The Elegance of Wordle

IMG_1609Do you Wordle? If you’re not sure, let me explain. Wordle is an extremely popular web-based word game. Each day, players get six chances to figure out the secret word. There’s something about this game that’s nearly the definition of elegance ~  simple, smart, and tasteful.

In case you haven’t played Wordle, here is the objective. Each of the six guesses must be a valid five-letter word. After typing and submitting a word, the color of the letters’ squares change to help the player get closer to figuring out the word for the day.

The story of Wordle is sweet and simple. It was created and developed by a software engineer named Josh Wardle. (See what he did there?) He actually created the game for his girlfriend to play during the pandemic. He soon discovered his whole family loved it, so he released it free to the public in October, 2021. Two months later, more than 300,000 people were playing, and millions of people now play the game every day.

The design of Wordle is refreshingly clean and simple. There are no bells and whistles, no busy graphics, and no advertisements. I find its lack of visual and auditory clutter a nice way to ease myself into the world each morning. Playing the game couldn’t be easier, although it can be deceptively difficult. There’s only one new game a day, which prevents people from becoming too obsessive about it.

According to neuroscientist Michael Yassa, PhD, playing the game can be good for the brain. He said it activates dopamine, the transmitter linked with pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. Wordle can also get your problem-solving skills going, he said.

“Anything that causes a high level of engagement, something that engages memory and problem-solving, is good for your brain and will strengthen those processes in your brain,” said professor of neuroscience Earl Miller, PhD. “Your brain is like a muscle, and the more you use it the better it gets at doing things.”

Playing the game can also improve positive social interaction. The daily Wordle offers something intelligent to talk about with other players that isn’t tainted with politics, innuendo, or other possible divisiveness. It’s kind of like the weather, but more interesting. According to Yassa, when we have positive interactions with others, there’s more release of dopamine, along with oxytocin, a hormone linked to empathy, trust, and relationship-building.

I’m not on social media, where Wordlers can brag about their game without giving away the secret word, but I’m not above taking a picture of a good game and texting it to my husband across the breakfast table. The game can promote healthy competition and good clean fun with daily bragging rights.

The New York Times purchased Wordle in 2022 for a price in the low seven figures, according to the publishing company. The Times has said the game will initially remain free. For now, anyone can go to http://www.nytimes/wordle.com to play for free. Do be careful, there are plenty of ruthless copycats out there.

I’m not usually one to join the latest fad, but Wordle is one viral trend I’m glad to have found. Starting my day with the elegance of Wordle makes me weepy, jumpy, sappy, happy! §

“I have no idea what Wordle is and at this point I’m too afraid to ask!” 
~ Viral Tweet 

Making it a Lovely Day

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In 2017 my friend, Natalie Schultz, and I self-published a book based on posts from the blog we wrote together. Our treasured little book, Lessons in Loveliness ~ Learning to Live a Lovely Life, sits on my shelf and now and then begs to be opened.

A section titled Making It A Lovely Day recently reminded me of the optimistic woman I was when I wrote it several years ago. Since then I’ve gone through many changes and challenges (as we all have) that I admit have dulled my shine a bit. Although I know my words are nothing particularly profound, but I would like to recapture their spirit of simplicity, hope, and joy.

Last week, I had the chapter made into a poster which I framed and hung in my closet as a reminder. Life can be unpredictable, but it really doesn’t have to be quite so complicated as we sometimes make it. I hope this excerpt from our book encourages us all to make every day a lovely day. §

Making It A Lovely Day

When you get right down to it, whether man or woman, young or old, prince or pauper, our days consist of the same basic pursuits throughout our lifetime. I am glad we have all of our days to master these essential human tasks. Like the grumpy and arrogant weatherman Phil Conners learns in the movie Groundhog Day, each morning brings another chance to have a lovely day!

How To Have a Lovely Day ~

Waking ~ Rise and shine! When your first foot touches the ground, say, “Thank…” When your other foot touches the ground, say, “You.” Now, turn around and make your bed.

Loving ~ No matter what the day brings, meet it with loving kindness. Love God, love yourself, love others.

Bathing ~ Grooming and caring for ourselves is a basic necessity. Turn self-care into luxurious and pampering rituals.

Dressing ~ Put on something special. Greet the day looking your best.

Working ~ We all have work to do. Whatever your job, give it your all. Do it with cheerfulness, enthusiasm, and diligence.

Eating ~ Sit down and mindfully fuel your body with delicious and nutritious food. Practice good manners, even if eating alone.

Interacting ~ When you are in the presence of another human being, smile and make eye contact. Take the time to sincerely communicate, “hello, please, and thank you.” When someone behaves ungraciously, forgive them, and carry on.

Playing ~ When work is done, reward yourself with something positive and uplifting. Listen to music, chat with a friend, take a walk, browse the bookstore, go bowling, watch a funny show, or get lost in a hobby.

Learning ~ Do something that expands your mind spiritually, culturally, or intellectually. Read a book, visit a museum, finish the crossword, watch a documentary. Be a life-long learner.

Giving ~ We each have gifts that are uniquely ours to give. Someone is in need of your listening ear, helping hand, time, talent, or wisdom. Share your gifts generously.

Persevering ~ Everyone faces challenges. Big and small, they are a part of this thing called life. Whatever the circumstance, we must do our best to press-on with a tenacious and hopeful spirit.

Sleeping ~ End the day as you began it, with gratitude. Drift into peaceful slumber counting your blessings. Rest in comfort knowing that come tomorrow, you can try again.

“Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful of your life.”
~ Mark Twain

The Elegance of Leaving the Metaverse

I’ve always been skeptical of Facebook. I was the last of my friends to sign-up, and over the years, a persistent, uneasy feeling led me to deactivate my account several times. My reasons always had to do with creating more simplicity and elegance in my life, but after a few months, I was drawn back like a moth to a flame. It was when Facebook recently changed its name to Meta that I decided to leave for good. 

Meta is short for metaverse. The term was originally coined in a 1992 science fiction novel called Snow Crash by Neal Stephensen. The metaverse is now defined as a combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and video where users live within a digital universe. Ugh.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving my real car down a real road listening to a real person on the radio announce this business news headline: “Nike buys virtual sneaker maker to sell digital shoes in the metaverse.” Huh?

Turns out we can buy virtual shoes, clothing, land, and other digital goods for our avatars in the form of a crypto asset called a non-fungible token or NFT. As if the real sneakers I put on my actual feet each morning aren’t expensive enough.

The restless feeling I got from Facebook, I mean Meta, was replaced with something more disturbing. Maybe my age is showing. Maybe I taught George Orwell’s novel 1984 one too many times. Or maybe I just really enjoy living in this beautiful world where I can interact with real people, hike on real trails, look at real art, and stop to smell the real roses.

Virtual reality aside, here are a dozen simple reasons my days are a little more elegant without Meta, formerly known as Facebook.

1. Fewer Advertisements – Social media platforms, like Facebook, exist to make the owners money. As users, we are constantly bombarded, both consciously and subconsciously, with messages encouraging us to spend our money on everything from diet aids to political campaigns.

2. More Positivity – Facebook can be fertile ground for fear, judgment, anger, sadness, insecurity, and narcissism. Those negative vibes can seep right through the internet and zap us. Not only do I want to protect myself from negative energy, I also want to avoid the very real temptation of adding to it.

3. More Time – This is an obvious one, but not being on Facebook frees up time in my day to do things that add more quality to my life. Time is one thing we can never purchase more of either with real money or crypto currency.

4. More Presence – It’s amazing how much more present I am in my experiences when not thinking about taking a photo, posting it with a clever caption, and constantly checking reactions to it.

5. Better Focus – My mind is much clearer without Facebook. All of that input takes up too much valuable real estate in my head. Without it, I’m better able to concentrate on my own priorities.

6. Less Worry – As a lifelong people-pleaser, I was secretly worried about how my posts were interpreted and who loved, liked, and ignored them. Without Facebook, I’ve completely eliminated that concern.

7. Better Relationships – The average Facebook user has an intimate number of 338 friends. Instead of posting something for hundreds of people to see, I now take time to communicate more personally with individual people I know will be interested or amused by what I have to share.

8. Less Guilt – I often felt guilty I wasn’t closer to Facebook friends with whom I’d once crossed paths. I care about them, but I found it difficult to offer my sincere support and empathy to so many people.

9. More Discretion – Facebook can encourage us to over-share and reveal too much about our personal lives (and that of our loved ones). Personally, I’m more attracted to people who maintain a bit of privacy and an air of mystery.

10. More Self-Confidence – Have you ever felt sure about something, but after hearing from others began to doubt your own mind? Getting rid of the noise on Facebook helps me better trust my own voice.

11. Improved Self-Care – It’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves in the ways that are most nurturing and healthy. The same way I know I need lots of time alone and in nature, I also know I’m better without social media.

12. More Real Joy – If we would all look up from the mesmerizing glow of our screens and step out our doors, we’d see there’s a big wonderful world to explore and enjoy with all of our senses right now, in real time. §

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
~ Opening Line from  George Orwell’s 1984

The Elegance of a Spending Moratorium

I’m a stress shopper. I can go into the grocery store for a carton of eggs and come out with a tube of lipstick, a candle, deep conditioner, a magazine, mittens, and an avocado slicer. Depending on my state of mind, there’s a very good chance I’ll forget the eggs.

Since my word for 2022 is wisdom, being more intentional with money is a good place to start. On the first day of January, I spent a lot of time reflecting and planning for the new year. It was then I created a three-month personal spending moratorium. I read somewhere that when we want to do something differently, we need to know our why.

Here are some reasons why I want to get a grip on my personal spending habits:

  1. boost our savings account
  2. avoid clutter 
  3. practice self-discipline
  4. better manage stress 

So here’s my plan. January, February, and March of 2022 I will not buy:

  • clothing, jewelry, or accessories
  • make-up
  • skin-care or hair-care products
  • magazines
  • home decor

My strategy is an oldie but goodie – use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. I’ve already faced several challenging scenarios. I’ll share a few with you in hopes you can relate, or at least won’t judge too harshly.

  1. I ordered a really cute jumpsuit from Chicos that didn’t arrive until after the new year. That doesn’t count, right? Did I mention it’s really cute? 
  2. Wouldn’t you know, I didn’t have the right shoes for said outfit. But…I had also ordered a dress from Macys. So when that dress arrived, I returned it and bought some shoes. Since the shoes cost less than the dress, I told Mike I was actually money ahead. He said they call that fuzzy math. Math was never my strongest subject.
  3. I thought we needed something for an empty wall in our living room. I convinced myself it would be smart to go ahead and buy the cool mirror I had my eye on while it was half off at Hobby Lobby. Filled with guilt, I nervously made my $48 purchase, sweating and shaking like I was buying crack on the corner. The next morning I returned my purchase and felt well on my way to rehabilitation.
  4. We were almost out of toilet paper. I walked into Wal-Mart without grabbing a shopping cart. I went directly to the back of the store and picked up a giant 24-pack of toilet paper with both hands. I couldn’t have carried anything else if I wanted to. That may have been the first time in my life I walked straight in and out of a big-box store and bought only one thing.

I’m three weeks into my three-month “no-buy” personal spending plan, and it has already proven to be an interesting challenge. I’m definitely more aware of my habits, urges, and triggers to spend money. Through the next three months, I’ll let you know how my spending moratorium is going. I’m not really sure what to expect, but I have a hunch it will add wisdom, simplicity, and elegance to my life. §

The Elegance of Mangos

As I shuffle through the mail, I casually chat with my husband about things on my list of home improvements. Among the bills and catalogs is a familiar envelope that makes me stop and flush with embarrassment. It’s a letter from Lukas, an eight-year-old boy who lives in a village outside of Entebbe, Uganda, one of the poorest nations in the world.

The envelope includes a sweet picture drawn by Lukas and a letter written in English by a translator. Lukas asks how we are doing and tells us more about himself. We know the names of his brothers and sisters. He likes to read and play soccer with his friends, and his favorite color is green.

Reading the letter out loud, my voice cracks, “Lukas also adds that he appreciates so much his birthday gift of 86,350. With that money, he bought a mattress and a piece of candy.”

We forgot his annual birthday gift of $25 had been automatically withdrawn from our bank account. Lukas didn’t replace an old mattress with a new one. He bought the first mattress he’d ever had to go with the mosquito netting he bought with last year’s Christmas gift.

The little boy’s grateful words tangibly hang in the air next to my greedy ones. The ones about all the things I need in order to sit squarely in the lap of happiness – things Lukas has no idea even exist.

The next part of the letter is something neither Mike nor I can get out of our minds – something incredibly humbling and beautiful. It reads, “The thing that makes Lukas happiest is climbing trees for mangos.” My heart feels simultaneously heavier and lighter.

We love mangos. We buy them at the grocery store when they’re available. Mike is good at picking a perfectly ripe one. He slices through the yellow-red skin and makes neat cuts in the bright yellow flesh to release cubes of the tropical treat. Biting into the fruit brings a burst of floral sweetness with a slight hint of pine. If eaten mindfully, it’s heaven.

I imagine our young friend nimbly skittering up a mango tree in his village. His bright brown eyes spy a ripe fruit. His tiny hand picks it off the limb and stuffs it in his pocket. He climbs back down the tree, laughing. He sits on the ground and leans against the base of the tree. Pulling the golden prize from his pocket, he takes a big bite, juice dripping down his smiling face.

When we find ourselves getting caught up in our first world delusions and disillusions, Mike and I need only say one simple, elegant word. Mangos.§

Hello, friend! Thank you for reading my blog. Starting this coming Wednesday, a second weekly post will come to your email inbox. Just Between Friends is especially for subscribers of The Simple Swan. It’s still all about adding simplicity and elegance to our lives, but I think you’ll find it a little more personal, more conversational, and more practical. Look for Wednesday’s post on my three-month personal spending moratorium. I can hardly wait to read your thoughts and ideas. I’m no longer on social media, but you can comment on the blog or email me at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com. Have a beautiful day!

The Elegance of Winter’s Simplicity

Just outside our upstairs bedroom window, winter trees stand like elegant steel sculptures against a silver sky. As I awaken, my eyes trace the trees’ bold, black branches. The bare winter trees inspire me to simplify.

Based on the popularity of books and television shows on the subject, I know I’m not alone in my urge to simplify, nor am I the first to be motivated by nature. Isaac Newton wrote, “Nature is pleased with simplicity.” He was referring to mathematical principles and philosophical reasoning, not kitchen cabinets and sock drawers, but I think his point remains.

During his time at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau observed, “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with nature herself.” Wouldn’t we all accept an invitation to more purity and ease?

Inspired by the winter landscape, I am beginning the new year by simplifying. Like beauty, simplicity is in the eye of the beholder, but maybe you can relate to my goal of tackling the following areas.

Physical Possessions ~ I’m reconsidering every item in every drawer, closet, shelf, box, cabinet, glove compartment, and secret nook and cranny. I’m keeping only things I love and that align with my idea of a simple, elegant life. Uncomfortable shoes, be gone!

Health and Finances ~ I don’t know about you, but during the winter months I tend to put such things on the back burner. I have experienced the relief of being on top of my game in these areas, and I’m not going to wait until spring to feel that way again.

Digital Footprint ~ Newton and Thoreau didn’t have to worry about this one, but it’s a struggle for me. Photographs, emails, documents, passwords, downloads and “the cloud” hang over my head. I hope to take control of my technology before it changes, and this old dog has to learn more new tricks.

Activities and Pursuits ~ Just as we have limited space in our cupboards, we have limited space in our days. I’m letting go of vague dreams to travel the world or become a gourmet cook who is fluent in French, but I am fully committed to a small number of true passions.

Thoughts and Emotions ~ Sometimes intangible baggage prevents us from simplifying. Just like physical clutter, we have to let go of the stuff in our head and heart that keeps us from living our best life.

I hope you will join me in answering Thoreau’s call to simplify, simplify! If we get stuck, winter’s elegant inspiration is right outside the window in the clarity of a shaft of sunlight, the peace of dormant fields, the freedom of geese in flight, and the beauty of a snowflake. §

“In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of more exalted simplicity.”
~ John Burroughs

The Elegance of Feeding the Birds

My husband taught me the elegance of feeding the birds. Initially it was his interest, and I stood back wondering if it was worth the effort. It wasn’t long before I was convinced the time and money we spent caring for our feathered friends was returned many times over.

Whether you live in the city or the country, maintain an elaborate system of bird feeders, or just sprinkle bread crumbs on your window sill, feeding the birds brings simple elegance to life in these six unexpected ways.

1. Kindness – When we do something nice, no matter how simple, it increases the kindness in the world. A single kind act can have a long-reaching ripple effect, sending good vibes throughout the planet. Watching the birds gleefully flock to their freshly filled feeders and bird bath, makes us want to keep spreading good cheer.

2. Connection – Over the years, I’ve watched the birds from kitchen windows and backyard porches with family and friends of all ages. Watching the birds together creates a sweet and common bond over the wonder of our shared world.

3. Learning –  When we watch the birds, we naturally want to know more about them. Is that a bluebird or an indigo bunting? Do orioles prefer oranges or meal worms? Did you know a woodpecker’s tongue is so long it wraps around the inside of its head? There is so much to learn! 

4. Beauty – In our flashy bigger-is-better world, we can easily miss the subtle, natural beauty of life. When we take time to notice a bird’s intricate coloring, delicate shape, and  sweet song, we begin to appreciate the genuine beauty in the world we sometimes take for granted.

5. Simplicity – A few seeds and a little fresh water is all a bird needs. It makes us stop and think about what we really need to live a healthy, happy life. Watching the birds mindfully eat, chirp, nest, and fly encourages us to strip away the pretenses and live a more simple, authentic life.

6. Charity – Remember the bird lady Mary Poppins sang about? “Come feed the little birds. Show them you care and you’ll be glad if you do. The young ones are hungry; their nests are so bare. All it takes is tuppence from you. Feed the birds. Tuppence a bag.” We all benefit when we share our blessings, not just count them. §

“I wish we had all been born birds instead.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

The Elegance of Signature Style

Audrey Hepburn had a little black dress. Abraham Lincoln had a stovepipe hat. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had fancy robe collars. Harry Potter had glasses and a magic wand. 

What they all had in common was a distinct signature style. They were each well-known for other accomplishments, of course, but their sartorial choices added to their recognizability, uniqueness, and elegance.

Having a signature style means creating a consistent and memorable visual image or look. Whether that look is considered gorgeous or goofy may be in the eye of the beholder. The fact remains, what we wear matters.

In a 2012 report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a pair of scientists coined the phrase enclothed cognition and proved the clothing a person wears has an effect on the way one thinks, feels, and functions.

In one experiment, participants who were asked to wear a white doctor’s coat showed an increase in cognitive abilities. Similar experiments showed formal clothing enhanced the ability to negotiate and think abstractly. Casual clothing boosted openness and agreeableness. Gym clothes increased healthy choices. Bright colors improve mood, while softer colors had a calming effect.

What makes signature style so intriguing is that there’s no single definition, and it’s impossible to purchase no matter how much money one has. I have to admit, I’m really not one to give fashion advice. Although I’m still working on the how and what of personal style, I am convinced of these six reasons why we should cultivate a signature style.

  1. Self-Knowledge – Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” Creating a true signature style requires knowing who we are, what we value, how we spend our time, and what we want to project into the world. This can be a lifelong challenge that requires some deep dives.
  2. Authenticity – Energy healer Carol Tuttle believes what we wear on the outside should be congruent with who we are on the inside. She teaches that everyone is born with a natural energy that should be honored. Are you naturally extroverted or introverted, loud or quiet, silly or serious? Be careful, she warns. Most of us hold false beliefs about who we are or should be. We can learn to dress in a way that celebrates our authenticity.
  3. Confidence – Committing to a signature style, impervious to trends and opinions, takes guts. Dressing every day in our own unique style will increase self-confidence and eventually garner the confidence of others. Audrey Hepburn said, “To pull off any look, wear it with confidence.”
  4. Simplicity – There’s no question that having a signature style makes life easier. Clothes shopping can be overwhelming and expensive. When we know exactly what we do and don’t wear, the entire process saves time and money. No more standing in front of a stuffed closet with nothing to wear. According to Coco Chanel, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
  5. Discipline – Staying true to a signature style requires discipline. It’s easy to question our wardrobe, especially when the choices are endless and ever-changing. The fashion industry banks on us being easily distracted, discouraged, and undisciplined. It takes laser focus to only purchase and wear that which we’ve determined perfectly expresses our personal style.
  6. Wisdom – Having a signature style is smart. Albert Einstein famously wore a grey suit, black tie, and white shirt. He said, “I don’t want to waste brainpower on what I’m going to wear each day.” Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all followed suit. Saving time and money makes good sense, but so does taming our closets and consistently projecting an authentic image of ourselves.

Director Orson Welles said, “Create your own visual style. Let it be unique for yourself, yet identifiable for others.” It’s the big, gold charm bracelet my mother has worn for fifty years and the upswept hairdo her best friend has worn for as long as I can remember. Signature style is difficult to define and to cultivate, but it’s always the epitome of elegance. §

“Personal style is about a sense of yourself, a sense of what you believe in and wearing what you like.”
~ Ralph Lauren

The Elegance of a Daily Walk

I have a penchant for novels and movies set during the 1800s. My favorite scenes feature characters gracefully strolling through the beautiful countryside. Without the invention of the automobile or the luxury of a horse-drawn carriage, walking was the only way most people could visit friends or go to church, school, or shops. These days, walking is primarily done for exercise, but taking a daily stroll has many more benefits that can add elegance to our lives. 

There’s no denying the simplicity of taking a walk. It requires no special equipment, it’s free, and we can do it on our own schedule. Whether walking through a misty moor or around the block, all one needs to do is put on shoes and go. We can even do as they did during the Regency era and “take a turn” around the living room after enjoying tea or a rich meal. 

Nature is the main reason I head out the door for my daily walk. Though my route may stay constant, each walk tells a different story with a unique setting that includes the weather and colors of the sky at that particular hour. One never knows what may appear in the unfolding scenes of a walk ~ a bunny in the neighbor’s yard, a fawn at the edge of the woods, Queen Anne’s Lace growing alongside the road. 

Walks can also provide much-needed solitude. One of my most beloved characters in literature is Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. This complex introvert frequently takes long walks alone to sort her thoughts and clear her head. About Lizzie, Jane Austen wrote, “Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk.” 

On the other hand, walks can provide a connection to our community. I often walk down the sidewalk of the busiest road in town. Hardly a day passes that I don’t run into someone I know who honks, waves, or stops for a quick chat. No one tips their hat or curtsies, as they do in my favorite movies, but walking in my hometown makes me feel grateful to be part of a place I love.  

Finally, taking a long solitary walk feels like a romantic nod to the past. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon strolling across a field of wildflowers, stopping under a large shade tree to read a book of poetry or write a few lines of my own. I usually walk in a baseball cap and sneakers, but I dream of the day that I confidently go for a stroll wearing a flowing dress and carrying a parasol. §

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Dogs Don’t Simplify Life – they simply make it better

Princess Grace 2003-2020

You know what doesn’t simplify life?

Dogs. They are expensive. They are messy. They are time consuming.

And they bring immeasurable joy.

This week we said goodbye to our beloved family pet, an American Eskimo we got when she was just a puppy. To say she aged well is an understatement. She was a fluffy, pure white beauty with dark brown eyes. Her cotton-candy tail curled up over her trim 18-pound body. Her sweet face could melt your heart. She lived to be 17 and a half years old.

Like all of God’s creatures, she came to us with her own personality. The day my children and I brought her home, she fit in our cupped hands. She posed regally in the grass, one front leg draped over the other. She needed a name fit for royalty and was dubbed Princess Grace.

It took nearly two years to convince our princess she should use the bathroom outdoors. She was aghast, but finally accepted the situation. From then on, she was a well-mannered, elegant addition to our family.

American Eskimos are extremely intelligent, making them typical circus dogs. Grace learned to perform all kinds of tricks including prancing along the garden wall and jumping back and forth through a hula hoop.

By the time she was five, asking her to do tricks seemed as inappropriate as asking the Queen of England to sit, lie down, and roll over. She was a classy lady who had an air about her that demanded respect.

Grace did not suffer fools. She looked at other dogs with a raised eyebrow. She did not drool on people, jump on furniture, tear through the house, or bark unnecessarily. She enjoyed a restrained pat behind the ears and mature conversation. Loud children were to be avoided.

She was a pedigree with high standards, and she made everyone in our home want to be a better human. The bumper sticker that reads, “Be the person your dog thinks you are” couldn’t be more apt when it came to how we felt under Grace’s watchful eye.

Gracie was set in her ways, as any 119-year-old would be. You could set a watch by her meal times. Breakfast was served at 8 am, and dinner was at 5 pm sharp. If the help deviated from this schedule, she let them know.

Her favorite place was in the garden, where she often rested in the sun among the flowers. She looked so pretty with red and pink impatiens blooming all around her. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she rang for tea.

Every snowfall brought out the child in Grace. It was fitting that an American Eskimo would beg to go outside and stare straight up at the sky to catch snowflakes on her tongue. Rolling on the cold ground in delight, she disappeared against the white snow.

Gracie was a one-in-a-million girl, a dog who witnessed our family go through more than seventeen years of challenges, changes, and growing pains. Through it all, she remained a reliable friend and gentle spirit who simply made all of our lives more beautiful.

No, dogs don’t simplify life.

You will spend a small fortune at the veterinarian’s office. You will endlessly clean nose smudges off glass doors. You will constantly pick white hair off black clothes. You will cry your heart out when it’s time to say goodbye.

But every time you see a fluffy, dog-shaped cloud in the sky you’ll be reminded of the unconditional love and pure happiness your furry friend gave you.