Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunshine From Within

Our Thanksgiving tradition as a family is to spend a few days at our home in the beautiful, rustic mountains of Lake Arrowhead, California.  For well over twelve years, we have packed up our four Angels, our dog(s) and sometimes a cat or two and headed up the mountain.  Not only is this a wonderful change of pace for our sometimes busy, busy family, but it is something that we have all come to expect and enjoy.  

For many of these twelve years, my very best friend from junior high school, her husband and their three fantastic kids have joined us as a part of our extended, chosen family.  Recently, their family has grown by leaps and bounds with the addition of one son-in-law, a beautiful new baby(who I cannot wait to get my hands on again!) and THREE foster children.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to spend Thanksgiving day together, this year, but they will be coming up to spend the weekend with us on Friday.  With four little ones crawling and running around, this family get-together will be energetic, life-affirming and joyful, to say the least!

This afternoon my four Angels and I decided to head out for a little fresh mountain air and retail therapy.  We knew that it was supposed to rain, but we had no idea that we would end up braving a thunder/lightening/heavy rain/hail storm as we laughed and screamed our way back to the car.  Five drenched women running through puddles and dodging lightening bolts!  What a sight we must have been.  As I grabbed my camera to snap a few pictures of the mess that the storm was creating, my four Angels yelled at me from inside the car to hurry up!
When we arrived home, we told Mark about our crazy adventure and then we all settled in.  As Angel Number One pulled out a coloring book and crayons to color in a cute turkey picture for me(yes, it is hanging on the fridge and no, it doesn't matter how old they get), I thought about the fact that it doesn't matter where we are, or what the weather happens to be outside.  As long as I have my Angel Daughters with me, the sun is always shining.
Parts of my heart.  Angel Daughter Number One.
Angel Daughter Number Two.
Angel Daughter Number Three.(I just had to get the beach in there on this cold and blustery night!)
Mark and AD3.
And finally, Angel Daughter Number Four with our adorable kitty, Jersey.

May this Thanksgiving bring you a soul filled with warmth, a heart full of love and a family(either genetic or created) filled with hugs, laughter and enough of  whatever it is that makes your spirit SING.

Oh happy day...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heart Stones or Remaining Open to Love

As I prepare to close my eyes on another busy day, I take a few minutes to look through a bowl of heart stones which I have collected during my travels along the beach.  Each one represents a journey along the shoreline and each one reminds me of a moment of mindfulness in which something caught my eye and I bent down to examine it.  Whether it was a walk with my wonderful husband, a family outing with my Angel Daughters or a meditative walk alone, each stone stands for something different and unique.  Each one caused me to pause.  Each one allowed me to focus on how nature is able sculpt ordinary objects into works of absolute beauty.  Each one reminded me to give pause and to offer a silent prayer for those who own a piece of my heart.
For no matter how hard life may become.  No matter how our souls can be battered and bruised by the difficulties and disappointments.  No matter how many empty spaces still need to be filled within our spirits, the heart can remain open to love as long as we allow it to.
Life may shape or mold us many different times throughout the journey, but only we can determine whether to love or wither.  The choice is up to us and although it is not always easy, and it does not always end up the way that it should, may you always choose love.
Every person you meet, every heart that connects with yours, has had to contend with heartache and difficulty and pain.  But if you are lucky, the one thing that remains a constant is your ability to love...and to be loved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moonlit Morning or Reflections on Reflecting

Through sleepy, dream-fogged eyelids I felt something beckoning me to rise from my restful slumber as I tried my hardest to resist.  Nestled cozily underneath my covers the last thing I wanted to do was open my eyes.  Lately, sleep is the only respite I receive against the frustrations that sometimes fill my waking hours, and I get a bit grumpy when I am woken up before I am ready to face the day.  But on this particular morning, the brightness which was infiltrating my dreams shone relentlessly and I was forced to squint, little by little, towards the light.  There it was, enticing me out of my darkness, and there I was hopping from my warm bed onto the cold ceramic tile searching for my camera before I even realized what I was doing.  I glanced at the clock.  Six a.m.  Daylight was barely beginning to break, yet there was the persistent full moon holding its position in the sky.  It was almost as if the moon was refusing to relinquish its spot, holding fast to its ownership of the heavens.  I opened the door to our bedroom deck and stepped outside into the cool morning air.  There is something about being part of a day that is just waking up that brings hope to my soul.  Something about knowing that today can be a better day that allows me to wonder about the possibilities.  Maybe this will be the day that certain people in my life will come to their senses.  Maybe this is the day in which all of the planets(however many there are now) will align properly and I will be allowed to see my beloved brothers children again.  Or maybe this will be the day when my restless soul will find some serenity and everything will be as it should be.  On this moon-filled morning, I am in awe of the idea that night can be day and day can be night.  It reminds me that if something isn't right with the story, there is still a way to turn that which feels impossible into possible.  And so, I begin doing my best to preserve this moment in time.  To capture its beauty, to capture its message.
The sky begins to change and swirls of colorful clouds begin to wisp their way across the horizon as the moon politely fades into the background.  The sun takes its rightful position in the sky and day now begins.

Later in the day a lone seagull wades serenely along the shoreline.  The water mirrors its image beneath.  As I observe him, his double-image reminds me that our stories can take different paths depending upon how we choose to act or react.  If we aren't happy with how the story is going, we have the choice to change it.  We have been given the innate power of free-will and in that power, we can decide what we will do in order to change the ending.  Will we peek out at the morning moon and then close our eyes against it, or will we open our soul to the message and then take it into our heart?  Will we ignore our images as they are reflected back to us, or will we observe that image, take it in and use it to learn and grow and change?

May you open your eyes to the possibility of each new day and may you find a way to remind yourself that if you aren't satisfied with how your tale is evolving, you have the power to make changes.  May you trust your own intuition so that you can confidently co-write the story of your life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Learning New Tricks and A Very Special Welcome and Thank You

There is something about an old dog that makes my heart grow indescribably full.  Maybe it's the grey hairs that mysteriously pop up above the soulful eyes and kissable snout.  Maybe it's the expressions of absolute need, admiration and love which have been well cultivated and well used over the years.  Or maybe it's in the knowing that our beloved dogs are with us for far too short of a time.  That one day they are puppies romping around like they will live forever and the next, they are our closest, most loving companions holding onto our deepest, darkest secrets as if their lives depend upon it.  Whatever it is, an old dog can tug at the heartstrings just as strongly as any fluff ball of a puppy ever has.  

Becca, our lovely Dalmatian/Lab/who knows what else, just turned ten years old.  Thank goodness she is in good health and seems to be made of good strong stock.(although my family says she is WAY too chubby, but that's another story for another day)  My youngest Angel picked her out on her way home from pre-school one day and somehow, she instantly became ours.  She was four months old when we brought her home, and she came into our house full of spunk!  We had another wonderful dog named, Elijah, at the time and instead of having to worry about him attacking her, she went after him like nobody's business.  Poor Elijah who weighed in at about one hundred pounds just cowered under his daddy's leg waiting for the attack of the killer puppy to end.  Becca and Elijah went on to become great friends, over the years, and sadly when Elijah passed away last year at the age of nine, Becca kept watch for him for a very, very long time.  Not easy explaining death to a dog.  But Becca bucked up and decided to stick closer to me.  I can't say I ever really minded being that my husband is at work all day and my daughters are either in school or away at college.  She is wonderful company.

And as I sit here typing busily away, Becca is snuggled securely at my feet, deep happy snores coming from her beautiful grey snout.  I am learning to cherish the time now that my Angel daughters are fourteen, sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one.  Not that I didn't cherish the time before, I just had much, much more to distract me from the moments.  The moments when you realize that not only are your children getting older, but so are you.  When I look at my old dog, it makes me want to slow time down so that I can have more.  More moments, more gratitude, more connections that are lasting.  Something about having an old dog can do that to you.  I suppose you can teach an old dog(well not that old!) new tricks.
On a totally different subject, I must take a moment to welcome any new readers who have popped over from Melissa's incredible blog, The Inspired Room.  Melissa, one of my favorite and oldest BFF's, featured my blog as her "blog of the week" and I have received countless visitors from her site today.  Thank you, Melissa, for featuring my blog and for introducing new friends to me.  You are such a talented and beautiful soul and it shines through in everything that you do.  Even as I have witnessed your site evolve and grow, you have remained the same sweet gal that you were when your blog was just an itty-bitty.  If you haven't already discovered Melissa's blog, please pay her a visit.  You will be inspired to live a more beautiful life!  To all of Melissa's readers who have come over to check out my blog, I wish I could offer you a cup of tea and some chocolate!  Instead, I am giving you these cyber-flowers to brighten up your day.  Please feel free to leave me a comment and say hello!  I really enjoy connecting with new blogging friends and visiting new sites.  Please don't be shy!  I know that Melissa has the best readers.  I do hope that you will stop by again.  It's nice to have you here!

May the moments that cause your heart to flutter happen slowly enough for you to hold onto them.  May you recognize the things that make you feel safe and loved and connected.  And like an old dog, may you live for right now, not constantly worrying about what tomorrow will bring.(Because all we truly have is now, isn't it?)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homecoming Dance 2008

Last weekend, our youngest Angels attended the Homecoming Dance.  Together they primped and prettied themselves as they prepared for the evenings festivities.  As a large group of high schoolers descended upon our home for photos, we watched as these teens giggled and posed for one of those snapshot moments of their lives.  
Angel Daughter Number Three is a bit more reserved and has a very classic style when it comes to fashion.  She rarely wears make-up, but she basques in the uniqueness of her own special beauty.  My mother, her grandma, often equates the way that she carries herself to Audrey Hepburn.  AD3 is quite athletic and really enjoys being part of a team(dad's genes), but she is also just as happy being by herself(mom's genes).  She is funny, very smart and quite creative
AD3 and AD4 are the closest in age of my four angels.  They are just twenty-two months apart.  Growing up, they struggled a bit, to establish their own unique positions in the family.  Now that they are both teenagers I have noticed that the dynamics are changing.  Being that they are the only two angels living at home full-time, they have learned to rely on one another for companionship.  It is interesting observing how their relationship has evolved since their older sisters have left for college.  
Angel Daughter Number One stopped by to see her little sisters off.  We were hoping that Angel Daughter Number Two could come by also, but she was off motor-biking(Oy) with her boyfriend, Joshua and his family.  My girls sometimes get tired of my fascination with the camera and so they start doing some very special poses for me.  They do make me laugh!
My Angel Husband was very proud of his daughters, as always.  They adore him with all of their hearts.  It is very sweet to see how they idolize him and how he dotes on them.  He is a very lucky man.  They are very lucky girls.

I am one very, very lucky woman.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning to be Open

I must admit that since I have been spending more time at the beach, I have developed a new sense of appreciation and awe for the seagulls.  As the weather grows chillier, most of the beach-goers have packed it in for the winter and I find myself wandering along long stretches of shoreline without another soul in sight.  I look towards the seagulls as companions, as angels who remind me that I am never truly alone on my journey.

Occasionally, a very brazen seagull will follow behind me on foot, using it's voice to remind me that it is hungry and would like me to provide it with food.  I turn around and try to convince the little guy that I do not have anything to share otherwise I surely would, but they never seem to believe me.  So I walk along with my companion in tow, quietly talking to him about my thoughts until he gives up and returns to his flock.  On this particular day, however, I was approached not by ground, but by sky.  At first, it wasn't quite registering that this seagull was trying to get my attention, but then...

He gave me the eye.  I almost turned around and gave him that famous line, "Are you talking to me?", but then I realized that he was probably way too young to get it, so I just laughed out loud instead.  I thought about running away, as his wingspan was a lot more intimidating when he was only several feet away from me, but I was far too amused to give into fear.
He lingered effortlessly in the air for quite some time and I was awestruck by this glorious creature, a creature who was trying to communicate with me as I stood there taking pictures of him.  I think he found the camera to be quite a curious object and so we stared at each other for a few seconds.  He hovered closer and I was amazed by the intelligence that seemed to project through his eyes.  This bird wanted to connect in some way, and whether that was out of his need for food or curiosity,  the intention was very, very clear.  He sought me out, got my attention, and held it until we made a connection of sorts.
As he flew back to be with the rest of his flock, I couldn't shake the feeling that something very spiritual had just occurred.  I could have just brushed the experience off as just a coincidence, but then I know in my soul that there really are no coincidences.  I also know that angels can approach us in so many different forms if we remain open to their appearances.  Lucky me...

If your travels bring you face to face with an angel, I hope that you will keep your spirit open to the possibility.  You are not alone.  You are never alone.

"For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating.
 For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered,
 but flight."
-From Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Transformation and Rarity

As I have written about before, over the past several months I have felt somewhat of a compulsion to search for and collect sea glass.  I know, in my heart, that I am searching desperately for something else, something that I have not yet realized or discovered, but the sea glass provides a beautiful diversion to what it is that I might really be looking for.  Sea glass consists of small fragments of glass which have become reshaped and sometimes re-colored over many, many decades barely reminiscent of their original shape and form.  The glass somehow finds its way into the ocean(or sometimes rivers and lakes) either by human hand, shipwreck, or happenstance.  This leaves it open to the elements resulting in a metamorphosis that can be breathtaking.  Each tiny piece is a rarity in it's own right.  A small example of how something can begin as one thing, and then, over time, end up as another. I also collect other interesting bits and pieces during my long, meditative walks on the beach.  Seashells, rocks and other ephemera catch my eye.  I cannot help but marvel at the absolute beauty which the ocean gifts back to the beach.  To me, it is like a treasure chest filled with the most marvelous of wonders.  I wander the beaches with a feeling of reverence that sometimes overcomes me.
Last week, I came across this rock that is filled with holes, varying striations and remnants of shells that must have been inhabited by tiny sea creatures at one point in time.  I often find rocks which have holes burrowed straight through, but this one was quite an interesting piece.  It was like a miniature village of some sort which was once part of the ocean floor.  I am sure that at some point in time, it was just a smooth rock, but somehow over time it's surface changed.  It was remolded by the sea.  Small animals and shellfish turned it into something other than what it had started out as.  And then, one day I was walking down the beach and it showed up at my feet.  It now resides inside of my home and it is still changing.  When Mark began to examine it, yesterday, he turned it over to look at it from the bottom and as he did, sand poured out from the holes.  It is an ever-changing creation of nature which continues to evolve in subtle ways even as it is explored by humans.
As I sit here considering the shear wonder of how things change, I cannot help but be reminded about what we, as individuals, go through during our lifetimes.  We are shaped and reshaped over and over again.  Each one of our lives sculpt us into unmatched beings of rarity, and just as the sea glass, or the rock or a seashell can change it's form depending upon the elements which it is exposed to, we change in so many subtle and not so subtle ways over the course of our journeys.  Each one of us is a rarity that should not be taken for granted.  A work of art which is in the constant process of transitioning, adapting and shifting; resembling what we once were, but in many ways, not even close to looking like what we will someday be.

As a bit of an aside, I had to share something that I noticed about this rock after going through the pictures.  There is a heart(without the pointy bottom) carved at the base.  And somehow, whatever other message is derived, for me it often comes down to one thing, one very important, life-affirming thing.  Love.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Setting an Intention

If we can hold onto one another for just a moment longer than usual; if we can synchronize our hearts to beat in unison.  If we can feel love in the breath of a whisper as it brushes past our ears.  And hear the words that sometimes go left unsaid.  If we can honor, truly honor, the essence of someone else's spirit and respect one another's need to be understood.  Then maybe, just maybe, we have accomplished everything there was to do today.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Seeing and Believing

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

My dear husband was sitting outside today reading a book about Ansel Adams, one of the greatest photographers of our times.  I was sitting inside when he told me that I needed to come outside with my camera, so I knew that something interesting was taking place.  He wanted to show me how the clouds were being separated by a burst of sunshine.  He liked the way the separation differentiated between the light clouds and the dark ones.  It was not until I went back later on to review my photos, that I understood how spectacular these moments in time would be.
I shot several photos, trying to capture the beauty of the moment as best I could.  Of course, things do not always turn out how we expect them to once we look at the finished product, but I loved the way that the horizon shined with so much natural beauty in the afternoon sun.
And then I noticed the face.  It's there in the clouds on the right side of the photo,  just to the right of the blue sky.  If I was more computer adept, I would be able to point it out with a little arrow, but since I'm not, I can only tell you where to look for it.  The face is present in all three pictures, as well as in a bunch of other ones that I shot, but it was only apparent to me when I went back to review these photos.  My subconscious mind is what first latched on to it, as I was scrolling away from one picture and moving on to the next when something made me stop to go back.  Something inside of my mind said, "There's a face in that picture."  Funny how we can sometimes have a thought before we even realize that we are taking action on that thought.  As I scrolled back, I handed the computer to my husband to ask him if he noticed a face anywhere in the photo.  He pointed to it immediately.  Now, do not feel bad if you do not see it right away because I had to direct Angel Daughter Number Four before she could locate it.  Once she saw it, she was amazed.  

I am not professing in any way, what that little face in the clouds happens to symbolize.  I cannot even begin to speculate the reasons why Mark chose that particular moment to gaze up at the sky, nor why I arrived outside at the precise moment that I did and began shooting pictures.  I can only say that the face was there.  I can only say that it made me feel more peaceful inside once I discovered it.  It renewed my faith.  It replenished my hope.  It made me look towards the heavens and proclaim YES.

Here's to wishing that you are able to find your own face in the clouds at a moment when you might least expect it.  Sometimes when we look past what we think we see, we are lucky enough to discover what we truly needed to find.
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