Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Grandin Road's Get the Look - Designers Contest - OlioBoard

It looks so cozy...I imagine a rainy Sunday morning outside....
The people over at Olioboard are having a contest. The winner receives a $500 gift card toward furniture, and I need some furniture! Please come on over to my entry on Grandin Road's Get the Look - Designers Contest - OlioBoard and vote for my Monday Meditation room (my ideal bedroom -- or darn close!), and help me win. Please!

And while you're there, get your account...it's a fun way to try out new looks for your rooms, or just to play!  If you decide to create rooms of your own, post links here so I can see them!

Here are's another one of my designs...not in the contest, but just fun to make....

This one feels very serene....

Monday, 30 August 2010

Inspired to document the little things in my life

There are no pictures on this blog post because I have not been taking any.  And that is about to stop....

After reading yesterday's post on 52 Flea about the little things, and then seeing the photos on Kate's blogs, I realized that I have gotten lazy about photography.  Sure I have lots of great photos from Pennsylvania that I can use on my posts.  And I have Florida pictures from the past few years, too. Many of those are on this blog, including my profile photo, which was taken on a weekend sail off of Miami.  And I have a ton of photos from the wedding -- about 900 or so I need to go through.

But since then, except for a couple of shots of our new puppy, I haven't been taking pictures.  Why?

It's not that I stopped noticing things.

When I walk to the dog park, I see the magnificent oak trees that fill our development, and stare up in wonder at their branches and leaves, and the tiny hint of sky that peeks through.

And I watch the happiness on my dog's face when she sees her friends as we approach the gate.  She smiles -- she really does!

My daughters returned home a few days ago, just in time to start school   And I delighted in seeing their faces, the new haircuts, the subtle changes in them since they went away for the summer.

I've seen lovely flowers, beautiful buildings.  I've finished some art.  I've been working on the house, and seeing that change.

And yet, no photos.  None. I really don't know why. I wish I did.  But I know that it's time to fix it.  It's time to pick up the cameras and start capturing the details I see. It's time to take the digital out, and the film cameras and the lenses -- and start capturing moments again.  It's time to share what I see.  It's time.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Mosaic Monday and another new blog to read, too.

For the first time, I've participated in a a new blog sharing, with the Little Red House blog, and her Mosaic Monday.  If you haven't seen it, be sure to stop over and check out her wonderful  mosaic in purple and yellow -- royal colors!

And thanks to her list of bloggers playing along, I also found 52 Flea, and her reminder to pay attention to the little things in life. And that led me to Chronicles of a Country Girl, who I also had to follow.  She lives in the same general area where I did for 10 years, and her photography is stunning!

A happy Sunday online...hope yours is good!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Angels on the street...for Pink Saturday

There are a lot of pictures we want to put into our scrapbooks.  Birthday parties, new babies, weddings and vacations probably account for most of what we put into our scrapbooks.  And those are all great things to remember -- milestones in our lives.

But what about scrapbook the imprint we leave on the world?  Have you ever considered creating a scrapbook of the things you do that make a difference in someone's life? In the earth?

I know, some people will say that those things should be kept secret.  According to the ancient Rabbis, doing good things is best if the donor never knows of the recipient, the recipient never knows from whom the help came, and no one else knows about the event at all.

But there was an interesting study I read about recently that I'm sure the Rabbis never considered.  It seems that if people are told to count the number of good deeds they do, even if they are not told to do any or to do any more, they do in fact perform more acts of charity and kindness in a given time period than either the control group which was not told anything (they were asked to describe acts of kindness at the end of the test week), or the group that was told to do kind and charitable things, but not asked to keep count.  (I'm trying to find the study so I can add a link.)

Scrapbooking the good we do might be a very good way to encourage people to do more, to pay attention to the deeds more.  It is a visual and tangible way to count. It reminds us why we are here, and how each person's efforts matter.

The pictures in my collage are from a group I belong to called Project Downtown, a group started a few years back by a handful of Muslim students from the University of Miami.. My daughter calls the people we work with the Angels on the Street -- these homeless people who will rush to put their last quarter in my parking meter because they want a way to pay us back for being there for them. And they don't understand that we are the ones who are benefiting most....

Where once when we came in old jeans because we had been at a work project, a new Angel who thought we were homeless offered my girls and I his room at the shelter, because it would be just wrong for a mom and kids to be on the street.  (Did I mention it was one of the coldest days in S. Florida history -- around 35 degrees, when he made that offer?)

Where we met the man who would not accept a dollar from me at a street corner, after asking me if I was a single mom.  He had to sleep at night, he said, and better to be a little hungry than feel guilty.  We cried as we drove away.

The streets of Fort Lauderdale are where we met and came to know a homeless man  named David Martin.  A man in a wheelchair, who spent his days and nights trying to make things better for other people on the street, and yet never complained about his own misfortune. The result was a project that came into being right after his death earlier this year -- a coalition of area churches working together to address homelessness in a tangible way. Hope South Florida is all that David dreamed it could be.

So these precious moments, these times when we, along with the other volunteers, get a chance to make a difference, belong in my scrapbooks.  So do the days my children clean up a city park, or the times one of us helps an elderly neighbor with home repairs. And those moments belong on my blog -- and on your blogs. So in honor of David Martin, and his inspiration, I dedicate my Pink Saturday Post.  There may not be much pink in it, but there's a lot of heart in it, and that has to count.

Today's Pink Saturday giveaway -- also inspired by The Katillac Shack inspired home make-over miracle video...

To encourage more people to remember their acts of kindness, I am giving away a scrapbook kit, including a 12x12 acid free Pioneer album, photo stickers, some acid-free paper and a set of scrapbook scissors.  To win, just comment on this post, and promise me that you will spend one hour in the month of September volunteering.  I don't need to know what -- I just want to get the ball rolling. And if you can, give a donation to Habitat for Humanity or Project Downtown -- if we all pull together, maybe someday, no one will be homeless.

A Friday Five ON a Friday? How can it be?????

My Dorm at the University of Miami
Yes, I am on time for once!  Today's Friday Five from RevGalPals is about college life.  So here goes...

1) What was the hardest thing to leave behind when you went away to school for the first time?  My horse.  I missed him sooooo much!  

2) We live in the era of helicopter parents. How much fuss did your parents make when you first left home?  My parents drove me to college, helped me move in, went with me to the store to buy the bedding, even bought matching bedding for my roommates who had not gotten theirs yet, so we could have a coordinated room.  Yeah, pretty much helicopter. :-) 

3) Share a favorite memory of living with schoolmates, whether in a dorm or other shared housing. My first college roommate had never talked to a Jew or a black person in her life.  Guess who she got for her two roommates? LOL! (She was the daughter of a very high-ranking Marine officer, and apparently there were not a lot of Jewish or black officers at that level, or at least her family did not socialize with them.)   I can still remember her attempts to be -- well, comfortable.  But she moved out after a couple of months.  At that point, we felt sorry for her. She missed all the fun we had the rest of the year. 

4) What absolute necessity of college life in your day would seem hilariously out-of-date now?  Cassette player in my stereo.  Heck, even the stereo!  

5) What innovation of today do you wish had been part of your life in college? iPods!  And iPhones! 

Bonus question for those whose college days feel like a long time ago: Share a rule or regulation that will seem funny now. Did you really follow it then?  My Freshman year, my parents insisted that I live on an all girls floor, instead of the co-ed ones.  That meant that men were supposed to be off the floor by midnight.  The reality was they were there 24/7, including the R.A.'s boyfriend.  The next year, I was in a 100% co-ed dorm. So much for their plan. (As for whether I followed it, yes, but only because I was barely 17 and was a complete innocent that year.  I was pretty terrified of what went on in some of those rooms, honestly!) 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Random questions from a Wednesday

Image from Susan Loone's Blog
Why would someone steal my change tray from my car?  It had maybe $2.00 in it, mostly pennies.  It would be more work to count it than it is probably worth.  Has the country gotten that bad off?

Added 8/26/2010 -- I have been feeling bad ever since I published that line above.  Just about 3 years ago, the loss of $2.00 might have meant that one of my daughters couldn't go to school that day, because I sometimes had no food that could go in a lunch box.  Things that could be reheated or cooked at home, yes, but not anything to take.  It was a scary time. And I still have nightmares about it.  So I have no business being flip or acting like I don't understand that kind of desperation.  No, I never took change from someone else's car -- but many days I did search for that last nickel or dime under my car mats or in pockets. So to whomever took the money, I send my blessings and my wishes that soon you will not be in need of change -- that you will be blessed with abundance and will be more than able to buy whatever it is that you needed that money for. I know how you feel now. And I'm sorry for my callousness. 

30 minutes of yoga and Pilates races by..  30 minutes in a coffee shop passes in seconds. 30 minutes in a traffic jam takes forever.  How can people think time is really fixed and linear?

What is sleep, really?  Is it a time to allow our bodies to rest, or a time to allow our minds/spirits/souls to work?

If housing sales have dropped to an all time low, and no one who has a house can sell it to buy a new one, and no one who doesn't have a house can qualify for a new one, how are we ever going to get out of that circle?

If all religions claim to be the right one, the chosen one, the correct one, what does that say about their view of G-d?  It seems to me that it would mean that G-d is either cruel, allowing the overwhelming majority of it/his/her creation to spend their lives in hopeless error, or that G-d is unable to get the "true" message across effectively.  Either one is pretty depressing. (BTW, I don't happen to believe there is one superior way/religion.  So G-d's off the hook with me,)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

I saw this question on Chronicles of a Busy Mind, and it made me think....

I'm a lifetime science fiction geek, so I know the risks of going down this path....no matter what you change for the better, it always makes other things worse.  But since there's no risk of that (because my access to a working time machine is zero!), I decided to play along.

So here goes my advice to my younger, not yet aware self:

Life is going to be a lot more complicated and a lot more interesting than you think now.  But hang on, it's so worth the ride.             First of all, don't spend the next decade or so trying to do things to get mom to love you.  It isn't going to work, and you're going to waste a lot of time, energy and money getting degrees you don't need, studying things you do not want to study, and in the end, it won't have any affect except to make you sad and frustrated.  
             Study what makes YOU happy. Study art and theatre and architecture. Maybe give organic another try.                    But before you step back into any classroom, there are a few things you need to do -- travel.  Take that trip to Paris.  Go to Egypt. Go to Israel and Russia and Indonesia. Go everywhere and anywhere.  Learn more languages while you can, and then go to places where you can use them.              And along the way, make sure you stop in Gainesville next year to visit M. -- and meet his roommate.  He's going to be an important person in your future, so you want to meet him sooner this time.                       Still ...make time in your life to have kids -- there are three awesome ones you won't want to miss, even if it involves some stressful years. They are worth all of that and more. And if you play it right with that roommate in Gainesville and connect sooner, you may add another couple of kids to make it all complete.                Learn to stand up for yourself sooner. Learn to say no -- and to say yes -- and learn when you really mean each of those.              
          Write more.  You have talent, and if you realize that sooner, you might be able to do more with it.          Spend more mornings watching the sunrise and less mornings in rush hour traffic.             Keep up with dance and yoga -- it'll be easier than trying to go back to it later on.                   And all that money you earned during college?  Don't waste it.  Buy a house in Miami.  Buy the family farm in Illinois.  Buy land in Boulder. Trust me, you'll be happier about that, in the long run, than you will be with the designer clothes, trips to the Bahamas and $300 shoes. Learn how to budget and invest now. Then do it forever.     Worry less. Most of the things you'll worry about will never happen. 
Like who you are, as G-d made you, as you are.  Never feel the need to defend your vegetarian, spiritually-focused, long skirt-wearing, book-loving self.  Someday you'll reach that point anyhow -- better to get to that point of comfort with who you are sooner, and save yourself years of feeling that you ought to be someone different.  
Be happier, sooner.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Friday Five on Monday!

There is a wonderful website I follow, thanks to a group called RevGalPals.  Each Friday, there's a Friday Five of questions to answer...but I almost never get to the post on Friday!  Oops!  So here, a few days late, is my Friday Five Answers, on Monday!

1. What things do you like to hang on to?  Books, photos and things I plan to put in scrapbooks

2. What is hard to let go of?  Books

3. What is easy to give away?  Household things.  I have no attachment to appliances, dishes, printers, vacuums, etc.

4. Is there any kind of stumbling block connected with cleaning out?  I get distracted looking through things, and I tend to get too much out to sort at once so I get overwhelmed.

5. What do you like to collect, hoard, or admire?  Books, antique photos

Bonus: Tell us about recycling or whatever you can think of that goes along with this muttering about cluttering.

I used to be a clutter-a-holic, holding on to endless papers, memorabilia, things I was going to use/fix/give away/send to someone/use in an art project.  Then I found FlyLady, and learned to clear my clutter, part with my collections (including giving away or selling all but 3 of my 50+ teapots!  The more I got rid of, the more I wanted to get rid of!  Amazing!  I will NEVER go back to that! 

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Hamsa - Five - Celebrating 5 months of marriage and my husband's birthday

Our hats on the hotel windowsill the morning after the wedding
 Today we are celebrating five months of marriage.  And at the same time, we are celebrating my husband's birthday -- there is also a 5 in his age.  And the date: 8/21/2010, if you add it up, 8+2+1+2+1=14, and 1+ 4 = 5 .

The coincidence occurred to me as I was thinking about the five months since our wedding day. And buying his birthday present. (It's amazing what runs through my mind when I'm standing in line! Sometimes I do calculus equations -- this time it was numerology. Oh well!)

Now, I am not a big fan of numerology, but that synchronicity caught my attention. Could it be just an accident?  It seems, even to the number skeptic (me!) that that is even more unlikely.

So I started thinking about the number five.  I wear a piece of Judaic/Islamic jewelry called a Hamsah.  It is a common religious symbol in the Middle East and North Africa, but in all of them, it represents protection and good fortune.  Some call it the Hand of Miriam, some call it the Hand of Fatima.  I've even heard it called the Hand of G-d.  But whatever the name, the symmetrical five finger-arrangement makes it distinctive.  In fact, the word "Hamsah" means five in Arabic.  So why is this symbol of five considered so powerful?

The Zohar, the classic work of Jewish mysticism and esoteric knowledge, has numerous mentions of powerful fives, including the five gates of salvation.  Kabbalist Rabbi Issac Luria wrote about the "... five souls, Nefesh ("Spirit"), Ru'ach ("Wind"), Neshamah ("Soul"), 
Chayah ("Life"), and Yechidah ("Singular"); the first of these being the lowest, and the last the highest. (Source: Etz Chayim)" .The Torah itself consists of Five Books of Moses. 

And Islamic practice is based upon Five Pillars.  Shahadah, a statement professing monotheism and accepting Muhammad as one of G-d's messengers. Salah, the daily prayer  which is made five times each day (another five.) Zakat, or charitable giving.  Sawm, or fasting, especially during the approximately 30 day period known as Ramadan.  And Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca.

There are also Five Precepts of the Buddha Gautama in the Theravada (mainly southeast and south Asia) and Mahayana (in China, Korea, and Japan) traditions. The Five Precepts are promises to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication.

I'm sure there are more, in other religions and cultures.  But the powerful presence of these major five, along with the fives in our life today feel like a great opportunity. I'm not sure how or what form it might take, but the message is too clear to ignore. 

For my husband on his birthday, and for the two of us on this five month anniversary, it's going to be a very special day. 

Happy Pink Saturday, everyone! 

Friday, 20 August 2010

The power of alone time

When I was little, I knew I needed it. I would tell my playmates it was time for them to go home now. It wasn't that I didn't love having them over.  But I also knew, it seems, that enough was enough. And when that time came, I wanted my alone time to play pretend or draw or do whatever it was that my future-writer/artist self needed to do.

So why is being alone sometimes so critical to me? Why does it feel so natural to me, and so odd to others?

Part of it is being a non-belonger.  That doesn't mean I am a loner.  It just means that I don't have a strong drive to be a part of a group.  My identity is not dependent on religious, social or ethnic labels. For those with a strong drive to belong, being alone can be uncomfortable. Their self is primarily defined by the groups they are with. For non-belongers, our "self" is defined internally. So alone is still me.

Another part of it is being creative and artistic.  It's much harder to be creative in a group.  You've probably met others like me -- I'm the one who always tried to get out of group projects at school.  Now you remember, right?  The one who was happy when there was an odd number and someone had to do their report/research project/art alone.  Yup, that was me.

At work, I love my office with its door I can shut when I need to focus on a project. (For me, living heck would be a cubicle!)  When I'm alone at work or at home, I can plan a webpage or a large-format art project or work through the dialog in something I'm writing. When there are people around, my thoughts are more scattered, and I tend to focus on the people rather than the work. Then nothing gets done.

The rest of the reason?  Not sure, exactly.I can guess at some of it.

  • I like to read, uninterrupted  And that's hard to do when you're not alone.  
  • I am rather introverted, so being around people all the time exhausts me -- I need recharge time before I can be "on" again. 
  • And my spiritual life is pretty much inward.  I'm not inspired by group prayer, although the energy is often good.  My soul connection is in silence.

Anyhow, I was surfing the blogisphere, and I came across a blog post about alone time, with an awesome video in it...so for those of you who aren't sure if you need alone time, or who may want it but find the idea kind of intimidating, here is some sage advice on learning how to be happily, joyfully alone. But before you click on it, you might want to stop the blog music -- the player is just to the right, and it's called "Music to Read By" ...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A mission statement for my blog?? Hmmmmm....

When I first started my blog, way back in 2007, I'm not sure what I expected it to be about, exactly. I'd had two before this one, and I now have several other personal and business blogs, but this one is special somehow.

Even so, I wasn't really making it all it could be. Months would go by without more than a post or two. Sometimes none. I would read other people's blogs, but not comment. I did not really participate in the communities the way I did for some other blogs I own.

But about two months ago, I decided it was commit to it or leave it alone. I could not have it half hearted any more.

So I started reading and commenting and playing along with other art blogs or spiritual blogs. My posts became more regular. And I gave the site a facelift. A major one, not just changing the background images or fonts like I did in the past.

And then today, I read a post on The Blooming Wildflowers Project about getting passionate about a blog's success! And that is exactly what I've been doing.

Christie suggested starting with a mission statement...so I dug out my old one for this blog -- and it was gone!! In my redesign, somehow my metadata had vanished! Aggghhhh! And I do SEO for a living!

So in gratitude to Christie for writing her post, which inspired me to write mine, which forced me to look at (or for) my old mission statement, which resulted in me finding the missing metadata which I am putting back after writing this post......whew!! After ALL of that, here is my new and better mission statement!
This, That and The Other is the reflection of my life, my spirit, my view of the world. It is a collection of sometimes rambling, sometimes surprisingly insightful comments on my kids, my faith, my art, my place on the planet, my new marriage, my old friends and the twisting, rock-strewn, tree shaded, always interesting road that brought me to this place and time. I hope it provides inspiration for those who need it, laughter for those who weep, food for thought for those hungry for new ideas, and a place of growth and learning for me.

Like Tabitha at The Knitting Journeyman Redux who found that the idea of a clear mission statement made her think, the assignment (and the missing metadata!) made me pay attention to why I spend a portion of every single day writing to people I may never see.. Made me focus. Thank you, Christie, for the serendipity and the inspiration!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Oh wow! I grew up to be a writer, an artist and a coder! How cool is that??!

Image from http://drawn.ca/

I can remember being a little girl, thinking about all the things I might want to be when I grew up. A dancer, a doctor, a pilot, a writer, an architect, a set designer...there were soooo many things I wanted to do.

And then there was the short list my parents gave me of acceptable choices:
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Engineer
Meanwhile, I filled books with my stories and poems, spent hours and hours drawing pictures (mostly of horses or horse-related things!), and then once I had access to computers at school, playing around with code.

I applied to college with a double major of theatre and architecture. My parents immediately changed that plan, and it became premed. Then when it became clear that organic chemistry and I were never going to get along well, I was allowed to switch to English and psychology, as preparation for law school.

One year of law school at age 21 was a disaster...I was the youngest in the class by several years, and my heart was far from in it. It was an epic fail in so many way. Then there was more university time, and a couple of grad degrees. In Political Science, of all things. And still, through it all, I wrote and drew and painted. I bought a computer and played around with changing things, coding and learning how it worked.

One day, I got a job as a feature writer on a small town newspaper. And I loved it! And I wrote and took photos. And I entered some graphics in a small town fair art show and I won! And I bought my third or fourth computer.

Then there was a writing job for an online catalog site. And there,  I got to learn all about Search Engine Optimization (SEO - the stuff that goes on behind the scenes in a website.) I learned how to write and edit HTML. And because it was a small company, I also got to select images for our pages and articles, and work with Photoshop, too.

A few years later, I got another job where all of those same things were needed, but for a big company...

And so it goes...

Now, my days are spent online, writing articles and posts and other content, creating and fixing the HTML code behind our company's pages, and at home, doing my art.

And yet it was not until yesterday, as I was riding in the car, on the way home from dinner with my husband that it occurred to me that I have grown up to do all the things I loved to do as a child! I make my living by writing and coding and doing art!

Now I ask you...for someone who took so many other paths, and who was directed away from all she loved sooooo many times, how absolutely awesome is that???!

Thanks, G-d. Thanks, Universe. You got me exactly where I was meant to be :-)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Levels of awareness, levels of mindfulness

The next time you're about to bite into a big juicy apple, like the Granny Smith I have sitting next to my keyboard, stop for a minute or two and consider exactly how that apple got to you.

The first answer might be, I went to the grocery store and bought it. End of story.

But the fact is, it's not! In fact, it's only a tiny and incomplete picture out of the story.

Start from where you are. You bought the apple. But where did the apple come from, before it was on the shelf at your local Giant or Publix or Smiths or wherever you shop?  Someone had to put the apple on display.  Someone had to deliver the apples to the store.  Probably someone had to box up the apples -- for sure, someone had to pick them.

And then there's the farmer.  He or she tended the trees, maybe even planted them from the start.  They had to make sure the trees had everything they needed to grow. Their lives are devoted to growing food for other people to eat!  How cool is that?  And how often do we think about it?

And then there's G-d or nature or Mother Earth, whatever you call it, which provided the water and the soil and the seeds and the sunshine.  And the fact that this apple, and in fact, the entire apple tree, came from a tiny seed -- one just like the one in the apple in your hand.  A seed someone, somewhere did plant, to grow the tree, that grew your apple. And the incredibly, miraculous fact that in that tiny seed are all the instructions for growing a tree, including the leaves and the branches -- as well as everything needed to know how to produce an apple!  All of that in a SEED!  Think of the size of the computer memory that would be needed to handle that level of complexity!

Now to the apple, itself....

And look at the apple itself.  The color...mine is a lovely bright green, about the size of my palm. On the top, the last vestige of its connection to the tree that it came from -- much like an umbilical cord. From seed to tree to my hand. Connected.

I slice open the apple -- the sound is crunch and juicy, the smell of tart apple is all around me. I take a bite.  Sweet-tart.  Very juicy. Firm and crispy.

And here is where the concept in Judaism of a bracha (blessing) comes from.  It's also the core of Buddhist mindfulness. If we pay this kind of attention to an apple, and feel gratitude for all that went into the creation of and arrival of that apple in your hand, one cannot help but want to say a blessing.

Some people say formulaic blessings, one for each kind of food like fruits, dairy, etc.  But I think that runs the risk of making the blessing as rote as the eating often becomes. There are even little booklets of the "official" blessings (I have one) that contain endless lists of foods and the sanctioned blessing for each.

I would rather create my own.  Silently.  A heartfelt connection to the food I'm eating.  No, I do not do it at every meal, or heaven forbid, at every bite as a very over-zealous acquaintance once suggested.  But I do it often enough to keep myself aware that even the apple I bough an hour ago at the grocery store represents a long chain of events and choices before it reaches me. That mindfulness, and the wonder and gratitude that goes along with it, is my bracha.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

That certain sunrise....

Sunrise on Deerfield Beach, Florida

There is a certain, almost magical look to sunrise on a beach.  It feels, for a moment or two, that anything is possible...any dream can come true, any mistake can be corrected, any pain can be overcome. 

As I watch the sky being painted in light and breathtaking swirls of pastel pinks and blues and lavenders, it seems that even a whispered word is too loud, too out of place.  Even more so than in a synagogue or church, I feel that saying anything out loud would be sacrilegious. It feels as though I am being given a glimpse into the very process of creation -- a view through G-d's eyes at all the world was meant to be. 

Over the years, sunrises on the beach have been times and places for special moments.  I said goodbye to dear friend one sunrise on a beach a little south of here.  We sat in silence, and watched as the light crept in, the colours and patterns of the morning clouds created before our eyes. We always planned to get together again someday...now years later, it has never happened. A goodbye sealed on a sunrise beach is a forever kind of farewell. I think we both knew that then, but neither of us said it. 

I've sat on sunrise beaches alone, crying for a lost dream.  And I've walked along sunrise beaches with my heart singing in joy and hope and excitement.  I've seen them alone, and with dear friends and family members.  Each time, the experience has been something unique and meaningful  You can't take sunrise on a beach for granted...it won't let you. 

The pictures on this post were taken on a breezy December morning as I sat on the beach in Deerfield Beach, an area just north of Fort Lauderdale.  Except for the one lone soul walking along the water's edge (just visible in one shot), I was alone.  It was a morning of "anything is possible" and all is right with the world. It was a perfect winter sunrise. 

I just joined a meditation and yoga group that meets once a week at sunrise on the beach. I'm excited about the prospect of greeting the sunrise with mindfulness and spirit. Whatever I see and feel there next week, I know it will be something special.  The sunrise would not have it any other way. 

(Posted in honor of Pink Saturday

Friday, 13 August 2010

Blogging since 2005, but what have I learned?

Image from http://webbuildinginfo.com
I saw a blog post on Better in Bulk asking what people had learned from blogging...I hadn't really thought about it before.

My first blog was back in May of 2005. I joined the Blogger community in 2006, and since then have written a number of personal and professional blogs on Blogger, Wordpress, company websites and several other platforms.

So what have I learned?

From the personal blogs:

  • Blogs allow me to "meet" and connect with so many wonderful/interesting/inspiring people around the world -- people I would never have spoken to or even known about without the deep give-and-take of blog posts. Facebook just isn't the same. (This was echoed by Danette at S.O.S, who commented on the blog.)
  • Writing blog posts allows me to get to know myself better, too. The limited length of a post (seriously, NO ONE is going to read a three page post!), the process of selecting an image, even the choice of tags -- all of it forces me to think hard about what I want to say, and how people will react.
  • People you have never met are interested in what you have to say. Amazing!
  • In our busy, always rushing culture, people still need to connect with others who share their concerns or stage of life or questions. (Can I have a chorus of "People" by Barbra Streisand here??!)
  • Sometimes pouring your heart out in a blog post really does make the pain easier to deal with. Even if no one comments.
  • Comments that show people are really reading your blog feel great!

From business blogs:

  • People really do buy more from people than from ads. Even business owners and managers who are looking for information or products for professional use respond better to a more personal and friendly message.
  • Customers know if your blog and the message are sincere, or it's just a sales pitch.
  • Humor, especially humor targeted to the specific industry, is a great tool for building a following and trust. Dare to be silly!

I found lots of other lists and thoughts about what people have learned from blogging. There's a Top 10 list at Musings from Me, some blogging advice at Wonderfully Chaotic,and wonderful quote from Sugar Filled Emotions...
"I have learned that my neighborhood is as big as the world"
And that's about as perfect a comment on blogging as I could imagine!

Thank you Lolli for starting this thread!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Finding my colors....

I've been struggling trying to find my colors lately.  No, I'm not talking about deciding which season I am for fashions.  I'm talking about colors for our home.  Right now, the walls are white, the trim and doors are beige and the carpet is oatmeal. Couple that with the brown wood cabinets and off-white counters in the kitchen and you have a color-lovers worst nightmare!  
So I am trying to select colors for every room.  And because it's an open floor plan, I'm also trying to select colors to carry from one room or area to next without too many transitions.  
Then I found Lisa Carke's blog, Polka Dot Cottage, and a cool tool she found called The Color Palette Generator.  And suddenly I had found my answer.  

Lisa's post was about blogging the colours of our homes, using this tool.  But because the inside of my home right now lacks colour, and the outside is the development-mandated poop brown, I decided to use the tool to look at photos of places where I feel happy, hoping to find my the right shades and combinations to make our interior feel that way, too. 
So here goes.  
The first picture is a spot in Elizabethtown, Pa where I could stand or sit for hours just peacefully contemplating the view and life and everything else.

The second is from our wedding in March...the colours we used made me feel happy and hopeful and joyous.

And the third is from a hiking trip to Ocala last November....

Until this point, I had not really consider greens for the interior.  I was learning towards reds, burgundies, and other warm tones.  But the paint chips and samples just were not looking right with the house -- or to my eye.  

Now, I see why!  So greens look like the right choice for this house, for now in our lives.  Thank you Lisa, for seeding your blog post so I could find it!  

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Story of Cindy

I see her almost every morning as I head to work.  A solitary figure in a long black skirt, a man's black windbreaker, sturdy boots and a hat pulled low over her face, despite the raging south Florida heat. She's usually carrying a bag or two, but never more than you'd see after someone has been shopping at the mall. Never enough to give her away. Never enough bags to look homeless...but she is.

If I stop for tea or a bagel before work, she's often there  -- sometimes eating her own breakfast, sometimes just sitting at a table, sometimes walking past.  We've talked now and then.  She knows me well enough to say hello, to chat for a bit.

The first time I talked with her, she was sitting alone on a bench by the fountain.  It was well over 90 degrees, but she was dressed entirely in black.  Layers of black.  I said hello, and she began to talk to me.  Her face was surprisingly young -- maybe late 30's or early 40's.  Her voice and her vocabulary suggest a very good education, a comfortable upbringing.

She used to be an artist, she told me. A good one.  She had a studio and a future. She shows me some sketches from one her bags.  The subjects are confusing...a bit of this, a bit of that, but the skill is very much there. She tells me she lost everything to a partner, who took her studio, destroyed her career. She watched the partner walk away with the success that should have been hers.  And that was the end. She didn't say how -- I have no idea if she walked away from her former life, had a breakdown or simply gave in to demons that may have existed all along.

But the result was a loss of her home. And perhaps saddest of all, a loss of her name.  You see, I call her Cindy to myself.  She looks like a Cindy.  But she says that when she stopped being an artist, when she lost her future (her words), she also lost her name.  Whatever she loves or likes, she tells me, she loses.  It is taken away.  So she hid her name, even from herself, so she would not lose it. She would not say more.

So nameless, she walks the streets and rides the buses in South Florida.  Always clean, always polite, always dressed from head to toe in heavy back clothing.

A lost soul, who lost her own name...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Mindful watching

One of my goals -- one of my spiritual goals -- was to be more mindful.  To really be in the moment.  And as the universe seems to behave, I got some help on that front almost as soon as the decision was made.

On Sunday, our Temple had an open house.  And as I was browsing in the gift shop there, I saw a book that seemed to demand that I take it off the shelf...it's called The Busy Soul, and it offers targeted meditations, prayers and exercises for each season of the year.  I opened to the summer section, and what did I see? A section about focusing on the here and now!  Mindfulness!

So this morning, I sat for half an hour at my favourite Panera Bread, and I just was.  Just like the title of another favourite book, Don't Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat with Sylvia Boorstein, I just sat and looked and listened.

The sky this morning in the Sunshine State was pewter grey. But unlike some grey days, the deep silvery color served to highlight and illuminate the hundreds of shades of green in the trees and bushes and grass.  Everything was glowing with color.

I sat there, at my table under the overhang, just out of reach of the light drizzle, and watched the deep green fronds of a palm tree move in the breeze.  I had forgotten how graceful their movement could be. How long had it been since I had really looked...watched...allowed my mind to really SEE the trees? Months?  Years? I was entranced.

When I was a child growing up down here, I used to sit on my parents' patio and do this kind of mindful watching, as the trees by the water swayed and danced in the wind. After awhile, I could feel their movement, as though my body was a part of that wild movement.  I could feel the wind's strength as it invisibly pushed big branches from side to side, or even in frenzied circles.  I didn't call it mindfulness then.  I had never heard the word.  I just loved feeling as though I was one with the trees.

I guess I wasn't a normal child -- those minutes or hours I spent watching the trees on windy days were more interesting to me than whatever might have been on TV.  It was an experience I didn't share with anyone for years -- and then it was greeted with looks of ....uncomfortableness.  No one seemed to understand. So I stopped telling, and eventually, stopped doing.

From time to time over the years, I've spent a few minutes connecting with the movement of the wind and the trees.  But I can't remember when the last time was.  Until today.  And the magic is still there.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Pink Saturday Winner!

And the winner is.....

Luluslovlies!  I will be shipping her gifts out later today or first thing tomorrow a.m.  I was going to post a photo of the giveaway, but I decided I don't want to spoil the surprise :-)  So once it's been received, I'll share the photos with everyone.

Thank you, gentle readers!  Looking forward to playing again soon!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

A pink-wearing, card-carrying independent woman...and a Pink Florida Giveaway!

Heading out for a day of snorkeling 
I love wearing pink...pink t-shirts, pink skirts, pink hats.  I even carry a pink purse. But for some reason, people find that surprising.  I once had someone ask me if I objected to pink electronics!  "Why would I?" I asked. "Well, you're so self-sufficient..."


Sure, I love my career as an Search Engine Optimization specialist -- I'm a geek at heart, and this job lets me spend my days in front of a computer, tweaking code and content to make pages rank better on Google, and convert visitors into customers.  It's fun!

And I'm well educated.  And willing to stand up for my beliefs.  I can hold my own in a discussion with other professionals, or defend my viewpoint in a debate over a Torah passage, the right way to train a dog (with praise and treats only), or the role of meditation in a healthy lifestyle (essential!)

But why would any of that mean I shouldn't like pink?

I think there is a misconception, and it's apparently a popular one.  It kind of goes like this.

1) Pink is a girl's color
2) Girls are traditionally and generally ineffectual, fluffy-headed and not really able to take care of themselves.
3) So strong, intelligent, capable women cannot like a color associated with "girly-things"  In fact they will be offended if they receive pink gifts.

Hogwash! Let me clear this up right now!

I love to wear pink!  I am NOT offended by pink electronics, pink accessories or pink just about anything!  Probably half of my closet is pink stuff.  The other dominant color is purple.  Probably another "girl colour" I should find offensive. Too bad!

I am happy to be female.  Happy to be intelligent and self-sufficient.  Also happy to have a gentleman open a door, pull out a chair or bring me flowers.  It is possible to be all of that, and more. In pink...or blue or purple or green or black....

A trivia fact: In Victorian times, pink was considered a man's colour.  It was too intense, they thought, for women to wear. And according to some, the practice was revived in the 1920's...

In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s. From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin MarySince the 1940s, the societal norm was inverted; pink became considered appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century
                                                                     From the Wikipedia  article on "pink"

So pink it is! (Although, as I write this on Friday, I am wearing a long turquoise skirt and a top with nary a bit of pink!) Interesting....

Now for the Pink Saturday give away...

I have a pretty little tropical bowl (pink, of course!)  I am filling with trinkets associated with Florida.  I will send it to a reader who tells me in why they need a piece of Florida. :-)  It will be a random drawing, done by my door-opening, chair-pulling-out gentleman of a husband.  International readers, you are welcome to play as well. :-) The drawing will be done on Monday, so you have until then to get your comments in. I will send it to the lucky winner on Tuesday.

Happy Pink Saturday! 

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Moshiach is an old black woman

I was feeling kind of dispirited on my way to work today.  Nothing bad, just kind of ...blah. I am long, long overdue for some down time, and I think it's catching up with me.

As I waited at a corner to make a turn, I saw an older, dark-skinned woman waving her arms and shouting on the opposite corner.  I rolled my window down, turned off the stereo, and listened.  She was shouting with joy about G-d.  Just G-d.  Not any particular creed or version or approach.  And she was chiding people for not shouting with joy themselves.  In her heavy Haitian accent, and with arms flying, she shouted that people should not be saying "Hallelujah" with their faces in a frown, and their eyes looking down, arms hanging.  They should not be praying in muttered words and dour tones. They should be shouting to the skies and to the whole world, arms up and a big smile on their faces.  Dancing! Singing!  Sharing their happiness for the whole universe to see.

She's right! The reality of G-d should be joy!  How could it be otherwise when we have butterflies and new-born babies and fluffy white clouds in blue summer skies and autumn leaves and snowy winter sunrises? Why do we pray and sing and worship with a tone and a demeanor better suited to mourning than celebrating?

There is a concept in Judaism that someday, when G-d decides the time is right, a Moshiach will appear.  A person who will set the world right, lead us into a time of peace -- a return to the Garden.  Popular discussions around the idea concern whether "he" will be a military leader or a politician or a religious leader.

I would like to suggest a different idea...I think the Moshiah will be an old black woman, shouting for joy about G-d on a street corner.  She will, in her excitement and happiness and sheer delight in all that G-d is, be the one who can finally, finally, finally set us right.

So here is my song for this Shabbat...a traditional song, performed the way we should! With joy!!!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Working on my goals...

I know how important it is to have goals.  And I know that paying attention to those goals is essential for success.

So in a spirit of combining the Mussar technique of writing about and then working on our weaknesses or issues, and the Stephen Covey model of "Begin with the end in mind", I have started a goal journal.  I divided it into sections for the most important areas of my life...family & marriage, spirit, finance, career, art & creativity, health & fitness, home & surroundings, knowledge and experience.  (Covey Model of "First Things First")

In each section, I have written one goal -- one item that I really think is weak or missing or needs work.

Each day, I will write SOMETHING in each section.  A word.  A sentence.  Or draw an image.  Just to keep me paying attention to the goal everyday (Mussar model of keeping the work areas in front of our consciousness.)

Do I expect miraculous transformations?  Transformations, definitely. That is the point.  Even the process and the journey are transformational.

But miracles?  Maybe that too. Because changing something essential in our lives is a bit of a miracle. It requires that we stop and focus long enough to evaluate our issues, identify a goal level, and work towards it.  It also requires faith that G-d and the universe are cheering us on...and that -- that alone -- is a miracle. And becoming more of the person I was meant to be in this lifetime?  A definite miracle :-)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dream house? Why not?

The other day, I posted a link to my dream house on my Facebook wall. It's a beautiful home in Boulder. The view?  Well, you can see the view.  Perfect. Just perfect.

So why did I post it?  It's not that I have $2 million in the bank, and can buy it today.  I posted it because I could at some point, have 2 million in the bank.  Or 10 million. Who knows? I posted it because it's good to dream, and to remind ourselves what it is we dream about.

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day, focusing only on meetings at work, the grocery shopping list and what the kids need to do for homework.  Days, weeks, months or even years can pass by without us lifting up our heads (or our hearts) long enough to look at where we're going in life -- or remembering where we want to go. Some people forget their dreams for decades, only to realize one day, maybe when this life is almost over, what they once wanted to do and be but never got around to trying.

So here is my challenge for you today.  Take some time and think about something you want.  Something you dreamed about.  Make it a big dream. It could be a trip you wanted to take.  A degree you wanted to complete. Or a house on a mountain side you wanted to own. Find a picture that represents your dream, and post it somewhere.  On your wall, your door, your bulletin board or your Facebook wall. Tell the world what you dream about.  And then -- and here is the really important part -- tell yourself about it. Feel it. Dream it. Make it real, and see it happening.  Dare to challenge the universe -- and yourself -- to make it happen.

Dreams do come true.  But first you have to have the dream.  Happy dreaming!

Monday, 2 August 2010

What would you do with a free month? Wow!

I just read a post on a London blog asking what I would do with a free month?  Their post was inspired by an ad that claimed that NOT having to shave one's legs would free up an entire month of time....of course, they were talking about laser hair removal, and my thoughts went to friends who went to Reed and left their legs (and pits) hairy, but hey, a month is still a month!

Anyhow...before memories of my friends with hairy appendages gets me off track (just one more thing -- never wear hose with hairy legs!  Please!)

Here is my one month plan (assuming all bills were paid, of course!)

Day One -- Find a nice sidewalk cafe' and spend the morning reading, people watching and chilling out to jazz or classical music. Go home, take a nap, and zone for just that one day.

The rest of Week One -- Alternate Catching Up on all those annoying things around the house, like my messy clothes in the closet, rearranging the pantry, and sorting through folders of warranties for things I no longer own, and having lunch with friends, walking on the beach, and going to bookstores (remember, I said alternating -- all work and no play would NOT be on my agenda!)

Week Two and half of week Three -- Fly up to PA to hang out with my son and my friends up there.  Go for long hikes, shop for yummy fruits and veggies at the Farmer's Market, and take about a zillion pictures of tiny architectural details on old buildings. Show my new husband all the places he's heard about, from Mount Gretna to Lancaster to Lititz.

Remainder of week three and half of week four -- Fly to Boulder, Colorado to visit friends, hike and soak up the scenery, cool evenings and magnificent sunsets and sunrises. Take all three of my kids with me, because the older two have probably forgotten the Rockies, and the little one has never been there. Take my husband because he's ultimately fun to be with and would love it there. Go to inspiring Renewal services in the mountains.

Last few days of the month -- Fly home, relax, write, chill, get ready to return to work, inspired and happy and finally, finally, finally rested.

PS -- I have not had a vacation (not counting long weekends and family visits) in over 15 years!