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Just As We Breathe

December, 2021

The Joy of Receiving and Giving

It’s a very simple equation. An exchange of gases. We receive oxygen when we inhale. We give back carbon dioxide when we exhale.

I’m reminded of the best To Do list I’ve ever seen:






My holiday wish is for a similar exchange. We receive gifts day in and day out, not just in December or on our birthday. Those gifts are both tangible and intangible.

May we simply give back.

This can be done in so many ways—creative ways—it needn’t require a lot of expendable cash. The To Do list would look like this:






At this time of year, we may focus on items that are wrapped in colorful paper but the joy of giving multiplies with philanthropy. I always thought this $10 word meant traditional donations to a nonprofit organization, but my online Merriam-Webster Dictionary suggests the scope of philanthropic activity is much broader.

1) goodwill to fellow members of the human race

2) an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes

When we make charitable contributions to organizations whose mission has meaning to us, we receive something back. Sure, there’s a tax write-off (if you need one) but it’s the intangible gift of knowing you’ve made a difference that IMHO is far more satisfying.

Donations, defined more broadly, expand the possibility of giving “goodwill to fellow members of the human race.” If you can write a check, or drop some cash in a collection receptacle, that’s great. But what if you’re cash-poor? Consider the gift of your time, goods (foods, clothing, warm blankets) or services. Your undivided attention in listening to another person may be the best present not found under the traditional Christmas tree.

Gifts to individuals (perhaps someone who’s had a rough year?) may not bring the benefit of a tax write-off but may be valued far more. If you’ve prioritized helping someone whose situation warrants support, consider that philanthropy. It counts. It is in keeping with the receive-give-receive-give exchange.

If you happen to be in a position of needing more support, I offer advice from a dear friend who helps her community chorus raise funds: “You just have to ask.” By making a specific request, you give someone an opportunity to keep their exchange of receiving and giving going. Ah, if only other equations were as simple as this!

Just so you know I walk-my-talk, I will close out this month’s blog with an ask:

I’d love your feedback. Out on a Limb is fourteen years old. Some days, I wonder if it still has adequate relevance. If you feel inclined to answer any of these questions, I guarantee I will value what I receive.

· Does this blog still have relevance to you?

· What topics have yet to be covered vis-à-vis the pursuit of a more joyful life?

· What do you like about this monthly blog?

· If you’re a long-time subscriber to OOAL, are there any that you think about or go back to, for inspiration or joy? And why?

In return, I offer a potential gift to those who respond, first come first served. You could be the recipient of:

· Set of photo cards (8 photo note cards with envelopes)

· Set of collage post cards (2 each of 4 designs on the topic of gratitude).

· Signed copy of Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)

Winners will be announced in January.

I hope your holiday season brings multiple opportunities to balance receiving with giving (in its broadest definition).

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Prompts For Joy

Click here for 10 seconds with a nose. Guaranteed laughter.

(Thank you, Peggy Landsman, for the hilarity; what a gift!)

Click here for a holiday recipe that went wrong.

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Pictured Above

Above: Hana Wisdom, Maui, HI. Photo by Martha Clark Scala.

Below: Believe in Harmony Collage by Martha Clark Scala.

Further Below: My dad loved Christmas. Dad’s angel/tree is just one of many of his paintings that can be found in Chapter 19 of my memoir, Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself).



For those who have expressed an interest in my collages, you can follow me on Instagram.


Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala

What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!


"A collage of words and images, artfully presented, a story artfully told. I have given this book as a gift, I have read it four or five times (okay, I was the editor--but even if I weren't I'd recommend this touching story by a sensitive writer/poet who longed to better understand her father). Martha blends love, loss, images and humor into a memorable palette."

Darlene Frank, Writer/Editor/Creativity Coach. "Tour Guide" for Spirited Voices: A Writing Journey into the Deep Imagination.

Above, Geoffrey Clark's woodblock print of angel and Christmas tree (1988) is featured in Chapter 19 of Assembling a Life. This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.

For additional book reviews, click here. To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.


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