The other day someone asked me “When was the last time you were really happy for a long period of time?” I paused for a moment and said “I’m happy now!” He seemed stunned and almost didn’t know how to respond.
I suppose that’s not an answer we hear very often these days. For many people, the idea of happiness seems almost out of reach. I used to think that. There were many times I just felt as if I was existing and the idea of long-term contentment and happiness just felt almost impossible.
As adults, we are taught to be polite, answer “fine” to everything and when we aren’t feeling “fine”, we hide it and tell people we are “fine” anyway. I have a dear friend who described F.I.N.E. as Fed-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional. I always chuckled when I responded “fine” and she responded back with that. It’s often true that when someone answers in that manner, they are most definitely NOT fine. When one has more disappointments and rejections than one can count, it is often difficult to pick yourself up and keep going.
But something has changed for me. Instead of relying on those “possibilities” and “potentials” to bring me happiness, I’ve begun to look at everything I already have and feel immensely grateful. I am not rich in the financial sense, I don’t have a significant other, nor was I ever able to have children, but oh my goodness…I have more friends than I can count! I have loving, supportive family members who remind me on a daily basis how truly lucky and blessed I am.
I have a little place I can call my own and I smile every day as I wander pass the flowers I planted or look at the pictures I’ve hung. The other day I stood there and just gazed at my bookshelf. I finally had unpacked books and mementos that have been in boxes for years and just seeing them brought back beautiful memories.
I really am grateful…grateful for life with all of its laughter, peaceful moments, brilliant storms, trials that strengthen me, magnificent scenery, and most of all, for all the shared love.
As I think about the amazing experiences I’ve had, the wonderful people I know, and all the “best days so far” to come, who am I not to be happy?!
It is 3:00 am and I am awake. While the world sleeps on, I am listening to the crickets outside my window. They are signaling the end of summer. Another season passes, another year rolls away. I listen quietly and feel that sad wistfulness that often comes with being awake at this time of the night.
As one author stated, 3:00 am is “the wisest and most accursed hour of the morning.” I believe I understand why she said this. In the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep, you face your real self without all the distractions or pressing details of the day. It is that time of night when you think over your life and wonder if you have measured up to your expectations of yourself and the world.
That hour can be harsh. As you lay silently, images of your past and present creep into your mind. Worries and fears about the future press in upon you. Family, work, relationships, illness and other challenges flood your heart and you can often feel overwhelmed by the complex life you lead. Tears are common at 3:00 am.
But there are a few tricks to getting through the “fourth watch of the night.” You might face a stark reality of your life without the mask of day, but facing these stark realities are also the beginning to positive changes that can be made. Allowing yourself to wander over thoughts of the future and setting reachable goals can give you a new hope for the coming day. Thinking over past accomplishments and good times can also bring a smile to my face and give me courage to continue on.
Yet, there are times when even this does not work for me. There are times when all the cliches and positive sayings just won’t work. It is then I reach for that one force that does not fail me…prayer. Prayer is my key to getting through 3:00 am. My flickering candle of faith is often the only thing that sustains me in that darkest hour of the night.
The answers come softly and gently and the feeling of peaceful reassurance reminds me of times when my mother used to hold me telling me it would all be ok. She’s not here anymore, but the feelings remain.
So on nights like this, when expectations have failed and I look at my life harshly, I remember that there is One who holds me and tells me “It’s going to be ok, Melissa. It’s going to be ok…” And I know that it will be.
A few years ago, I wrote an article called “Out of the Ashes” regarding a church that had burnt down and was to be rebuilt into a beautiful new temple. I likened this event to my own life and how after great disappointments, grief and more, I felt as if I, too, had been burnt to the ground. But I ended that article by saying that “I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, God had a different plan for me. Here I am trying to build a nice, comfortable life, but maybe He’s trying to build something grander. I don’t know what He has in mind, but it’s a beautiful thought: to think that, with His help, that my life might mean something greater than it does at the moment. He knows so much better than I.”
If I had known then the journey that my life was to take, I would have been better able to endure the grief. At the time of this writing, I’m not only living in the place I’ve yearned to live in for several years, but my writing is taking off in directions I never thought it would go. I am now officially a songwriter, probably the last thing I ever thought I would do with my writing. And yet, it has been proven to be a joy.
Last night, I sat and listened to my friend, Violeta Skye, the singer and her producer create the music to accompany my lyrics…MY lyrics! It was almost as if I was listening to what could only be described as the musical equivalent to the birth of a child. I listened to hypnotic voices blend in harmonious rhythms and I felt chills. It was suddenly as if the future opened before me. My own words, words that had come from my soul, intertwined with such beautiful music was a moment I never thought I would experience. Just listening to the creation of that song was uplifting in a way that is hard to describe.
All the years of pain, the tears, the never-ending disappointments, the rejections, the struggles and failures culminated into this moment. And as I felt a tear of happiness slip down my face listening to an exquisitely beautiful line of music, I thought “This…this is what I’ve been waiting for.”
That church I formerly spoke of will be finished next March and the artist’s rendering of the new building is found in the photo above. It is truly magnificent. As I look at that photo, I realize that sometimes you figuratively have to be burnt to the ground to be rebuilt into the person you were meant to be. And thanks to Heavenly Father and the fires of life, some day that person will be glorious.
Just a couple of nights ago, I was standing on my balcony looking at the moon. I must admit to the fact that I was feeling a little sad and a little lonely. I was having an inner battle about dating as I was very tired of the hurt and pain that I had gone through with relationships. On the one hand, I wanted a relationship, but on the other, I didn’t want to keep experiencing all the difficulties associated with dating. I sighed and began to share my fears and doubts with God.
I thought, rather sarcastically, “I would rather hold a cat right now than be held by a man.”
It was almost as if I heard a voice ask “And why is that?”
I answered “Because a cat won’t break your heart.” And then wiped a tear away. Not 5 seconds later, at my feet was a small cat meowing. The tears poured down my face as I bent down and picked it up and held it as it cuddled in my arms and purred.
There is no doubt in my mind where that cat came from and whom sent it as I had just been praying moments before expressing my doubts and fears to my Heavenly Father. It is a small thing and no doubt some would even call it coincidence, but to me, it is just another expression of the tender mercies bestowed upon us by a loving Father in Heaven. A reminder that we are not alone…we are not forgotten.
I normally don’t get overly spiritual in my posts, but on this Easter Sunday, I wish to express my gratitude and love for the one who paid the ultimate price for me…Jesus Christ. I only wish I could share with my readers the absolute conviction I have that not only is there a God, but that He is our Father in Heaven and that He loves us and cares about each one of us individually. It has been proven to me many times and was once again proven to me when I felt the warmth of His love in the purr of a little cat. Happy Easter my friends!!
My brand new travel blog! So excited to get this up and going. It will be filled with restaurant reviews, reviews of tourist spots, my usual adventurous calamities and the everyday life of the wandering wallflower. The link to my first post is below. Enjoy my friends!
I have spoken so much of Hawaii over the years, that I felt it was time to dedicate a post to one of my favorite places on earth.
I heard it said once that Hawaii will take your heart and never let it go. Oh, how true that is! If you can fall in love with a place, then I would have to admit that I fell in love with Hawaii.
I was fortunate enough to have lived in this enchanting place for 2 1/2 years. Seldom a day went by that I didn’t pause to appreciate the breath-taking beauty of these islands. As I would drive along the Windward coast, there were moments I just had to stop and take in the awe-inspiring views from the Pali lookout or dip my toes into the warmth of the gentle waters on Kailua Beach.
Almost every time I rounded the bend into Kaneohe, tingles would course through my spine as I looked at the vista of a stunning clear ocean, graceful mountains and glorious sky spread out before me.
But it is not just the captivating scenery that surrounds you, for there are many beautiful places on this earth. It is the magic of Aloha that envelopes you. It radiates from the smiles of the Hawaiian people, from the gentle dance of the hula, the power of an ocean wave, the wind washing down the Koolau mountains, a rainbow after a passing rainstorm, a shower of flowers as the breeze shakes the branches of the plumeria tree, and the “mana” of the ancient gods felt in the powerful chants. It’s almost as if the islands are imbued with a spirit that whispers to you. Standing on the Pali, Aloha is carried in the very breath of the wind.
But to explain Hawaii in words is useless. It must be felt to be understood. One must feel the cool ocean breeze on a hot day, smell the sweet scent of the leis, be wrapped in the healing waters of an aqua-colored ocean, and feel the aloha of laughter and beauty. It can be explained in no other way.
I end my post with a video of Hawaii. It contains my favorite Hawaiian song “These Islands” by Danny Couch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GeUH787WMk Listening to this song still gives me chills. There is tenderness, love, and magic in the lyrics and the music.
And that is the real meaning of the word Aloha…love. I can think of no better term to describe Hawaii than as being wrapped in the very spirit of love.
I believe I hold the Guinness Book of World Records for the most moves in 25 years. (Ok, just a little sarcastic humor for you, I don’t really hold the record…I think.) What I am saying is that if anyone knows about change, it is me.
As we begin another New Year, most of us start contemplating our lives and we begin to take stock of our current situations. Our we where we want to be in our lives? Have we accomplished everything on our “bucket lists”? I imagine that most of us will answer “No.” Isn’t that what New Year’s resolutions are all about? We dig deep into our lives and unearth what is wrong and set about what it will take to make it better.
Yet to make things better, we need to incorporate change in our lives…and let’s be honest, change can be scary. No matter how badly we want something, the steps that we need to take to get there can be daunting to say the least. It takes courage, faith, a sense of adventure and yes, a great deal of strength to change. Whether you are changing your place of residence, your relationship, job, or simply changing something about yourself you don’t like, it takes a strong person to change. It takes strength because it is uncomfortable at best, painful at worst.
A friend of mine wrote the following beautiful description on her blog, speaking about a current situation she is going through:
“Surrounded by a growing city of stacked cardboard boxes, I’m pretzeled on the sofa, staring out the window, watching it pour. I had to do this, start building this city of boxes. I cry my heart out to the storm-wet streets and weeping trees, not because I wanted to find someone else, but because I needed to find myself. And maybe that sounds more like selfishness than salvation. But the streets and trees, bearing witness to my many a tearful walk, know better.”
One of the most painful changes we can make is ending an unhealthy relationship. I would know as I’ve been there. It took the death of my mother to open my eyes to my own life. Just days after her death, I pondered my relationship and how unhappy I was. I realized that I didn’t have that many years left to live and I thought “Am I going to spend the rest of my life being miserable?”
I had grown comfortable in my misery. It was easier for me to accept the status quo than face the unknown of being alone. I wasn’t sure if I could muster the strength to take a leap into the darkness, because I knew I would face loneliness and pain…and cause pain. Was I being selfish? Or was it more selfish to stay together and continue to make each other unhappy?
As I pondered these questions in the darkness of the night, I fell to my knees and poured out my heart to the heavens. And somewhere in the darkness, I found my strength…and I moved forward with my life.
Please understand that I’m not advocating divorce. I think marriage is one of the most beautiful gifts that any man or woman can experience. I believe that real love exists…I know it does. I believe that sharing your life with someone who truly loves you can be a little bit of heaven on earth. And I still hope for that kind of relationship for my own life.
But oh…if I could shine a light on anything, it would be this: sometimes you have to sink to the depths of sorrow to rise to the heights of joy! The sweetness of learning to love yourself again, of finding laughter free from all pain, and above all, finding love that builds you up instead of tearing you down…all this waits for those who take the step into the unknown and find the faith to change. And maybe that step into the darkness will ultimately be a step into the light. You won’t know until you try.
Don’t be afraid. You won’t do it alone. Here…take my hand. We’ll take that step together into the light…
I am not a political writer and I seldom ever discuss world issues, because I do not feel myself educated enough to take on these problems. But I am a writer. The terrorist attack on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo was an attack on the freedom of speech.
As I watch the headlines pour out from Paris and around the world regarding the Charlie Hebdo attack, my heart is torn between aching for the atrocity of murder and pride at watching how the world is reacting to terror.
I watch the people of Paris gather in the Place de la Republique and I feel a strange sense of unity with those holding up their Je Suis Charlie signs and pens. I am reminded of a day…September 11, 2001. I will never forget as I stood in the kitchen getting ready to run to my bus at 6:20 am, watching the second plane fly into one of the Twin Towers and hearing the newscaster stumble and say in awe “I think we are under attack.”
But more than this, I will never forget how it felt the following day when the people of Seattle poured out onto the streets at 12 pm and were united by holding hands as we shared a moment of silence. I linked hands with total strangers who were linking hands with thousands of other total strangers in a moment of pure love and unity. It was a silent demonstration of resistance to evil. I have seldom felt more pride in my country than I did on that day when we all banded together and told the terrorists “We are not afraid and you will not win!”
Unfortunately, over the years, the terrorists of varying countries have had their small successes, but when I see 10,000 people pour into the streets and hold up their pens, I know that there is still more good in this world than evil. It is horrible to think of those who lost their lives, those who were injured and their loved ones. I send up my prayer for them with millions of others around the world.
Yet, what happened today is creating a ripple effect around the world. I see the world uniting for freedom and good and I can’t help but feel myself joining in the fight against evil with them. We’ve had enough!! We are all metaphorically holding up our pens and linking our hands. We fight with silent united strength, with penned words, with art, with voices raised and if necessary, with physical means. But we fight! So here I am, metaphorically holding up my pen and standing with the world against evil. I might just be one voice in my small corner of the world, but one voice united with billions of others becomes a roar that will not be silenced.
“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” ~Dylan Thomas~
The spicy aroma of Christmas cookies baking, feathery snowflakes falling outside in the gathering twilight, candles are burning next to me and quiet Christmas music is playing. To me, this is perfection in winter. I love all the seasons of the year for their different reasons, but there is something so wonderful about the quietness of winter.
Though there are often more parties, events and errands to attend to at Christmas than at any other time of the year, the peace of winter lies all around us. Animals curl up and sleep away the cold months, the songbirds grow quiet, all of nature hushes as the silent snow covers. It is a reminder to grow still…to listen to silence.
One of my favorite winter memories was while walking alone on a quiet, snowy night. The only sounds were the little puffs of dry snow my feet made as I walked…pouf, pouf, pouf. Even the wind barely stirred the soft snowflakes as they landed gently on my cold cheeks.
I paused for a moment and looked around me. No one else was out on that cold night. No animal nor human stirred. I reflected on the calm and the peace and quiet of it all. It was beautiful and sacred. I whispered “Silent night, holy night, all is calm…” and felt the magic of the Christmas spirit wash over me. I felt cleansed, refreshed and full of a warm and peaceful love. I swear I could hear the hushed echoes of angel voices join me in the “well-known refrain.”
Yes, listen to the silence. For it is often in the silence when the sweetest moments of life come. When peace pervades our being as we hear a faint song from the heavens reminding of us our real home.
Merry Christmas my dear friends! Peace to one and all!
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men…”
Ok, ladies and gentlemen, here it is…MY FIRST BOOK!! Yes, it’s just a compilation of poetry and essays, but still…feeling proud to hold my first book in my hands. Here is the link to purchase for the U.S.A.
January and February are infamous for bringing out the winter “blahs” in most people. Many people wish for a holiday to a warmer climate, but feel that they can’t afford it. Despair not oh fellow bargain hunters! The following 5 destinations will bring you swiftly to warmer climes without breaking your pocketbook.
Cartagena, Colombia – This gem in the Spanish Caribbean is often overlooked by holiday travelers, because of the reputation that Colombia has had in the past. But due to stricter security controls, Cartagena is now becoming a widely admired tourist destination. Set right on the Caribbean ocean and close to the equator, this hidden treasure offers hot weather and beautiful beaches at any time of the year. A major draw to tourists is the Castillo de San Felipe and Centro, a castle and small, walled city that were built in the 1500‘s. The buildings are still used today for residential and business purposes. In January, the airfare prices drop dramatically and one can usually find a round-trip flight for around 850 pounds if one flies through Miami, Florida and uses local flights such as Avianca or Lan. Decent hotels can start at around 28 pounds in Bocagrande, which is right on the best strip of beaches in Cartagena.
Oahu, Hawaii – Our next destination is one my personal favorites. Oahu, the main island of Hawaii, is one of the biggest tourist draws in the US, yet one can find bargains on Oahu if one knows where to look. When visiting the island, don’t spend your entire trip in Waikiki. To find the real heart of Aloha, a drive in a rented car to the windward side of the Pali will bring some of the most breathtaking views on Oahu. Get your camera ready! There are places where the steep, emerald mountains meet the golden sands and cerulean waters of the ocean. Other musts on Oahu are a hike to Makapu’u point, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, or a day trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center where the night performance will surprise and delight you! As someone once said “A visit to Hawaii will take your heart and never let it go.” You are likely to find better prices if you use a travel agency that specializes in Hawaiian Packages such as Pleasant Holidays or Go Hawaii. You can find airfare for as low as 660 pounds from London. ALOHA!
Las Vegas – Our next destination is the busy and fascinating Las Vegas strip! “America’s Playground” welcomes you (and your money) with open arms! You can see Paris, Italy, the Old West and Asia all within a few blocks of each other. Everything in Las Vegas caters to the budget tourist from hotels to shows to the food, so that the casinos can draw you in to spend that extra cash. Package deals from agencies that specialize in trips to Las Vegas are probably your best bet as they throw in “extras” for free. If booking in January or February, try to avoid booking your trip around President’s Day or Valentine’s Day as these are considered “high season” in Las Vegas.
Puerto Rico – Our next place for a budget destination is Puerto Rico. Only 3 hours east of Florida, the “Island of Enchantment” is one of the most visited destinations in the Caribbean. This island boasts a rich, cultural history, white-sand beaches, mountains and jungles. You will also find a glittering nightlife in casinos and upscale nightclubs. Similar to Cartagena, you will find vacation prices drop in January after the holidays. Momondo.co.uk has airfare prices as low as 531 GBP for travel in January.
New Zealand – Kia Ora! Or welcome to New Zealand! Because of the recent release of “The Hobbit”, vacation specials are drawing Hobbit fans from around the world to the shores of New Zealand. During January and February, it is summer-time in New Zealand. So you can scale the cliffs of “Middle Earth” outside of Queensland, or enjoy spectacular views while golfing on Cape Kidnapper, considered one of the best golf courses in the world! Rainforests, beaches, wine vineyards and more await you in this magical country. Cheapflights.co.uk has roundtrip tickets to Auckland starting at 750 pounds in January. Sites like Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet will also give you a good insight to accommodations within your budget. So fellow bargain hunters, pack your sunglasses! A tropical escape may be closer to your realm of possibilities that you had dreamed. See you on the beach!
The leaves are changing and there is a crispness to the air in the early mornings. Yellow school buses start to make a regular appearance and there’s a sense of anticipation glowing in the faces of students of all ages. Yes, it’s one of the parents’ favorite times of the year…back to school!
For MonaVie, it’s also “back to school” time. In many ways, MonaVie’s products are just as essential to the school year as new clothes, pencils and backpacks. The need for more energy, a stronger body, better immune system and a more balanced life are all key components when one heads into one of the busiest times of the year. Let’s take a look at just a few reasons why MonaVie’s products are so important when you are making that “what to buy for school” checklist.
Back to school means back to a more stressful life. The quiet, carefree summer days are behind us and before us lies homework, after-school activities, holidays and exams. This can increase stress radically in our lives. To counteract this, MonaVie offers MonaVie Balance and MonaVie Rest. These are morning and evening supplements that help one to feel more balanced throughout your day and more relaxed throughout your night. You could almost compare the supplements to yoga for the mind and body. It creates an even keel between the two so that the natural stresses of our daily lives do not interfere with the normal functioning of our bodies. Key ingredients include lemon balm, chamomile and inositol which help to create harmony between the mind and body.
Another issue that is faced with going back to school is the inevitable sharing of germs related to colds, flus and other viruses. It is often said that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” At MonaVie, we believe that you need much more than an apple! MonaVie provides a great line of juices produced just for the purpose of building the immune system and creating a healthier family. MonaVie MX is made with ingredients from 19 fruits and 11 vegetables that help boost not only your immune system, but also includes glucosamine which has been proven to assist in joint health. Ingredients such as lingonberries and prickly pears provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a purified form. Taking the recommended daily dose will help to protect your children and your whole family from the seasonal bugs floating around.
As stated before, the beginning to a new school year means a great deal more activity and many late nights studying, especially for college students. Unless a college student is perfectly organized, they will likely have an all-night study session at some point, but instead of reaching for another caffeinated soda, MonaVie Emv has created energy drinks that will provide long-term energy. These drinks were engineered to provide a sustained boost to your system without the inevitable crash that always follows other energy supplements. The drink is made using a blend of fruits rich in antioxidants and other benefits. With MonaVie Emv, suddenly those all-night study sessions don’t appear so daunting! Another benefit of these drinks are that they have no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. So you can feel good about drinking them, knowing you are doing something healthy for your body.
So again, when considering your back-to-school checklist, make sure that your health comes first. With MonaVie’s products on that list, you can be sure that a healthy body and mind will become a ritual that is as important as that welcome on the first day of school.
I haven’t written poetry in years. I used to write quite a bit of it and was even told I had a talent in that direction. So, inspired by current circumstances in my life and a photo which I have included here, I present my first poem in several years. It’s kind of frightening…be kind, but be honest. :) (Picture is not mine.)
(Pictures are not mine – have given credit where I could find a link.)
Once in a while, life shows us beauty in the most unexpected of places. I’ve had many experiences like this, but one that stands out in my mind is an experience I had while I was living in Cartagena, Colombia.
Cartagena is found on the northernmost tip of the South American continent. It is both an ancient and modern city, but retains all the luxuries and amenities of any “first world” city. Yet, on the outskirts of Cartagena, there lie several small villages where many homes are no more than shacks and do not have electricity or running water. I had the privilege (and yes, it WAS a privilege) of staying at one of these homes a few years ago when a group of boys from my church went on a campout. It turned out to be one of my most beautiful memories.
To get to the village, we rode an old, rickety bus for 2 hours on a very hot, humid day. All the windows were open and the bus bounced along a dirt road, dust blowing through the open windows. The youth were chattering excitedly and I smiled at their enthusiasm. I was still struggling with the heat of the day and so I tried to lean my head back to sleep.
I must have dozed off for a little as finally the bus pulled over and we were at the end of the road. I stepped off the bus into the bright, afternoon sun and gazed at where we stood. The road literally ended right into a muddy swamp!
I wondered how we were going to cross to our campsite when I noticed everyone head down to an old dock. There was a very ancient, rough-hewn canoe pulled up next to it. I stood there, a little dismayed, as I watched the first of our group step into the canoe and begin to be rowed across. There was only one place to sit and that was for the person who navigated the boat. So the other occupants had to stand.
After a little while, I relaxed as I watched each person cross without incident. The navigator would tease sometimes, but no one fell in. Finally, it was my turn. I was a little terrified at the idea of tipping over the canoe, so I stepped in very carefully and then balanced myself. I cringed at the idea of what swam around in that tropical water and was hoping against hope that I would not fall in.
The navigator was very kind and did not tease me with any sudden motions, but glided smoothly across the water. I grinned at the ridiculousness of the “gringa” trying to stand in a canoe as it crossed a muddy swamp, but I also reveled in the unusual moment. It was with a breath of relief, though, when I made it to the other side of the swamp and stepped off the canoe.
We walked only a few blocks and then arrived at our “campsite”, which was really just the grounds around a very small home. The caretakers, who were relatives of one of the boys, were gracious and welcomed us warmly. They seldom had visitors in their remote location, let alone an American “gringa” and I was treated with a great deal of respect. They were kind and their children were shy and sweet. I chatted with the family as the others unpacked and began the business of getting set up for our stay.
The home was really nothing more than an aged, cement house with a tin roof. The grounds were mainly just brush and untended fields with the swamp only about 200 meters away. It was not my normal idea of a campground, but the remote location away from the crowds of humanity was refreshing and peaceful. Besides, the family was so pleased with our visit that I couldn’t help but be touched by their generosity and kindness. And on the other side of the island, as I was to discover the following day, was a beautiful beach and more memories to be made. (But that will be saved for another entry.)
Later, after dinner and conversation, everyone begin to settle down and find their sleeping places for the night. I sat on the porch of the old home and began to contemplate life as the sun descended. One young man sat next to me and we talked about church, school and his home life. As the colors of the sunset began to fade, I noticed strange little glowing lights pop up over the nearby field. Completely delighted, I realized that the lights were fireflies! I had never seen one before!
As the darkness descended, many more lights popped up. I sat in awe at one of nature’s beautiful and elegant displays. A sense of joy filled me as I watched the lights of our newfound friends dip and sway. It was almost…magical.
For some reason, the scene filled me with reverence and I wanted to be part of the magic. I began to sing quietly. My young friend joined me and our voices blended becoming the only sounds to fill the night. Laughter faded away, conversations hushed and even the rustlings of the nearby jungle seemed to grow quiet. The notes of our soft song and the dancing lights harmoniously intertwined and the spell seemed to weave its magic through the air.
As the last notes of the song drifted away, the stillness remained. No one wanted to break the silence…nor forget the moment. I took a mental photo and tucked it away amongst my most cherished memories.
Life doesn’t give us many chances to make captivating memories, but upon this occasion, nature and humanity harmonized to create beauty in an unpredictable way. I am so grateful when I get to observe and at times, partake of these inspiring and unexpected moments in life.
Have you ever had two polar opposite feelings tugging at you at the same time?
Over the past few years, I’ve had a great deal of disappointment as I’ve struggled from one failed dream after another. It’s been a long, difficult, uphill road as I’ve worked to find a place and a career where I can put down roots. I have felt this tugging, this yearning, to be living in another part of the world and engaged in a writing career, but life has put up obstacle after obstacle as I have tried to make that dream come true.
Yet this desire to be somewhere else has often distracted me from appreciating the life I’m living and the beautiful places surrounding me. While I have yearned, planned, desired and dreamed, I have often missed seeing what I already had.
Just the other day, for example, I felt this strong need to just drive somewhere I had not been and see something different. I drove 20 minutes in one direction and ran straight into charming small-town America. I followed a road running up a hillside almost as far as it would go. It lead me straight into a farmer’s field. I hesitated as I parked my car. I was on someone else’s land, but it was just an old dirt track, and I figured that the farmer wouldn’t mind if I just took a stroll and a few photos.
I climbed up the hill a little and then turned around. The valley lay before me in the summer sun. Different patches of green and brown played across the vista of rolling hills. Small ponds and watered fields shimmered in the afternoon sun. A brief rainstorm had swept through earlier that day. The wind on the hillside was so refreshing that I took a deep breath of the cleanliness of it all and let it all out. With that breath, I also let go of the discontent, anxiety and frustration I was feeling.
Nearby, I heard the cry of an eagle and looked up to see it gliding over the recently cut hay. As I stood there listening to it’s call, feeling the wind toss my hair and the rays of the sun warm my skin, I felt peace and contentment. I felt joy and energy sweep away the negativity.
Eventually the farmer did come wandering along his dirt road and asked me in a friendly manner if I was ok. I showed him my camera and asked permission to take landscape photos. He quickly agreed. We had a genial conversation and he waved a friendly goodbye as he was off to feed his cattle for the evening.
I stood there watching him go and marveled at how different this place was to so many other places I had been in the world. So there were still places where trust, simplicity and sincere friendliness existed. What a gift! This stranger was not concerned that I would do any damage to his fields, he was more concerned that I was in need of assistance.
That afternoon, I learned two very distinct lessons. The first lesson I learned was to stop being so cynical and realize that kindness, generosity and a sincere desire for another’s welfare still exists in the human race. It might seem rarer than it once did, but it is still there.
The second lesson was that in all of our dreaming and goal-making, we also need to appreciate what is in front of us. Friendship, beauty and meaning can be found in any place in the world if we seek it out.
Does this mean that I will stop yearning or dreaming? No…but I will stop spending so much time wishing for what could be and instead just enjoy what is.
“Adventure” is one of my favorite words. It is a word so full of possibilities, excitement and the sheer thrill of the unknown right around the corner! But as you will see in this post, adventure most definitely has it’s ups and downs.
When I was very young, we lived in a small farming community in Washington state. We rented a home on a farm out in the middle of several wheat fields. It would seem like an isolated place to live, but I had four older siblings and my imagination to keep me company. I had a generally happy childhood and was content with my life until one “fateful day”. I remember being about 5 or 6 years old, standing in the middle of the wheat fields and staring at the hills and mountains that surrounded me. All of a sudden, I had this intense desire and curiosity to see what was beyond those hills and mountains. And that’s when it began…the desire for adventure.
Since that time as a child, I have been fortunate enough to have experienced many adventures, both good and bad. Have you ever heard of the phrase “Curiosity kills the cat”? Well, that would be me. Like a famous character out of my favorite book, Anne of Green Gables, curiosity regarding this world has thrown me into some pretty unbelievable situations. This blog has described but a few of them.
Yet, adventure has also allowed me the incredible opportunity of seeing many parts of the world. I have sweated profusely in the jungles of the tiny island of Palau and frozen in the bitter winds of a Northern England winter. I have reveled in the beauty of an ideal Hawaiian beach and basked in the warm, Autumn twilight on a mountaintop in the Rockies. I have awed at palaces in London and visited dirty, cramped cement rooms in a 3rd world prison. I have walked on 500-year-old castle walls in Cartagena, Colombia and skimmed across gray waters on a Seattle ferry boat. From each place I have been, I have taken away many beautiful memories, lessons learned and lifetime friendships.
I know that this sounds exotic and exciting and may even seduce you to leave your current life and travel the world, but the life of an adventurer is not always one to be envied. One must remember that to be an adventurer, one must give up other things in life. I have been lonely, poor and sad many times. At times, I have felt like a will-‘o-the-wisp scattered upon the winds. I have lacked the security that comes from a home in one place with roots. I have lived out of a suitcase sometimes and have never owned my own house. I have seldom ever had more money than what was needed to pay the basics. I have never held my “dream job” and I have worked more temporary positions and done more boring tasks than I ever want to remember!
Traveling the world and visiting new cultures has been a dream come true and so for me, some of the sacrifices were worth the rewards. But I am now at an age where my desire for adventure struggles with my desire to become established in one place. I still yearn to see many places in the world, but my energy wanes and curling up at night with a book and listening to music is often more enticing than crossing distant oceans.
Though I know this world still has eventful experiences in store for me (because as noted above, I seem to have the curious habit of just “falling” into them) I have discovered that the greatest adventure of life is the adventure of love within the walls of your own home with your own family. And that, my friends, is an adventure I want to experience over and over again.
There are moments in your journey of life when certain lessons that you learn stand out to you like a light bulb switching on. I call them “a-ha!” moments or epiphanies. It’s those times when you finally understand a concept that you’ve heard about, but it strikes your heart in a way that opens your eyes to the truth of that message.
While visiting the Tower of London recently, I had an epiphany regarding ancestors and the past. Before I went to visit this amazing site, I had to admit to an ignorance of what the “Tower” of London really was. I had always pictured a tall, stone tower where traitors, prisoners and even queens were executed. When I actually saw what the Tower of London was, it turned out to be a large edifice resembling a castle or cathedral surrounded by other buildings and a protective wall of ancient stone.
I was awed at the architectural details that stood the test of time and was thrilled to be allowed to explore nooks and crannies of the castle and it’s surroundings. I felt like I had just traveled hundreds of years back in time.
I entered one room that had been decorated with furnishings from the past and was drawn by a small empty enclave with nothing but a bare window looking over the Thames. I leaned against the wall and looked through the old, diamond-pane window at the vista below. I was alone for a moment and the peacefulness of the ancient ambiance soothed me. It was but a moment before the quiet began to speak to me.
My imagination took flight and I saw a woman dressed in royal gowns standing in the same spot and looking out this window contemplating the heavy burdens of her own life. This thought opened the floodgate to my mind. All of a sudden it was if hundreds of years of previous lives flooded my soul. Who else had stood at this window since it had been built? What were their fears, burdens, regrets and joys? Did Anne Boleyn stand here and contemplate her beheading the next day? Did King Henry VIII stand here himself and wonder if he was doing the right thing?
Years of history I had studied in school came alive and I reverently touched the glass wondering who else’s fingers had pressed against it? All of a sudden, history breathed. For a moment, my soul entwined with the lost ones over centuries and I felt the smallness of my own world. Yet at the same time, I felt the connectivity of all souls who experience the same human emotions. It was as if some great inner secret had opened suddenly and broken forth the light upon the recesses of my mind. Were my burdens any greater than those of my ancestors of the past? This need to love and be loved, to be accepted for who you are was a feeling shared by all humans – past and present.
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t known it before, but not like this. History and the people who had lived within these walls, became real to me. It was a beautiful and enlightening moment as I felt the lives of ancestors become a permanent part of my present reality.
More than 15 years ago, when I was graduating from college (yes, I’m dating myself here), I remember speaking with my Shakespeare professor who asked what my plans were after graduation. He asked if I was planning on going to graduate school to get my Master’s degree. I said no, because at the time, I had been in school for several years and was ready to get out into the world of work and start earning some money. My school loans had piled up and I was eager to start a “career” so that I could begin to pay off those loans. He then said something that has reverberated in my ears ever since. “I thought that the student who wrote one of the best Shakespeare papers I have read would go on to get her Master’s degree.”
I stood there stunned. As a student in his Shakespeare class, he had never hinted that’s how he felt about my paper. In fact, I remember not even getting an ‘A’ on it. I was flattered…no, floored would be the appropriate response. But it did not change my mind. My debts were pressing in upon me and I needed to get out into the “real world” and earn money to pay them off. So I did and what started then was a 15 year search for what I wanted as a “career.” I have been through numerous jobs in my fifteen years, more than I want to recall. It is embarrassing to admit this fact, but I’ve been facing a good dose of reality lately. (And by the way, those bills are still being paid off.)
Just recently, after a depressing day at work, I stared at myself in the mirror. I looked at the growing wrinkles around my eyes from too many stressful days and nights (and too many tears) and thought “What am I doing?!” It was then I realized that I would NEVER find a job or a career if I wasn’t doing what I LOVED to do and what I was passionate about: writing.
From the time I could write coherent sentences as a child, I wanted to be a writer. It’s a part of who I am and who I have always wanted to be. Yet, for years, I thought that I could not make a living at it, so I had to find a job to fill in the “meantime” and I could work on my writing on the side. This lead to years of unfulfilled promises to myself. My books were never finished and I moved from frustrating job to frustrating job never finding one place to land.
Recent events have led me to firmly believe in the notion of following your dreams or finding your passion. You are unique. You came to this earth with gifts and abilities that make you different from everyone else. Yes, everyone has several talents that they should build and use, but you know what I mean when I say that you have something inside of you that is meant to be discovered. For me, that is writing.
Though I may not be the next J.K. Rowling, I still have a unique and strong voice that has already been a positive part of people’s lives. From comments on this blog, in my email and in other places, I have heard repeatedly that something I wrote touched someone. So, I finally realized that maybe my experiences and insights were valuable enough that I should share them with a larger audience. I also would like to thank a fellow author (Virginia McCullough) for her wonderful comments that really were the key motivating factor in my decision.
So it’s with great pleasure that I announce here that I will be taking some of the best articles from this blog, other writings and some of my best poetry from over the years and compiling it into both a digital and print version of a book. I realize that mainly my friends and family will be interested in this and it will likely be self-published, but I feel it’s an important step to get me to where I need to go. I am also working on my novel and have a goal to have it finished and off to publishers this year! (Yes, exclamation points are needed on that one.) Whether it gets published or not remains to be seen, but having finished my novel alone will be a check on my “bucket list.”
Friends (for all who read my blogs are counted as my friends), you have something wonderful inside of you. If you listen carefully, you will hear that quiet inner voice which consistently pushes you in one direction. It is what you were meant to do. You have a destiny and it needs to fulfilled. It has taken me 15 years, but I have finally found mine and such relief that comes with this decision is indescribable. Friends, don’t wait as long as I did. Listen to that inner voice…find your destiny. Don’t be afraid of who you are…unveil your passion and go be who you were meant to be!
Why is it that every spring we feel this push or drive to clean things out? Why do we dust corners and wash curtains that we ignore all winter long? Is it because the spring sunshine illuminates the dust and dirt that we have allowed to collect in our homes? Is it the longer days that give us more energy to accomplish our tasks or is it that sense of renewal and rebirth that refocuses us on the goals in our lives?
Every Spring I feel this need to reorganize my life (which is something I will be doing this weekend). I attack my wardrobe with viciousness, removing all the clothes that are too small, too big, faded, etc. I sit down with the piles of papers that have collected for months and toss unused coupons, events I had planned to attend but didn’t, old bills and check stubs that…