Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Early Conversation Between The Birds

Purpose is what gives life a meaning.~Charles H. Perkhurst

The old tree heard a beautiful conversation between the birds this morning in the backyard.

The birds were up and about, sharing conversations and songs.  The momma bird said to her friend in the other tree, "Good Morning My friend."
And her response was, "Good Morning, and how are you?"

Three other birds chirped, perched while singing from different trees, "Tweet, tweeter, twitter" with synchronizing harmony.

The songs in the trees quieted for a moment.

Then, one bird started singing loudly, "Chirp, twitter, tweet, twit, twit♫."  It was a funny tune, since the sound grew from a rattling beak of the bird sitting silently before.

I heard the flutter of wings flapping in the sky; then a solitary song came from the other side of the trees, "twitter, tweet, twit."

Another bird exclaimed a "See, Saw, See, Saw" tone, it was like a chain squeaking while a child swings on an old swing at the park.

Then a singing tune arose close by; like a man was whistling at a pretty lady from across the street, "Fse, Pshew."

What a wonderful way to eavesdrop on a conversation with a few birds in neighboring trees under the early morning sun..

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Laughter, It's Contageous

Smile, laugh, hug, snuggle, etc... it all touches the soul!~Melissa Malueg

I went to a movie with my family the other day. All of us laughed hard during that movie.  This doesn't happen often. In fact, the whole audience was laughing with us.  Yes, sometimes I laugh at things during the movies that the rest of the audience doesn't think is as funny.  I suppose, if you can imagine, this can be funny too.

I laughed so hard during some parts of this movie that I was almost on the floor, with downright hysterical laughter.

I remember when I was a little girl my family would go to church each Sunday.  I sat in those hard seats at church, we called them pews in my childhood church.  I tried to sit up-right, stiff as a board, in those old wooden seats. I can still smell the stench of old wood, the musty air and hear the echoing coughs. I would hear a squeak from another person who moved in a seat nearby, as I waited for the service to start.  Half way through the hour, my sister and I would hear some word the person up front would speak; our eyes would connect and we both would start snickering. The snickering would turn into quiet laughter, that laughter turned into tears that streamed down our cheeks. It felt like I couldn't stop. My shoulders would jiggle as I laughed in whispers.  Not planned or orchestrated; only circumstantial laughter.  The laughter felt good.  I like to have a good laugh.

My daughter tells hilarious quirks and stories; in fact, she is known to be a jokester by many of her friends.  She tries to poke fun with me; however, I don't always get the punch-line.  She asks me, "Mom, why don't you think I'm funny? Dad does."  I answer, "I don't know."  I am glad that we can have moments like we had at the movie theater; she peaked over and smiled at the antics we both could relate to from our experiences together.  It is a freeing experience.

Life has so many pressures or maybe I put a lot of pressures on life.
As I walked out of the movie theater with my family; we talked about how much we laughed. I have to admit, I felt cleansed in an odd sort of way.  I'm glad that I went to the movie with my family that day. It was a wonderful time to connect on a lighter level and just have fun!

Yes, laughter is good for the soul.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brilliant Blue Flowers

Bring yourself Present and you will find yourself in the Garden of Eden.~Leonard Jacobson
Today I noticed a small bush of brilliant blue flowers that were nestled in fluffy green foliage.  The vividness in color caught my eye.

I contemplated in awe at the splendid rich blue and noticed soft velvet flowers snuggled next to the blossoming decorations.  The color contrast was impressive. 

I'm glad I looked down at that garden which I could tell was patterned by compassionate hands.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Say "Hi" Neighbor

Because I'm technologically able to find a like-minded person on the other side of the globe, I'm also more interested in making friends with my next-door neighbor.~Jeffrey Klein
This quote made me chuckle and brings back so many memories of my childhood neighborhood friends. We use to stay out late and wait until it was dark so that we could play Star Light Moon Light with all of the neighborhood kids. I wonder what happened to all of those kids. There must have been at least ten of us playing Kick the Can during the mid-day sun in the quiet street or Fisher Price Neighborhood with the neighborhood girls. And then there were the days of dirt-biking. The guys made challenging tracks in the back fields; they would have races and bring in all kinds of kids from our small town.

Oh the memories....

My daughter grew up on organized sports, her specialty was USA gymnastics and USS sanctioned swim team. Yes, she was talented and a natural, she was good, competitive not so much; however, I loved watching her glide through the water as she competed so naturally and the gym always silenced when she performed on floor for gymnastics. I always wished I had half her physical talent. My daughter is all grown up and going to grad school now; she brought me great joy as she grew up.

I do still stay in touch with my one good neighborhood friend who has always been like a sister to me.  We have so many stories that we can tell our kids; well, maybe we shouldn't tell all. =D  
I learned a lot from my friend and she, to this day, makes me think and keeps me grounded in many ways. Even though my daughter experienced her friendships different than I, she gained valuable friendships she met through her sports.  She
 doesn't do much of either sport these days.  She continues to have strong friendships.  I imagine she, also, has stories she can tell and not tell.

When my grandma was alive, I would meet up with her a lot, either in Florida or Wisconsin.  We would have long, philosophical talks about how people have changed and how they are the same. I loved those blossoming conversations with my grandma.

It is different now; especially with technology speeding things up and changing how we exchange information with each other. It takes effort to make sure there is a good balance. I work hard at making sure the balance is there, scheduling face to face time "with" people. I have long talks with my friend over coffee, the cup which is refilled many times during our detailed conversation. I figure, as long as I keep the balance and focus on it as a priority I will be fine. I find that time in real conversation is precious, and there's an amazing thing that happens when I walk over to my neighbor working outside in the yard and I say Hi.

Special note...Fond Memories of the neighborhood kids: Peter, Patrick, Lori & Paula (I am not sure they never played with us), Alisha, Aaron, Pete (down the road), Laura, Susie, Michael, Brian, and sometimes the Alvarez kids were there, and myself.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

There is no Somewhere Else. Everything is right here. ~Brad Warner

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world.
I ran into an old working colleague after my run at the city square the other day.  He knew me instantly, even after 15 years, and he quickly introduced his friend he was with and asked, "Are you working?".  It's funny how work becomes the main focus in our lives.  It was nice to see him.  We had a short conversation, he had a pressing meeting to get to.  I can't believe time has slipped by so quickly.  I wonder if he would have asked the question, "Are you living your dream?"  I would immediately answer, "Yes".

I have wonderful moments when I meet my close friend for coffee; we are so immersed in our conversation when we meet that we find the breakfast crowd becomes the lunch crowd.  We hardly notice all of the movement and noises around us.  We keep talking, smiling, laughing, sharing and remembering, as if we have years of things to catch up on even though it's been only a few weeks since we last met.  We are friends even though we don't go to the same church or believe in the same religion, or even are the same age; however, we can spend hours, upon hours talking the morning away.  I'm not saying church or religion doesn't come up in our conversation, it does.  Spirituality is intertwined in everything I do.

I have to admit, my spiritual journey has not been the smoothest road, partly because God is right there and always has been, leading the way and I don't always look.  He doesn't always clean the path in front of me, because God knows how much I can handle.  I may not always handle things in my life well; however, it's life; as long as I believe and know that all is right and good, I'm okay.

There are times when I will stop while I'm walking, literally turn around and imagine I am looking two years back in my life.  I smile with appreciation, it's not the things or status; but the progress, transition, and happiness that I've achieved in my life!

So many days, weeks and years I've been accomplishing great things in my career; little did I know I was going against the grain of my inner-desire.  Living for the future instead of living today, this minute.  I am still accomplishing great things in my life, they are truly what is in my heart and desire; and I know that this is my calling, it just took a while for me to answer the phone.

It is nice to know that today I have so many deep-rooted friends who are with me in the moment; plus, I am with myself in the moment.  I wonder if my colleague of 15 years would have been there with me; maybe our connection would have been real.  That moment has past, my contemplation complete.  I was going to ask you, "A
re you living your dream?"

"Progress is made in the small, intentional steps, and chances are, you have more power than you think. By focusing on little steps you can take every day, the progress you make will motivate you to continue your journey, and eventually, you can go wherever you want to go."
-- Stephen Cherniski

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home.~Betty Bender

Will you listen to your own heart, your own truth, no matter which way it leads you?
I always wondered how truthful a person should be. When people are at work they constantly are talking around the truth to get ahead. Or if you see something wrong in a business, do you actually tell them? I was talking with a friend about this a while back and she told me it depends upon the situation. Does it depend on the situation to decide to be truthful or not?

As a transformation consultant, companies actually hire me for this one thing, to come in to their business and assess what's going on and to be honest about the outcome.  Sometimes I have to be direct to those people who are not being honest with themselves or others; however, being honest doesn't have to be hurtful.  I've learned that.  But some won't listen until I am brutal.  It takes several days or even weeks, they get it eventually.

There have been so many times in my life that I noticed something and wanted to tell that person the truth about what I see; like when a person is starting a business for the first time and their prices are way out of line or even if someone has some food in their teeth, I tell them.  This is helpful it leads to no possible embarrassment later in the day or loss of clients later in the week.

I figure, I only have one life to live.  A true life. If it is true that there is an afterlife, then so be it, at least I can say I was honest in this life.  I try anyway.  It's all in how I present the truth.  Hopefully, my conscience will have learned a lesson and carry what I've learned forward.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

People who tell lies really disappoint me~Laura Wodach

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." -- Anne Frank
Why do we lie?
When I was little I use to have discussions with my best friend about lies. We would debate about whether a white lie was really a lie because a white lie, she would tell me, isn't really a lie because it is so small. This conversation would come up every so often, when we were playing in our yard or walking to school. We would have some heated discussions about telling lies.  As I got older, I realized, from telling a white lie how a small cloud hangs over my head. And then all of the sudden before I knew it, stories upon stories were built on that original small little lie and now I have dug a deep hole that I knew, if I didn't just "tell the truth" I would sink deeper and deeper into it.

There is real no benefit in telling a lie, even a little white lie.  The truth may hurt someone or even you; however, the lie ends up hurting not only someone but many people, so in the end the truth will make you feel free because you said it.  I think, sometimes we try to control how people will feel, we lie because we don't want to hurt anyone.  We want everyone to be happy, content without fear and sadness; however, sadness and fear build because of all the lies.  We all have told lies and I'm sure they were dandies that never were turned into truths.  These lies are hidden deep in our psychi, hidden away,  we think, so that no one can ever hear the truths.  Maybe it's time to come out with it.  It's time to do some soul searching and remember those lies once told many moons ago or even yesterday. Contemplate the past, let the lies go and tell the truths out loud.  It's amazing how freeing this is, just like these beautiful pictures of mountains and landscapes.  Look at these pictures; how freeing it is to see the beauty.  That is what it is like to tell truths.

I try, each day, to be honest with myself and with others.  I work hard at eliminating white lies, so the white lies aren't there to make bigger lies.  I consciously say to myself, is this a white lie? If it is, I'm not going to tell it. I'm going to be honest with myself and tell the truth today.

Photos courtesy of Peggy Fitzstephens

Monday, June 21, 2010

People don't always know what they think.

It's funny how people can make assumptions, one look at you and think they know you.
I remember when I was in high school, I was a silly girl, liked having fun, being in the moment; because of this one of the mom's called me flaky
(and of course, being from a small town, told other mom's I was as well).

Periodically, I see this mom at events when I am visiting my family back home.  She still has her skewed glasses on, having no idea what I've accomplished, what my family is like, however, she still looks at me like a flake.

It's too bad really, when someone does that.  

If she would have taken time to get to know me, even now, there are very special stories that come from my life; like, 
  • My Great Grandpa was an Entrepreneur who was successful in many ventures.
  • I come from a musician background, my Grandpa Les was in a professional traveling band.
  • My Grandma was an artist, creating beautiful clothes and afghan quilts for us girls growing up.  
  • My Mom is a beautiful alto singer, played bells in the bell choir and plays the accordion during family gatherings and holidays.
  • I too, have a colorful portfolio under my belt.  
  • And the list goes on and on... (this is for another day)
It's funny; I think it was probably about 15 years ago, when I ran into this "mom" when I was listening to my friend in the band she sings in.

The mom came up to me and started talking with me, asking me what I'm doing with my life.  I started explaining to her the things I was doing, and at that time I was a network administrator; I was taken aback by her reaction once I told her this.  She said to me, "How were you able to get something like that?"  In a real snotty tone, as if she assumed I wouldn't become anyone or anything.  I didn't even realize until that meeting how she felt about me.  Strange how we think we can control someone's future if we either label them or don't think highly of them.  It's sad really.  

I've learned from this experience, it was a tough one to live; however, the thing I try really hard to do is keep an open mind and not judge the people I meet, even if it's just for one time.  I try to help those whom I may see have deficiencies.  Instead of watching and thinking they'll fail, I plant seeds and encourage them; watch them blossom to become who I know they can become.   There are so many experiences that make us who we are and knowing that each person is a special individual is wonderful knowledge to have.  
This is the key to our future.

I have to really work hard to let go of those judgments and allow people to become...  I work hard at it every day.  It's important for me to allow people to be the wonderful people God created them to be.  I believe our world would be a kinder place if others would get on this bandwagon as well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

We all choke. You're not human if you haven't~Curtis Strange

The formula for water is H2O. Is the formula for an ice cube H2O squared~Lily Tomlin
A half shy, but maybe not!
Have you ever had that one goal in your life, that has been a goal for ever.  You keep saying you have this "one" goal.  You say it, again and again in conversation; however, it just keeps sitting there, no accomplishments towards the goal (you think anyway).  The goal is there! Others do it.  Why do I keep passing by the opportunity?  Maybe the goal is too big to reach.  That could be true; why not take it one step at a time?

I had a small epiphany this weekend when running the half marathon leg in the half Ironman with my brother.  A lot of first times for me... first time running a half Ironman relay, first time running with my brother (who is a phenomenal swimmer and biker, very close to elite status), first time meeting my brothers brother in-law (who is also very close to elite status in his race) and first time my parents saw me run one of my races.  All great stuff!!! Great stuff. 
We were all chatting about our future goals, two of us want to complete an Ironman in our lifetime, we both even said in 2011; and one of us wants to reach elite status.  All doable goals, big goals, as long as we set our minds to doing it, we will.  

I ask myself, how long ago did we set these goals? Why haven't we reached them yet?

Maybe it's because we have some personal fears and barriers set in our minds that keep us from heading towards those goals; like, saying how much I don't like ab-work or sprints. Did you know that ab-work is critical to a good race? Having a strong core will alleviate stresses in your body during the race and overcompensate for areas in your body that get tired or strained during a race. Or doing sprints.  Sprint workouts, challenges all kinds of muscles, plus helps agility & speed and retrains your brain to work differently during a race. Doing sprints during training will generate that one minute difference in time. The time you've been trying to achieve forever. 

As we completed our tri relay we found that it worked out quite well and we started talking about doing an Ironman relay. Ah, ha...epiphany! Why can't we take our goal and break it up smaller, try this first and see how it goes. Each one of us have a unique skill for one of the three sports in the Ironman, my brother swim, my new friend in bike and I in the run. We also have goals to have a better time and if we work together as a team, we may reach our time goals within the Ironman relay. I think we have something here, why not work as a team?  It might encourage us each to work harder and be stronger.  Heck I learned that just yesterday, when I was waiting in the transition area for my brother to come in on the bike.  I kept saying how I want to run fast because I don't want to disappoint my brother who is anxious to get a good time.  How if I trained properly I might even get that "personal best time" I've been working toward in my half marathon.   Plus, I will have completed a partial lead toward my big goal which is to complete that Ironman in my lifetime.

That goal that you have, my advise... t
ake it slow, chip away at it; a little at a time.  Why not?  Be open and aware. See your fears and roadblocks in front of you.  Conquer each fear, one at a time.  It may take some doing and time, be patient.  Before you know it, you are closer to that one goal.  You will reach that finish line... at last!

***The thought pattern characteristic of the right brain lends itself to the formation of original ideas, insights, discoveries. We might describe it as the kind of thought prevalent in early childhood, when everything is new and everything has meaning. If you have ever walked along a beach and suddenly stopped to pick up a piece of driftwood because it looked to you like a leaping impala or a troll, you know the feeling of pleasure that comes from the sudden recognition of a form. Your Design mind (right brain) has perceived connections and had made a pattern of meaning. It takes logical, rational acts and facts of the world you know, the snippets of your experience, the bits and pieces of your language capabilities, and perceives connections, patterns, and relationships in them.~
Gabriele Lusser Rico

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Embrace your future!!!

Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.~Napoleon Hill

Colorful collage full of ideas, seeds once planted by our parents and their parents, right now, blooming into colorful flowers, now held delicately in our world.
I just came home after a full day at a leadership retreat, workshop or gathering with about 100 of the most intelligent, passionate, and skillful executive leaders and educators. The meeting was hosted at one of the leader’s log cabin home, positioned on a 10 acre estate right on the lake front. It was a perfect day.  Inspired and Energized are some of the adjectives that I can use, out of many, to describe this event. I met powerful and influential people who were genuine in so many ways. Everyone had the same purpose to ensure young people succeed, with education as one of the cornerstones. The statistics I heard were mind boggling, only 1 out of 5 young people attend college in the Midwest and the high school graduate percentage is plummeting. How are we to take care of our children and grandchildren? We are so concerned about living in the now; we are forgetting about those choices affect them. As one of the leaders stated, "It's like we are shooting ourselves in the foot."  

I was inspired to hear of the amazing programs that are currently being initiated; one for example is creating a camp for high school kids who are struggling and in a high risk situation, borderline dropouts. This camp is entirely volunteer-run, focusing on teaching up to at least sophomore level algebra; because, studies have shown that this math level is enough to give the student the basic math concepts to enter college and the option to get there.

I could not believe the energy that came from this day jammed packed with strategic work group activities.  All of whom were volunteering their time, taking their time away from their daily lives to attend this day full of purpose.

We truly are in this together, and if we each do our part, encourage and support education by providing whatever resources we can give; whether it be mentoring, coaching, teaching, sharing our thoughts and ideas, giving our time, providing product, volunteering our services, or giving money; anything will help support our kids and the future they will be leading.

We cannot rely on the government, who, in my opinion, takes every resource and sucks it up into a vacuum spitting out compost in return. It is our innovative application that will only be a part in making that difference. 

Just recently, I figured out that if I follow my heart it will lead me to great things. Before I could go anywhere, I had to take time to contemplate, meditate and just be in the moment, to understand what it was that was in my heart. I realize that my passion is truly helping all ages in all areas of education (reading, math, sciences, fitness, & arts), this includes not only the taught, but the researchers, scientists, artists, teachers and coaches who do the teaching.  I know, wholeheartedly, that reading is fundamental and when a child can read it opens the world of opportunity for them. So, now that I'm getting closer to my heart, understanding who I am, I realize there is a reason why I am involved with this wonderful foundation, because it is about the young people. Those innovative teachers and students who will help make our world a better place for the future of my kids and your kids.

In addition to contributing my energies towards higher education, I most recently found out that there are two organizations where I can give back to young people and communities in needs.  There is an organization called Layla House, which is a volunteer organization where people come and help out at orphans (with aids) in Ethiopia. In addition, Ethiopia Reads, an organization that develops communities in Ethiopia, is a place where I will live for a month and help rebuild communities.  Even if it is only that I help take and distribute books from one town to the other, walking a donkey and cart with donated books; this is their traveling library.  I will help in a very small way.  It is something I feel in my heart that I need to do, to help young and old, so that I can understand and help rebuild their communities.

After an inspiring day with strong leaders, I now realize, that I have been participating in our future, today; and I am truly making a contribution, as small as it may be, to help our world.  All I can do is continue to listen to my heart and the messages that people share, hoping that what little I offer builds towards the larger contribution in educating a young mind, which I believe, will provide a future of the greater good.

Photos by Mary Minnella Lowisz 

Reinvigorate - Reimagine - Reinvent - Recharge - Renew

Yes Grandma I am Crocheting!!

My friend posted beautiful newborn baby pictures, of her new god-son. His cute, pudgy face was all puckered up with this over sized, loose-fitting stocking cap on his head. It looked homemade. I wondered if they received handmade caps as donations, so I asked my friend. Sure enough, the caps are hand-knit or crocheted and donated to the hospital to give one to each newborn. I wanted to pull out my crochet needles and start making hats for these precious newborns. So, I started looking for patterns that I liked and went to the store to pick out just the right skeins of yarn to begin my venture, crocheting my first newborn cap.

Boy, it's been a long time since I've crocheted.  The only knitting/crochet project I remember truly completing was this mint green sweater that I created in high school.  I remember pulling it out every chance I got, during work-breaks and watching TV and babysitting.  I don't have that sweater anymore.  I wish I would have saved it, it was a treasure.  I remember it as if it was yesterday; it wasn't exactly even on both sides, one sleeve was a little longer than the other, with popcorn stitches and it was really pretty.  I was very proud of that sweater.

I hope the newborns under this little cap stay warm, a little something hand-knit with love.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Little Old Lady

"I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet."
-- Ancient Persian Saying

We were driving down the country road on our way to the gym as we do almost every weekday and about a half mile down the road we saw a little old lady, standing in the 3 foot steep ditch, trying to yank at her lawn mower stuck in a gully.

My husband said, "Should we stop?" and I said, "Sure."  He looped around and pulled over to the opposite side of the road.  We walked across the busy country highway and asked if she needed help.  The little old lady looked up and frantically said, "My lawn mowers stuck."  My husband immediately started pulling at the lawn mowers steering wheel, rocking it back and forth until it broke free.  The old lady tried with all of her might to push from the back.  She wanted to help too, and wouldn't give up helping.  It took them only a second to move the lawn mower out of the ditch onto a better landing.  Exhausted and relieved she sat down and started to cry telling us how her husband died and that her kids were making her sell this place and she doesn't want to sell her house.

She said, "I love being out here, cutting the grass weeding the garden".  She said, "My kids stuffed me in a little apartment, and all I do is sit and watch TV, there is nothing to do."

She told us more about her story and we stood there listening.  While my husband interjected with his short comments of concern.  After a while, she said that she needed to finish cutting the grass.  We told her it isn't necessary to cut the grass in the ditch, the longer grass in the ditch will be fine, of course, we didn't want her to get stuck immediately after we drove off.  We said good bye and headed back to our truck.  I started to tear up as we drove away.

It's funny how everyone has a story and we live our lives only to be told what we may not want to do when we are fragile and older.  I saw many cars whiz by as we were helping the little old lady get unstuck so she could continue her endeavor.  This isn't a story of how we came to save the day; however, it is only a reflection of how we do not take that moment to stop, listen and help an older person.

When I was visiting my daughter in Madrid, Spain, we took public transportation everywhere.  They had security and police operating the station tunnels.  The trains were packed, literally, like sardines.  There was one rule that was eagerly enforced and that was, if an elderly person came on the train, and you were younger than them, you were to give up your seat so that that older person could sit down.  They would fine people who didn't follow this rule.  I thought this was kind, special and indeed gracious, because a person lives their entire life, building their stories with families and friends, only to grow old and to look back on these wonderful stories with respect and grace.

I felt good about that top-priority law that they enforce in Spain.  I wish our country would consider enforcing a similar rule like this because the way I see old people treated now is sad, very sad.  They live their whole life giving to others, working hard, raising their family, giving back to their communities, and all they get in return is the decisions to stuff them up in a small room with a television and bed.

After this moment, stopping, helping a little old lady push her lawn mower out of the ditch, I realized it only takes one small second to make a difference in a person’s life; a simple smile when I pass a person walking on the sidewalk, opening the door for a person when walking into a store, meaningfully saying excuse me, when I am in someone’s path.  These are simple things that can make someone’s big problems disappear, if only for a moment.

As we drove back home after our work-out at the gym, we pass the little old ladies vacant home with a for sale sign perched on a post in front.  The grass was cut, hedges trimmed and the lawn mower put away for next time.  I imagined the little old lady settled, content, on her sofa, smiling and feeling good.  Her grass is cut and she was able to share her stories with some new friends.

Monday, June 14, 2010

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. Jan Glidewell

Have you ever heard the quote, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"?

Yes, it's very true.  Every waking moment you make a decision to go down the same path, thoughts, feelings and actions or to start fresh and new.  This is how I see life right now.

Knowing that yesterday and the days before are beautiful memories, tough lessons, and rote actions & deeds, and this second, this very second, while standing, sitting and reading this, I have a choice to take a different path, make a different decision, move in another direction.

It is truly an up-lifting experience just realizing this, and then taking the step toward the new fearlessness, acceptance and strength.  I can do it!  Truly, this is the gift that God has given me.  We don't always receive that gift, freely, accepting... with open arms.  It's time to be okay and receive all the bounties of life that are available.  It's time to not always give, but receive as well.  That is what I am doing when I change my mindset and accept something new and different.

It's easy enough to think about and I know thinking about it, the awareness of it is the first step toward being okay with it.

I know that the smallest speck of thought can really transform into something more open and fresh;  it truly does not have to be a large mountain to climb.  One small shift in thought and perception can allow me to look back days later and really see the change; appreciating what was and what is now.  

You know, it is uncomfortable, especially at first, as long as I lift the control of it and let it be, just natural, it arrives and manifests in ways I would have never expected.  It becomes so natural.  Appreciation of life goes a long way toward making that change.

So come with me on this ride, check yourself in and take that small step, right now!  Pick something small and see where it takes you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Do I Go or NOT Go?

To go or not to go?

If you are an avid fitness buff, or a runner like myself, you know how easy it is to wake up and talk yourself out of going out to run, walk, or whatever you choose.  If you don't get up, put those shoes on and get out the door; instead, you decide, "Oh, I'll make a cup of coffee" or "Maybe I'll check my emails" or "Maybe I'll read that book" etc etc, pretty soon it's way past the time and you no longer have the opportunity to run.

Yes, it's very easy to talk oneself out of doing something. So easy!  Instead of talking yourself out of it, as the add says, "just do it!"  If you don't you'll regret it and be unhappy with yourself that you didn't.  If you do, you get another solo experience of running on the quiet country roads, the birds chirping and singing around you, everyone still sleeps quietly behind the blinds of their dark-windows.  You, on the other hand, are out there, waking every muscle of your body up.  Gaining energy, more oxygen in your blood as you take each step toward home.

You are happy you went, because if you talked yourself out of it, you would still be here reading this blog.  So, get up, get your shoes on, take a walk out that door, and enjoy the waking morning!

Now go.... I did!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Somethings Cooking in the Kitchen

This is going to be a ho-hum blog entry today...

I got up early this morning, before the birds woke up and started making cornbread and Spanish Quiche with spinach, mushrooms, garlic and onion.  I wasn't sure how everything would turn out, or if it would; since I'm just learning how to expand my cooking portfolio.  The first thing I did was mix the cornbread mixture.  It didn't take much, all it took was flour, cornmeal, sugar and egg, so once I finished mixing it, I placed it in the oven to bake for 25 minutes * They always say, "follow the recipe and you'll do fine" so the recipes are listed at the end of today's blog. 

I then proceeded to make the crust for the quiche.  I've tried this before making my cherry tarts, sometimes my crust turns out other times, not.  I blended the flour, butter and water combination as instructed and found out the butter that I had was whipped and at room temperature.  The recipe called for cold-cubed butter, oh well have to compromise this early morning because my guests are coming over early morning and I don't feel like driving to the store.

I continued forward with ice and I mean a real ice cube, for ice water.  I let it melt in the spoon as I slowly blended in the ice-cold water into the flour mixture.  I balled the rest up and placed it in waxed paper and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Darn, I should have listened to my daughter who suggested I do the dough the night before, then it would have been properly refrigerated.  This must be the reason why my crust never turns out, because I'm in such a rush and do things last minute.

Onward and forward, with the main part of the dish, yummy!  I'm ready.
Sautee' the garlic and onions in butter, I can do that.  I'm getting pretty good at that since I've been learning how to make Italian foods and soups either with my Italian friend or experimenting on my own!  So, this isn't too bad.  I decided to use fresh spinach instead of frozen, so I cut up the spinach leaves and added them to the browned onion and garlic.  Mmm, mmm! It sure smells good!

I'm glad I tryed this new recipe out, I think it turned out deliciously grande!  Today we are getting family pictures taken by my extended family (I say extended family because I never can figure out the name of where they sit in the family; however, I'll explain it here and maybe you can shed some light on me.  Here goes, my photographer (who by the way I use to babysit when I was in high school, I babysit all of my relations at some time) is my Mom's mom's (my grandma), sister's (my great aunt), son's daughter.  So, you tell me, 'what is that?)"

I really don't have many people come to my home, it seems I'm always going out, or invited out for coffee instead.  So, this is a real treat for me.  I'm hoping everything turns out to taste good, because I'd love that they come back.  I always dreamed of having a revolving door in my home, people coming and going, feeling comfortable enough to walk into my home unannounced, coming in and just sitting down with me to chat, over coffee or whatever.  So, the quiche was simply made mixed together with the baked crust (I baked it for about 5 minutes before putting the quiche ingredients in; and I'm patiently waiting for it to bake).  Here are the final pictures of my masterpieces, *and the recipes are below, enjoy!

Corn Bread
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup yellow cornmeal
• 2/3 cup white sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 egg
• 1 cup milk
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Spanish Quiche
1/2 cup butter
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
• 1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
• 1 (6 ounce) package herb and garlic feta, crumbled
• 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
• 4 eggs, beaten
• 1 cup milk
• salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion in butter until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in spinach, mushrooms, feta and 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into pie crust.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pastry shell, allowing egg mixture to thoroughly combine with spinach mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining Cheddar cheese, and bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until set in center. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Flaky Butter Crust:

• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
• 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
 To make the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter in the processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times, or until the dough comes together and starts to pull away from the sides of the container. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To make the dough by hand, combine the flour, salt, and butter in a medium bowl, and mix with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough comes together and is no longer dry, being careful not to overmix. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface according to the recipe, fit it into the pan, and allow to rest again in the refrigerator before baking.

Yield: one 9-inch tart or pie crust

Friday, June 11, 2010

Zumba for this Old Chick

My friend mentioned that there was a Zumba class offered in two small towns in the area a few days a week, so, I decided to try it.

Now, as I get older, I find myself to be less graceful.   I'm not sure why this is since I was a cheerleader for as many years as I can remember during high school and we use to go out and dance every weekend in college; so it was dancing like Cindy Loeper and Madanna, not a graceful dance, more like a bend the knee out and tap, but hey, I had it down!  I have to remember that was almost 30 years ago.  I kind of laughed at this thought and figured... what the heck! I'll try it.

I asked my daughter if she'd like to try the Zumba class with me, I thought it would be fun. If anything, since she IS graceful, taking over 10 years of club gymnastics and dance, I knew she might enjoy it. We arrived at the Community Center early. There was a baseball game going on at the diamond next to the facility, so we sat outside for a few minutes to watch the guys play. I remember playing in a softball league the summer just out of high school. Boy was that a fun time! My team wasn't very good.  It turns out I was the better player on the team; however, I don't think we ever won a game. It was fun to be a part of a team and get out there just to have fun.  My daughter noticed that one of her old classmates may have been playing in the field as we sat enjoying the sounds of the whiz of the ball being thrown by the pitcher and the sound of the ball hitting the catchers leather glove.  After a few base-hits and plays, we decided to go into the facility to sign up for the Zumba class.

 The instructor welcomed us and had us sign the waver and we paid for the class. Then waited. I stretched a little as my daughter stood watching the other ladies walk in and prepare for class.  Once everyone was settled in, the teacher made a few announcements and then turned the stereo box (music) on. It was wonderful music with a drumbeat that reminded me of the African music that is played on the radio.

She started tapping her one foot, stretched out to the side as her knee bounced high, as if the floor was rubber, causing her leg to reflect upward after her foot hit the ground. She alternated her taps from foot to foot. I thought, "This is strange, but, I can do this"! So I started mimicking her movements. Then she added the arms, swinging them from side-to-side. I was watching and mimicking the instructor as she added new movements. I was doing it! I couldn't hear the instructor very well, since I most politely took the back row; the intent was so that no one could see my clumsy moves.

However, the instructor was very good about showing with her movements how to do the next move even without the verbal antics that came with describing it. I was pleased. Then, all of the sudden, out of the blue, the instructor stops, with her feet plastered at least 3 feet apart, faced forward, toes pointing outward, and she start wigging her hips like there's no tomorrow. My hips just don't work that way!  My daughter was in front of me and she's wiggling her little hips all the way home. I tried and tried, I felt confident I looked like an ostridge (they don't HAVE hips).  It was comical.

 I continued forward.

 I got lost in the music and the movements.

Before I knew it, the last song was playing and we were stretching with the music in a way that I've never done before. The stretches were similar to what I know, but the way she integrated them with the music was playful and fun.  The class whizzed by!  We were sweaty, thirsty and energized.  As we walked out to the car,  we decided Zumba (pronounced Zooombu - with a short u) was a fun experience and that we will do it again.  I highly recommend it!

Zumba IS for this old chick, and young ones too, I had so much fun!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You're a Strange "little" Man....

I love that saying, "you're a strange "little" man".

I heard it once in the 3rd-time remake of A Christmas Story.  The pudgy old man playing the Ghost of Christmas present would say, "You're a Strange "Little" Man" in a melodious way that made me laugh again and again, each time I heard it.  

It's funny how things stick in memory!  

Like the time when I was no more than 12 years old, walking along the daily-route to elementary school; seeing a man on the loading dock at a local cheese factory.  I remember the scents of musky cheese that filled the air as I captured the snap-shot of the man crouching down to pick up one of the many boxes piled high on the raised dock, left by the trucker that just drove off.  This memory is preserved as a brilliant image in my mind.  

It's an amazing thing, our memory!

There are so many times my short-term memory does not prevail and again and again, I have to look back at my notes if I am lucky enough to jot the information down once I heard it; when other times, like this, when I remember a short-term vision, vividly, after over 30 years of experiences.  

I love how the mind works! 

It's a wonderous thing, that "strange "little" mind of ours!