Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Cheesemiester

I am shamelessly proud of everyone in my life, especially when they accomplish something out of the ordinary. If you ask my family, they will sheepishly admit that even though I am small in stature, I have an enormous capacity to cheer on the people who I care about with the spirit of a giant. This does not stop at bloodlines. Oh no, if you enter my family as a friend, boyfriend of one of my girls, or any other way, I will cheer you on in everything that you do. I am the consummate cheerleader.

Hence my need to introduce my oldest angel's boyfriend, R. Like my daughter, R is an actor and as an actor, he auditions for shows, commercials, movies, anything that he can do to utilize his craft. You must imagine my excitement and pride the first time I witnessed R in his debut Pizza-Hut commercial! Of course my daughter was modest about her boyfriend's accomplishment(actors can be like that), and so, it wasn't until I witnessed it for myself that I realized, "Hey, R is on a nationwide television commercial for Pizza-Hut!", as I replayed it several times. The next time I saw it, I made my husband wait to watch the next important play of a football game, so that I could freeze R's spot in order to photograph it, frame by frame. Of course my daughter thought that I had lost my mind when my husband told her what I had done, but that was only until my husband got ahold of R's cellphone number and called him one morning. He left R a message saying that he really liked him and all, but that he was getting tired of waking up each morning at five a.m., turning on Sports Center, and seeing R's face on the TV! After that, I think that R suspected that my husband was nuttier than I am, so I was able to take cover within his shadows. I like when that happens.

Anyhow, if you happen to be watching TV sometime, and you see R being called a "Cheesemiester" by his television roommate, you too, can say, "Hey, I know that guy!", and cheer him on as one of your own. He is a gifted actor and a very, very nice guy.(He brought me flowers when he came over for dinner.)

Honestly, these kids work very hard at what they do, and every opportunity that they get to perform brings them closer to their dreams. I am often in awe at my angel daughter's ability to memorize extensive lines of Shakespeare, and then recite them back in a way that causes my heart to swell. Acting is truly a gift and with all of the negative press out there about young actors who are abusing their positions in the public eye, there are thousands of well-adjusted, talented, hungry, young people who are just waiting for the opportunity to take their craft seriously. Waiting to share their gifts with the world. Waiting to do so with style, grace, and modesty. In my opinion, it is time to knock some of the actors off of their pedestals who take advantage of being in the spotlight and who do not appreciate how blessed they are to be doing what they love. Acting is not only a job, but it is also a calling. I am glad to know that there are young people who are coming up the line, like R and my angel daughter, who take their abilities seriously.

May you always have a cheerleader rallying for you, as you move through all of the different phases of your life. May you stand behind those you love, singing their praises, and rooting for them as they follow their dreams. Life is not always easy, so if we can cheer each other on, the rough spots might seem just a little bit smoother.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Out of the Darkness

There are murky borders which divide the darkness and the light within our daily lives. Each day, many of us make a conscious decision as to which part of the spectrum we would like to dwell in for that day. The sky in this photo reminds me that although there is always black and white, there is also grey. For the most part, we tend to live within the grey portion of our lives, but now and again, we are pulled willingly, or unwillingly into the dark or the light.

Through this blog, I have often been pulled into the light. My heart has been launched by a thousand kind words. My spirit has taken flight on the wings of a single kind gesture timed just at the perfect moment. I am finding that, more and more, I look towards you to save me from falling head first into the darkness. Just knowing that you are there gives me the strength to combat the individuals in my life, who knowingly or unknowingly, try to drag my generally happy soul into the dark spaces in which they mostly reside. Sadly, these individuals are extended family members who tend to be cold, inconsiderate and mean-spirited. They test my optimistic outlook by jarring me out of my happy, little world. If being chronically ill has taught me nothing else, it has taught me not to allow others to bring me into the dark on days in which my pain has not achieved that by itself. I am learning that I can choose light over dark, happy over sad and good over not so good. I am learning that an ounce of genuine kindness from a stranger, is worth a ton of forced niceness from someone who is supposed to love you. I am learning...

May the light that is in your life always find a way to overpower the darkness. May there always be someone who can help you to soar, midair, back into the light, when you feel as if you are just about to plunge, head on, into the darkness.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Can See Her

I will never tire of this face. I will never loose the feeling of awe that flows through my body and creeps deeply into my soul, as I look at this miracle of a human being. I can see her as an image on the black and white screen of an ultrasound machine. A peek into the future filled with questions and great hopes. I can see her as she takes her first breath, waiting for the wail to come, that will forever change my world. I can see her toddling forward into life with confidence and a question in her eyes. I can see her as she embraces the arrival of each one of her sisters. Gentle, kind and protective. I can see her as she stands front and center on a stage, knowing. Knowing that she was born to be an instrument. Knowing that she would use her angelic voice, her nimble body, and her creative mind as an instrument with which to affect others. I can see her as she stands proudly wearing her white graduation gown flanked by a bright purple lei, accomplishing what she came here to do. I can see her as she visits home from college, staying close, yet moving, slowly, slowly away.

And I can see her, moving gracefully throughout all of the different stages of her life, bringing her to this exact moment. Today. Her today, my today, our today.

Gratefully, I turn my eyes toward God, because in her eyes, I can see Him.

May you notice the presence of something or someone Greater in the eyes of your greatest gifts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gracious Giveaways

Hallie from The Wonderful World of Wieners wants you to put your creative skills to use by writing a Haiku in honor of her wonderful son, CJ. He is now going through some extreme training for the Air Force. She is giving a gift certificate to the winner.

Irene Latham, author of What Came Before, a book of poems, is having a giveaway, as well. Go to her site and leave her a comment about the blessings in your life and she will enter you into the drawing!

Patriot is giving away a lovely soy candle. Patriot's site gives credit to American based companies who produce great products. There is a weekly drawing for a product from each company that is featured.

Dayna is giving away a wonderful game called The Enchanted Table. Her family has has so much fun with this game that Dayna spoke to the creators and they agreed to donate three games for Dayna to give away! You can view the game at memorablemealtimes.com. Please stop by Dayna's blog, Look Through Our Eyes(You can link to her through my favorites.), and enter her contest.

Fun, fun, fun! I love the generosity of spirit which so many bloggers share. It is even more fun when they ask us to be creative and then they award us for it. So many great people in Blogland.

Now go forth and support your favorite bloggers. You might just win something fun.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Turn Up the Corners of Your Mouth and Smile

My angels and I(and my dear hubby who is behind the camera), just wanted to wish you a very happy Monday. There is always something to smile about, even during times when we might have to dig just a little bit deeper. Try to focus on the smiles, and the difficult things will be a bit more tolerable.

I was excited to learn that I was the winner of a lovely crystal vase from St. George Crystal, today. Patriot, whose site is listed on my "favorite places to visit" list, does a weekly drawing. The companies that are represented are all American based companies which produce wonderful products. Patriot receives nothing in return for doing these drawings except for the satisfaction of having people, "Buy American". Please check out Patriot's wonderful site and click on some of the companies that are listed there. So many great, American made products! Enter Patriot's drawings every week by leaving a comment on her site. You might be the next one to win something special. Thank you, Patriot!

For those of you who might not be familiar with Hallie at The Wonderful World of Weiners, CJ, her very brave, young Airman just began a very difficult portion of his training. Please stop by her site and leave her a kind word of encouragement as she chews her nails to the quick thinking about what her boy is going through. Her site is also listed in my favorites.

Having thought there wasn't going to be a particular "theme" for this post, as often happens, a theme appeared on its own. For those of us who live in America, smiles are frequent and natural. We have so many things to be grateful for. We have so many things to smile about. We can purchase high-quality goods which are produced in quantity by wonderful American entrepreneurs. This is a country which encourages creativity and supports self-starters. Patriot is even going out of her way to let us know where to buy those products.

And most importantly, our country has courageous, young people who are willing to join our military forces, like Airman First Class CJ. Our rights and liberties are protected by young men and women like CJ, who give selflessly of themselves to make our country a free and safe place to live. Amazing...Truly amazing.

Herein lies the theme, which emerged as I sat in front of my laptop, tonight. Smile because you are happy. Smile because you can buy anything that you need, whenever you need it, as long as you can afford it of course! Smile because you are proud of the individuals who care enough to serve our great country, voluntarily. Smile because you can.

May your blessings be many. Before you close your eyes tonight, if you could whisper a prayer of safety for young Airman First Class CJ, I know a family in Maine who would be eternally grateful.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What Love Looks Like

My name is Debbie, and I am an addict. Yes, I am admittedly addicted to the unconditional love which animals can provide. My family knows this. My husband was fully aware of it when we got married twenty-three years ago and I moved three of my childhood cats and our college kitty into our new marital home. Some people would say that I have a problem. I would say that I am extremely lucky. Not only do I have the benefit of having four amazing daughters and a loving husband, but I also have in residence right now, five cats, one dog and two birds. Each one, regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant they might seem to other people who do not share in my addiction, is a family member. And each one, as does our sweet little Lovebird, Kiwi, who passed away last week, will forever hold a special place in my heart. Like any addiction, it might be difficult for someone who is not afflicted to comprehend, "Why?". My answer is simple, unconditional love and companionship. Oh and one more reason, I think that this particular addiction is a healthy one.

The kitties above, Callie and Jersey(named after the states my children and my husband were born in), are Cornish Rex. They were a gift from my husband in December of 2006. Most of our pets have been "rescue animals", including Kiwi, our beloved Lovebird whom we captured and rescued from certain doom, while she was dive-bombing my children in the pool. It was one of those, "Mom, Mom, come now! There is a bird who keeps dive-bombing us in the pool!!!" moments, when my reaction was something like, "That's nice girls. Now go back outside because you are dripping all over the floor." When they finally convinced me that I had to check out what was happening, there was, indeed, a bird who was deliberately trying to get my children's attention by dive-bombing them in our pool. We captured her, but she never protested, and she was The Queen of the Kitchen, until she sadly passed away, last week.

Back to Callie and Jersey, we had a twenty-one year old cat who I had rescued from the side of the road when she was a newborn. I had her for twenty-one years, and she passed away in September of 2006. For some reason, I just could not shake the grief that I was feeling after her loss. My dear husband witnessed the pain that I was feeling, and decided that I needed some "fresh" unconditional love to help me in the healing process(a bit of enabling is okay, every once in a while). And so, he did some research, contacted a friend who owns a pet shop about friendly breeds, and surprised me with two beautiful, albeit kind of funny looking, kittens. Short of a painting he had commissioned of an angel painted in my likeness, one year for our anniversary, these little babies were one of the very best gifts that he ever got me. Their entrance into my life was just what I needed at the time. What made it even better is that my husband, the man who sometimes has to threaten me with divorce to keep me from bringing another animal into our home, was the one who brought them to me.

And so, as I stand before the world and admit my addiction, I must also share my visual of "love". The love that these babies reflect back to me with their beautiful, albeit unusually large eyes and ears. The love that looking at them makes me feel for my husband who loves me enough to indulge me in my healthy addiction. The love that can be touched and cuddled and kissed, unconditionally, and just because it's there. Right now, if someone were to ask me what love looks like, I would have to show them a photo of these little, furry kitties. They are love personified.

May you enjoy whatever your healthy addiction might be. May you have someone in your life who loves you enough to enable you to fulfill that addiction. Most importantly, may you have your own definition of what love looks like.

I would be honored if you would be willing to share what love looks like to you. Truly honored.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Believe in Goodness

Because I believe in goodness, I can usually peer through the darkness and see the light that is resting on the horizon. Even if I must force myself to look with only one eye open, squinting into the distance, I know that time, reason, kind words from people who care, and prayer will most certainly change the view for me, if I allow myself to trust.

I am still living within the midst of figuring out what choices I must make in order to preserve my own health, sanity and peace of mind, but I am doing so with a much clearer head. Chronic illness forces its bearers to set boundaries in places that are safe and protective. This illness, that I have no choice about living with, has taught me to be gentler and kinder with myself, especially at times when people who should care about me, do not. Chronic pain can be flared by even the most minute of irritants, and so, one of the first lessons that someone who lives with chronic pain must absorb is to limit the amount of excess stresses which can occur from day to day.

Throughout the past couple of days, I have received the kindest, most heartfelt messages from individuals whom I have only had the pleasure of knowing through blogging. We hear so many horror stories about things that happen as a result of the Internet, but my experience, so far, has been nothing but the opposite. I was talking to my husband about this a little while ago. I have come to believe that what you put out there, is generally, what you will attract back. This is true in life, whether talking about the Internet, or other aspects of the world. I choose to look for people whose blogs are positive, life-affirming, and intelligent. Hence, my experience throughout my short blogging life has been a very good one. I have met good people who are connecting with other good people, and so, the chain is formed. I believe in goodness, and the individuals whom I read and converse with in the blogging world seem to believe in the same thing. Good begetting good.

ChickenLiver, Dayna, Ness, Humble Origins, Alison, Kelly Jean, and Hallie have all taken the time in the past couple of days to share their thoughts and experiences with me about dealing with a very difficult family member. There are others of you, out there, who have also left wonderful comments, in the past, which have made the world into a much smaller place. I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you, and to let you know that I truly appreciate each and every one of you. As our little community of kindness grows, my belief in goodness is affirmed. Thank you.

May you share in the belief that life is mostly good. May you experience people and situations which help to affirm this belief, even if you have to squint to see the light.

Because This is What it's All About

We Know You'll Dance

Angel Daughter Number 2. Happy, happy birthday, my dear daughter.
From the moment that you entered our lives, we knew that our days would never be boring. There is a spark within your spirit which is both bold and contagious. You are a force of energy, yet you have a kind and sensitive soul. Thank you for blessing my life by being my daughter. I love you with all of my heart.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fallen Angel or Why it Will Never Matter How Old I Am

Is there something which is buried deep within the DNA of a human being that causes us to harbor a gnawing, undeniable desire to please our parents? And if this genetic component exists, is there some way to shut it off? Aware of my body's own need to avoid stress and confrontation, I have worked very hard at removing many, many toxic factors from my life. I have done my best to simplify, yet my life is still sometimes a complicated web, woven between the alternating fibers of protecting myself versus fulfilling the needs of others. The largest spider in this web happens to be my mother.

I am struggling, truly struggling right now. I have taken what feels like a final step forward in a relationship which requires too much of me. There is only one avenue which makes sense right now, and it scares me. It makes me feel as if I am denying my own natural, genetically engineered response. How can someone choose between what they inherently feel is right, and avoiding something which they know can be toxic for their own health?

As I ruminate about the lessons that I am supposed to be experiencing during my lifetime, this one stumps me, and I suspect that it will for a very long time to come. As I search the rain heavy clouds which hover ominously close to the California landscape, I realize that this storm has been brewing for a long, long time. I know there will be sun again, but with the sun will there ever be clarity?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Unexpected Joy or A Fresh Perspective on Those Annoying Little Poppers

The things which we take for granted can sometimes be measured in the smiles, and laughter of those who still find them novel and new. This delightful discovery took place on the afternoon of New Year's Eve. It was an experience that occurred so quickly, that it could have been missed, but sitting in our kitchen with our new Chinese friend, I suddenly realized that I had the rare opportunity to look at our world through fresh, inquisitive eyes. Eyes that had never been outside of China before, let alone to the United States. Eyes which belonged to a very dear, and very curious thirty three year old woman from Beijing, China.

Several months ago, my oldest angel had the opportunity to visit China and Tibet for a month via a program through her university. We are very fortunate to be able to afford her these opportunities, and as a young woman, I think that it is important for her to take every chance that she has to visit other countries. Of course, I was nervous about sending her to a country that I know very little about and had never been to myself, but I also know that I must allow my angel daughters to spread their wings as they are ready. My oldest is a very responsible, mature young woman who takes learning seriously. I knew that by allowing her to embark on this journey which would take her thousands of miles away from home, I would also be honoring her love of learning. This is something that I could not resist.

When my daughter arrived in China with her university group, they were assigned a tour guide. Each day, as I spoke to my daughter by international cellphone, I would sometimes hear a sing-song voice, speaking fairly good English in the background. I came to find out that this was "Joy", the woman who led my daughter through China, as only a native could do. I took solace in the knowledge that my daughter would be in the capable hands of someone named Joy. I was comforted by the feeling that someone who would choose this as her English name, had to be a kind-hearted, happy individual.

Several days ago, I received a phone call from my eldest angel. "Mom, Joy is here in California, and I was wondering if she could come home with me for dinner. Oh yes, and I think that we will be spending the night as well."

Now, just to give you an idea about what most of my days are like, I am very attached to my fleecy pajamas. I spend a lot of time in them. My illness precludes me from going out of my house with any frequency, and so, I am often still in my cozy p.j.'s after showering during the day. My daughter's friends, and anyone else who comes to our home with any frequency, are fully aware of and are used to my "wardrobe". This is not usually a problem for me. The problem arises when I am going to receive an unexpected visitor. One whom I have never met before, who knows nothing about my illness and my daily routine. One who happens to be visiting from another country. One who has never been to the US before! Realizing that I was about to become a Representative for the United States of America, I quickly panicked, checked the fridge and pantry to search out some ingredients to make some dinner, and got dressed. Thank goodness we had the ingredients to prepare Lasagna, Garlic Bread, Salad, and Apple Pie, on hand.(Sounds pretty darn American to me!) By the time my daughter and Joy arrived at our home, I was fully dressed and had dinner simmering in the oven. We greeted Joy, and I welcomed her to our home by thanking her for taking such great care of my daughter during her visit to China. She was quite gracious and friendly, and after the initial awkward stage that occurs when meeting someone new, we all warmed up to each other quickly. Joy, although somewhat reserved and unsure of how she should behave, turned out to be a lovely young lady with a warm smile and a quick laugh. We enjoyed our meal together, and then the girls went to sleep early because they were both very tired. My daughter and Joy returned for dinner again, on New Year's Eve. This time, I was much more relaxed about things. My sweet husband decided to treat Joy to a good old American barbecue complete with Burgers, Grilled Chicken, and Corn on the Cob. I found talking to Joy about life in China to be fascinating. She is a very engaging young lady and we truly enjoyed her company.

After dinner, my daughter and Joy were getting ready to go back to her house at the university to enjoy Joy's very first New Year's Eve celebration. I felt a bit sorry for her because she was going to spend the evening with a bunch of young college students who were quite a bit younger than her thirty three years. I decided that it would be an interesting experience for her, and that it would give her some more stories to bring back to her home country. On our table, there were some of those little popper bottles which the kids open at midnight. They make a godforsaken noise and spew colorful streamers out all over the place. I have never really liked them, but I humor my children once a year, and allow them to knock themselves out by setting them off at midnight. Joy spotted the colorful little bottles on the table and asked what they were. Assuming that she would understand the explanation, we described the effect that these little plastic bottles of noise and mess would have after releasing the tops off of the bottles. With a puzzled look, she seemed not to understand. Hence, the hands on demonstration that took place. After explaining that she needed to shoot the bottle away from her face, my daughters showed her how to let 'em rip! I think that the photos above describe the reaction that she had, better than I can. Her surprise and laughter was almost like that of a child who was experiencing the poppers for the very first time. She was adorable. We sent her home with an extra package to share with her friends and family. The things that we Americans expose the rest of the world to, sometimes!

And so, here is Joy experiencing the joy of shooting off her first plastic poppers, noise, streamers and all. I know that this is a very small thing, but sometimes the smallest things, viewed through the freshest of eyes, can turn out to leave the very biggest of impressions. We live in a country where our freedoms are vast, unlimited and plentiful. Joy comes from a country that is restrictive, heavily monitored, and quite serious. To be able to observe someone who comes from such a place participating in a moment of such spontaneous, reflexive joy, was a moment which I know that my family will not soon forget.

Upon my reflection of this whole experience, I decided that the wish that I have for you, is to remind yourself to try and catch the joy in the smallest, seemingly most unimportant moments which can pass by in a flash, but which sometimes leave the largest impressions. May you take the time, in 2008, to view little things through fresh, unexpecting, inquisitive eyes. You might just find some joy in the most everyday places.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Welcome to the first California evening sundown of 2008. I captured this work of art from the upper deck of my home. No "resolutions" here. Only a prayer that we may all share more of these magnificent moments by taking the time to notice them when they appear.

May you experience a sense of calmness as we all wind down and share in the fresh start of a new year.
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