Friday, September 30, 2011

Saltwater Waves

Several years ago, about this time of year, we were able to spend two weeks at a beach house. I loved  to watch the daily tidal changes, the clouds, the beach, the people, and the weather over a longer period of time. The perspective helped me gain a greater appreciation for the ocean, its moods and views. Over the weeks, the beach went through surprising transformations. In the morning, there might be a new ledge of sand, or yesterday's ledge would be gone, revealing rocks that were buried the day before. The kids would make elaborate sand creatures, to find them completely washed away the next high tide. The tides would come all the way to the cliff some days, other days, the high tide would barely reach the rocks in the cove. We watched the waves pound on the point, submerging it with swirling power at high tide; at low tide we could walk out there and view the life in the tide pools. Some days the kids could play in friendly three foot waves, other days the six footers would give them a good thrashing or exciting rides to the shore. The colors at sunrise and sunset, or the moon on the water at night were commonplace spectacular. The varied sounds: waves crashing, sea lions barking, children squealing, birds screeching; the beach is not a quiet place, yet it is deeply calming.

Part of the reason I love to sit and watch the ocean is to think of the motion, the wave surges, the hidden power beneath its surface, and the changes - always changes. The daily flow of the tides, the shifting sand, the rolling waves crashing in and pulling out - all watchful fodder.

I would prefer to write about something funny: the sea lions playing in the spray of the cresting waves at dusk as the setting sun casts a transparent amber glow through the waves, the dolphins curiosity while the boys were out floating on their boards, the local surf boarders as they came in dripping and sandy, "Did you see that, dude, what a nugget!"

Emotions remind me of the ocean. Surges. Hidden depths. Constant motion. Changes with the storms. Unexplainable. Logical facts and reasons sometimes don't make sense. I have feelings, churning waves that splash in salt water tears. My friend says tears are a gift. I'm not so sure when I walk into Target and a wave of memories brings a flood of tears. I fight them back. Target is not the place for a high tide of tears.

The ocean helps me to understand my emotions. Gain perspective. The daily fluctuations of tides flowing in and out. Sand shifting and blowing, restructuring the face of the beach. The effects of the waves slamming against the rocks, splashes tossing in the wind, the deep motion surfacing in the breaking waves. Managing emotions has a lot to do with perspective - being able to step back and take the long view, accepting the daily changes.

The energy of the ocean would be a tremendous source to tap. Perpetual motion. When I am struggling with emotions, I think of the ocean. I imagine the strength there, below the surface. I think of the energy, the power of the water and the life that it nurtures deep within. Yes, it can be dangerous, disastrous. Yes, it can be life giving and rich in all it provides for us: food, weather patterns, water cycles that affect the entire earth. Our earth is  70 % water, only 3 % of that being fresh water. There would be no life without its balancing influence. The same for emotions. We need them.

A different year we stayed with friends at a beach house during the winter. As a storm brewed, we watched through the afternoon as the ocean changed from blue to light green to gray to lavender to navy to purple, then emerald green. The storm broke over a stony gray ocean. My emotions can swing like that some days, too. Colorful, bright, or dark and gloomy.

I think of an Amy Carmichael quote:
"In acceptance, lieth peace."
Emotions are powerful. Accepting them, appreciating them, learning to source their strength and energy. There is beauty hidden there, just as the ocean provides an unceasing source of beauty and strength.

Some of my themes for Traveling Lighter are letting go, looking forward, finding the strength for today, contentment, simplifying, finding peace and the ability to relax, and awareness of the Lord's guidance and care in every detail. Trust.

All of these have inspiration from the ocean--as I learn to manage the shifting sand and waves of emotions, as I travel lighter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Did you set any goals last January?
Do you realize there are fourteen weeks left in 2011?

Last week our daughter posted about the fifteen weeks left in this year. Well, a week has already gone by and it is now fourteen weeks. She was able to break her goals neatly into sets of fifteen and is updating them on her blog. I haven't been able to make my goals fit so neatly into a number pattern. Some of the writing goals I am making progress with, others need a jump start or kick-up-a-notch. These are the key goals I will work harder to achieve by the year's end:

  • Lose another fifteen pounds and get out of this stuck place with my weight loss. I will continue with the exercise, and work harder at planning ahead what I will eat, within the calorie count.
  • Read aloud every day. I made a list of fifteen fun, light-hearted books which I'm sure we'll adjust as we read through them.

  • Smile and Laugh many times a day. Not take things too seriously. Enjoy and appreciate the beauty of life and the wonderful family that surrounds me. Every day, all day. Not sure how I'll keep track of this one. More about attitude than actually counting smiles. Just smile, like this little guy.
drawing by littlebitzofart - thanks!
What goals do you want to work toward in the next fourteen weeks?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Empty Room

She moved out this weekend. I was expecting the empty room. I wasn't expecting the removal of the heart. The emptiness in not in all the stuff that is gone, but the personality, the life, the color, the enthusiasm, the goals and dreams, the spirit, the heart of the daughter who lived in the room. All of the stuff and color that was the expression of her is gone, moved to another state. The room is quiet, empty, devoid of life.

Two rooms were emptied this weekend. Another daughter, already gone four months now, her stuff going with the other daughter, their things condensed into one trailer. Her things were packed by Skype, holding things up to the computer screen, asking, "Do you want this? What about this?"

That room, however, had an instant personality switch. Her brother said, "You're leaving? That's sad. Can I have your room?"

What was an artist's studio with cartoon and cowgirl touches, is now horses and planes. The closet was hung with a few dresses, mostly colorful tops. Now, it is camouflage uniforms and dark jackets. A completely different heart, a different mood, with new goals and dreams posted on the four walls.

I knew in my head that the people are what make a home, not the style of decorating or the things hung on the walls. This weekend, we had a vivid picture of the personality swings a room can have.

It is not the stuff that matters. The life lived in that room, yes, expressed by some of the stuff, but mostly expressed by the person within those walls: with spirit and heart and goals and dreams and thoughts and personality all their own. Unmatched, irreplaceable, unique, vital; the heart, the life of a room.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Odds and Evens

Last evening, out for our walk about sunset, we picked a star of jasmine flower off a bush at the top of the hill to savor the aroma on the way back down.
Have you ever noticed that flower petals come in odd numbers?
We started looking at the flowers we passed. The hibiscus, the periwinkle, the bougainvillea, they were all odd numbers. Made us wonder about daisies, you know the "he loves me, he loves me not?" If the petals are always odd numbered, it just depends on which phrase you start with.
Many of the flowers have many petals, too many for us to count on our walk without pulling each one apart.
No intention of this being a scientific study - just something to think about and appreciate the beauty around us, noticing the details.

Animals have even numbered legs: two, four, six, eight. Isn't it interesting that plants are odd and animals are even?
 Again, nothing proven or scientific,
Just wondering.
Can you find any flowers with even numbered petals?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do It Anyway

"People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway."

                             -Mother Teresa

The story of this video is a scene I have fun imagining: a group of people standing on a busy city corner, waiting for the white walk sign to appear. Each an individual, alone with their thoughts in the crowd. Each is writing their own thoughts in the air, each with their own dreams, needs, hopes, choices, regrets and plans. A crowd of individuals.
This is Martina McBride singing "Do It Anyway." Similar words, similar concepts, similar inspiration to Mother Teresa's poem. The challenge is to remember: dream, believe, work, build, to Do It Anyway.

"God is great, but sometimes life ain't good,
And when I pray, 
It doesn't always turn out like I think it should,
But I do it anyway...I do it anyway."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Do You Fill Your Jar?

You are familiar, I'm sure, with the time management illustration using stones, pebbles, sand, water and a jar. If you want to fit it all inside the jar, do you randomly dump it all together and hope it will fit? No, like many of my disorganized days, you would end up with a big mess spilled all over the counter and floor.

First, the largest stones go into the jar. Then, add the smaller pebbles which will fill up some of the empty space around the stones. Next, pour in the sand which will filter in around the stones and pebbles. The water is poured in last, sifting its way down in and around and under the stones and pebbles and sand, filling every last drop of empty space. And it all fits.
I don't know the source of this illustration, but I've heard it from several authors and speakers. Applied to our daily tasks: the most important, most critical, most time consuming jobs should be done first - those items that absolutely must get done, or, as one time guru says (with slight exaggeration), someone will die if we don't do them.
Next, would be the pebbles, the urgent, but not quite so important, a bit less time consuming jobs.
The "sand" tasks are all the miscellaneous dishes and laundry and beds made and clothes picked up and meals and bandaids applied and lost-socks-found and let-the-dog-out jobs that will easily fill an entire day if we let them.
And the water, the life-giving, vital water, for me, represents the heart of the day - the attitudes, spirit, cause, or "why" behind everything I do.
 If our choices for activities are based on priorities, the critical tasks will get done, for the right reasons, and with a good attitude. (Yes, I fail miserably at this some days)

I don't have the sand and stuff to do the actual illustration for this. The other day, I did realize it was a good way to solve my problem of overflowing the fruit smoothie type shakes I make each day. I was putting the water in first, then the powder, then the fruit. Guess what? A mess.

First in goes the larger fruit, the strawberries.
Then the blueberries.
Then the scoop of powder.
Last, the water is poured in over it all.
No mess!

A simple, easy solution, and a good reminder that when I fill my days (my jar) wisely, it all falls into place in the proper order, with simplicity, with a little less mess and helps me to travel lighter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dried Red Tomatoes

Dried Red Tomatoes

Our favorite recipe for dried tomatoes:
Chicken Tacos

1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/3 - 1/2 cup dried tomatoes, chopped
pinch pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
4 c. cooked chicken, shredded
12 to 15 taco shells (warmed or fried)

Heat oil in skillet, add onion, garlic and salt. Cook until onion is tender.
Add tomatoes, pepper and cumin. Stir in chicken.
Cook and stir until mixture is fairly dry.
Fill taco shells with chicken mixture.
Serve with salsa.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Do You Eat Your Yogurt?

Early, as I drove the boys to the ranch for their volunteer time at the stables, the radio announcers were asking listeners a call-in question, "What bugs you most about your co-workers?" One gal said her co-worker drove her nuts when she scraped the bottom of her yogurt container like she was digging for China. She said she would  just go buy her another one if she wanted more.

At first, I laughed - I am guilty of the same thing. Don't want to waste any of the good yogurt that isn't cheap. As I thought about it, two different attitudes stood out.

Like me, the one gal did not want to waste, wanted to get every penny's worth, wanted to be thorough. To the other gal, money was no problem, buying more was the obvious solution, and it wasn't worth the time it took to scrape the bottom. Just finish it and move on.

(Obviously, I don't know the gals and I'm sure they are both very nice, hard working women.)

The contrast struck me, made me think about my own attitudes toward money and time. What is more important, saving a tiny bit of time, or stretching the money a little bit further? Money and time are critical factors in decision making. We must determine the value of time and money - both precious commodities. Time is irreplaceable, once gone, it is gone. Money can be gained and lost and gained again. We tend to have one or the other - when we have time, we don't have money, or when we have money we don't have time.

One gal did not see the value of time in scraping the yogurt - if you want more, just go buy another one. Money was not the issue.

The other gal wanted every drop so as not to waste money - the extra time to her had value by saving cost. Time was not the issue.

This is all a bit nebulous and I am stretching the scraping of a yogurt container into a time and money management issue.
What do you think? Is time spent more important if you save money, or is it more important to save time and spend the money?
How do you eat your yogurt?

Friday, September 16, 2011


In our miniature rose bed, can you spot the impostor?

While I was watering, I noticed one of the plants had different colored, different shaped leaves, and interesting rose hips, though I didn't remember it blooming.
What I thought were rose hips, like the ones on this plant, opened up into pomegranate blossoms.

Our pomegranate tree is in the back yard. No idea how seeds would have ended up out front in the rose bed. Maybe one of our frequent skunk visitors carried the fruit out there to munch on it.
The baby tree is growing up through the dead canes of a former rose, masquerading, looking perfectly natural and taking good opportunity from a vacant spot.
Whether it is taking advantage, or pretending to be something it is not, I'm not sure. Wonder how long it will take the gardeners to realize it shouldn't be there? For now, I'll cheer it on, watch it grow, and be amused by our mini-pomegranate rose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tangled Webs

Don't you dislike it in the morning when you walk outside and are snagged in some spider's intricately woven web? To you, it's an uncomfortable, sticky nuisance. To them, you have just destroyed their carefully constructed means of survival. It probably took them all night.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive."
--Sir Walter Scott

It amazes me as I watch in movies, or read in stories, as the characters complicate their lives by  leaving out details, or by being afraid to speak up. Why doesn't she just tell him the truth?

It's easy from the outside looking in to see what the character should do or say. Kind of like hindsight.

I consider myself an honest person. Yet, I do this:
"How are you?"
"Fine." (When I am really upset)

"What's wrong?"
"Nothing." (When of course, there is)
I am trying to be more open, not so reticent. To not be tangled in silent complications.
Do you have trouble with this, too?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Walking On Water

This weekend I finished reading Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle. She is a writer with depth and talent and insight who instills vision and hope and courage. As a woman who successfully worked as a writer while fulfilling her roles as wife, mom, homemaker and artist, she is one of my hero role models.

 I tried to come up with one good quote to share - a tough challenge - tempting to copy the whole book. Ended up with two quotes to share:
"To trust, to be truly whole, is also to let go whatever we may consider our qualifications. There's a paradox here, and a trap for the lazy. I do not need to be 'qualified' to play a Bach fugue on the piano (and playing a Bach fugue is for me an exercise in wholeness). But I cannot play that Bach fugue at all if I do no play the piano daily, if I do not practise my finger exercises. There are equivalents of finger exercises in the writing of books, the painting of portraits, the composing of a song. We do not need to be qualified; the gift is free; and yet we have to pay for it...for such understanding is a gift which comes when we let go, and listen."

"The paradox is that the creative process is incomplete unless the artist is, in the best and most proper sense of the word, a technician, one who knows the tools of his trade, has studied his techniques, is disciplined. One writer said, 'If I leave my work for a day, it leaves me for three.'...The moment of inspiration does not come to someone who lolls around expecting the gift to be free. It is no give-away. It is the pearl for which we have to pay a great price..."

Her analogy is that an artist must let go, trust, listen, seek, and have faith; then walk on the water as they create.

These blog posts are a way for me to do my finger exercises. Thanks to all of you for listening while I practice my scales and harmonies, learn my technique and run my fingers across the keyboard.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Are you really going to rhapsodize about the kitchen sink? Yes. I will miss this sink when we move out (which, by the way, is temporarily, indefinitely delayed). It is unique, quirky and a little funky. And, importantly, big enough for our abundant inflow of dirty dishes. The little sink in the middle is perfect for hand washing and food rinsing, even when the two sides are full of dirty dishes. It is just a sink. Yes, but a vital, functional part of our daily living in this house.

Does a house become part of you, or do you become a part of it?

When we move out of a house, we leave behind our fingerprints. Not just the smudges and scrapes that will be painted out, but the laughter, the tears, the games and the wrestling (have boys, will wrestle), the talks, the marks of time spent here. The food stains on the ceiling (!), pine needles lurking from the Christmas tree, and a few dog and cat hairs tucked in the corners. The dent in the wall (wrestling again).  I have left parts of me behind in different houses: places where babies were born, favorite dogs died, achievements succeeded and failures etched. I do think that walls absorb the mood and atmosphere of the people living there: the impression, literal and figurative, that is left behind of the lives lived within those walls.

When we move out, we also take part of the house with us. Memories of holiday crowds, birthday gatherings, the phone call, "Hey Mom, I'm on the freeway about an hour out, see you soon." The scar on the chin (wrestling again). The meals cooked, shared together as we laugh and talk. The quiet moments and the crazy chaos of life. Scads of photos. The atmosphere created within that house goes with us, carried over to a new house. New fingerprints to be smudged on the new walls, hands washed in a new sink, impressions and the atmosphere of our family that will create a home within those walls.
For me, this sink is a reminder of how much I enjoy this house, especially in the afternoon as the sunlight drifts in through the lace curtains, imprinting shadows on the sink. It is also a symbol of the day-in-day-out living that goes on here: dirty dishes in, clean dishes out, growth and change and ups and downs and learning and stumbling and trying again and again. Working with my hands to make this home, this family strong. Sometimes my fingers leave smudges and hurts. Sometimes, the fingerprints left are happy and colorful and creative. Sometimes the sink is dirty and stained. Sometimes it is clean and white and sparkling. Like life. Lived here. Fingerprints and all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Early Fall?

The chrysanthemums and the Autumn Joy Sedum are blooming - seems early for fall bloomers in Southern California.

The gal at the ranch where the boys volunteer with the horses commented that a lot of the plants there and in the hills behind them are going into their fall patterns, anticipating early fall and a wet winter. She has worked there many years and watched seasonal cycles and patterns repeat, seeing firsthand as the plants and the animals respond to the changes.

Do the plants know that it will be an early fall?