Monday, December 8, 2014


Anyone with an eye for beauty will love the photos in this interview, and gardeners, especially, will be - er, green - with envy at the gardens created by Donna, whose writing you will find at her two blogs :  LIVING FROM HAPPINESS, and GARDENS EYE VIEW. Donna believes in gardening for wildlife, and her yard welcomes all manner of critters. You are going to really enjoy this visit, kids! A pond with lotus blossoms awaits. Let's dive in!

Sherry: Donna, I am so looking forward to this! Is Donna Donabella your real name? It is a wonderful one! Will you explain the meaning (and, I suspect, your philosophy?) behind the name of your blog, Living From Happiness?

Donna: Actually Donna Donabella is my married name, if you can believe that.  My maiden name was Abel, and if I had decided to keep both names it would have been, Donna Abel Donabella.  Just a bit redundant.  So as I say, I had to marry my husband once I found out what his name was…how could I not be Donna Donabella? And in Italian, my name means Lady/Beautiful Lady.

The name of my blog has an interesting story as well.  You can read the full story on my blog, here. But the short story is I recently realized that...'...happiness is not something you can seek because you already have it. It is waiting inside of us. Waiting for us to connect to it.' So I am no longer living for happiness,  but from the happiness already inside of me. And I write about connecting to this happiness that is in each of us. Change also influences my blog and writing, which is why the tagline for my blog is:  Inspired by change, challenge and creativity.

Sherry: That line is inspiring! Is the scene in your banner photo the landscape around where you live? It is beautiful; it looks like a painting. 

Donna: Sadly no, that photo came with my blog theme, and I have not found a suitable replacement yet.  So I still use it.  I live in Central New York State, about 20 minutes north of the city of Syracuse, and an hour SE off of Lake Ontario.  The area is technically a suburb, but a bit more rural than many, as we have lots of wildlife, woods and open areas not yet developed.

A nature area I visit

Sherry: Oh what a beautiful area, Donna! You are very lucky. Give us a little peek at the poet at home, won't you?

Donna and Bob

Donna: I live here with my husband of 17 years.  I was married at 40, and I say I waited until I found the right person.  We have no children, and at this point no pets either.  But we do have 5 nieces that are very special to us. Most of our family lives in the western United States, and those on the east coast are 5 or more hours away, so we only see some at holidays and some I see every so many years.  I do miss them.

Sherry: I gather from your blog, and your other blog, Gardens Eye View, that you have had a lifelong passion for gardening. Tell us about its joys and satisfactions. I am especially interested in hearing about how you garden with a view towards restoring wildlife habitat. (I love that!)

Christmas 1959

Donna: I grew to love gardening as a child, when my mother would plant tomatoes, roses and other pretty flowers.  And as I grew up, I watched my dad join my mom pruning the roses and growing veggies.  I would help weed and harvest although I didn’t see the real joys of gardening until after I was working at my first teaching job.  I had houseplants and containers on my apartment balcony then. 

I began gardening in earnest when I moved into my first house.  I spend all my spare time in the garden, if and when I can.  Right now it is the off season due to the cold and snow, but I have herbs growing indoors and I will start seeds growing under grow lights in a couple of months.  I find great solace in my garden; it provides incredible life lessons, and I can quench my need for play by gardening. 

Pond and back garden

I created our current gardens with an eye on perennial beds and pretty flowers.  You can see by the pictures that I have gardens all along the fence in the back gardens and a meadow outside the back fence.  I also have a pond and gardens surrounding the entire perimeter of the house so it takes lots of time to maintain them all.

Sherry: How beautiful! Your gardens are truly a work of art. You must take great pleasure in them.

Donna: I ran across this concept of gardening for wildlife about 5 years ago.  As I read more about it, it made so much sense to garden with a goal to create a habitat for wildlife.  It also satisfies my long held belief that we must each be environmentally responsible.  So we have been changing our gardens to create this habitat.

And it makes sense to garden for wildlife in this more rural area with a lake across the road and wetlands about a mile away.  Behind our house is a forever-green area that is protected and can never be developed, so we have loads of wildlife living there too.

The wetlands

Sherry: You are so lucky to have wetlands and a protected area out behind you. So is the wildlife!

Donna: Gardening for wildlife means I use no chemicals and only use organic gardening methods.  I also am slowly getting rid of invasive plants, and replacing them with native plants.  We welcome the critters that come, and we try to live with them, even when they are nibbling on trees, plants and veggies.  I find such incredible pleasure and spiritual energy from the critters that visit us.  They teach me so much about life.

Sherry: We have wildlife come through our yard too, as well as living with horses and dogs, and it is so special to have the critters around. I want to include the photo of your pond with the water lilies, and the poem Reflections In a Garden, here. They are both very beautiful.

Reflections In A Garden

Old weary bones feel the ache now…
stems broken and strewn,
petals blackened and faded,
rain and snow will beat it all down,
back to the earth.

Tiny seeds linger, though, in rich soil…
after a long rest,
surging up and breaking through,
life beginning again,
always a new start.

Sherry: Thank you, Donna. Your poem fills my heart. "Always a new start." The philosophy of life. I read on your blog that you were a teacher and administrator in the education system during your career, and have recently retired. I like the quote on your blog by Sam Stevens: “Sometimes you hit a point where you either change or self-destruct,” and suspect there is a link here. Would you like to talk about what that quote means to you, and how you have applied it to your life?

College days

Donna: You are very perceptive Sherry.  My life has been an ongoing path of learning and teaching, so it was not surprising that I chose this profession.  I enjoyed teaching for about 15 years, but as I am always in need of a challenge, I decided to move into educational administration. As an administrator, my goal was to work with teachers to help them make changes, thereby giving students the best educational experience.

And while my first administrative job afforded me the opportunity to do that, I found as I moved up in positions, I was further away from teachers and students and mired more in the politics that many times made no sense.  The stress of my job began to impact my physical and emotional health.  It was actually slowly killing me, and I was not listening to my body’s messages.  I had migraines and almost died from a bleeding ulcer, and I still did not listen. 

It really wasn’t until my job was cut to half time, that I finally started to make some changes.  I realized I was being given a gift, and I needed to finally get back in control and start healing.  I eventually went back to full time work as I was near retirement age, and last March I retired on my own terms, as I was no longer satisfied with working in my profession.  It no longer provided me joy, and my health started to suffer again.

Retiring turned out to be the best decision, even though we knew we would have to tighten our belts for a while as I shifted my work to writing.  I am hopeful to begin writing a book or two in the next few years, and then I will move on to the job of getting it published.  And while I could take educational consultant jobs, I am not willing or ready, as I know I still need time to heal.

The garden in fog

Sherry: Your surroundings look very healing, and I know gardening is healing, too. It is soul restorative. I have lived the same story, of toxic work, stress, illness, and realizing I had been given a gift. I would like  to include the poem Mending here, as it fits perfectly.

Like the frayed edges of my favorite shirt,
Warm and comfortable with the holes.

Torn pages of a special childhood book,
Smudged with memories.

Worn photos, now the colors fading and antique,
As if that time will be gone, forgotten.

Scars lighten, barely visible,
Fully healed, the wounds still linger.

But less tears shed now with the mending,
The knitting of the tears that ripped the heart.

A restoration has begun,
A spirit made whole.

Sherry: There is a wonderful message of hope and healing  in that poem, Donna. When did you begin writing poetry? 

Donna: I began writing poetry as a ninth grader in high school.  We had a big poetry project that really immersed me into the world of poetry.  But as a career or hobby, writing was never encouraged, so I left it for a career as a teacher.  As a teacher I fell in love with children’s literature…a love I actually had from childhood that was rekindled.  I wanted to write children’s books, and did write one.  But once publishers rejected it a couple of times, I did not pursue it any further and stopped writing.

I was drawn back to writing when I started my first blog, Gardens Eye View,  in September of 2010. This was at the time my job was being cut to half time.  I realized I had more time on my hands, and I felt I needed to write.   Working and playing in my garden had been teaching me some wonderful lessons that I wanted to share, and I knew the writing would be therapeutic.  It was also a challenge to overcome my fear of putting myself out there again after the rejection by publishers 10 years before.

I was drawn back to poetry also in 2010, quite by accident, soon after I wrote my first few blog posts.  A friend told me about a call for women authors to submit poetry and essays for an anthology.  And I thought, well, maybe I could do this.  I had recently discovered my old poetry project and had been reading over the poems I had written.  In the middle of the journal, were a couple of poems I had never shown to anyone because they were written after my grandfather and first beloved pet had both died within months of each other.  

These were the first big losses in my life, and I had bared my soul in the poems.  But it felt right to bring them back.  They spoke to me especially in light of the loss of my father, which was still raw, even though he had been gone since 1998.  I decided to rework one poem in response to that grief, and submitted both poems, even though they would only choose one to publish, if I was lucky.  Several months later I received the news that not only were they choosing my work, but also they wanted both poems because they felt they needed to stay as one piece.

The anthology they are published in is called, The Moment I Knew.  The best part of this experience was the editor told me to keep writing, and especially to keep writing poetry.  So I did just that once a month on my blog, Gardens Eye View until recently when I started my new blog, Living From Happiness.

Front garden in snow

Sherry: I love this story! I encourage you to re-submit your children's books. That is an area where there is a good market, and a good chance of publication. How does poetry make you feel, Donna?

Donna: There is something spiritual and profound about poetry.  It touches my soul, and when I write poetry, I am digging deep within me to give my feelings and my soul a voice.  And for now it is also very healing.

I also love the challenge of writing poetry.  Trying to fit a 1000 word essay into a few words and stanzas is so creative.  I enjoy playing with words and the emotions they convey.

Sherry: I see you also write short stories and memoir. Which comes more easily, poetry or prose?

Donna: That is not an easy question to answer.  I guess the short answer is neither or both, depending on the day or the subject.  But poetry has a slight edge, as it seems to flow so much easier, at least for now.  I hear a line of poetry in my head that must be written, and so I let it flow.  It is an amazing feeling and process.

Front garden

Sherry: It is, isn't it? What impact has blogging had on your writing and your journey?

Donna: I have been blogging since 2010.  Gardens Eye View started as a way to share life lessons I had been learning in the garden.  And it has grown into a sharing of my love of gardening.  Blogging is my new profession, part of my new career as a writer.  But I do not make money doing it.  I have been offered ads, but for now I still do not want to have ads on my blogs.

I keep my blogs as journals about my life, my journey and my garden.  And they are my means of writing and sharing my writing, to share my creative endeavours. I also love the relationships that blogging builds; the commenting and sharing; the conversations that happen.  As a reader, you will always get a comment back from me.  It is my way to acknowledge your visit, your support and sharing.

Sherry: Lovely, Donna. Is there a poem, written by you, that you would like to include here?

Donna: This is a poem I wrote a few years ago that describes the quest I have been on for the last few years.


As I seek, I journey to find.
As I find, I journey to seek.

And so it goes,
And so it goes;

Unending-the remarkable circle of my life.

Sherry: I love it. Life is indeed a circular journey. How did you find us? Is there anything you would like to say to Poets United?

Donna: I learned about Poets United through Loredana and her wonderful blog, Blogging Away.  I am so happy to have joined such an incredible, talented group of people who have welcomed me quickly and completely…thank you!

Sherry: Thank you, Donna, for such a lovely glimpse into your life. Enjoy that garden. You have created a beautiful sanctuary, for yourself and your wildlife neighbors. And do keep writing - and linking, so we can continue reading and sharing your journey.

Wasn't that a lovely visit, kids? Sigh. I could sit and gaze upon that birdhouse in the snow for hours. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. I am having some weirdness with my internet reception, kids...if I go quiet it is because I need a new component to access the network....sigh. Hope you all enjoy this lovely visit with Donna. I will pop in and out as I am able.

  2. This is one of my favorite interviews. Thank you Shery for giving Donna the opportunity to not only share her words but her gardens with us.
    Donna I am certain you will meet with success in your writing. I've always wanted to write and publish but at first life got in the way, now I'm in the way. Don't get discouraged you have great talent and a giving heart. I really enjoyed reading your interview here.

    1. So happy you enjoyed it, Myrna. Arent Donna's gardens just beautiful and soul-restorative?

    2. Thank you Myrna and I feel so encouraged by your words here!

  3. Donna and Sherry, what a wonderful interview once again! Donna, I always enjoy your blog & love the idea of a garden's eye view. You are always so upbeat and supportive, and your gardens are so very lovely.

    1. Oh Mary you are too kind....what better place to learn about life than in the garden!

  4. Loved those beautiful photos...& your interview too..!

    1. Thank you so much...I enjoyed the interview as well...Thank you Sherry!

  5. Thank you, Sherry and Donna — this interview makes me feel happy and peaceful. Donna, you have a beautiful philosophy of life.

    1. Rosemary I love sharing my life and all I have learned...I don't ever think I will take off the teacher hat!

  6. Yes, Rosemary, it makes me feel happy too! I feel ss if I just had tea with two very fine poets. Thank you!

    1. Wouldn't that be wonderful to be able to sit down over tea and have a lovely chat Susan!

  7. This is another great interview. I felt like i was in the garden listening to your conversation Sherry and Donna.

    The Journey poem is beautifully penned and I liked how you defined happiness, Donna.

    1. Totomai I too loved how Sherry made it feel as if we were in the garden talking...and I am so pleased you liked the Journey poem.

  8. Thank you, Donna, for sharing your life with us in the same inspiring way you share your poetry. I found your personal story about the need to slow down particularly interesting and am glad you could make the adjustment and are getting benefits from it. Your garden looks spectacular.
    Sherry, this is another great interview!

    1. It has been one of the greatest lessons in my life Gabriella, and I so appreciate that Sherry allowed me to share it with you!

  9. We're happy, too, that you introduced her to us, Loredana. Thanks so much!

  10. It is my pleasure, as always, my friends, to learn more about the life of one of our members. This is a job that, every week, warms my heart and expands my vision. It does not get any better than that!

  11. Oh you are all so kind.....and you are an amazing group of welcoming folks and it was my pleasure to open my gardens for our little chat...Sherry made this such a wonderful experience.

  12. What a glorious garden Donna. I love the way your personalize your poetry and speak from your heart. I must confess that I chuckled with your translated name and how we probably all wish to have such a name to fit us like that.

    1. Thank you so much Robin....I too chuckled when I met my husband and learned his name!

  13. I know! Donna won the name lottery!!!!

  14. What a wonderful interview, Sherry! Thank you for letting us know more about you, Donna :) I love what you say about happiness coming from within us. That is so true!!!


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