Okay, I admit it. I like to be appreciated.

I have always prided myself on not needing “the approval of man”, and have relied on my own sense of self-worth and the belief that if I was doing what God called me to, then that should be enough.

But, I was betrayed. By a coffee mug, of all things. And not one of those mugs with a pithy saying on it, either.

Nope.  Just an ordinary mug decorated with an ” I Heart E-ZineArticles” logo.

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The mug arrived in the mail last week, quite unexpectedly, with a note thanking me for my contributions to the ezinearticles.com online article directory. Now please understand, I contribute articles to this site in order to promote my business. I’ve never given much thought to what they get out of the deal and certainly never expected any thanks.

(Honestly, I think they only noticed me because of two recipes I published that have generated over 1600 hits in the last few weeks. And they are totally unrelated to the business. But I digress….)

But, here’s what surprised me. I didn’t need a new coffee mug. It’s not even very attractive. But something inside of me was beaming when I opened it.  Someone has read my articles and thinks they are worthwhile! And they want me to write more!

Never mind the fact that writing more was in my plan all along; suddenly, I felt compelled to churn out more words of wisdom and instruction just as quickly as I could. All because of a coffee mug.

If I truly didn’t need anyone’s approval or appreciation, then I wouldn’t have given that mug a second glance.

But I did. I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago…and perhaps I’m the last one to realize it. As I set forth on my new business venture, I’m surprising myself at how many fears I have to conquer that I never knew I had.

And I find myself needing a little pat on the back for each small step that I take. Again, not who I thought I was. But it is, apparently, who I am now. Or maybe I am just uncovering my authentic self, as Sarah Ban Breathnach calls it in her book Simple Abundance.

But, I would also venture to guess that I’m not the only one.  Maybe it’s just the strong, independent types who don’t like to admit that they need a little affirmation. Just about everyone performs better when their efforts are recognized and rewarded, whether they admit it or not.

I think those editors over at ezinearticles.com are onto something.

A little affirmation goes a long way.

Coffee, anyone?

A mysterious garden hidden behind a high brick wall, a key stashed away in a forgotten room, and a young, bored and curious girl set the stage for an exciting and engaging story. My favorite childhood novel was Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. I think at the time I was drawn in by the mystery of the secret and my fascination with wild, unkempt English gardens. That must explain the state of my own yard today!

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My mother was an avid member of the local Garden Club and even involved me in some of the youth flower arranging competitions. I think these activities nurtured in me a love of growing things, as I always had flowers on my windowsill while I was growing up. Nonetheless, I dreamed of the day when I, too, would have a large expanse of garden to till and plant and watch with joy as the beautiful mass of color burst into life with the warm winds of spring.

Alas, by the time I had such space to enjoy, the responsibilities of every day life had crept in to steal my time and prevent my enjoyment of reckless abandon in the garden. So, while I love The Secret Garden I think I also envy Mary Lennox, who has the time and space to toil endlessly in the garden and then to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

She is also able to lure her chronically ill cousin Colin out of doors and he discovers the healing power of the garden. I can relate to that power –  there is no quicker way for me to release tension and feel utterly relaxed than for me to spend a few minutes puttering in my garden.  A case of the blues can be cured rather quickly by a few minutes in the sunshine and a freshly picked bouquet of flowers.

There were life lessons to be learned from the story as well.  People are not always as they first appear, keeping secrets can be detrimental to the healing of the soul; and in gardens, as in life, hard work  leads to more beauty whereas neglect and apathy eat away at the soul.

As the gardener reminds the children, “Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”  What a perfect philosophy for life : focus on nurturing the beautiful aspects of your life and there will be little room for the pain.

This post was written for the Great Books Week Blog Tour