Thursday, May 3, 2012

Freedom

So many icons and symbols tug at us emotionally. For example, think of religious icons that are pertinent to you, or conservation icons, or charity icons. Each one can pull an emotional drawstring around our hearts. But perhaps none more so than the one representing LIBERTY.

Although the statue itself is awe-inspiring, she pales in comparison to what she represents. We are free! Nobody owns us and we are free to be ourselves. We can choose our careers and where we want to live. We can choose if -and how - to worship. We can choose how to spend our time, money, and energy. We can disagree with someone (hopefully respectfully) and be protected against persecution. We can fall in love with, and marry, someone of different religion, culture, ethnicity, social class, or education.

Freedom is such an incredible gift that I hope we never take for granted. And during those dark and gloomy days we all have when things aren't going right and life seems out-of-alignment, let's remind ourselves that we are free...for these three small words have the power to help brighten any dark and gloomy day.

We are free!
Photo Inspiration

We are free.


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Outstanding People Stand Out.

Don't be afraid to stand out as you stand up to be counted.

This blog doesn't espouse any political, religious, or economic view. I believe in harmony and balance in all aspects of life. However, it saddens me when I see people too afraid to stand up for their beliefs for fear of being judged, ridiculed, scorned, or prejudiced against. Surely this goes against the grain of who we are as a nation and as a people?

A big part of freedom is that we are free to discover our own beliefs, values, and views; so when I see people being bullied into not speaking up and standing out it bothers me dreadfully. Don't misunderstand me, I think everyone should believe as I do :) but I want everyone to choose to think that way and not be bullied into it. Without this free choice, freedom is just another word.

Bullying is a huge problem in our schools today. And here's an uncomfortable thought; I wonder if children are emulating what they see happening by and in society where, so often, bullying (not persuasion) seems the norm.



We must persuade - not bully - people
into believing something
otherwise freedom is just another word!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Back to the Future

We all hear that history repeats itself; but don't you sometimes wonder if what we see today is a precursor of what's to come?

I'm not prone to worry; however, somewhere in the back of my mind I wonder if, someday, life will move backward by a few centuries. I don't buy into the apocalypse theories and don't think we or our children will see this backward shift, but I grow concerned when I see the lack of harmony between the earth and her inhabitants.

People in developing countries understand the need for harmony. I'm not being Pollyanna about things here; life in developing countries can be extremely tough, far more than it should be in this technological age. But there's a knowledge-base and an inherent respect for nature there that we seem to have forgotten or ignore; and that alarms me.

New knowledge and progress is important, but in our haste to develop let's remember that some of the 'old' knowledge remains crucial!


In our hast to develop,
let's remember that some of the 'old' knowledge
remains crucial. 


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why...?


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Is it just me, or do you find yourself acting a bit like a 2-3 year old as you mature?

My mind is constantly active and it seems these days that my main question, just like that of a 2-3 year old, is "Why?" Why is hardwood called hardwood when it's not necessarily hard? Why are flower petals so fragile? Why do some mosquitoes live for only a few days (or, better yet, why do they live at all?)

My current favorite is: Why do butterflies have such beautifully patterned wings? Oh I understand about camouflage - but camouflage could be accomplished with less beauty. So why? I think I'm driving my loved ones nuts; but it's interesting to see the children trying to find explanations for these things. And I hope most fervently that I'm planting the seed of inquiry in their minds.

To me, inquisitive minds are the mainstay of life; they're what keep us interesting to others and what staves away boredom when alone. Perhaps that's why so many young children have an affinity with their grandparents; they're asking the same questions!

And while you ponder that, ponder this too; why do we discourage young children from asking 'why'?


Hard wood, fragile petals, and gossamer wings;
we have to ask, 'Why?'

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Are you living in the lap of luxury?


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Luxury is comparative.

I learned this during one of my life-changing experiences while backpacking in India.

Wanting to watch the sunrise one day, I arose early and ambled, half-awake, to the ocean. As I took photos of the sunrise, trying not to capture all the people (adults and children) who were on the beach, I had an epiphany. Even though I was raised in a poor family by Western standards, I was actually living in the lap of luxury!

Some of the people on the beach were returning in the boats with their early-morning catch. Others were finishing their morning duty of collecting food from still-wet sand. Children were putting in a day's work before school; and I was still half-asleep, sitting with my camera watching all the activity. And as simple as that sounds, to many people in the world, that is the epitome of luxury.

And at that moment, I felt the most humbled I'd ever felt. Life is inequitable, we know that; but let's at least appreciate our good fortune and not take it for granted. 


Life is inequitable;
let's at least appreciate our good fortune and not take it for granted.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Friend is...

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We all realize the importance of friendship.

I don't know why these baby birds make me laugh so much, but in my mind's eye they're like three old friends, dressed in their finery, sitting on a park bench gossiping and putting the world to rights. I can even hear them talk (preferably in a Welsh accent...think Dylan Thomas):

1: Ooh, did you see Sara go out last night?
2: Well, let me tell you she wouldn't have left my house looking like that-
3. Aw, come on you two! She's young. I remember when you...
1. Don't you tell that story.
2. Oh go on, I want to hear it again..

I think that looking at these three birds, huddled up watching the world go by reminds me once more of how important and precious friendships are. And though I know that no more friendship quotes are needed, I can't seem to help myself. To me, a friend is someone who knows you at your best...and sees you that way no matter what!

What do you think a friend is...?


A friend knows you at your best
and sees you that way, no matter what!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

May the Force Be With You.

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Let's be honest, I don't have a clue about what 'the force' is nor why it should be with whoever 'you' is.

So I asked my children and had some muddled story about it being all around and that it was powerful and that it could levitate things. As they began talking about someone not liking his son, I said, "Oh so the force is a bit like the ocean," and my very delightful children laughed!

But hang on a moment; they laughed at me? At least my 'force' is tangible and real and beneficial. Theirs is...well, I still don't know what it is. But the point is that whatever magic is portrayed in movies, I bet we can find a real equivalent in some eco-structure of life. Just consider the electric eel's capacity to zap things with electricity, or how phosphorous at night looks like fairy dust.

So I challenge 'May the force be with you' fans to look around to see what tangible forces they can find in nature.

Now this is bound to catch on!


May the force be with you.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saint or Sinner?

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Isn't it odd how people seem to think they can say anything they want to you when you have children?

Some people seem to believe that your brain is so addled when you're a parent, you depend on them to set you straight. And if you happen to have children close in ages, or children of different color then, evidently, you open yourself up to even more comments.

Here are a couple of examples. In the years since our family was formed, one lady has grabbed my arm and asked, quite seriously, if I'd ever heard of contraceptive. Another lady told me she was worried, hugged me, then asked why we'd adopted when we knew we'd be killed in our beds one day. But the worst for me was when a lady sidled up to my husband and told him what a saint he was to have forgiven me...three times!

Many years ago, Dan and I made a conscious decision not to let these rude comments annoy or stress us. And, in fact, they give me blog fodder. But I have to wonder why people classify each other as saints or sinners when, in reality, we're all somewhere in between the two, trying to live our lives the best we can.

And let's face it; children may addle our brains but not enough that we don't recognize rudeness!


Children don't addle our brains enough
that we don't recognize rudeness!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Relax!

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Children and animals know how to relax...why don't we?

It was one of those days yesterday; I was running from early morning to late at night. Somewhere in there, Dan suggested that I relax and my reply was that I didn't have time to!! This morning I thought about how ridiculous my reply was; it was because I didn't have time to relax that I so desperately needed to do it yet I didn't quite understand that in yesterday's frenzy.

I'm beginning to think that, as we schedule our days, relaxation time should be the first thing we plan and not the last. Because, let's be honest, when we're not relaxed and in-balance, we're not as effective or efficient in our work so we're not doing anyone any favors anyway. And then a vicious cycle begins; we snap at the children who then choose to misbehave, so we snap at the children...

The most uncomfortable thing about being too busy to relax is that the only person we can blame is ourselves. We're in charge of our time so if we're over-scheduled we need to have a serious talk with the person in the mirror. I've just done that so I'm going to rest for 30 minutes...

...or am I?


Relax!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What do American Idol and Hitler have in common?

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'Grandiose' is a word that comes to my mind often these days.

I love watching American Idol! And, just like in everything else, although there are so many extremely talented people, there are also some with little talent. That would be fine...except that most of those with little talent seem to have grandiose views of themselves so they end up looking a little silly.

As I look around, I see the same trend happening across all walks of life and I wonder what has caused our egos to inflate so. History has had its share of grandiose people (Hitler springs to mind) and has shown us that it's a very dangerous path to go down. I sometimes get a niggling feeling that we need to arrest this trend of sending hoards of our youth to the Grandiosphere if we want to help create a kinder, gentler world.

Having confidence in something you do well is great. But grandiosity isn't appealing even when you have the talent to back it up. People don't seem to grandiose well so perhaps we should step down our self-importance a notch and leave grandiose to nature.


People don't do grandiose well 
so let's leave it to nature.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Speak from the Heart

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Do you find that you surround yourself with people who speak from the heart?

I'm sure we all have acquaintances who are 'yes-men' and who say what they think we want to hear. But don't you find your friends are those who give you feedback that's honest and nurturing, criticism that's gentle and kind, and who support you no matter what? In other words, friends speak from the heart.

If we are to succeed in life with our integrity intact, we need to rely on our friends to help guide us. These are the people who will help us make decisions based on the right thing to do and not on how popular it makes us. And these are the people who help us keep it real!

How do we do this? One way is to remember that in order to surround ourselves with people who speak from the heart, we must become a person who speaks from the heart. Just imagine how kind and nurturing life will be when, one by one, we join the Speak from the Heart movement.

I want to be part of that world...don't you?


Speak from the heart.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Left My Heart In...

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There is a saying that visitors to Africa either hate it or love it; and those who love it leave a piece of their heart behind.

The latter is true of me and I would dearly, dearly love to take our children to Africa that they, too, may experience what I did. The topography is diverse, the nature is phenomenal, and the people are exceptionally welcoming. Yet, the reason why my heart still yearns for that continent is none of these things.

One of my heroes, Albert Einstein, once advised, "Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value." That is the Africa I know; from Kenya to Botswana, from Rwanda to Zanzibar, I felt that the pulse of the people was in working to become valuable members of their societies. And being privileged enough to experience that first-hand changes you forever.

Photos and words can be powerful and can change how you think. But the power of experience is that it can change how you feel; and that is why I left a piece of my heart in Africa!


Photos and words can change how you think
but experience can change how you feel.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Is Anyone Out There?

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Is is Monet? Is it Van Gogh? No, it's Nature.

Those of you who have been with me from the start know that this is a photo of sand and the impression of seaweed thrown about by the ocean (see Reality or Perception ). The photos I took that day are among my favorites and constantly set my mind in motion.

Take this photo, for example; it represents a patch of sand about 2 feet by 2 feet yet it emulates a large expanse of earth tapering on the horizon into the sky. And I find myself fascinated at how you see the same thing in small patches of sand as you do in vast expanses because nature repeats itself.

Once there, it's no leap at all to wonder if our earth is equivalent to that small patch of sand and may be repeated in grander scale elsewhere. My brain can't quite make that leap but I find myself looking at the stars at night and wondering...

...is anyone out there?


Nature repeats itself
and microcosms of nature emulate vast expanses.



Nature repeats itself.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Things We Do For Love

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Oh, the things we do for love!

I bet we all know exactly what I mean and that we've all experienced those questions that freeze us in our tracks. For example, "Mom, will you come down this[insert incredibly high and long slide that ends in a teeny-tiny pool] water-slide with me?" And we've all thought something like: Are you absolutely bonkers? as we hear ourselves say, "Of course, sweetheart!"

But what fascinates me is that I think animals go through pretty much the same reasoning. I watch our children yank our poor dog around and dress her in some of the most ridiculous things and I 'see' her think, "Really? These children are bonkers!" But although she's perfectly capable of getting out of the situation, she stays there looking miserable and lets the children do what they want.

That is love.

And I find myself wondering how animals can feel such love for another species when so many people have a hard time accepting our own species if they are of a different color or ethnicity. And I'm humbled.



The things we do for love!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Size Matters

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I know you wouldn't expect such a title from me...but let me explain.

When he was little, our son was worried that he was short. For the last nine years or so he's been talking about growth spurts and anticipating his with excitement. Wherever we went, he measured himself; he's compared his hands to a polar bear's paws, his height to a dinosaur, and his weight to a manatee. And all this left him feeling small.

Dan and I have spent the last nine years repeating that size doesn't matter. But our son didn't buy into it. And, to be honest, I think he's right because I've realized that size DOES matter. Don't get the wrong idea; not your height or weight or anything else observable...but the metaphoric size of your heart! I believe that's what determines how big you are.

Think about it; when someone leaves an impression on you, they're likely to have done so because of their kindness or generosity, their compassion or empathy, their love or passion, or some other positive character trait that's associated with the heart. And in our minds, we visualize those people with a commanding presence irrespective of their actual stature.

So does size matter? Absolutely! But physical stature has nothing to do with how big someone is; it's the size of your heart that counts!


Stature has nothing to do 
with how big someone is.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Greater Than...

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Over and over nature shows us that whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Take, for example, this photo of dead grasses in the sunset. Taken out of context the mishmash of dried-out vegetation isn't particularly inspiring. The sunset, without the grasses, is pretty but lacking in depth. But together they create something that's beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Don't you find that this is also true in life? In other words, don't you find that there are people whose personalities combine with yours to make something even greater? And don't you find that you're happiest when you're spending time with those people?

I think we all know there are people who bring out the best in us. But perhaps what we sometimes forget is that we bring out the best in them too. To put it simply, I believe we're doing ourselves a disservice if we live by the equation 'we = you + me'. Instead, we need to find people who help us attain 'we > you + me'.

Are you one of those people?


Spend time with people who help create the equation
'we > you + me'.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jumping to Conclusions

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Things aren't always how they seem and it's important to gather all the facts so we don't jump to conclusions.

Don't you find in today's fast-paced life, that many adults tend to react to a situation before even analyzing it? So often they jump to a conclusion without having the whole picture, rather than draw a conclusion after careful analysis of all the information. Sadly, this leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and the erosion of relationships.

I was at the zoo recently when a visitor sounded the alarm at a baby elephant being attacked when, in reality, it was gleefully rolling about while its mother lathered on dust (elephant suntan lotion)! Thankfully, the alarmist didn't affect the elephants at all but one wonders about the health of her social relationships and the calmness of her life.

Jumping to conclusions has always been a behavior of youth as they try to make sense of the world. But it seems to be spreading to the adult population and that, in my view, is very dangerous!


Curb your impulse to react
until you have the facts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feelings

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When people share their feelings with us, do we listen? Or do we try to fix things for them?

Our children have taught me so much...but they had to work hard to help me learn this lesson! I'm a 'fixer.' So they'd share their sadness with me and I'd try to fix it. They'd share their anger or fear with me and I'd try to fix it. I didn't try to fix THEM, just IT - the situation. But still, it wasn't what they wanted or needed.

Our older daughter has a very special friend called Feeling Bear who helps her work through her problems. I've always encouraged her conversations with Feeling Bear when something was awry because I knew he'd help solve things. But it's only in the last year or so that I had an epiphany. Feeling bear doesn't fix things by making suggestions and comments (he's a stuffed toy, for goodness sake)! He helps fix things by listening! That's it! No more, no less.

So, although it's humbling to be taught a lesson by a stuffed toy, I finally get it; when people share their feelings with you, they just want you to listen!


When people share their feelings
they want you to listen - not fix things!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time

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For Valentine's Day 2012 did you consider giving your loved ones the greatest gift of all? Time is something that can't be bought! Let's remember that as we get older, our knowledge grows, our influence grows, our wealth grows (and goodness only knows that our girth grows). But our time grows shorter!

Time has no empathy. Nothing can halt it as it marches on, resolutely counting down the moments in our lives. And the sooner we start making the most of our time with our loved ones, the better our lives become.

I work from home and was interrupted the other day by my youngest who wanted to share a song she'd created. I began to say, "I can't right now, babes, I'm working," when reason stopped me. In my dying days, will I remember my work or will I remember my children's eager and smiling faces? Will I clutch my publications in my weakening hands or will I find comfort in holding my children's hands? My last thoughts and memories won't be of a computer screen but of my beloved family!

We choose how to spend our time. As we do so, let's remember that as our age, knowledge, influence, and wealth grows our time grows shorter.

Happy Valentine's Day!


As our knowledge, influence, and wealth grows
our time grows shorter.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Believe in Yourself

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It's so important that we believe in ourselves and our abilities. And it's equally important to readjust our beliefs along the way.

A while ago, I had the crazy idea that I could paint. Each year there's a duck-painting competition and I thought, "How hard can it be to paint a duck?" So I bought my supplies (much to the amusement of the art store clerk who quickly figured out I didn't have a clue) and I painted. My half-finished canvas looked like a Paint-by-Numbers attempt by a seven year old and I figured that painting took a lot more talent than I had. So I readjusted my beliefs - and that's why I'm including a photo I took of a duck rather than my sad attempt at painting one!

Here's the thing; if you don't believe in yourself then you'll fail for certain. But be realistic. Believe in yourself and give it a go; but if you find out that you're not doing as well as anticipated then readjust either your expectations or your choice of activity.

In other words, believe in yourself - and bring along a healthy dose of realism too.



It's so important to believe in yourself -
and equally important to readjust those beliefs.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Missed Opportunity

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Oprah missed her chance!

Our youngest child loves to talk and quite fancies herself as the next Oprah Winfrey. So she was delighted when we were at a wax museum recently and she could chat to her idol. And, had this opportunity arisen in reality, I suspect Oprah would have enjoyed chatting to our daughter too!

But life is full of missed opportunities and part of what defines us is how we deal with them. I look at successful people and see them double their resolve to create even better opportunities when one is missed. They don't give up; they don't even take time to lick their wounds. They focus on their goal and work diligently toward it.

And although the strategy may not always work as you hope, it surely will take you a lot further than playing the overly-popular Blame Game!

As far as meeting Oprah is concerned, I have no doubt but that our daughter will make it happen one day; she's focused on that goal!


Focus on your goal and work diligently toward it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Imagination

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Have you ever seen an art piece and been awed at the imagination that created it? The more I look at nature, the more I think imagination is fostered by great observation skills.

For example, think of totem poles, kachina dolls, and witches; what imagination created such things? But now look at the photo I took of a dying saguaro cactus on a gloomy desert day and see if that makes it easier to understand the creation of these things.

I remember my high school art teacher advising us to look around for inspiration. But all I saw were desks and students. It took years for me to see the different pictures in the grain of wood and the different characters in faces.

Some people may be born with great observation skills; others of us may need life experience to help us along the way. But however we get there, our imaginations can take flight if we hone our powers of observation.



Imaginations can take flight 
if we hone our powers of observation.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Diligence or Luck?

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Samuel Goldwyn is credited with being the first to say, 'The harder I work the luckier I get.'

I used to think this quote meant that there was no luck involved in success, just hard work. But as the years passed I've reassessed my thinking and believe luck does play a role. I mean, look at Justin Bieber; he put a video on YouTube and WHAM! The rest, as they say, is history. 

But was it just luck for Justin? How much work did he put into increasing his chances of meeting good luck? Did he invest time, energy, and money into singing lessons? Did he perfect his craft by participating in choirs, bands, contests? How many videos did he send to people or post in different forums before he met his Lady Luck? How much careful and persistent attentiveness did he give to his craft.

For some, success may be 100% hard work and for others it may be 100% luck. But for the majority of us, diligence and luck go hand-in-hand; the more diligently we work the greater our chances of meeting good luck. 


The more diligently you work
the greater your chances of meeting good luck.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Privilege

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We all know that with great privilege comes great responsibility. I'd like to take that a step further.

So often in my travels I saw very young children having to work for a living to help make ends meet. Nothing leads to a better understanding of our privilege and responsibility than looking into the eyes of one of these less fortunate children.

Most of us take our privilege so much for granted that we can't even define it; we just know, without question, that we have:

Protection
Respect
Independence
Veracity
Information
Liberty
Expectations
Grace
Education

I suggest that with our PRIVILEGE comes the responsibility of doing our utmost to ensure all people in all lands have those same nine gifts.



With PRIVILEGE comes the responsibility
of helping others have the same.




Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Lesson From...Flat Stanley

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Flat Stanley may be made out of paper but his influence is great.

For those who haven't met Flat Stanley yet, he's a story character whose parents mail him to his friend for a vacation. Across the world, 8-9 year olds draw and mail their own Flat Stanleys to friends and family in different places in the hope of receiving postcards to share with their classmates.

Because our three children are so close in age, my brother received three Flat Stanleys in four years. And each one was taken on a unique adventure. One walked the Thames (and almost got lost), another toured London (and had a narrow escape with pigeon poop), and the other learned to garden (and spent time in the hospital after breaking his foot playing soccer with a home-grown cabbage).

Our children were very popular in their classes during their Flat Stanley sagas. But what surprised us was how great the experience was for the rest of us also. Over two years after our last Flat Stanley was mailed, we still talk fondly and laugh often about their adventures.

And it reminds us that you don't need to be big in any sense of the word in order to be influential.



You don't have to be big
to be influential.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Unpredictability

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A little unpredictability in life makes for great discoveries.

If you're looking for that extra buzz of excitement, look at something familiar from a different angle. I know this sounds a little weird but have you ever looked at a zebra's bottom? Did you ever realize how beautiful a zebra was from behind? Now I know what some of you are thinking and no, I'm not on anything.

Weird or not, I'm sure you get the point; a familiar thing can be novel when looked at differently. And this can be generalized to many aspects of life. For example, changing furniture around boosts a room; having dinner for breakfast (or vice versa) boosts our day; giving someone flowers for no reason boosts both our spirits. The list goes on.

Just imagine how wonderful life would be if our days were filled with moments of positive unpredictability. Perhaps we should stop imagining...and do it!


Fill your life with moments
of positive unpredictability.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thank You

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Today, I want to thank you.

You don't have to click on my blog; you get nothing for doing so, other than sharing in my random thoughts and wishes for a kinder, gentler world. Yet you do click...and continue to do so. I am grateful and humbled by your support.

Today ends my first month of blogging. In this short time I've had over 860 clicks from fourteen countries; US, UK, Australia, Russia, Italy, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, Qatar, Nicaragua, and Indonesia. Again, I'm humbled. If this continues and, each month, we increase the number of visits and the number of countries, we could actually have a positive impact on people's lives. And I say 'we' because, without readers, followers, and sharers, this blog is nothing but one person's thoughts.

The years have shown over and over the influence that big companies and famous people have; and the thought that we, the unknowns, can band together to have influence is awe-inspiring and exciting.

Thank you, the internet, for making this possible. And thank you, my blog family, for making this happen. Let's never forget that each and every one of us counts!


Thank You.
Each and every one of us counts!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pure Joy


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If only we could forever hold on to the joy we felt as a child over small things.

Our children derive so much pleasure from common occurrences such as having their favorite meal cooked for them, staying up late on special days, or just playing with friends. And the pure, unadulterated joy they feel when doing something for the first time is awe-inspiring. Take, for example, the first snowman our son built; we know it was small (okay, dangerously close to microscopic), but to him it was the best snowman ever and 11 years later he still holds it dear.

As we grow older, what happens to that joy? Is it that we become so accustomed to little pleasures that they lose their appeal? Like addicts, do we need more and more to feel the buzz of pure joy?

If we believe we can learn much from children and start viewing things through their eyes, I'm certain we can rekindle our relationship with pure joy. The question is: Will our egos allow us to?



Children can teach us much
if our egos allow!




Saturday, February 4, 2012

Just a Child


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Do you sometimes feel people judge YOU if your child isn't perfect? I certainly do! I wonder where we lost the knowledge that children are just children learning lessons.

In 1966, a coal-dust waste tip slid down into the mining village of Aberfan in Wales, UK. It engulfed the village school and about 20 houses. Of the 144 people who died in the Aberfan disaster, 116 were school children; about half the children of Pantglas School and five of their teachers were killed.

The dead were buried in the local cemetery with a headstone under a memorial arch. About a year later I visited the cemetery with my cousins and their toddler. The little girl ran onto one of the graves to smell the 'pretty flowers.' Her mother, aghast, told her to get off. We didn't realize that the mother whose child was buried in the grave stood by our side and, with tears in her eyes, she said, "Please don't scold her. She's fine. She's just a child."

At eight I learned a valuable lesson from that grieving mother; children aren't perfect and we shouldn't expect them to be. After all, each one is just a child who's still learning life's lessons.



Remember
a child is just a child.




Friday, February 3, 2012

Patience



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Patience is a door to which many have lost the key.

In this age of technology and immediacy, patience has become an antiquated virtue. How many nano-seconds do you wait for a program to load before starting to complain?  This is what it's like in our home:
Rhia pushes a button.
One nano-second later: "Dan, something's wrong with the computer."
Dan: "Wait a moment!"
Rhia: "Oh, it's fixed now."

Although it's so easy for us to adopt this warp-speed attitude, it's important that we slow down to enjoy the smile on our children's faces, the beauty of the sunset, the kindness of a neighbor, or the intricacy of nature. Without these, our lives quickly become unbalanced and out-of-whack.

There's so much joy available to us each day if we're patient enough to hang around to see it. So how about this; we keep our impatience for the computer and have bountiful patience for everything else.



Patience is a door to which
many have lost the key.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wisdom



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Don't you find that some people have a profound effect on you?

I met this man over twenty years ago and don't even know his name; yet, I'll never forget him. He worked in the loft of a run-down factory in China. Day in and day out he ground corn to flour for 10 to 12 hours. We spoke only little but I was struck by the aura of contentment surrounding him. When I asked about the job (which I had judged to be menial), this humble man looked at me and answered, "I love my job; it feeds my family."

Those eight words bore their way straight into my heart and soul, and I felt my previous judgement crumble by their power. I've thought of those words so often over the years and they've helped keep me on the path of 'family before ego.'

But, as important as that message is, this nameless man taught me something even greater. For as I stood before him I realized that great wisdom comes from humility. And that's a lesson many would benefit from today, don't you think?



Great wisdom 
comes from humility.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Perception



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So...does anyone else see a super-hero zebra in this picture?

The photo was taken in mangrove swamps in Borneo - then turned on it's end. And even though I know it's not a super-hero zebra, that's all I can see because that's what my mind has decided it is.

How often does this happen in life? How often are we absolutely convinced of something that we know to be true and are unable to move beyond that despite evidence to the contrary? We believe what we think we see, and lose focus of everything else.

To me, the tragedy in this is that we believe our perception to be 'truth.' We believe we're right and everyone else is wrong and defend it to the end. We don't acknowledge that there are many truths. And we don't acknowledge that adding other truths to our own actually strengthens our perception and make us right more often. Instead, we fight hard to be right...when, most of the time, there's no right or wrong; only different.



Most of the time there's no right or wrong,
only different.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Simple Life



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Ah...the simple life!

We know our dog isn't particularly clever. And she's certainly not energetic. But she's mastered the art of getting what she wants in a quiet yet persuasive way.

If she wants food, Sila lies by her plate until one of us gets fed up of tripping over her and feeds her. If she's outside wanting to come in, Sila sits by the glass door and looks at us directly in the eye with her mournful look until one of us opens the door. If she wants to be petted, Sila flops in front of each of us in turn and waits patiently until one of us pets her.

Sila's needs are few. Water, food, (short) walks, and (long) petting sessions. That's it; that's all she needs to be happy. And because her needs are few, she's able to concentrate her energies ensuring they're fulfilled.

So...I wonder if we'd be happier with fewer needs so we could concentrate our energies fulfilling them.



When our needs are few
we can focus on fulfilling them.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Who's Watching Whom?



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While looking at nature, do you sometimes wonder who's watching whom?

In the last 13 years, I can't count how many thousands of wild animals we've fed; swans, geese, ducks, quail, squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, javelina, and deer to name a few. So often I've felt that the animals have seen us way before we've seen them. And so often I've felt if we could speak 'animal' we'd hear,"Hey, here come some of ours. Quick, look cute!" Because I swear they're waiting for us when we arrive. And I swear that they're the ones in control.

Then I wonder how often does this sort of thing happen in our day-to-day life. How often have our children finagled something by making us believe it was our idea? How often have our bosses persuaded us to take on an extra project by pandering to our egos? How often have our friends guided us in a particular direction by building our self-esteems? How often are we really 'in control'?

I'm not suggesting any of these things are bad; I'm just asking who's watching whom?  



Who's watching whom?



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nature Speaks



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Why is it that many people believe things have to be fancy and grand to be worthwhile?

Someone commented to me this week that they, too, could take pretty photos to write about if they could go to Africa, China, India, and other places. But isn't that a bit of a cop-out? Can't we take beautiful photos of interesting subjects in our own backyards and public parks? Good photos are not dependent on exotic places and the subject matter certainly doesn't have to be anything fancy or grand to inspire thought. For example, this photo of colorful flowers against a blue sky was taken at a local park; and to me, it's a reminder of how nature speaks volumes with its simplicity.

But we live in societies where it's believed fancy and grand is better. Look at the extravagant birthday parties many children receive today. Or the amount of gifts under our Christmas trees. Or the compulsion many feel to spend on things they can't afford. Don't you feel sometimes that life's a bit out of whack?

Nature speaks loudly...but are we listening?


Nature speaks loudly
but are we listening?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Lesson from...Rhinos



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Many people believe rhinos are cranky creatures who attack for no reason. However, this isn't true.

Rhinos have very poor eyesight and become frightened easily; so usually, they're not attacking but running away. I've seen white rhinos frightened by butterflies; but if you have 4-5 tons of animal running toward you at speeds up to 40 miles per hour it's easy to misinterpret what's happening and believe you're being attacked. Female white rhinos are often credited as being particularly cranky, But ponder this; how do we react when we feel our child is threatened? And when you consider that female rhinos are pregnant for 16 months and give birth to a whopping 100-140 pound baby, perhaps they've earned the right to be cranky!

I wonder if some people are judged similarly to rhinos. Do we incorrectly label them as cranky and likely to attack when, in reality, they're responding to something else? If we knew what they were responding to would our judgement be different? Or, perhaps, if we knew what they were responding to would we think they'd earned the right to be cranky?

I certainly hope we can all remember the rhino and learn not to judge without having all the facts.


Let's not judge
without all the facts.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Moments



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Even when life is challenging, you can find happy moments to make you smile if you look for them.

We all know what those moments look like; a beautiful sunset, your children laughing together (my favorite), a perfect tree, visiting with a loved one, morning dew sparkling in the sun. The list goes on and on and is different for different people. Whatever those happy moments are for you, I believe wholeheartedly that taking stock of them helps keep you centered during those other, not-so-happy times. And I'm quickly learning that they help immensely during those tween/teen years!!

I wonder how our lives would change if we were always on the lookout for these happy moments to stockpile. Would we become more patient with our children and more appreciative of life in general?

Perhaps we should try it to find out.



Life is full of happy moments
if we look for them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Enjoy the NOW



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Why do we tend to set future goals for our children rather than enjoying their current accomplishments?

Why do we say, "You scored 18/20 on the test? Maybe next time you'll get 19/10" and not, "Wow! You got 18/10; well done!"
Why do we say, "You did that in 45 seconds? Maybe next time you'll do it in 40!" and not, "How wonderful that you did it in 45 seconds!"
In other words, why don't we celebrate NOW before looking at LATER?

Our son (then 6) taught me this lesson when he took a photo of elephant rock in Utah. The photographer in me commented, "That's great. But next time, if you stand with your back to the sun you won't have these lines here." Our son looked at me as if I was nuts and commented, "But mama, it's perfect. It's raining rainbows on the elephant!" Why couldn't I have said that?

I now strive to enjoy each rainbow moment and wanted to share this perfect photo with you.



Enjoy each rainbow moment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Different is Good



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Years ago, because their roast beef sandwiches were competing with burgers, Arby's used the slogan 'Different is Good.'

Don't you think that's a slogan we should foster in our children? If adults model acceptance and celebration of differences, our children will learn to do so also. Then, perhaps, there wouldn't be this desire for neon soccer cleats, name-brand sneakers, and the latest trend in clothing just because 'everyone else has them!' We all need to 'belong'...but can't we belong AND wear different clothing?

My concern is if we can't help children accept differences in clothing then what chance to we have helping them accept differences in skin color, culture, religion, and everything else that makes us different? Let's remember that the seeds we sow in childhood are reaped in adulthood. I hope we're planting the 'different is good' seed - don't you?




Different is good.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wealth



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Wealth isn't a synonym for money.

Of course, part of wealth is how much money you have and what you can buy with it. But let's remember that's only part of it. Some people have a wealth of friends or a wealth of opportunities or a wealth of knowledge. The list goes on. Yet, in the developed world, don't you think we put too much emphasis on the money part and not enough on the others?

In my travels, I've seen very poor children (financially). Yet some were very wealthy. For example, take the children in this photo. There wasn't much money in their community but there was enough food and children were cherished community members. Working parents didn't have to find a baby-sitter; the remaining adults looked after all the children well. In the evenings, adults and children played, chatted, sang, and danced in the communal area. If a child needed help, the nearest adult would give it. And the children grew up knowing their importance to the community.

Money is needed in the developed world; but let's not confuse that with wealth!



You can be wealthy 
with little money.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Perspective



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After a hard day at work or a difficult day with the children I could easily let my mood take a dive. Instead, I choose to look at a photo that puts everything back in perspective.

This photo is taken from the old immigration station of Ellis Island. The building is the one into which all new immigrants were taken for processing and quarantine. Between 1892 and 1924 about 20 million immigrants went through here after risking their lives to escape persecution.

To further eradicate any bad mood, the buildings seen through the window are part of the 9/11 Memorial built to remember and honor the 2,983 men, women and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.

And suddenly, my problems seem quite insignificant. Isn't it remarkable what a bit of perspective can bring?



It's remarkable what 
perspective can bring.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Support



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Flying birds never cease to amaze me.

Depending on the weather, at times they have to flap their wings hard to get where they're going and, at other times, they glide using the wind beneath their wings to stay airborne.

I often think how this is just like life. At times, don't you feel you have to work hard to get where you're going and, at other times, you seem to glide there? During those times when you have to work hard, isn't it great when someone decides to support you and help you out? There's an expression that a person who's a welcome relief is 'like a breath of fresh air.' I believe those breaths of fresh air can build up to being a wind - and that wind, in turn, becomes the one beneath our wings that helps us glide to where we're going.

And each time I watch birds gliding, I determine to help support someone who's struggling; I determine to be the wind beneath someone's wings. Will you join me?



Be the wind beneath someone's wings.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Whistling

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What is it about whistling that motivates children to learn?

I don't know how many hours each of our children spent with eyes crossed, blowing out spittle while learning to whistle! But boy, were they motivated! I remember trying to redirect the motivation by saying things like, "Now that's a great attitude to take to your math homework!," or "Oh, you're blowing well; why don't you practice your flute?" But...no! Apparently, homework and flute don't hold the same appeal.

Just imagine how wonderful it would be if we could bottle that whistling motivation and sprinkle it over other parts of life...homework or chores, for example. Imagine saying things like, "Oh, you don't want to do your science project? Here, have some whistling motivation," or "You don't want to tidy your room? Here, have some whistling motivation."

I think I'm on to something here; we could call it whistation. Now if anyone knows how to bottle it, I know a lot of interested parents...and I'm first in line!


Why can't homework and chores
be this motivating?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Outside the Box

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There's something very special about sunsets over water.

Over the years I've watched better photographers than I use colored lenses and filters to take the most amazing shots. I'm frugal and I don't want to spend my hard-earned money on such things. But I believe where there's a will there's a way and I've learned to use my own filters; I hold my (99 Cent Store) sunglasses in front of the shutter while photographing!!

Seeing my sunset photos always reminds me that there are many ways to get to a particular place if we're willing to think outside the box and be creative. One way may not be as sophisticated or as efficient as another but it can be just as effective.

An old adage suggests there are many ways to skin a cat. My gentler version is this: There are many ways to photograph a sunset. Do you think it'll catch on??




There are many ways
to photograph a sunset.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celebrate

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What is it about sleeping babies that pulls at our heart strings?

Surely the appeal isn't the thought of changing diapers and getting up four times each night. So is it that they're innocent. Or is it that they're vulnerable. Or, perhaps, it's that they're...quiet!! For whatever reason, when we see thumb-sucking, sleeping babies we move toward them with open arms wanting to cradle them.

I wonder if, deep down, we yearn for the days when life was innocent and simple. I wonder if, deep down, we yearn for the days when food just appeared on the table, when clean clothes appeared in our closets, and when we'd never heard of a mortgage. I wonder if, deep down, we yearn for the days when we were celebrated for merely existing.

And then I wonder how things would change if we all started buying someone a cup of coffee or saying, 'Thank you,' and, when asked why we shrug and reply, 'Because you're you!'

I wonder.


Sleeping babies remind us of a time
when we were celebrated for merely existing.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pure Love

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Is there anything more pure than a child's love?

Our youngest has a favorite toy named Raffi. She loves this toy. Raffi is now ten years old but it doesn't matter that he's dirty and a bit flat. It doesn't matter that he has holes. It doesn't matter that his neck is floppy or that he's not pink anymore. He's loved. Period. A couple of years ago, we considered replacing the giraffe but our daughter was aghast! She didn't see him as an old, failing toy but as Raffi, her beloved friend. And she wouldn't dream of putting Raffi out to pasture!

Yet, as adults, we react very differently to things (and people) who are old and failing. It seems that our disposable society doesn't feel love quite as strongly or purely as does a child. How often we hear parents say, "Get rid of that old thing," amid a child's protest.

And I wonder; are our children the ones who have it right?


Nothing is as strong or as pure
as a child's love.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Simplicity

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We've all heard of the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly...we don't use the word 'stupid' in our home). Well, it would seem to pertain to all things in life, even photographs.

I've been known to wait hours for the light to be right to get the shot I want; yet, to be honest, some of my best photos have been the simplest. Take this dandelion, for example; it was growing in our yard and looked so beautiful in the early morning dew. I clicked, chose black and white photo and...done!

We tend to over-complicate our lives these days. We find ourselves running ragged to go here, there, and everywhere. And we have so much to organize and do that it's almost as though we all need a personal assistant! I often find myself wondering what happened to the simple times. Don't get me wrong; I greatly appreciate our technological advances and don't want to go back to 'the good old days' but I do believe that adding a little bit of simplicity to our lives would benefit us greatly. Don't you?



It's good at times to keep it simple.