the phone and call.

If you’ve never called your representative, makes it so easy. Just enter your zip code here and the site will give you your senators’ and representatives’ names and phone numbers for your district.

When you make the call,  you may speak with a person who will ask you a question or two, or you may be instructed to leave a message; either way, you can be assured that your direct opinions will be relayed to your representative. It took me less than ten minutes to call my four elected officials. The offices are in Washington, D.C., and if you call outside of regular weekday business hours you’ll be instructed to leave a message.

In People magazine’s latest issue, the publication printed the names and phone numbers of all 535 voting members of the House and Senate and urged readers to make a call about gun control. With 3.5 million readers, many people will be reaching out to share their opinions this week.

Let’s add our voices to the conversation, shall we?

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Don LaVange

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Precious Letters from Nanny

My grandparents | Happy Simple Living blog

My grandparents Eliza and Fred Seely on their wedding day in 1935

I’m remembering our grandmother today, on her birthday.

Eliza Gracie Weeks Seely was born on September 19, 1907 and lived to be 99 years old. During her lifetime she experienced the Great Depression, World War I and II, and the attacks of 9/11.

Theodore Roosevelt was president when she was born, and 16 more presidents served during her lifetime—all the way through to George W. Bush.

She attended Boston Bouvé College and earned her degree in Physical Education. Nanny married Poppy—our grandfather Fred Seely—in 1935. When I think of the good marriages I admire, theirs is at the top of the list.

My impression was that they were best friends, lovers, and partners in the truest sense of the word. They both loved to laugh and have fun, and they shared such affection! I can still remember catching Poppy playfully pinching her bottom as she leaned over the dishwasher one morning.

Nanny wrote the most wonderful letters, and it was always a joy to find an envelope from her in the mailbox. I saved many of her letters and cards, and I’m so glad I did. Re-reading her words now brings back so many wonderful memories.

cards and letters from my grandmother

Our grandparents were very active, and Nanny’s letters often contained stories about their latest adventures:

“Last night Poppy and I went up to the Blue Ridge Mountains with friends and had a real touch of nostalgia listening to a wonderful concert under the stars – all of Cole Porter’s golden oldies – big band tunes and scores from so many of the New York shows we saw when we lived in New Jersey. The moon helped light our way down the mountains and we were all glad we had gotten reserved seats, for there were close to 2,000 in the big outdoor auditorium.”

Sometimes her letters contained family stories, like this one she shared about my mom, Betty, during the time they lived in California when Poppy was stationed there during World War II:

“I’m sorry Gracie had chicken pox, and I hope by now the meanest part is over. Betty had it when we moved to California during the war and there was no doctor in the whole area of Balboa. She was miserable, and the Navy officers that commuted to the base with Poppy were scared they would catch it. Sure enough, one did!”

My grandparents were married for 55 years before Poppy died in 1990. Nanny wrote me a letter not long after, describing a poignant moment:

“You would have been proud of me last evening, for there was a giant (200 people) sit-down cocktail buffet here at The Downs and I was dragging my heels, hating to go all by myself. But I could almost hear Poppy saying, “Go on—and wear that new dress I bought you.” So I flapped around and got all dressed up in the peach dress.

“As I drove out of the garage, I realized I didn’t have the house key—I’d locked myself out! That didn’t add to my state of mind, but I went along and as I looked at that horde of people someone waved and said, ‘Hey! Liza!’ Two wonderful words that made my evening, and my nice next-door neighbor let me in when I got home. So now, I’ve climbed that mountain and next time won’t be such a big deal.”

As her letters drew to a close, Nanny’s script got smaller and her spacing became tighter as she tried to fit in a few extra lines. Sometimes her writing got so small on the last page that there was only enough room at the bottom of the page for her to squeeze in a tiny “Love and a big fat kiss, Nanny.”

I’m so grateful that Nanny took the time to write the letters I so treasure now. In this day of email, texts and instant messaging, she inspires me to do the same.

Hugs to all of you, and enjoy the weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

With my dear Nanny at a family reunion in 2004.

With my dear Nanny at a family reunion in 2004.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

So Grateful for the Words I Didn’t Speak

Benalmadena Butterfly Park

Some years ago I hosted a party at my house, and as I was in the kitchen refreshing an appetizer platter I happened to overhear one of the guests on a phone call in the next room. I was stunned to hear this woman speak unkindly about my family member, who I knew considered her one of her best and dearest friends.

I wondered whether to tell my family member what I’d overheard, but my spirit practically shouted at me, “NO! Let it be.” So I kept quiet.

One week later, the woman I’d overheard on the phone was killed in a tragic car accident. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked God that I never spoke of what I heard in the kitchen that day. I never marred that friendship or ruined the sweet memories my family member has of her friend. I am so deeply grateful for the grace that kept me quiet.

I used to get annoyed if someone interrupted me while I was talking, but I’ve come to see those breaks as opportunities to step back for a moment and consider what I’m saying. Sometimes the pause helps me recognize that I’m not speaking the kind of words I want to. When someone cuts me off, I can re-shape my thoughts—or maybe even drop the subject. I’ve often regretted words I blurted out in haste, but I rarely regret thinking before I talk.

I’ve learned the value of speaking less and listening more in my business, too. Often my clients will call for advice, and in the process of explaining and talking through an issue they figure out exactly what they need to do. Beautiful.

How about you? Have you ever been grateful, like me, for something you didn’t say?

May we all have opportunities in the days ahead to listen well, and share words that are good and right.

Hugs and happy Labor Day weekend!

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Benalmadena Butterfly Park

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

The Amazing Bliss of 10 More Minutes

crowded parking lot

I had to report for jury duty last week. I find jury service interesting and don’t view it as a chore, but I did have to do some careful organizing on Wednesday because my son’s school had a late start and I had to check in at 8 a.m.

Since Denver’s morning rush hour is unpredictable, I built an extra ten minutes in my tightly-planned schedule to drive to the courthouse, park, and go through security. Traffic was pretty typical that morning, but because I had extra time I wasn’t annoyed by the heavy volume or stoplights.

I arrived early to the courthouse, and instead of frantically circling the crowded lot looking for a parking space I had time to find a nice, shady spot under a tree.

I had a few moments to sit in my car and send up a prayer for the people in the courthouse with their various concerns and heartbreaks and problems, and for the judges and lawyers and staff to perform their best, and for us jurors to listen well and do a good job of carrying out our responsibilities.

I had a nice walk from my outlying parking spot to the courthouse, and didn’t feel stressed when I saw the long security line because I still had extra time. I arrived a few minutes early to the jury room.

The rest of the day was filled with many hours of “hurry up and wait,” as I sat through jury selection for two trials. My number was never called, and I was eventually excused mid-afternoon.

Driving home, it occurred to me that the relaxed beginning to my morning had stayed with me throughout the day. Wednesday at the courthouse turned out to be a very pleasant day.

I realized that too often, I don’t build in much extra time in my schedule. I frequently find myself trying to squeeze in a few more tasks before I rush off somewhere. How might my days improve if I gave myself the gift of an extra ten minutes now and then?

How about you? Could you build in a little extra time to your comings and goings this week, and see how that affects you? Or do you already do a good job of building in breathing room to your daily schedule?

Have a good week—and may you enjoy the bliss of some unhurried moments,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Dean Hochman

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

What is Your Most Important Thing Today?

Sunrise | photo by Bryce Bradford | Happy Simple Living blog

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien


A new day dawns, ripe with possibilities.

Yet the sheer number of priorities and responsibilities most of us juggle each day can sometimes be overwhelming. When I do have unstructured time, I often don’t know where to best focus my energy. Should I write 500 words for my next book? Take a nap? Answer e-mails? Go for a bike ride? Sweep the garage? Call a friend? Create a masterpiece?

Too often, I arrive at the end of the day feeling like I’ve soldiered through the hours and tasks without accomplishing any of the things I really wanted to.

“Pay yourself first,” is a popular bit of financial advice, suggesting that we tuck some money in savings before we pay our bills. So here’s a challenge, my friends:  what if we paid ourselves first from the well of our precious time? Could we try to carve out some moments during this new day to pursue our truest priorities?

What is one thing you could do today, to support your dreams or goals?

Could you figure out a way to pay yourself first today?

If you do, I’d love to hear from you.


The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Bryce Bradford

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.