Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Each Day is a Path

Each day begins with the possibility of taking many paths. All of them. Or just one.
Photo found at agentthao.tumblr.com

http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/File:Dark_path.jpg

The differences can be as stark as the two paths above.





Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Trying to Impress

We've all done it.

Probably with the same results: feelings of insincerity, inauthenticity, insecurity. Which equals=misery.

Yet, when a newly married friend said to me the other day, "I'm still trying to impress my new husband," I saw trying to impress with new eyes.

After 34 years of marriage to the same man, how cool would it be if I still wanted to impress him~~at least once in a while. And so I've been trying in the past week in just the very tiniest ways to impress dear husband. But what it has turned out to be, is being more considerate of him.

Trying to impress is usually a thought or phrase used with strangers, a new boss, new acquaintances, but how much in the end, does it matter? What really matters is that we only try to impress those who stay with us to the end, and in the end, he, she or they, are all that matters.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dharma Comics by Leah Pearlman

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Mimi Lost & Found Update

I love Mimi Lost and Found, so it was with great disappointment on Thanksgiving Day, that the hoped-for agent sent a rejection.

I'd come so close. She's asked for specific edits: made. She said how much she loved the book: repeatedly. She promised if she liked the changes she'd take me as a client: in the end, she said no. How ironic, on Thanksgiving Day. There has to be a subliminal message in there, right?

So what have I been doing since the rejection? I've taken a step back and enjoyed the company of little people who mysteriously share my DNA; I've obsessively been watching Vampire Diaries in order to catch up to my daughter (so we can watch it together); I've been traveling; I've been writing mini essays; I've been negotiating future work; I've been contemplating the sadness of giving up in the pursuit to have Mimi published.

Then one day, a friend wrote about her personal hardships on a well-trafficked blog. I sent her an email to thank her. In her reply, she happened to ask, How many sent queries are you up to on Mimi?

I counted them out and I was up to 20 in 2014. I thought, erroneously that she would reply: Yep, time to retire the manuscript, because that is what I'd decided. Yet, this was her reply:

Twenty is good! But you have about 30 more to go before you're allowed to call it quits on this manuscript. ;) 

What did I do? I wrote another query and sent it out! It was fun, but most of all it was fun to toss off the cloak of defeat.

Instead of keeping this latest rejection to myself, I am sending it out for all to read, because it is representative of true life. I learned from Gail (Breaking the Ice, publish/release date January 2015-buy it!) who selflessly shared her personal defeats. I saw Gail only as the woman whose book was about to be published, not the woman who'd had to pull up her bootstraps too. She inspired me and unfortunately, we are often most inspired by the defeat before the victory.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Gift Alternative

I run into a friend at the grocery store and we have plenty to chat about in front of the zucchinis and cucumbers. A few days before Christmas, she mentions that their Christmas tree is bare because they are saving money for a summer family vacation to Mexico. The family members are compliant, but she's a little concerned about the real "mood" and reality when there is nothing (literally) to unwrap.

"We did that once!"

I remember with great fondness the family vacation that took the place of Christmas presents.

Christmas Eve was a barbecue on the beach and our Christmas tree was a branch cut from an island evergreen. Though everything was perfect, I too worried in the days before what the Christmas mood would be like without traditional gifting. It was then that I realized that gifts come in many forms and we would still be gifting~~gifts from the imagination and gifts from the heart.

We hung stockings, sports socks and anklets, from the coffee table and everyone was supposed to give two gifts to each family member. The first gift had no monetary limit. I could give anything I wanted regardless of cost. The second gift had to be a gift that couldn't be purchased with money.

The gift-less Christmas was almost ten years ago and I still remember some of the gifts. A son-in-law received a fleet of his own airplanes, another a cure for diabetes. One daughter gave the gift of flight. All of us were thoughtful and creative and the receiving of the imaginary gifts was heartfelt.

Traditional Christmas giving is wrapped with so many components: stress--stress over the money, the possible exchange, the disappointment, the whatever; but these gifts were pure and simple without any stress. These gifts were love.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Purpose

The day before Christmas, my friend tells a story when her actions, her training as a nurse, may have saved the life of a woman. But she doesn't find out until a year later that her knowledge and goodness may have saved a life. To her, this is a beautiful Christmas present.

She acknowledges that she couldn't have acted otherwise under the circumstances. She did what she needed to do. She then challenges us to do the same and because it's the day before Christmas, she reminds us that Jesus Christ came to the earth and did what he needed to do~the scope and magnitude of this is huge. We do not have the same kind of mission, to bring redemption to all of mankind, nor the power. Yet we are endowed with the power to complete a life, a life with purpose. And so we are challenged to find that life of purpose and do only what we are supposed to do.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

We Can All Be Santas

Christmas eve afternoon, my daughter calls to share a story and an epiphany.

This year she left her husband in charge of finding a unique WWII model of a US Navy boat that landed at Normandy. Her eleven year old son's tastes are very specific; she understands because he is like her. Her husband finds out that the boat has been discontinued--he gives up, but she does not.

The Sunday before Christmas Thursday, she finds a small company on the east coast that still has the boat. She emails the company explaining that her son still has a thread of belief in Santa and to sustain his hope she needs that boat by Wednesday December 24th. To her surprise, someone at the company emails back and promises to send that boat. They don't do expedited shipping and my daughter can't afford to overnight ship, so with a deep breath and hope, she waits for the package. Wednesday morning it arrives.

When she calls, she is overwhelmed with gratitude for the person, the postal service workers, everyone who worked overtime to send that package to a little boy who still believes. She realizes though Santa isn't real, several people acted like Santa to save her Christmas spirit and her son's beliefs. Christmas is a chance to do for others, what they can't do for themselves, and she even sees that Santa and the faith to believe has a connection to the atonement of Jesus Christ.


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my house to yours.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A New Christmas Present Idea

My family is blessed. Yet, they still have many needs. Three of the four children are still in college and the PHD is house poor. Very house poor. Yet she is blessed with a house in a safe neighborhood. The other girls are blessed to be striving for an education in a safe place without threats to their lives or to their beliefs.

While our children have needs, I wanted a Christmas present that would speak, "You are so blessed, and with those blessings comes responsibility to your fellowman." 

This is the thought process behind Christmas Eve's unexpected gift: Each child or family will receive a portion of money with instructions to find in the next year, someone who has need of that money--besides themselves. They will have a whole year to find that family or that person. They will not be accountable until next Christmas Eve when each child and her family, will report on the good they did with their allotted money. No strings attached except to bring joy anonymously to someone in need.

"Our eternal happiness will be in proportion to the way that we devote ourselves to helping others." George Albert Smith

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The First Annual (Perhaps) Christmas Ball


The latest Christmas find from a friend: a Christmas ball (CB).

My Christmas ball is only a version of my friend's idea as my Christmas ball had its own plan.

 I wanted a different way of opening presents this year especially since the grandchildren will have a plethora of gift unwrapping at their own home.

Here's the plan: During Christmas Eve dinner chez moi, I will place the CB on the front porch having previously arranged for a neighbor to ring the doorbell and run. I'll find the CB with a note from Santa. Either Max or Annika will loosen the first cloth and start the unrolling of the ball. As it unrolls, a myriad of tagged and untagged gifts will fall from within--small chocolates for everyone, books, toys, plaster cloth for Max's latest endeavor, lotion, stickers, keepsakes, etc. Do not let the size in the above photo fool you. The CB is a force.

I'll update this post so you will know if the CB is a one night roll or a soon-to-be annual tradition!

Post Christmas Eve update: The Christmas ball was a mild curiosity, but also a mild hit. In my mind, I already have plans to make it better for next year. I hope someone requests the Christmas ball next year.

I let both grandchildren unroll at the same time and it would have been better if it was a one at a time deal.  I would have liked the strips of cloth to have been longer and the presents smaller.

It was unique and therefore fun. Three out of four stars, but I'm willing to try it again.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Complete

A New York City visit at Christmas time wouldn't have been complete without stopping at FAO Schwartz. Early on a rainy dark morning after a brisk walk, FAO opened their doors at 9:00 a.m.

Magical.

First stop: the candy department where I ran into a 30 lb chocolate Santa and other delights. I was sorry to see that since my last visit, the marble ( as in made of glass marbles) counter top has been removed. The big piano has also been retired, but the store makes up for it by selling big piano keyboards. I could still see Tom Hanks jumping from key to key. Makes me want to watch Big this Christmas vacation.

Another addition, new to me, was a gem, rock and specimen section. For $25, one can buy an un-cracked geode from Brazil, or a whole box of mini geodes for $10. Or a beautiful display of real butterflies. Or a giant cricket.


This array made me laugh. The safari animals looked ready to converse.
 Because of Max, I was attracted to the Lego section. These figures would have amazed him.




Christmas is connecting with memories of childhood. It's a time to throw off the practical adult we're forced to be eleven months of the year. We focus on generosity instead of frugality and with that generosity comes joy.

But then the adult kicks in to temper the child who is reckless with money. I used to hate the larger than usual credit card bills in January, so at Christmas time, I mostly use cash. This way I can be generously realistic without a debt hangover.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas is Food!

Normally, a food post this time of year might have included a dish my family has made since I was a child, or the sugar cookie recipe my children adore and swear of none better, or Tony's traditional Christmas Eve  dinner of kung pao chicken. Though all worthy foods, I must give homage to the simple foods that currently sustain me. They are natural, healthy and food for the Gods. Literally, in ancient Greek lore, pomegranates were considered food for the Gods. Pomegranates are delicious plain, but Kristi recently served pomegranates soaked in fresh orange juice. Unbelievably delicious. I try to keep a bowl in the fridge. My potluck dish of orange-juice soaked pomegranates was a hit last night at the neighborhood Christmas party. Pomegranates are also full of antioxidants.

Seasonal pomegranates days are numbered and I'll try to enjoy them until late December, hopefully longer.


  This fall, I discovered how much I love sweet potato slices. Almost better than Norman Love Chocolates (if you really want to splurge, google it- Fort Meyers Florida).


Back to the humble sweet potato. Peel and slice, drizzle with melted coconut oil and bake to perfection. It takes watchful time because each slice cooks at a different rate. The photo shows how I like them cooked best--just the perfect combination of crispy crunch/softness.

 Before I made 50 sugar cookies this afternoon, I indulged in the juice from a young Thai coconut. This is so delicious and such a treat that along with some protein before baking, I didn't have a bite.
This is brown rice placed under the broiler until crunchy. I love this on my salads.

Two eggs and one banana. Beaten well and cooked on low heat. It really makes a good pseudo pancake.

If you can ignore the chocolates, the cookies, the traditional delights, these foods might help you through the Christmas feast without the food overload. A votre sante!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

video

Bergdorf Goodman

Before you see the splendor and the glamour of one of New York City's oldest, premiere department stores~~a reality-check story.

The Four Seasons gifted a $100 gift certificate to BG, or rather, BG gave to the hotel, the gift certificates to give patrons. How exciting! I'd failed to pack a pair of gloves and the New York City streets were brutal without them. With the gift certificate, I could pick out a new pair of gloves. The glove counters were the first display as I stepped in from the windy cold. The first pair of gloves I picked up were pricey. No problem, there were so many gloves to choose from. A whole case of gloves. Gloves displayed on a multitude of counters. All the prices were way beyond and just beyond my gift certificate allotment.

 I'll go to the kids' section; surely there will be plenty to buy for $100.The first pair of pants that caught my eye were soft, beautiful and trimmed with fluffy, fake fur. I checked the price-$50. Then I put on my glasses-$500. Whoa.

How silly of me to expect a free gift. Nothing is free. We always have to give back-or a portion~it's the law of the universe. I settled on a pair of gloves~that would cost me a little bit-a fraction of the full price.

Anyway...the money I shelled out for a beautiful pair of gloves was well worth it because of the time I spent in front of the Bergdorf Goodman Christmas windows. They were spectacular--as were all the Christmas display windows in NY city Christmas. It's a highlight tradition of the Christmas season and I read that Broadway set designers are often invited to design department store windows.I only wished I'd had time to see them all.

I hope the magnificence of each window comes through!


 These are all life size mannequins
 Tribute to Sculpture
 Dance
 If you imagine that the mannequin is six feet tall, which it probably is, it gives an idea of the scale.
Tribute to Music

 A mini window
 Theatre themed window
 Mini window
 The window's theme is architecture.
Literature themed window

The budget for each of these windows must be a mini-fortune! Hence, I'm thankful for the woman who can walk into BG and spend $5000 on a dress and not think twice. She's helped to fund a beauty that everyone can enjoy regardless of where they can or cannot afford to shop.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Traditions

There should be more, but the precious, validating moments of good parenting are scarce. So, when I have one, it's treasured. This validating moment came while visiting my daughter's house who is in the trenches of parenting three children.

I noticed the stack of books all wrapped and ready to unwrap and read each night before the big Christmas day.  She's carrying on the tradition I started when she was just a child.

Each Christmas, I'd add a new book or two to our Christmas book collection and every year, we'd unwrap a book each night and read that book. Unwrapping a present everyday in the days before Christmas helped to alleviate that unwrapping anxiety I suffered from as a child. Since there are no small children left in my home, I've passed on those books to her.


She then mentioned that her family would start delivering creche pieces to a neighbor. I was flooded with memories of my little family sneaking into the cold and doorbell ditching pieces of a creche until the final Christmas Eve when baby Jesus made his doorstep appearance. "Like we used to," I said and she became still, paused and remembered.

Each Christmas I would buy an inexpensive creche (nativity set) for this purpose. In the days after Christmas, I would find creches in the half price sale for next year's delivery. Depending on how many pieces, wisemen, shepherds, angels,~~we would allocate the nights and deliver a piece each night.  We would carefully choose the family who we thought would enjoy the ritual. Anonymously, we enjoyed the imagined surprise and meaning we brought to each family.

Yesterday, I had another cherished parent-reward moment. I was on my way to fulfill a new Christmas tradition I started with my grandchildren. I take them shopping to purchase their  family's gifts. When my twenty-one year old daughter recognized and told me how cool the shopping idea was--I promised to take her children (when she has them) Christmas shopping for her and her future husband. Given that that day is many years away, I imagined her children and myself as a much older woman passing through the store aisles. That I will be an older woman is the way of life for which I have no control. What I do have control over is how I spend that aged life: fulfilling traditions, spending time with precious ones yet to be born,  and loving those memories I can create.

Whether or not they are appreciated.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Get High

 I first noticed it in my sister more than in myself. Giving has always made me happy, but my sister's transition from regular old self to extreme joyful self, made me take notice. Maybe I've always been sensitive to my sister's moods. Maybe growing up with her, I've seen her in her worst moods, so I recognize her best moods. Maybe I was responsible for some of those worst moods as the little annoying sister...

Whatever it is or was, I recognize when my sister is high--high on joy. And it's always there when she is giving: love, money or kindness.

It's helped me formulate the idea that giving is a kind of high. There's nothing like it and giving is safe, safely addictive and no one ever gets hurt, or ill or weak, or certainly no one ever dies from an overdose. Or goes to jail.

Giving isn't only money. It includes time, kindness, gifts, consideration. Thinking of others more than ourselves is kind of counterintuitive, yet when we least think of ourselves is when we gratify ourselves the most.

 On my recent flight home from New York, I sat next to a young man who was traveling to an MBA executive schooling interview. He was an accountant/web manager at Macey's, had a wife and three small children. Conversing for a half hour, I knew he was a safe, good man. After learning he would have to take the airport train into the city, switch trains, and then his friend would have to drive late in the night to pick him up at the station, offering a ride was the only thing to do. And because I wasn't driving home alone, I felt comfortable offering him a ride to his destination.

As we neared the train station where his friend would pick him up, it seemed only right to take him a few more minutes to the house of his friend where he was staying.

It was a tiny dark house and we learned the friend just had a new baby. Our little effort had helped everyone. We said goodbye, he was grateful, and I was surprised at my own joy.

The funny thing is when we give wholeheartedly, we forget about ourselves and so the high is always a surprise. And there's nothing like unexpected joy.

What a high. Give and get high.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

To Thine Own Self Be True: WEIGH

My daughter picked me up from the airport and I thought she looked particularly beautiful. She's always beautiful to me, but tonight it was different: she had just come from the company of someone special. Ah...the love glow she had.

So...I was surprised when she said, I've been eating and exercising while you've been gone. And...her sister had taken a photo of her that helped her see she wasn't in top-notch form.

Why is it that when I live in my body everyday, my wake-up call is also a photo taken by the same daughter. Why is it only after I lose a little weight that I realize how badly I needed to lose weight?  It's called consciousness and mysteriously, we can somehow lose body consciousness. I think I've figured out a way to help myself stay body conscious~~weigh myself. After a twelve day vacation and 21 days into the holiday (Thanksgiving included), how else have I not gained the quintessential five pounds? Actually, I just read the average holiday weight gain is 7-10 pounds.

Daily weighing is not for everyone! I've known too many precious people who've suffered from everyday weighing right along with their eating disorder--which is another kind of unconsciousness.

Essential admonition for the day: Be true to thine self, just find out how to be true in the most individualized, healthy and happy way.

I especially love the double bonus from self-truth:

"To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Polonius to (not conscious enough) Hamlet~~ William Shakespeare

This object used to be my enemy, but now I see it as a friend. In part, because it tells the truth.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gifting

Ah Christmas! I love it. You love it. Family. Decorations. The lights. The love. The Gifts!

The hardest part for me: the gifts. Many Christmases past, I've been paralyzed by my erroneous gift-thinking--my gift ideas aren't unique enough, thoughtful enough, nice enough; too utilitarian, not practical enough--not this or too much that. Am I spending enough money? Too much?

Paralyzed over gift giving for some dear neighbors, I relaxed when one of those neighbors delivered a simple, small box of mints. Ah ha, gift giving is the opportunity to say, Hey, at this special time of year, I wanted to remember you. The one simple gift helped me to change, but instead of over-worrying, the pendulum swung too far and I shifted my buying, baking, worrying until the too few days before Christmas. I know, I know.

This year, I've decided it's also important to give myself a gift, and I don't mean a new pair of shoes or jeans. A gift of peace and growth. This year I am giving myself the right, the joy, to not let other people's bad energy enter my space. The idea came while walking on a crowded New York sidewalk. The tip of my sister's umbrella nicked the head of an older woman. My sister had already passed when the woman reacted with spiteful, angry words. It wasn't pretty. I stopped and apologized to the woman telling her my sister didn't mean to hurt her. I asked if I could help her in any way. The woman's anger didn't affect me. Shifting her angry energy into genuine care is what, I believe, allowed me to escape the negative energy.

It was a miraculous moment when I realized I wasn't fazed at all, when normally the encounter would have been upsetting. For the rest of the week, I practiced deflecting any negativity that came my way. I'm not cured, but I've made progress and I'll continue focusing on this as a Christmas present to myself.

What's the difference between this Christmas present and a New Year's Resolution?

We so often make a desired positive change into a kind of chore or a goal that much be reached. I much prefer that happy, life enriching goals be considered a gift~a Christmas gift to myself.

I've always been intimidated and lackluster for making New Year's resolutions. Perhaps I will consider changing resolutions too, into New Year's gifts.

Monday, December 15, 2014

When Two Lives and the Christmas Season Intertwine

This was previously posted in January 2014-but it's a lovely Christmas story, so I had to re-post.

 



 Aaron is a psychologist. He has loving parents, grew up in a stable home, and counts his life as blessed. He's married, has a child and he and his wife are saving for their first home. Because money is tight, they decided to forego Christmas presents for each other. Christmas would be the new house.

Aaron works in a school for second  through eighth graders, where the children cannot function in a regular one-teacher classroom. The classes are small; eight students are paired with a teacher and an in-class helper.  Student rage and the consequential outbursts are common. Physical restraints are the norm.

 Clyde is an eighth grade boy who attends Aaron's school. He's been there since second grade when he was moved from a traditional classroom because of excessive bullying, hitting and desk-tossing outbursts. Cyde's move to the school coincided with his parents' breakup when each angry parent pitted him against the other, when the father pitted him against his brother, when his mother left him in the care of his non-working, angry, violent father.

In the two years that Aaron has worked with Clyde, he noted that during the colder months, that everyday Clyde wore the same hand-me-down sweatshirt from his older brother.  Aaron noticed not only the smell and the ragged condition of the sweatshirt, but he noticed the sweatshirt because he loves sweatshirts. Because of this, his wife broke the Christmas gift rule when she found a beautifully constructed sweatshirt she knew her husband would love.

When Aaron found the sweatshirt hidden in the trunk of the car, he knew it was his Christmas gift. He asked his wife's permission to use it for a different purpose. When he explained his desires, she too couldn't be happy if her husband chose to keep it.

On the last day of school before Christmas break, Aaron met with Clyde to say good-bye. Clyde hadn't been able to control his anger and was being sent to a tougher, tighter-controlled school for children with behavioral problems. It was yet again, another rough patch in Clyde's life. But before he said good-bye, Aaron handed Clyde a gift. Aaron explained how money was tight but he wanted Clyde to have this gift. This tough boy, kicked out of yet another school, opened his package and cried.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Open Door


Dharma Comics, Leah Pearlman

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12-13-14

Today is December 13, 2014,  and it is a great day to have a party. I hadn't thought of it until someone mentioned she was going to a 12-13-14 party!

I was in class on 10-10-2010 and at 10:10 and 10 seconds-we took a photo, countdown included.

I search for some meaning in these two days of coincidence, but at first glance, that's all there is: coincidence. But in a way, that's all there is to the other special days--the days we happen to be born on, the days we choose to marry, the day Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Christ, the day our country designated as the day of our independence. Really, they could have been other days.

The greater purpose to coincidence is finding meaning and specialness to our days, our lives. We want a reason to celebrate, a reason to making the moment significant. Significant moments create a significant life. I've found a way that makes every day significant and a reason to celebrate.

Every night at 8:00 p.m, my cellphone chimes with a reminder. I know the sound, I pick up the phone and read the self-sent message: Have I seen the hand of God in my life today? Often, when the chime rings, I am in the middle of a conversation or a task, but it still causes me to pause and sometimes in that second I remember the tiniest detail. More often, I'm away from my phone, but always returning, I'm always reminded that everyday is a day of celebration, because everyday God has a hand in our lives.


Friday, December 12, 2014

A Big Apple Christmas

The angels at Rockefeller
The rink at Rockefeller
A friend recently mentioned that the first visit to New York City was like drinking from a fire hydrant.

This week was my first Christmas season in New York and in spite of the rain and wind, it was lovely. My visit was like drinking from a warm cup of whipping-cream-topped-hot chocolate, sprinkled with colored sugar!

video

The light show projected on Saks Fifth
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A Christmas tree complete with snow at Lee's Art store on 7th

The Tiffany Jewelry Store with diamonds ( of course)
The Four Seasons lobby

The sidewalk Christmas Tree lot

 One night after the theater, we couldn't hail a cab in the light snowing night. Finally, we opted for a pedicab, but it could only fit three. I jumped at the chance to walk at my own pace back to the hotel, stopping for the light  show at Saks Fifth Avenue, the crowds and lights at Rockefeller Square. I was bundled in a coat, hat and scarf and enjoyed the soft snow illuminated by all the lights.

Oh but the crowds!

I have always found New Yorkers to be kind and patient. My first visit was with a friend from Connecticut who frequented the city, and even she was surprised with our many kind encounters. "This isn't the New York I know," she said. But, it was in 2011, after 9-11, and people change, even a whole city after such devastation. That I was kind and expected people to be kind in return, perhaps was a key. How much of a person's behavior depends on expectations?

How much control do we have on another's behavior? The night after we couldn't find an after-theatre cab, we arranged for a car to pick us up after the play. There was a little confusion finding our driver: it was hard for my sister to hear the driver on the phone while walking down 45th (an especially congested, loud street after a play-but most New York streets are busy). Though he was only across the street standing next to a white truck, my sister was looking for the man driving a white truck. When we waited to enter his car, he scrambled to clear the front seat and change the backseat arrangement-he hadn't expected four of us. When we got in the car, he was shaken. After a few minutes, big sister leaned forward and touched his arm, " We are so appreciative of you coming for us." Kindness beget kindness and when we reached the hotel, we realized we'd had more laughs with our driver than we'd had at the comedy (more on that later).



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Soft Reef

Most of our lives, we've looked for the perfect beach and we've found more than our share. Pink sand, black sand, sand like powdered sugar, sand that squeaks. So when we landed on this seemingly rockier-than-usual beach, it was just another kind of beach; but I made an important discovery heretofore unknown!

The soft reef is the best for running! It's sort of a mini parkour workout. On a purely sandy beach that isn't packed, I've sunk deep into the sand which makes running difficult. On the soft reef, underneath the sand, there may be hard rock-- the perfect cushion for running.

The inconvenience comes when trying to find the perfect place to enter the water, but there's always a place.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Crab In The Kitchen

We come home to a dark house after dinner out. Younger sister turns on the light and jumps back as something scurries.

"It's a rat! Its a bird." She continues watching at a safe distance, the rest of us at an even safer distance, afraid to go any closer.

The interloper is a crab.

I can handle a crab. I pick up a big bowl, grab a place mat, and a large spoon to direct the crab into the bowl. After he's captured, I'll carry him to the beach if I can determine he is a sea crab, or to the front yard if he is a land crab.

Ahhh, this crab is more savvy and more at home than I realized, and he out-moves me and disappears into a nice large crack between the stove and the cupboard.

"It's gone," I announce and put the crab catching paraphernalia back onto the shelves.

No one goes in to the kitchen for the rest of the night.

The next morning, older sister is first up and into the kitchen. The crab is waiting for her in the sink. She wants to retreat but she remembers, "I've been to Africa!" This is the qualifier for bravery she needs. When she approaches him with the bowl, he rises up, his claws held high like sharpened swords, but she stares him down with her memories of bats in her bedroom and almost spending the night in the Serengeti. She repeats her mantra, her battle cry, "I've been to Africa."

I'm amused and inspired by the courage conjured to remove the crab. I think about my own war cry when courage is needed. Though I haven't used it in a while, I recall it immediately and the many times I had to whisper or declare out loud, "I'm not afraid of you, I've raised four daughters. Hi-ya!"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanks

I love my grandchildren a bushel and a peck--actually a ton. This love equates serving and giving to these precious little souls. I give and serve without expectations--but....boy....when they appreciate my actions, it melts my heart, sends me to the moon, makes me want to hug, squeeze them to death and do everything else in the world for them.

Max's eleventh birthday:

"Max, what do you want for your birthday? Would you like to go shopping? Like I take Anni shopping for her birthday?"

Max thinks.

"Äre there some things you need? New pants, shirts? Anything?"

Max isn't very excited about shopping.

"Grandma, I would like to make a diorama."

"Ok. What does that entail?"

He tells me about a friend who made a diorama and how she got most of the things to make it at Hobby Lobby. I've never been to Hobby Lobby, but it sounds fun.

We plan the big day. Great Grandma is in town for Thanksgiving so it's a special treat to have her along.

Max brings along the miniature Hummer he is using to scale the diorama. He's put some thought into this.

We find the section and Max is extremely thoughtful. I think the project is going to cost a bundle, so I'm surprised when he's conscious of price and investment too. He goes for the simpler kit to first get the hang of things. I'm proud of this little guy who loves to build and create.

The shopping cart is full and I'm focused on the completed task and getting everyone home safe when I feel arms wrap around me and I hear his soft and tender words, "Thank-you Grandma."

I would swim around Cape Horn through shark infested waters for this child who felt gratitude.

I am pierced with the power of gratitude and it seems so clear why God asks us to acknowledge his hand in all things. It's because of gratitude. I picture a loving Heavenly Father and when I am grateful for even the slightest of his many blessings--he too is delighted and is inspired to love and give even more because one of his children is grateful.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Unpleasant=Pleasant: Eventually/Usually/Hopefully

I paddle under a double rainbow through warm waters. A flying fish passes by like it's a tossed pebble skipping on the water. Its iridescent blue head leaves me with a kind of fascination for sea creatures. In the distance is a sea cave and two alcoves with soft brown sand. I consider beaching, but I'll save that for tomorrow.

I had to push and pull to get this kayak delivered to our villa. It started a month ago with an email to the paddling company. Several emails later, I had an almost guarantee that I would paddle board and kayak everyday. But I couldn't get the exact address, and the island was bigger than I imagined, and I didn't want to pay ahead with paypal to a foreign country. So I hoped all would go well when I got there.

When I first arrived, neither the phone nor the internet would work. How was I going to get my kayak? The bay was too choppy for paddle boarding, so at least the wait paid off. I persisted and finally could send a message via email via my phone.  Oz, the name of my contact, said he'd deliver by early afternoon. I only had to worry about the timing of opening the locked gate. Five minutes before he arrived, I sensed I needed to watch the gate--

Oz delivered the kayak to the shore with a bonus--a lovely French accent and the patience to speak French with someone who didn't.

This morning while immensely enjoying my first paddle, I thought of the effort to kayak and I knew that it all was worth this one moment. The warm sea water, beating the rain clouds, the intimidation and thrill of timing the rolling waves for ocean entry and exit.

I understood why I sometimes take on seemingly unpleasant tasks: in the end it will be worth the effort.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

On Eating Well


For three months I've tried to eat well. Very well: whole foods, vegetables, fruits. Smart protein. My efforts have been fruitful: I'm lighter and full of energy. I recently re-learned an important concept: eating healthy and conscious, fuels and satisfies our bodies whereas not eating well has the opposite effect.

I have a h ealth conscious dentist who's branched into nutrition. She recently sent an email to her clients with this explanation about whole foods and satiety. I can't explain it better than her, so in Dr.  Jorgansen's words:

We are all equipped with a gauge that measures our appetite.  When we are hungry, this appestat turns on and tells us to find food.  The appestat is looking for what it is low in- nutrients, vitamins, minerals.  The appestat stays on as long as it is still low in nutrients.  So if you eat a big bag of potato chips, you don’t satisfy any of those nutrient needs, and the appestat stays on.  It tells you that you are still needing food.  (Have you even eaten a bag of potato chips and still felt like you needed more - thank your appestat for that one.)
As long as you eat food that is missing essential nutrients, you will feel like you need to keep eating.  This is how people can eat so much and say they are just eating enough to get full.  Try eating four plates of a substantial salad and see if you’re still hungry.  You can’t do it!  Your appestat is satisfied after the first plate, and it turns off and says you are done.  
Overweight AND Starving??
So the key is what nutrients are in the food, not how much food.  You can be very overweight and malnourished  at the same time.  Read that again.  Are we feeding our bodies, or are we just eating food??

Before our vacation, my sister and I made a choice. We hired a chef who would cook heathy, and boy did we luck out. Chi Chi is more than we could have ever asked for. Not only is she a great cook, but she cooks and prepares a mostly vegetable based meal without dairy, sugar and additives such as MSG. Because the food is so nutritious it satisfies sooner and longer.
Add to this cuisine a breakfast of island fruit and lunches of leftover dinner and we are healthy, happy vacationers~

I keep finding articles that show a food awakening.  This NY Times article Prescribing Vegetables, Not Pills is one of the latest ( December 3 2014),
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/prescribing-vegetables-not-pills/?mabReward=RI%3A9&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&_r=0

It is often assumed that eating well is too expensive, that hiring a chef on vacation would be an exorbitant expense. Au contraire. We've figured out that eating well with Chi Chi is much less expensive than normal vacation eating out. If only I could bring her home.

The chef magnificent: ChiChi and Denise

Find her on facebook: Maranatha Cuisine

Friday, December 5, 2014

My Spot Today

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dinesen

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sometimes...I Just Have To Be Foolish

It's 39 degrees when we leave for the airport, but I'm determined to wear my sandals. Too many times, I've arrived at the equator toting a coat and wearing Ugg boots. This time it's sandals all the way and a coatless, long sleeved shirt; I even have a summer shirt under the warm shirt, so I can peel off the layer when island humidity calls. Jillian is dropping us off at the terminal and it's only a few steps of winter weather. I can endure it because in less than 24 hours, I'll be wearing a bathing suit.

However, I'm really not that brave. I'm wearing jeans, and I start to worry about the cold plane. I tuck into my carry-on, a really warm pair of socks. I succumb to a hoodie, but it's a thick-fabric hoodie.

It isn't too long before the socks come out and I'm oh-so-thankful for the hoodie with a hood. I end up looking like a confused traveler.
Comfort trumps any feelings of embarrassment even though I'm one of those people wearing socks with my sandals--a faux pas for which the girls harass their father. I'm just thankful they're not traveling this journey with me.

Once I'm off the plane it's just as I predicted. Hoodie, long sleeved shirt, socks, all abandoned with a ton of gratitude for warm weather and that my daughters couldn't make fun of my funky travel dress.

It isn't until a day later when there is a cool breeze that I go looking for warmth and neither the hoodie nor the long sleeved shirt can be found. My exhilaration for warm weather and unconscious abandonment leaves me hoping that someone as anxious to flee the cold and as unprepared to return, will find what I have lost.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Written in My Heart

The Lord speaks of a new covenant he made with the children of Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-33--we read of this covenant he will write in their hearts and because of this, he will be their God and they will be his people.

I've been pondering the idea and permanence of writing something in one's heart and wondering what is written in my heart. Whatever I could write in my heart would be both heart-changing and life-changing.

My husband is written in my heart: my love, loyalty and devotion to him; the unconditional love for my children is written in my heart. Certain spiritual and religious beliefs are also written in my heart.

To write in one's heart gives a high level of devotion to that thing which is written. I know there are paths not yet taken that will show me what else I want and need to write in my heart. I look forward to those paths and choices that will bring such joy and love. So much love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Sister, Mom Getaway

While planning our trip to a small Caribbean island, my sister works with the concierge of the vaction rental company. Emma will make arrangements for everything, and big sister has big plans. She calls me about the hikes we will take and with questions such as, "Should I book a trip to Pinel Island? It's supposed to be the best snorkeling." She is not the only sister with big plans--baby sister texts with a question: Are you packing your scuba/snorkel gear?

These sound like normal questions and normal pre-planning for an island trip, but my sisters aren't normal. I've traveled with them before and they are limited to five vacation activities: shop, moule, sleep, spa treatments and eating well. In the past, I have been the one who rises early for a morning run; I have been the one to explore or hike. When I'm finished, I return to the hotel, to sisters rising and barely thinking of their morning coffee. But I have hope. I would love to have an active sister vacation and when I mention that I've rented a paddle board and a kayak for the week, big sister asks, "Shouldn't you rent four?" It's time I put my foot down. "No, I'm not renting four. We can share, or worst case, after a day or two we can rent more." She is easily persuaded and the idea of renting FOUR kayaks is left to rest.

Two weeks before our island vacation, big sister goes to California where she hires a personal trainer for the week and a personal chef. A few days later, I hear about the fabulous food, the cooking lessons, the trip to the grocery to see what the personal chef buys. But the trainer...Sister worked out so hard, she thought she was going to vomit. At week's end, Sister is back at home, sore, worn out and prepared with a new island vacation plan, "The only thing I'm going to do on this vacation is wake up, put on my muumuu, roll to the beach, then have the life guard roll me back."

Mom is relieved, and I'm back to the reality of vacationing with my sisters. Like always, I'm thankful to have company at the beach, company by the pool, lively dinner conversations, and plenty of stories to tell~~about the sisters.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cash Is King

I've momentarily escaped from my one year old nanny duties to shuttle children to soccer practice, run some errands and most important, pick up the eight dozen rolls my daughters ordered for our Thanksgiving day meal. I'm on limited time and so, when my car reads "empty, refuel soon," I push the limit and drive the last few miles with a prayer in my heart. I pull up to the gas pump with a sigh of relief.

I insert my credit card and wait.

And wait. The pump doesn't work. It's cold and raining hard, and I hadn't planned on this delay. I'm considering restarting the car and backing up to the pump behind. Before I get back in the car, the gas pump intercom comes alive, "I'm sorry ma'am but our credit card system is down and you can only prepay with cash."

I wince thinking I've recently used up all my cash, but glory be saved, there's a twenty dollar bill in my wallet. With the recent drop in fuel prices, it should buy a few gallons or enough to get home. Such relief, such gratitude.

The after-fuel plan was to stop at the grocery store adjacent to the gas pumps for some much needed food. It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and the store is packed with people and grocery carts full of turkeys, cream and vegetables. All cashier lanes are open and at least four full-carts deep. I'm in for a wait. More than expected. Some kind of delay ahead of me, and I think the lady who just had her groceries tallied doesn't have enough money or forgot her money. Deep breath.

The in-store intercom begins with an apologetic voice, "I'm sorry for the inconvenience but our credit and debit card mechanisms aren't working and we cannot process your purchases. We can take cash or checks. However, the manager can process credit cards one at a time at the front of the store. The cashier will ring up your groceries, put your purchase on standby and then you must come to the front of the store and wait in line. Thank you for your patience."

Note to self: ALWAYS CARRY CASH.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Saturday, November 29, 2014

ME

In the middle of a harried day ( my shoulders are so stiff I feel like I've been carrying a load of bricks on my back), I cross the path of some dear friends in the grocery store. We chat briefly (they are probably short on time too), then move on, but run into each other at the check-out line. It's a busy afternoon and we are all looking for the shortest line. They get in line while I'm still perusing for a shorter wait. We both watch as another checker opens up a new lane. I'm about to jump into that line because after all, it's a busy day and my shoulders hurt; but I wait because they are ahead of me and it is the polite thing to do. They are more considerate than me--they ask the gentleman in front of them who's been waiting longer if he would like to move into the just-opened checkout. I make some comment about their kindness and keep to myself that I wouldn't have done the same.

I move on and find another line to wait in by myself. It is here that I realize why I'm having such a rough day--cause I'm only thinking of myself.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Quality of Mercy

My friend tells a beautiful story about her mother. The story involves two acts of mercy and even though I hear only one side of the story, I imagine that both parties were immensely blessed. True charity, true love, always blesses twice: the giver and the receiver.

When I thank my friend for sharing the story, I realize I have heard my favorite lines from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in action: Portia's speech, The Quality of Mercy.

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. 
This is stand alone prose--the words and truth behind the words are so, so beautiful.  I now have the blessing of more than Shakespeare's eloquence through the wisdom of Portia; I can visualize two real women, who long ago blessed one another with the gentle rain from heaven that twice blest.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ingenuity Through the Ages

An empty masking tape roll sat on the children's bathroom counter for a few days before I asked, "Can I throw this away?"

Anni responds, "No, it's good for crafts."

I inwardly roll my eyes and think pack rat, but I love this pack rat and completely love that this is the  nature of this child.

Later when I use the last paper towel, I'm tempted to keep the "craft item" for Anni. I succumb to my white tornado self and toss it in the recycle can.

Saturday arrives and it's time for soccer practice. Annika didn't bring her shin guards when we switched houses. It's almost time to leave and her house is a good twenty minutes away. Anni contemplates the alternatives: don't go, borrow Max's (he doesn't wear his in practice), borrow some from a friend ( no guarantees here).

This is when her ingenuity kicks in. "I'll make some. Do you have some cardboard?" There is a computer box top within arm's reach. She wields scissors and produces two rectangles. She bends the cardboard to her legs, we add some air-filled packing wrap for cushion and she slips the guards into her socks. They look pretty good, but I'm dubious.

When I pick up Anni three hours later, after watching her game, she's still wearing the homemade shin guards. When we get in the car she pulls them off with no complaints, no indentations nor blisters, and I am impressed.

When we go back to her house, I take a closer look at the craft area reserved just for her creative side. It's right off the kitchen in what should have been the formal dining area, but her mother understood this child and she nurtures her child's ingenuity, her need to create.

 Annika's great grandmother, my mother, used her ingenuity when faced with a somewhat similar problem: a school dance. Mom's dance shoes were too worn to wear to the dance and her family was too poor to buy new shoes; but this didn't keep Mom from dancing. She cut from a piece of cardboard two new soles for her shoes.

My creative Mom, my creative granddaughter-- so thankful for them both.

Annika's Sacred Space and Tools For Her Creativity~~