Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treats...

     This morning, Jamie Ridler prompts us with this question... What treats do you wish for?  It being Halloween today, one would tend to think in terms of candy and that is indeed what I thought of.  But I also thought of how those "treats" can be memory makers...

     Haribo Gold-Bears always make me remember my childhood in Germany.  The ones sold here in the United States taste different, but it is the bag that brings the memories.  One day I'll get back to Germany and stock up on them again... or find a source to ship my inner child some occasionally.

     When I eat them, I remember volksmarches through vineyards and towns with beautiful old houses that had dark exposed wood beams on them, magical castles, Halloweens and Christmases with our front apartment window painted, and laughter.  I remember the plum orchard behind our apartment building, riding our sled down the snow covered hills and walking up to the local bakery in Bierstadt.  I remember my friends Joy and Janette, and being a Girl Scout. 


     When I think of my Uniworld Danube River cruise that I took for Christmas 2008, I think of the Mozart Chocolate balls that I bought [and ate] in Salzburg... which makes me think of the trip I took there as a child with my family and the ride through the salt mines... our whole family dressed in funny black suits to protect our clothes from the salt on the walls as we rode a small train through the tunnels.   Memories of other family trips... Nice, France... Garmisch and Berchtesgaden... and the Netherlands where we enjoyed breakfast toast with butter and chocolate sprinkles and wandering through tulip gardens.

     Zero candy bars make me remember walking home from school when we moved to Florida, stopping at the little convenience store just around the block from where we lived.

     The treats I'm wishing for this Wednesday are Haribo Gold-Bears and Mozartkugeln... and memories made while traveling with family.    

     What memories are treating you this Halloween?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The storms in our lives...

     Hurricane Sandy ~ a.k.a. Frankenstorm 2012 ~ continues to pound the northeast portion of the United States.   Not only are they getting the brunt force winds and rains that typically come with a hurricane, the cold front that is coming down is bringing snow in some areas.  It is as if there is a clash of seasons ~ hurricanes are typically associated with the summer months.

     When we face storms in life, we don't often get an aerial view of them.  At times we wish we could stand outside of ourselves and look at what is happening, but that isn't possible either.  Nor do we always get the advance warning of a change coming, as we do when we get weather warnings.

     Lately I've been facing a lot of storms in my life ~ shifting ground, turbulent winds of change, and floods of tears.  My life line throughout everything has been my faith in what I cannot yet see... in that aerial view... and in the God whose promises I cling to in faith.

Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.
He hushes the storm to a calm and to a gentle whisper, so that the waves of the sea are still.
Then the men are glad because of the calm, and He brings them to their desired haven.
~ Psalm 107:28-30 NIV ~

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Rose by any other name...

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
William Shakespeare ~ Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
     Names.  Labels.  Things we call someone to "define" who they are because of some physical, mental, or other characteristic.  Why?  To make ourselves feel better?  To make someone else feel less than?

     I've been called Carrot Top, but not in a nice way.  Four Eyes because of my glasses at an early age, which I defiantly corrected to Six Eyes when I began wearing bifocals at the age of ten.   I was a Pigeon Toed Freak when I wore braces on my legs for a year... even with the pants my mom sewed and made to cover the cables that ran from my hips to my shoes.

     I still cringe when I hear someone called a name ... a label ... like that.

     Today I read a post by Karen at This Old House 2, and she shared a link to an amazing post by a young man who has been fighting his whole life against labels.  John Franklin Stephens, who is a Special Olympics athlete and ambassador.  What a powerful letter he has written, and how far he has come.  I'm humbled by his intelligence and struggles.

     In my journey through the Bible the last few months, I studied a passage in Colossians.  In reading it, I realized that Paul was telling the people of Colossia... and us... that there are no labels on people.  There shouldn't be any at least.  Because we are all one.  We may look different on the outside, but we are all the same on the inside.

     The next time you are tempted to label someone ... label them blessed.  Label them brilliant.  Label them awesome.  Label them ... forgiven. 

"Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. 
From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”
~ Colossians 3:11 ~

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Acceptance...

     Today is "I Heart My Body" day.

     I haven't always hearted my body.  I hated to dress out in gym class when I was in school because I felt so ... less than ... the other girls.  I was usually "new kid" and so last chosen for any team sports because no one knew me.  I was an "outsider" and a "loner."  I was uncomfortable in my own skin in more ways than one.

     Eventually my personality acquired more of an extrovert aspect ... the result of being humiliated at group level by 300+ of my peers in high school.  I figured that after being laughed at by so many people [and God not answering my silent prayer for spontaneous combustion] ... how much worse could life get?

     But I still struggled for years with my self-image. I never felt I was pretty ... "enough" ... or skinny ... "enough" ... or my breasts were never big "enough."

     Many years later when I was in my late-30's, my [now-ex] husband who was beginning his own mid-life crisis decided that we needed to visit some "clothing optional" resorts.

     I panicked.

     I could barely stand to look at my own "clothing optional" body or have him see me "clothing optional" and now he wanted me to be out in public and "clothing optional?"

     But the first resort we toured [fully clothed] I noticed a woman meditating under a tree.  She had chosen "the option," had a beautiful face ... and where her breasts were, she had the scars of a double mastectomy.

     That shook me to my core ... to the core of my insecure self-image ... and I realized that I was enough.

     I never looked at my body the same way again.  Instead, I looked at it with awe, respect, reverence, and love.  I realized that my breasts were enough ... my butt was enough ... my thighs were enough ... my waist was enough. 

     I was beautiful just as I was because I was enough of all the things that God had given to me.

     It isn't what my face looks like, or what my body looks like that makes me beautiful.  It is who I am inside.  This body is just a shell and doesn't define me.


“What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.  Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.”  
~ 1 Peter 3:3-4 ~

     I heart my body now, at age 50, because I know that who I am ... what I am ... is so much more than just what I look like.  This is just my book cover ... it is the pages inside that matter the most.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To Say "Yes..."

     Yes.

     I've heard that a lot this past week.  Joel Osteen says that there is a Yes in my future, and this morning Jamie Ridler prompts us with the question "What do you wish to say Yes to?"

     I wish to say yes to Lifetime Movies when the call with an offer to buy the rights to Trooper's Run for a made-for-television movie.

     I wish to say yes to a job offer out of state that will not only move me, but offer me a recruitment incentive that will allow me to purchase a car for the trip.

     I wish to say yes to the offer of a used car at a ridiculously low price that will allow me to not only pay for it in full, but also purchase insurance for a year.

     I wish to say yes to a real estate agent showing me a unique two bedroom cottage on a large fenced lot who wants to lease it for an extremely affordable price as long as I redecorate and restore it in a Craftsman [Frank Lloyd Wright] style similar to the time it was built.  Then I want to say yes when the owner asks after a year if I want to buy it for an incredible price.  I want to say yes when the bank offers me a low interest rate that will allow me to rebuild my financial portfolio while paying off the home faster.  When furniture companies like La-z-Boy offer me free furniture in exchange for a mention in my blog as I document my restoration of the Craftsman home... I want to say yes.

     But mostly... I am going to say yes to life.

Calender... girl?

     One of my photos has been selected by a local bank for their 2013 calender.  Say hello to Miss November...
Taken at Hideaway Cove Wilderness Lodge near Homer, Alaska

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Help One Now...

     There was [this blog] in my email in-box this morning from (in)courage.  The author of the blog, Deidra, had made a trip to Haiti as part of a group of bloggers for Help One Now.  Something that she wrote hit me hard as I was reading it.  She quoted one of the other volunteers on her trip to Haiti, Lamar Stockton, who said "God has you where you are for a reason. Don’t take that lightly."

     God has you where you are for a reason. 

     Don't take that lightly.

     What powerful words those are. God.  Has you where you are.  For a reason.

     Too often we are a "Why me?" society.  But the question should really be... Why not me?  What Deidra wrote in response to Lamar's statement was this...

     "We have the resources to help at least one." 

     That is sometimes the reason why we are where we are.  Because we have the resources to help at least one.  Help doesn't have to be financial... it can be emotional, physical, or spiritual.  It doesn't have to be Haiti... it can be Africa, Japan, the Appalachians, or your own neighborhood.  It doesn't have to be food... or clothes... or school books.  It can be hugs, laughter, and just someone to make a difference, even if for an hour, to show that they are not alone.

     To show that someone... somewhere... cares.

     I have the resources to help at least one.  You have the resources to help at least one.

     Won't you help one today?




    

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Writing again...

     I blogged [here] the first part of my latest project, Cierra's Soul, and this week I have started writing again.  The fingers are dancing and anxious to get to work.

     As I write, the story frequently unfolds in new directions, often to my own surprise.  Yesterday, I was lead to a vineyard in North Carolina which [with their permission] will now become a character in the book.  Now you know where this story is set, although it will also be set in Mississippi, and I promise my Alaska [Trooper's Run & Eagle Visions] fans that Cidney and Dan will make an appearance.

     The Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery.  I've never been there, but hope to visit one day since they are located near my mom.  Their estate looks beautiful, and very relaxing.

     I spent a Saturday morning in Texas last fall picking grapes at the Pillar Bluff vineyard.  It was fascinating to see the process of creating wine... from vineyard to bottling.  Several years ago I visited the Ch√Ęteau Morrisette Winery in Virginia with my uncle.  When I lived in Germany as a child, it was volksmarches through the vineyards that stayed in my memory.  When I went back to the Rhine River for Christmas 2007 on a Uniworld Boutique River Cruise, it was the vineyards that made the trip magical.  One of these years I also hope to stowaway on my sis, Heather's, family trip back to Italy to see her in-laws.  To see and experience the real side of Italy, not just the tourist spots.

     As much as I love the writing process, I also love the research process of creating a believable story with locations that my readers can actually visit if they haven't already.... and places I can visit as well.  Next to writing and photography, traveling is one of my favorite things to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Self-expressions...

     Jamie Ridler asks this question today ... "What do I wish to express?"

     I wish to express my emotions more so that I will stuff them less and not feel the physical affects of unreleased anger and grief.  I never had good examples when I was growing up of a healthy emotional release, and as a result I tend to stifle my negative emotions... which turns them into physical pain.

     I wish to express my gratitude for those who have helped me... who are helping me... and who might help me tomorrow.  Words cannot express the thankfulness that I feel for all of these people in my life.  I hope to one day be able to repay them... or pay it forward to someone else.

     I wish to express the creative muse in me that longs to spend hours... days... weeks... months writing all of the stories and ideas in my mind.  The creative photographer in me who traveled to Europe and walked the streets imagining the lives that lived hundreds of years before me ... the creative baker and gourmet cook who opened my home to friends and made them drool with the smells of what was being created in my kitchen for their enjoyment ... the creative crafty side of me that once made earrings to match every outfit in my closet ... the creative seamstress who designed skirts and gifts for the holidays...  I want to express my creativity again.

     I wish to express who I have become on this journey of life.  The woman who has become stronger, kinder, wiser ...

     I wish to express myself in a way that will be remembered with love...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...

     ..... Christmas, and it isn't even Halloween yet.  At least most of the retailers waited until the first of October to start putting their Christmas decor out for purchase.  This morning I even read a blog about creating an organizer for Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, sending Christmas cards and planning a New Year's Eve party.

     [Groan]

     Don't get me wrong.  I'm not a Scrooge or a Grinch.  I love Christmas.  I love the season ~ and I especially love the reason.  What weighs on me today is the pressure from "the world" to buy buy buy and outdo last year's gifts or cards.  To commit to doing so much that you actually have to create an organizer for it, or buy a book to figure out how to "untangle" your holidays.

     I was going to include a link to those blogs, but decided not to.  I realize that their intent was not to add peer pressure on me.  Their lives are so different from where I am right now in mine, and if they can $afford$ to do all that then hooray for them.  I don't envy their lives and don't want to sound like I do, but really...

     ... when did Christmas become about things?

     I will probably send the last of the Christmas cards that I purchased at an after-Christmas clearance sale six years ago... if I can afford to buy stamps.  Stamps are now $0.45 for one first class envelope.  Sending a card to the forty family and friends in my address book will cost me about $18.00.  Roughly the same amount as a good brand of dog food for Trooper.

     I did cave in to my Hallmark Ornaments addiction earlier this summer when I had a little bit of money and got two ornaments that were continuations of collections I had already started in previous years. There is no 12-step program for it yet.  I confess to being an 'old-school' holiday decorator and love to use ornaments purchased for sentimental reasons.  A theme tree, while beautiful [and yes, I did have a garnet and gold tree two years in a row ~ Go Noles!] just doesn't spark the memories for me that unwrapping an ornament my mom purchased for me in 1976 does.
Photo source... if you speak Finnish... if not use Bing Translator

     I may do some holiday baking for local friends and family to save a few stamps, but since I'm on food stamps, I will just have to see how the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer are looking when I make that decision.  Thank God for food banks at the local churches since they have helped me several times now with making meals and those dollars stretch.

     [Speaking of thanking God... ]

     This humbling experience I've found myself in the last several months ... without any income or a vehicle ... has left me feeling extremely grateful for all that I have, and for all of the people in my life ~ those I know and don't know ~ who have come to my assistance when I have reached up for help.

     Christmas this year will be spent not with money or gifts or things.  Christmas this year will be spent being grateful for everything I had, everything I have, and everything I will have again.  Christmas will be spent being grateful for the people in my life... known and unknown ... and how much I have been blessed by all of it.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
~ Colossians 3:17 NIV ~

Monday, October 15, 2012

Speak it... Claim it...

"Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours."  [NLT]

     There have been many books published in recent years claiming to have the secret to getting everything you want in life.  They tell you that thoughts become things, and that when you speak positively in your life, that there is a law of attraction that will attract positive things to you.  They claim to reveal the mystery that all the rich and famous have been keeping from you.

     It is all old news.  When we buy those books, we are helping the authors get rich... but we aren't getting any secret, or solving any mystery, or attracting anything that we could not have attracted without those books or CDs.  In fact, we've always had the truth available to us... for free.
     Whatever it is we seek, all we have to do is ask in faith, and believe in faith, and speak it in faith as if it has already arrived.  If we want healing, we need to ask, believe, and speak as if we have already been healed.  When the mind believes, the body follows.
     If we want financial blessings, we need to ask, believe, and speak as if they have already arrived.  Notice I didn't say "spend" as if those financial blessings have arrived.  Speak it as "when" not "if."  Know how you will spend wisely, share generously, and live financially sound.
     When we desire material or physical things... a job, car, or home... we need to ask, believe, and speak as if they have already been received.  Mentally see yourself doing the work you desire, driving to that job, and parking in the garage of your home.
     One thing that we often forget, however, when we think of the promises that have been made to us in His word is that we were created in His image and our names were stamped on His hands.  When we look at our reflection in the mirror, when we think of ourselves, we need to speak positive of ourselves.  Don't put yourself down, lift yourself up.  Because we are all wonderfully created.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rock solid...

     Recently I watched one of Joel Osteen's messages titled "Thank God in Advance."  It was a powerful and encouraging message about faith.  Faith in what we have not yet seen, or received, and being grateful for what we know that we will receive because of His promises to us.

     Even though we often feel like we are unheard when we pray and ask for help or 'things,' we are heard and the answer is often on the way as soon as we ask.
 
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 
~ Jeremiah 29:11 NIV ~

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God," 
~ Romans 4:20 NIV ~

     Faith is much like exercise.  The more we exercise, the stronger our muscles become.  The more we have faith that God will answer our prayers, the stronger our faith becomes.  The stronger our muscles become, the more we are able to do.  The stronger our faith becomes, the more we are able to share it.  When we can exercise more, we become physically healthier.  When we can share our faith more, we become spiritually healthier.  We become "rock solid" physically and in our foundation.

     Monday I will have an interview for a job out of state that will offer me new opportunities.  I am thanking God for that job, for those opportunities, and for a vehicle to get me there.  Because I have faith, because I am standing on His rock, and because I believe that no matter what, God answers prayers.

2 Thessalonians 3:13

13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 

     It is believed that Second Thessalonians was written in response to a letter received after Paul had sent the believers in Thessalonica the first letter.  The repeated message throughout 2 Thessalonians is "stand firm."

     Stand firm in your faith.

     Stand firm in your commitment.

     Stand firm in never tiring of doing what is good.

     We can feel challenged to stand firm, especially when times are difficult.  We can feel pressured by our peers... and by our fears... to do things that change the foundation we are standing on.  No longer would we be standing firm, but more like standing in quicksand.

     To escape quicksand, these are the recommended steps:
  1. Avoid it.  "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else." 1 Thessalonians 5:15
  2. Drop everything.  "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture." Psalm 37:3
  3. Relax. "Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight." 1 Chronicles 19:13
  4. Breathe deeply.  "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21
  5. Lie back and float.  "They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it." 1 Peter 3:11
  6. Take your time.  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
  7. Rest.  "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Romans 12:2
When the going gets rough, look up.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Releasing my past... making room for my future...

     I've had much going on in the last few weeks and have not been able to blog as frequently as I would like to.  Life happens.  As a result, I missed joining in with Jamie Ridler Studios last Wednesday, and so am taking the time this morning to combine two of her blog prompts into one message.

What do you wish to release?
What do you wish to make room for?

     I've realized lately that too often our past clings to today and clouds up our future.   Like wearing dirty glasses, we try to find our way but often stumble over the wreckage left by what we have experienced.  We try to step over the memories and clutter, but sometimes become distracted by "what if" and "if only" thoughts and statements.

     I look at things around me and realize what I have lost and how much my life has changed.

     What if I realized how much more room I have for the things that will come?

     If only I saw the promise of tomorrow, how much more joy would today hold?

     Today I am releasing my past, throwing away those dirty glasses, and making room for the promises of tomorrow and all the gifts that it will bring.

"For the past troubles will be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.""
~ Isaiah 65:16-17 ~

Sunday, October 7, 2012

If you are ever wondering...

     ...what the mental and emotional state of your city or town is, spend a morning sitting in criminal court listening to the cases that are brought before the judge.

     I did that one morning last week and was surprised at how "bipolar" has become the new "insanity" defense. Over and over again, I heard how someone had not been taking their medication and "that" was why they did the crimes they were being accused of.

     One man, a repeat violent offender since the late 1980's [at least 15 charges were read by the state attorney, each increasing in severity ~ I wondered why he was even out in the first place], was again facing charges for violence which he said was because he had gotten off his meds.  He asked the judge to drop his bond because he was the sole caretaker for his ill mother.  The answer was no, and he was told to have his public defender arrange with the Council on Aging to find someone to care for his mom.

     A 20-year old single mother was facing felony child abuse charges because she had gotten off her meds and harmed her one month old baby girl.  "Harmed" is a gentle term.  The baby girl had two skull fractures and a brain hemorrhage, and at a month old  just now weighed ten pounds.  The bio-mom of the "accused", who had given the accused up for adoption when she was less than a year old, was trying to get custody of the baby to keep her out of foster care.  The woman who had adopted the accused was to have her back in her home until she faced trial for the child abuse.  The conditions for her release were extremely strict, and in the event that the bio-mom did get custody of the baby, visitation with her was to be under supervision of professional counselors, not family members.  I said a prayer for all four of them.

     In another case, a man was recommended by his own public defender that he be returned to the state mental hospital because he was not only a danger to himself, but a danger to society... even when he was on his bipolar medications.  Apparently the state hospital had decided he was "cured" and released him, but subsequent evaluations after his arrest for an act of violence showed that was probably not the case.

     I don't know that bipolar is the new insanity defense or not, but I do know that what I saw that morning gave me a new perspective on where I live, and increased my desire to move to my own private island.

Sunday Sunrise





Monday, October 1, 2012

... in sheep's clothing ...

Dolphin Mom & Baby ~ picture taken in 2010
     We have had heavy rain, wind, and thunderstorms most of the day.  Trooper and I finally wandered down to the bay at dusk, shortly after the sun had completely set to see if we could watch the moon rise again.

     Clouds covered any chance to glimpse of the moon.  But the tide was high, and mullet were jumping quite high out of the water which was entertaining to watch Trooper's face each time they did.  I saw what I thought at first was a dolphin swimming in the bay, but then later realized...

     [Cue up the Jaws theme music] ... it was actually a shark.  Judging by the water it moved as it swam side to side, it was probably longer than I am tall [5'3" short actually].

     We shall not be wading in the bay at high tide anymore...