There’s an article about how I started writing books in the August issue of Where Women Create Magazine that has this → in it; lately I’m getting mail asking how this card came to be, so I thought it would be a good thing to write about.
♥ ♥ ♥
When I was writing my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t really expect it to get published; I hoped, but didn’t expect because of the not knowing what I was doing and the fact that book writers I knew about, and me, seemed to have so little in common. They were geniuses and I was just a sad girl (brokenhearted from divorce) alone in a house. But you can tell by this card, I really wanted to write a book and “create future.”
Once I decided to really try, I got so excited about the pages I was painting, it became my dawn-til-dusk obsession. I woke up early, flipped on the TV in the still-dark house, started the water boiling for tea, fed the kitties, and went directly to the watercolors, eager to put onto paper what I’d dreamed the night before. I began to ignore all other aspects of my life. I forgot to get out of my jammies. I opened the fridge and whatever food was there, I ate it, standing up, in refrigerator-bulb light, wiping chicken-leg grease off my hands quickly before racing back to the dining room table (subbing for art table) where my entire life was focused. I could get away with this because I lived alone in my little house; I had recently moved to Martha’s Vineyard from California and didn’t know anyone. So, I was safe from someone coming by who might judge me because my hair was glued to my head from not being washed. I had made up a little fable, about me, and butterfly wings. That creativity was coming to me at night, and it could be washed off in the shower, the magic disappearing like what happens if you take off the powder on a butterfly’s wings. So, yes, I was on the verge of being a disgustingly dirty butterfly.
I kept talking to myself saying where’s the balance, and then went right on being obsessed. Although I was loving the painting, I felt guilty about being so ridiculous about it. I knew what I should do, I was just forgetting to do it and it was making me weary.
So I painted this card to keep myself on the straight and narrow (you can tell it was a long time ago; it was originally on white paper!). I propped it up on my art table and read it every morning. It was a big help to keep me focused. It was my first How to be Happy list, but not the last. My diaries are peppered with them. Later on, I made a “focus card” especially for each book I was doing. Things got much better; I took bubble baths, went for long walks down to the water every day, took my vitamins, and remembered to try to channel the true-heart of Mark Twain. ♥
I took my How to be Happy list out of my diaries and out of the house for the first time when I put one of them in my 1999 calendar. Life still gets crowded with too many wonderful things to do and I still need to be reminded how important it is to take time to dream. ♥
Good morning Miss Susan, so happy to see you here this morning. I so enjoy reading your blog first thing in the morning. It sets the tone for my day. Have a day filled with an awareness of the simple abundances in your life. I’m sitting here thinking of how nice it has been, and how much joy and fun I have been having since I found your blog. Have a blessed one! FOSB 4~ever Have a wonderful day girlfriend~ Doreen ~
FOSB 4~Ever … Thanks Doreen! Love your comments!
‘Morning! Thanks for the “advice” this morning. I needed it badly. Incidentally, I bet I still have your 1999 calendar. I save all of them! Have a great day!!
It just isn’t a lovely morning without popping in to say hi…and I have the magazine and I must say, your blog is much more colorful, real and a reflection of your warm heart. Congrats on yet another great story…another delightful moment of heart.
Wow. Reading this, I think I can feel the healing that took place in your heart so long ago. What a miraculous and creative calling you responded to, Susan. You had such courage and now you enCOURAGE others. Thank you for that.
That was a very open hearted post today,, very touching.I understand so well this obsession, its how I describe my relationship with my painting,, your books are what triggered my interest in watercolors, bought and came to me at a time in my life when I needed distraction from a heavy load.I also have toned down my obsession a bit, or in a way balanced it.I think you have perfect balance,, (its good to balanced) ha ha..
This is such a thought provoking post. One that will help me in more ways than you will ever know. God speed.
Good Morning Susan!! This was the first thing I read today… very encouraging!! Thank you for your wonderful blogs! I wish(dream) that someday you will make your original note into a print that we could buy! Would love to have that hanging in my kitchen! Be Blessed :0)
Agreed, a print would be lovely!
I really appreciate this post and always love hearing of your humble beginnings in a tiny house on the Vineyard, just you and the cats. It’s inspiring to know that things can begin so simply and unfold so blessedly!
I am so glad that, if your life were to be written down in a novel, it would be a love story with a happy ending (Grand success, a big white dream house, and Joe, of course). In fact, I think your life would make a very fun movie…who should we get to play you??? Let’s get Harrison Ford for Joe! 🙂
Joe used to look like the young Jeff Bridges, and if JB could have played the part, then I would have had to insist upon playing myself! 🙂
Oh you’re right, Jeff Bridges is even better!
Susan, I had to laugh at your comment about Joe and young LB, and that you’d have to play yourself! Funny! But you are supposed to tell him he STILL looks like him, only a LITTLE older! LOL 🙂 My Norm reminds me of Robert Redford, I’ve always said that–when he was younger and now at his age…:-)
Diane Keaton ( a younger one – circa Father of the Bride II.)
Another something in common with Susan Branch, a long time love for Jeff Bridges!
I need a list like that one. Note to self: make list.
I am glad you are blogging. In the early ’90s my sister made your stew and showed me the cookbook. I decided I needed that book because I had to have that stew again. I remember finding a copy at Powell’s in Portland and the love affair began. Mmmmm….. I feel a blog post brewing. 😉
Dear Susan, this could have been written for me. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I wonder how many other people you’ve touched today? Sending big hugs and thanks!
I agree. I am in a little funk right now and I think I am channeling Susan. I need this list to help me focus on what is important and to set some goals. Although I don’t think I am up to writing a book! THANK YOU SUSAN for sharing your life with us.
I need one of these lists – now I could write it all down, but the inspiration comes for me from you writing it down in your eloquent water-colored lettering. I would call it – my comfort card of needful things – and daily renew by balance of inspiration and guidance. I feel as if I am sharing a past with you – divorces are so ugly and always deplete you of all your self confidence – then you find your way into your life – happiness is so much better. As Samm said, your blog is a reflection of your warm heart. Thanks, Susan for encouranging us all to continue finding ourselves. Judy C in NC
Susan, thanks for sharing from your heart. It helps us to know you more and understand where you’ve come from. Out of the dark times can come some pretty amazing things if we’re open to what God has for our lives. He sees the big picture and I’m so glad it had SUSAN BRANCH artwork in it! Have a happy day! xoxox
It is good to read your advice this morning. We are so conditioned into thinking that each moment must be filled with some kind of frenzied activity that we often feel guilty to take time for our dreams. Your blog today is a very important reminder that we should take time for ourselves! Thank you so much! xoxo
So beautiful & inspiring! FOSB4-Ever!
Wonderful post ! Some of what you said I have been there ! You are quite the insperational person ! I love your blog such charater with in it ! I have always lived by the phrase ” NEVER SAY NEVER ” Have a wonderful day !
Good Morning Susan! It’s your faithful daily reader here, hoping your day will be wonderful. Just wanted to say thank you for the glimpse into your past and sharing your private life. Wise words to start Friday off…and as always, good advice my friend ♥
A wonderful post! So glad you wrote it, so glad I read it.
dearest susan….i have been with you a long time.. i was wondering, when you were in a crisis.. how in the heck did you get the courage to move lock, stock and barrel across the country where you absolutely knew no one. did you think you’d made a mistake after you got there, away from friends and family? karen s
Worst and best thing I ever did. I think I was so upset I didn’t know what I was doing. When I came back to consciousness, it was too late. I had moved!
Good morning Susan and SB friends – What a wonderful gift to come out of a difficult time in life. I am on my way out to tag sales, looking for more small vases 🙂 among other things. Everyone have a Blessed day.
Good morning, Susan! You have been inspring me ever since your first book came out ~ what a wonderful post this morning. I have been in that place where badly needed inspiration and get up, clean up, pray and find the path for my feet began with a list, including dreams 🙂 Love taking a morning every once in a while to pull out a an journal and see those times, those lists and see where those thoughts took me. If you ever put this last list in a format to frame, the colors and the list itself would be hanging in my “everything” room! Happy Friday!!!
What a wonderful post ! Good inspiration for me as I tackle the “before I go back to school” to do list – I need to make a list to remind me to enjoy each day. Just had my second cup of coffee, wrote in my journal, and was ready to head out to the garden….but you have inspired me to make a to do list for myself. Thanks – and I still have your 1999 calendar, too !
Hi Susan, I just love your blog. It makes me Happy 🙂 Are you thinking about making your first “How to Be Happy List” into a bookmark or print? I would love to buy one. I just bought the magazine “How Women Create” and I loved the article about you. I noticed that in the magazine it advertised that you are also going to be in “How Women Cook”. Do you know when that magazine is coming out? I have to find my 1999 calendar to cut out that How to Be Happy List! I’m so excited. Also, when will you be selling the blotter calendar? Sorry for so many questions!! Have a good day! and weekend. My daughter is a teacher and we are having our annual back to school shopping trip. Big day ahead. Blessings to you and Joe!
Ahhhh! I needed that. Woke up this morning to find someone stole the planters from my front porch overnight. All we could do was laugh, because of all things, who would take two 50 lb. cement pots with purple petunias and red geraniums. All I can imagine is some hooligans thinking “my mama would like those flowers”:o) My dog Abby didn’t hear a thing I’m sure, since she snores louder than my husband all night. I’m off to have my annual mamogram – so not the nicest of days, but after your inspiration, I think I’ll treat myself to some garage saling with Bob (he’s my Joe) for balance. Hope your day is wonderful.
Oh, that is so sad! Stealing planters is so “personal”. It represents both your hard work and desire to make your corner of the world more beautiful.
To offset that unhappy surprise, I hope you find something wonderful while garage saling today.
Peggy, sorry about your plants being stolen. I had to laugh at your comment about Abby’s snoring louder than your husband, though. The two schnauzers we have now, Fanny and Betti, are both loud snorers and sound sleepers–not very good watchdogs, I’ve often said. The male we lost due to lung cancer, Rudy, was so different–he would wake and raise his head at night if I got up during the night, then when I got back into bed he would lay it back down and sigh out loud. I felt he was always “in charge”. He didn’t bark a lot but would growl quietly if he heard something. He was truly my husband’s dog, though. If I called to him or patted the sofa and told him to “come”, he would wag his tail–acknowledging that he heard me–turn and walk away through the kitchen and dining room, jump up on the footstool by my husband, lay down with his back to me, and look at me over his shoulder with a look that said, “I heard you but I will do what I want, not what you want me to do.” I used to laugh about him, how “independent” he was, but when my husband was gone out of town, Mr. Rudy obviously felt he was “in charge”…
What a great way to deal with the stolen planters! I hope they find there way back as well. Funny about the snoring dog, we had friends who brought there 2 pugs over one night for a visit and to play cards (humans, not the dogs), and during the game I kept hearing this strange noise coming from the other room, and Jim said, oh, thats just the pugs snoring! Our g shepherd we had for 15 yrs was definetly my dog. If I got up to go to any other room, he would get up and follow me. no matter what. At night he would just lift his head, watch to make sure I was just going to the john and would sigh and lay his hed back down! Miss him! Love your positive attitude!
I’m sorry to hear about your planters. Perhaps it was a joke and whoever took them will return them soon.
I pray you receive good results from your mammogram test.
I was reading that article last night in bed before falling asleep. “Heart of the Home” was the first cookbook I bought new for myself. I was 23!!! I remember just loving the illustrations & your hand writing & the recipes & stories were oh so wonderful too. Twenty-Four years later I still collect your books & calendars. You have been an inspiration to my my entire adult life it seems!! Thank you!
Your post was so inspiring this morning! You really put into practice the old adage “Plan your work, and Work your plan”.
Just like the Phoenix, we all have the ability to rise from the ashes. Thanks for the gentle reminder!
Marilyn (in Dallas)
Will you be my best friend? Check Yes or No:) I remember writing this little note to friends in Elementary School that I really felt a bond with…that I really felt safe with. Well, Susan, you may not know this but, you are one of my best friends. I get on your blog every morning listening to my little bird
c-h-i-r-p across the screen and I feel like I’m right there having coffee with my best friend. I get off feeling inspired to conquer the day and of course immediately call my Mom to see if she has checked out your latest post….it has brought she & I closer, not just Mother/Daughter but, Girlfriends FOREVER! Hugs!
So wonderful! Say Hi to your mom for me!
I do online missionary work and this week I made a “faith walk” check list to send out to all those I mentor to keep up with them. Most I don’t ever hear from again (from the first initial email response) and I go all over the world at my laptop here in Germany. It is an awesome privilege to do this, thinking I would be a blessing and I am sure I am, but in reality I am the one that is blessed. And tremendously so… So to see you do this “check list” was an answer to a prayer that I prayed this week. Sometimes we wonder if what we do makes any difference in this world and/or if we are on the right path when we feel like we are so walking in the dark! That is what faith is right? Smiles to you Susan…
Thank you for making a difference!
I feel sometimes like I am “making” something but most of the time I don’t know what that is! LOL!! But like you said to one of the others on this thread regarding the word “try.” Sometimes, that is all I can do some days! Smiles, Joy and Laughter to you Susan and all those that read this…!!
Right before my mother passed away she told me three things: It is time to become a teacher now, put his bags on the porch, and you are an iron butterfly (I wasn’t then but I became one). I was 44 years old and registered at our local Junior College. I was going to school with my sons friends! I graduated with honors and a degree in education from a four year university 4 years later. I was divorced and lived in what my sons and I lovingly refer to as my little yellow divorce house (1,000 sq feet). While waiting for my divorce to be finalized I had a wish list. My house would always have fresh flowers, sweet smelling candles, jazz music playing on the radio above the fridge, and tons of books. My little divorce house had exactly those things. Today I teach first grade and have tons of beautiful butterflies that decorate my room as a nod to my mother’s advice and a reminder for me to remember how strong I can be!
This is such a wonderful, inspiring post. We all go through “sad times” and it helps so much to know that we’re not alone and that others have had similar experiences. Susan, you were kind to share this with us. I love you even more!!!! 🙂
Susan: I love your list! We all need to be reminded of things like this as I suspect we are all alike–we get wrapped up in our crazy busy lives and forget to just breathe, smell the flowers, and take care of ourselves. Observing and enjoying the small things in life are what give it meaning. Is it TV or movies that somehow sometimes lead us to expect big things in our lives? And then we feel this mild disappointment? Well, for most of us the music is not going to soar in the background as some fabulous thing happens in our lives–we have to make our own music. I truly believe life is what one makes of it. If you wait to have your life make you happy, it isn’t going to happen… I’ve observed that unhappy people, people truly unhappy with their lives–no matter their circumstances, often have unrealistic expectations of their lives. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have dreams or make goals to strive towards, etc., but it does mean not setting goals that are truly unrealistic. Like people who think that winning the lottery would make them happy–that is an unrealistic goal or expectation both as the chances are so slim but also because that isn’t necessarily going to make them happier, in the long run. (I know, I know–some would say “try me!” 🙂 But I think you know what I am trying to say…
I could not wait to get my hands on the magazine, and it really struck a heart string for me! Years ago I too was in a slump, when I decided to make a goal list to refer to to remind me of what I want to achieve. It worked!!!!! And thanks to your reminder-today I will sit in my healing garden, and start again!
My favorite word is “try” — that’s all anyone can do.
Good afternoon Sweet♥Sue…We Flit… We Float… We Fly….Thank~You for Your Words of Wisdom Butterfly….Feeling very Dreamy Today! Sending lots of Dream Inspiring Pixie~Dust to You & Joe & Kitty for a Sizzling~Summer Weekend! xoxo Poof! :-)♫♥
After reading down the list I have to mention that when I get on your blog and the birds go cheap cheap cheap my two dogs cock their heads this way and that. It’s funny. ( It’s not funny when I get undressed and they do that. ) Last night when I let them out to do their business for the last time they got ‘skunked’. THAT was fun. No wonder you have cats….. ks
That’s cute about your dogs. My HUSBAND does that when I log on to the blog! Ha! xoxo kp
Oh Susan, this is just beautiful! Thank you so much for posting it.
I picked up a copy of the magazine yesterday at the fabric store. I am saving it for tomorrow morning’s tea so I can savor every word of it!
I have come to “appreciate” you even more now, and how you open your life and show us that all things are possible thank you for sharing. Your a very strong lady. God bless you Susan your work is wonderful and I mean it!!!!!!!!!
– because it’s all true!
Great back story and a lovely list. I have the issue and your feature is a wonderful read.
I’m a longtime admirer of your work and still have some of your stickers from your early scrapbook line from about 10 years ago. Scrappers never throw anything away-lol.
This is the best blog ever! I always have to read every comment because the conversation/discussion just continues and deepens and it gets more inspirational and supportive the more you read here. What a great bunch we are.
We are heaven!
Your blog is such a treasure; particularly in this world that has become so cynical and complex. You inspire us all into a kinder, gentler way of thinking and being, and encourage us to shine our own lights and nurture creativity. What gifts we are privileged to open here each day! Thank you so very much for taking the time to do all that you do so graciously and lovingly, and for sharing your reflections of both the happy and the sometimes-sad times.
I adore your list. Its what we all should have
I tried to find the Where Woman Create Magazine and it seems to not be out yet here. I will have to look over the weekend. I love that magazine and can’t wait to read about your space in it.
have a great weekend
If worse comes to worse, we do have it in my on line store, we know it’s hard to find!
I just picked up a copy at Joann Fabrics here in Wisconsin. I’ve been watching Barnes and Noble and Joann’s for weeks in anticipation. It’s out now!!! (Not sure what part of the country you’re in but I’m sure you’ll find it soon.)
The article is absolutely GORGEOUS! You did a fabulous job representing the work you do and the inspiration behind it. Love, Love, LOVE it! xoxo kp
Thank you! xoxo
I just love all the kisses and hugs we throw around at each other! We truly are all FRIENDS! It’s strange to think all of us, in some way are connected. We use you Susan as the thread that connects us all together. We all love who you are and are begining through this blog to get to know each other and form friendships that will hopefully last 4 ~ ever. So nice read comments from the girlfriends everyday. I am begining to recognize names. What a special treat! We are one wonderful group of women (oh, and sometimes a man or two) that are forming friendships across the miles between us. Why, I even have begun to think of Peg on your FOSB Facebook page as a friend of mine. Well, just wanted to share those thoughts. Let me go fill up my lemonade glass and get back into my quilting room. Talk to you all later! FOSB 4~ Ever! ~ Doreen ~ XOXO!
When I looked at the article in “Where Women Create” (just a note… they had one of us in there! That is… a man. (-: ) I noticed this list and loved it. It inspired me to create one of my own. I know how you felt about the painting… for the past three months I’ve been on a creating binge! I can’t quite writing, painting and designing. Like you were, I am fueled as much by the “hope” that something will come of it.
Take care and thanks for sharing.
I think I can attest to all who read your blog and enjoy all your beautiful art and books, that we are so glad you came out of your troubles and slump just the way you did!
Susan, Your blog is such a treasure for so many reasons. I got several responses to my posting about my planters being stolen, and such well wishes. You are an inspiration.
Well I am glad you started eating better and getting your exercise so you can continue to create the wonderful things we all enjoy!
What an amazing woman you are. I bet JOE just loves you to pieces…:)
Most of the time 🙂
Thank you for another truly great post. Like everyone here, I am in love with your blog! Every post gets better and better. This one struck a cord with me – I too am aiming for a goal and sometimes when I think my dreams will never come true, I say to myself – “well, if Susan Branch did…. it so can I” (I really do say that : ) Thanks for all the inspiration. And now I’m off to make my own “focus card” so I can read it every day and remind myself that if I can dream it, it can be so : )
PS Please keep all your beautiful photos coming too. I loved seeing all your quilts and little vases! Love, love, love……
Sorry for the lateness of this comment, yesterday was so busy with Red Hat luncheon etc. I love your list & so glad you found your way back for us! Who knew what an inspiration you would be to so many? I thank you & God for this ‘special person’ you have become!!
Blessings dear lady!
Dear Dirty Butterfly: Thank you for sharing those difficult days with us, I am sure it took a lot of courage, for as long as I have been a sb fan, I have never seen this ‘side’ of you. What an inspiration you are for us. The very first note I sent you in a snail mail route was a reply to one of your Willards to thank you for bringing light to my dark days. It brought me comfort and a good side to some really trying times I was in. Susan, you are the best. I applaude your strength, and putting your courage out there for all of us as a sisterhood to emulate and share those rays of determination and your ability to move constantly forward. You put the dark behind and seek out your strengths, with great reward. You are truly a blessing to us all. I am glad you found your Joe, and have developed a wonderful life, you surely deserve it. Many, many of us know the kind of heartbreak, and spiral to H. E. double hockeysticks that divorce brings. Have a blessed day gf.
LOL never heard H.E. double hockeysticks before! xo Darling!
I recently bought a packet of your “How to Be Happy” notecards. I love them and enjoy sending them to special friends. More blank notecards please.
I have loved you for years,but never written that I remember. I wanted to say,that I really love your list,and thank you for sharing it 🙂 It’s funny,I write lists similar to this for myself! 🙂
Oh,and I have almost every one of your books. 🙂
Susan, When I first discovered you many years ago, I was going through a bad time in my life. I can remember receiving Willard in the mail and just being happy! It felt so good to think that someone cared about ME! Now these many years later I am a very happy person, with a husband that means the world to me and a beautiful adult daughter that is the light of my life. Thanks Susan for helping to pull me through a hard time in my life. Now, reading your blog I see that you are special to many people and that they feel the same way about you. Thank you for the sunshine you brought to me when I felt so lonely.
Thank you for telling me that…So happy to hear Willard did a little something to lighten your load…makes me SO happy to hear that!
Hi Susan, I just got my Nancy Luce print by daniel Waters and it’s beautiful. Thank you for offering it at such a great price! Will you be featuring more of Daniel’s work in your online store? I am especially interested in the Nancy Luce’s chickens piece he has on his website. Thanks again for the great blog! Gin
Thanks again for reminding us to have an “attitude of gratitude”. Your writing, your pretty paintings and now the blog (with great photos ! Good job!) all remind me to stop and look around and be very grateful for all the wonderful things around us. I’m always inspired to try to make my little part of the world prettier and more “homey” too. I just love your work. Thanks too for the reminder to always show appreciation for your spouse and family – never to take them for granted.
Is Joe a writer or artist too? Is that how you met?
Best wishes to you both – you seem to bring out the very best in each other.
Have a great day,
Sorry this post is late Susan, but lately my life has been like the Tasmanian devil, go, go, go, go, not enough hours in the day to do all I need/want. Thank you so much for sharing your private world with us. I think it makes us appreciate and love you even more than we do already do knowing you’ve overcome so much in your life. I’m so glad you found Joe! (or did he find you?) . I love the list you made for yourself, and I’m going to try and make one for myself. I used to do watercolor but it’s been on the bottom of my list for so long because of those words ‘NOT ENOUGH TIME’ but somehow I know I need to change that. Maybe making that list for myself will help. A big hug from me!
Susan…you’re such a blessing, and an inspiration! This is one of the most heartfelt, touching, honest, and open blog posts I’ve ever read…thank you so much for sharing your heart and soul with us…you are a true gift…thank ‘heavens’ for your obsesessiveness!
The list, your books, and you are brilliant! ♥
Thank you once again for sharing your wonderful outlook and personality with all of us. this is a great idea and I plan on creating my own to remind me especially when times are tough to appreaciate the many things I have in my life. It is unbelievable to me how each and every time i have a chance to take a look at your blog, website, willard and art how very happy and humble it make me feel.