September 18, 2009

Teacher, Friend, Mentor

“Creating daily rituals–making daily tasks into times of enrichment through planning and special personal details–is a way to live a richer more satisfying life”. Alexandra Stoddard, Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Everyday of Your Life.

Have you ever heard the saying, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready.”? My good friend and mentor, Alexandra Stoddard (author, modern day philosopher, and designer) is one of my most cherished teachers. By reading Alexandra’s writing and spending time with her, I have learned many wonderful and valuable lessons, the most important of which is to live a purposeful, beautiful, and happy life.


I can’t remember if Living a Beautiful Life was something I picked up at the bookstore or if it was given to me as a gift. What I do remember is reading the first line, of the first page, and realizing that the book was in my hands for a reason. I was ready for her.

Alexandra Stoddard found me while raising two small children, renovating my home, running a couple of businesses, and generally feeling irritated and overwhelmed by the mountain of tasks upon me each day.

One particular event occurring at the time (causing an unreasonable amount of irritation and angst) was the installation of my new solid black granite kitchen countertops. For years I dreamed about having shiny, crisp, stark, sleek, BLACK granite countertops in my kitchen. The day they were placed onto the base cabinets, I literally sat and looked at them for an hour…smitten. Then I cooked. Each meal I worked in the kitchen morphed those beautiful pieces of stone into cloudy, smeared, spotted, smudged black messes. Wiping them shiny and clean was a 15 minute CHORE that required…spray, wipe, dry…spray, wipe, dry…spray wipe dry… section by section. For a time, I thought I hated them and looked at them with disdain after every meal.

I realize now that it wasn’t the countertops I hated, but the way I thought about all of the work I was trying to manage everyday. When I first read the passage above, I was stopped in my tracks. At that moment I started to re-evaluate how I was handling ALL of my day to day tasks. The lightbulb went off and I knew I had choices in the way I managed the “what is” in everyday.

As for the countertops, I choose to fall in love with the cleaning ritual required after each meal. I take the time to breath, think, and decompress as I spray, wipe, dry…spray, wipe, dry… Cleaning the counters, is now one of the few quiet times I have each day and has become one of my daily rituals I look forward to the most.

Two years ago I attended a “writers retreat” hosted by Alexandra and Peter. It was after that event that I developed a plan for my blog…Life at Buttercup Farm. Using the opening line of Living a Beautiful Life, “Creating daily rituals–making daily tasks into times of enrichment through planning…”, I started a daily writing ritual…each day 20 minutes…no matter what. The experience of writing this blog, has been one of the best of my life so far.

Thank you, Alexandra, my teacher, friend and mentor, for inspiring me to THINK about my thinking patterns, for inspiring to push toward my dreams for writing, and for being an example of someone who lives their truth and owns their happiness.

The last time I had dinner with Alexandra and Peter, she asked me to remind her of how I found her….I laughed and told her….”It was my black granite countertops”. Really though, I found her because I was ready. Ready to think in a different way about my life, ready to stop going through the motions, and ready to take control of my happiness.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Alexandra’s work, check out her library. I own each and every book and love them all!

Also, don’t forget…it is “A Beautiful Life” Friday over at The Inspired Room . Melissa is also a fan of Alexandra Stoddard. Click HERE to read about her experience.


Down home friends and what they say...

Comments (8)

artist in NC said:


Valerie said:

Love Alexandra Stoddard and actually own 2 of her books. In fact, I was perusing your blog one day and found a post you did on letters that you kept and put on display. One of your siblings teased you b/c you had a letter from Alexandra.

All I could think was, “OMG she has an actual letter from Alexandra Stoddard.” I love that you got to have dinner with her and “Peter”!!!

Hope all is well,

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said:

What a beautiful post, Shawn! I discovered Alexandra Stoddard’s books when I was a newlywed and creating my first real home with my husband. I found her words so inspiring. Whenever I’m in a funk, I can just pick up any of her books and flip it open to any page and find something that will make me smile again.

I had no idea black granite countertops were so high-maintenance! What a great story, though. Thanks for sharing it! :-)

Desiree said:

Oh what a beautiful post and a lovely picture of the two of you! I have all of Alexandra’s books as well. She is one of my favorite writers! SHE found me when I was a new mom with a new home in a brand new development. I was so overwhelmed and in need of meaningful friends and motherly wisdom. Oh how she helped me! She possesses such beauty and gratitude for living. She helped me find a voice to my emotions, a confident inner peace, and a deeper understanding and appreciation for the important things in life. You share much in common.Perhaps that is why I also found your beautiful blog. xoxo Desiree

Pam said:

Shawn we miss you over at TP!! Hope all is well with you and your family….please stop in and say hi to the durls…..BTW..LOVE Alexander Stoddard! xoxo Pam

Rebecca said:

Each time you write a post, Shawn, it is such a pleasure to read, and I think how great it is to witness the flowering of someone’s talents really taking off. This is such a wonderful post on many levels, and it’s always such a pleasure to read what you have to say and see how you accompany it with beautiful images. Thank YOU for helping ME live a “richer, more satisfying life.” :-)

Sarah said:

How to neat to meet someone who has a special part in your work and life!

Virginia (from the Tee Pee) said:

Hi Shawn - I’ve missed you. I, too, am a HUGE AS fan. Have all her books and often dreamed of dining with she and Peter. And, YOU have!!!! Her writing retreats sound divine. GREAT pic of you two. I always enjoy your writings…and am in agreement on that durn granite. It drives me batty. :) But…perhaps I’ll see it with new eyes. Hugs…

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