Maggie’s Thought for the Month: Your Path, Your Destiny

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I’ve heard the secret to living your destiny is to stop asking other people for directions. Everyone has an answer when helping another find the ‘right’ path in life.

Maggie was a wanderer. She loved to go hiking, and venture off the marked paths. Her tail would wag with delight, while her legs moved swiftly to keep up with a scent she was following. During these detours from the path, I often found the best landscapes to photograph.  Maggie never hesitated to walk the unknown, and she always enjoyed the journey.

Our world seems to be filled with people that follow a traditional path, or those that want to pave their own way. From my experiences, people following the untraditional path get asked a lot more questions. Maybe our world can also be divided by people who fear the unknown, and people who crave the excitement of the unknown. The times in my life when I didn’t know my destination, resulted in the most memorable experiences & life changing opportunities.

Everyone is unique.  Follow your own path. It just may lead to your destiny.

Travels with Sissy: A Bear Named Winnie

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The New York Public Library has the honor of protecting something priceless- the original stuffed animals that belonged to the son of  author A.A.Milne, Christopher Robin. The stories of Winnie the Pooh represent the importance of kindness, friendship, and unconditional love…interesting how those same qualities are the reason we have Winnie in the first place.

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During World War One, a young soldier serving as a veterinarian in the Canadian army saw a young cub for sale at a train station. The cub’s mother had been shot and the hunter was selling the cub for twenty dollars. The soldiers named the cub Winnipeg, after their hometown in Canada. When the soldiers were being transferred to the battlefields in Europe, Winnie was left on loan at the London Zoo. Visitors adored the little bear, and upon the soldiers return to London, they decided Winnie should stay at the zoo. She was officially adopted by the London Zoo in 1919, and lived until 1934.

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A father named A.A. Milne often brought his son, Christopher Robin, to the London Zoo to visit Winnie. Christopher loved the bear so much, he renamed his stuffed bear Winnie. Later on, he gave his bear the last name of Pooh- after a pet swan he had at his home near Ashdown Forest in Sussex. Milne was inspired by the collection of stuffed animals his son acquired, and so began the stories he wrote at Cotchord Farm. The Hundred Acre Wood became the setting for Winnie’s friends- Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga and Roo.

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A.A.Milne’s series of books about Winnie the Pooh became known across the world. In 1966, two young girls in America who adored Milne’s books about the ever forgetful yet loveable bear- inspired their father, Walt Disney, to make a movie. Many more movies were made and warmly adored by children and their parents. Today, Winnie the Pooh is ranked second after Mickey Mouse as the most loved and trusted Disney character.

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In a world where we are mesmerized by gadgets, and success is often defined by power & wealth, it’s comforting to know that Winnie the Pooh still reminds us what is precious. The kindness & friendship a soldier shared with a bear, and the unconditional love a boy taught his father- all began the stories of Winnie the Pooh… a bear who taught us how big the little things are.

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The Last House That Dad Built

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Recently I was cleaning my guest room, which also serves as a shrine to some traveling memorabilia & childhood memories. I noticed a photo taken in DeSmet, South Dakota; the last house that Pa Ingalls built.

I thought about a time when people had to rely on their neighbors and natural resources to survive and protect their family. I wondered if people today would be so altruistic to help another need. Then, I remembered a house my dad built- and it didn’t cost a penny.

In 1979, my dad built a playhouse for my sister and me. It was truly built from the generosity of neighbors, family, and friends. The door, nails, most of the wood & roof shingles came from donations of what people had ‘extra’ in their garage or basement. Maybe it helped that my dad was a pack-rat, and always saved things because ‘you never know when you can use them again’.

The last house that dad built became a hang out for the neighborhood kids. Our mother always knew where we were, and who were our friends. It transitioned from a pretend school house, to walls lined with posters from Tiger Beat magazine. Later on, it became a shed for mom’s flower pots & gardening tools.

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The little house is now gone, but the lessons learned will last a lifetime. Most people are kind, think twice before you throw something away, and the best memories are usually the ones that never cost a penny.

Maggie’s Thought for the Month: Be a First Rate Thinker

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The dictionary defines a thinker as an intellectually creative person. Therefore, a true thinker, thinks their own thoughts- right?

Maggie was constantly praised for her great thinking skills. She seemed to know the daily schedule, had the ability to solve her own problems (like getting a very large bone thru her doggie door),  and coerce visitors to give her treats.  Maggie solved those expensive doggie games- guaranteed to keep your pet entertained for hours- within minutes. She was a first rate thinker!

In today’s world, we often ridicule people for not thinking the same way. Don’t we need an eclectic group of thinkers to create a world of diversity? If our world was not filled with diversity, how would we prosper by sharing the same thoughts?  Maybe we should worry less about what people are thinking, and worry more about how we treat each other when our thoughts disagree.

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”A.A. Milne

Travels with Sissy: Sharpe Hill Vineyard

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When someone mentions the word vineyard, most visualize Napa Valley or Sonoma, California. Who knew Connecticut has its own hidden treasure of vineyards, too.

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Travel along Route 44 in the quiet Northeast corner of Connecticut, and you will see many signs directing to various vineyards in the state. My travels, one summer day, took me to Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret. The quiet back road, aligned with stone walls, sets the mood for a relaxing day with good wine, food, & conversation.

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The staff at Sharpe Hill Vineyard welcomes you upon entering the front door of the red barn. Patrons can purchase a bottle of wine, and enjoy the scenery while sitting on the patio. Another option is lunch or dinner to be enjoyed at the restaurant.

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The restaurant at Sharpe Hill Vineyard is on the second floor of an adjacent building to the main entrance. As you walk up the steep, wooden, spiral staircase- the aroma of food fills the air. The room is small, so reservations are required. The staff carefully explains the choices of appetizers, selection of wines, and how each meal is prepared.

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Vineyards offer something for everyone- whether a relaxing day with friends, or a romantic get away. Whatever season you prefer, Sharpe Hill Vineyard has something planned to make their guests feel relaxed, special, and planning a return trip.

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Maggie’s Thought for the Month: It’s Okay to Say Goodbye

Baby Maggie

All too often we try to make everyone else around us happy, and our own happiness takes second place. We play a tug of war in our mind- should I stay or should I leave.

One of the things I admired most about Maggie was her ability to make a decision and stick with it. Once, she waited a solid fifteen minutes until a toad finally came out from hiding behind the steps. She was staying until she got that toad- it made her happy. Other times, she would get bored with the other neighborhood dogs and just walk back to her yard. She didn’t care if the other dogs started to bark, she just kept walking back to her blanket & chewy toy.

During our lifetime, we will meet an eclectic group of people. All of the people we meet, whether we realize it or not, serve a purpose. Some people will provide the words of wisdom or physical materials we need to get us to the next step. Others will stay a little longer; helping us stand tall, and provide constant reminders that we are going in the right direction. At times, it will seem like we will never be able to survive without their presence. Eventually though, only a few will consistently remain in our lives for our time on Earth.

How do we know when it’s time to say goodbye, or feel okay when someone says goodbye to us? I’m not sure what the correct answer is, but I do know Maggie had the right response when the decision was made- don’t look back.

Travels with Sissy: Christmas in Mystic

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During this busy time of year, it’s nice to be reminded of simpler times and the true meaning of the holiday season. If you’re longing for a reminder, visit Mystic Seaport’s Lantern Light Tours.

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The Lantern Light Tour is more like a story being told, while you walk to each scene in the movie. This year, the story is ‘The Nut-Cracker Sweets’. Our walk to the ship, P.I. Tchaikovsky, begins the story with Captain Goober describing his delicious goods from far off countries- such as pistachios, walnuts, almonds and pecans. However, our ‘guide’ Marie Stahlbaum who owns the Sweet Shop in town, tells of her family’s very magical nut cracker that is missing. Captain Goober suggests visiting the other merchants and people in town to solve the nut cracker mystery, and insure all the delicious treats will be made in time for Christmas Day.

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Our visits to Mrs. Fruitcake’s home, the Shellman Residence, the Dewdrop Inn, and the School House provided light-hearted stories, dancing & laughter to help find the magical nut cracker. It also provided a reminder of how special it was to receive cookies made from that spice from far away- ginger; or the excitement of finding an orange in your stocking.

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The end of the tour at Mr. Drosselmeyer’s Workshop, a man who is new to Mystic and visiting from somewhere up north, helps Marie with her problem. He provides her with an exact replica of the magical nutcracker her family received many years ago from a ‘traveler’ passing thru town. He also reminds Marie that the ‘magic’ of the nut cracker is not something within the nut cracker that makes her families sweets so delicious. The magic is from the kindness & love given, while preparing the special gifts to loved ones and friends.

The light from a lantern reminds us of a time when a star provided the same lesson… Love & Kindness is the greatest gift of all.