Monday, April 30, 2012

Zombie Motivations

For my Y post, I wrote about ways I get into the groove of becoming healthy. Today, I'd like to share my motivation for becoming fit: I am afraid of zombies. A while ago, I reflected on this phenomenon but I've recently discovered (after watching a few episodes of The Walking Dead) that a fear of a zombie epidemic can be a true motivator for becoming fit.

You see, I think about this kind of epidemic quite often. How would I cope with Armageddon? Would I be strong enough to survive? I'm not sure if I am physically fit enough to run from or fight off a pack of zombies. I really need to get into shape. It isn't just about losing weight but it is more about becoming strong. I want to be strong in every sense of the word: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Do I really believe in zombies? No; however, if a zombie epidemic helps motivate me to become physically fit then, of course, I am going to utilize it to inspire me. What this really comes down to is being motivated to embrace my strengths and to be as healthy as possible. It is taking control of my life and being good to myself. It is appreciating the body God has given me and maintaining it in a spirit of love, not vanity.

When I exercise I try to be present in the here and now. I also like using the time I exercise to escape reality, to get into my head, to fantasize and to create stories. When I start losing steam, I just imagine four or five zombies chasing me (the kind who can actually run) and my adrenaline increases, I become more energized and I am inspired to become the strongest person I can possibly be.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Art of Simplifying: Practice Yoga & Eat Yogurt

I've been trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I eat healthy, I am trying to get on a consistent exercise routine and I am in process of embracing holistic wellness (mind, body and soul). This is important to me because I want God to know that I appreciate the life He has given me and I would like to live a long and happy life with my husband.

Things get in the way for me much too often. I'm working on this. Sometimes, I feel that there is just so much to do. There are all these things swirling around in my head and ideas that I want to put into place. They become self-imposed pressures and they take over my life. When I really meditate on this, I always answer myself with the same question: how much do we really have to do? My husband always reminds me that life is about living life.

Why is it that women strive so hard to show everyone that we have super powers? We are raised to be responsible, reliable, hard-working. Now, many of us take care of our families and also provide for them. I've recently had an epiphany: as awesome as women are, we are not superhuman. Lynda Carter was my childhood hero. I was named after the Bionic Woman for God's sake. There was no way I was going to escape a Superwoman complex. As much as I hate to admit it, we're just plain old human. We can only do so much. When I start feeling overwhelmed, I focus on two very simple things that help foster my healthy lifestyle: I practice yoga & I eat Greek yogurt.

Yoga helps me in so many ways. I love stretching, the intentional breathing and meditating on the sounds around me. Yoga helps me connect with my body, mind and soul - I become in sync with myself. After practicing yoga, I always feel more energized and motivated to exercise. Yoga sparks my desire to be physically fit.

I began eating Greek yogurt a few months ago. I love it. My husband and I eat a lot of it. It has taken the place of all sugary foods and there's something about it that is comforting. This yogurt helps me keep eating in perspective - it is a simple way of eating. Eating yogurt in the mornings makes it much easier to stay on track the rest of the day. I always feel so much better when I eat healthy and Greek yogurt is a perfect way to begin my day.

For my very last post, I will delve into my motivation for leading a healthy lifestyle. Of course the health benefits are a given but, for me, it really comes down to a fear of zombies.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm the World's Worst Xylophone Player

I've enjoyed participating in the A to Z Challenge like so many others but am I the only one who is tired? This X post is a stretch but it is all I have in me right now.

In high school, I was in the marching band. I know what you are thinking. Dork. Yes, I was but I was also happy in high school and actually had a really great experience. I'd choose being a band geek and happy over being popular and miserable. Anyway, I played the flute and I was okay at it. We marched during the fall and participated in symphonic band in the spring. During my junior year, it was time to transition to the next level of symphonic band. This band was special. It was strictly for juniors and seniors only.

I thought I was pretty cool. Hey, I was a junior. Then, I got the terrible news from my band director. He called me and one other fellow flute player into his office and explained that we weren't good enough playing the flute to transition to the junior/senior symphonic band. He did have two openings in other sections: one of us could play the french horn and the other could be in the drumline.

Hello, drumline. Meet Mr. Xylophone. I had never played drums, piano, xylophone, tamberine or symbols in my life. We taped the notes to the keys with masking tape because I couldn't remember which ones were which. This is how I played at school. I did the best I could but my wrists just don't move like one needs them to when participating in a drumline.

I practiced for months and finally it was time for our county symphonic band competition. One component of these competitions is going into a room, being presented with a piece of music that no one has seen, having five minutes to practice and then playing for judges. Guess what? My xylophone was not equipped with masking tape notes. I was completely lost. I told our drumline leader that I couldn't play. He was a senior and in charge so he made me play the symbols instead. I had never played symbols before. Never even held them in my hands let alone play them.

The band is playing along and here comes Jaime's part - I think there were four or five symbols hits (I don't even know what they are called). When my turn came, I slammed those symbols together so hard that I almost dropped them. I put all of my energy and strength into my part. I was nervous but proud that I actually played them in count with the music.

When it was over, we walked out of the competition in a proud straight line. As soon as we got outside, I heard a classmate say, "Who the fudge (he didn't say "fudge") was playing the symbols?" I just pretended I didn't hear him. Did I mention it was a really soft song that we were playing?

The point of this reflection: there really isn't one. I just wanted to point out that I'm the world's worst xylophone player and also the world's loudest symbol player.

Y and Z, here I come.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Building Walls

I have built many walls in my life and they have all been out of necessity. I believe that when you work in social services, you have to build walls in order to do your job effectively. If not, we'd be consumed by the emotional work that we do on a daily basis. My walls allow me to be empathetic versus sympathetic. They help me control my compassion so that it doesn't cloud my judgement. Without the walls that I've built, I wouldn't be able to make decisions based on my clients' best interests.

When I first became a social worker, I used to take my work home with me. I'd dream about the children and families I worked with, I'd worry about them and I would give too much of myself. I didn't even know what this meant but later I learned that if you give too much of yourself, you lose yourself.

I worked as a case manager for kids with mental health disorders for a while. One of my clients was a 15 year old girl. She was removed from her home and living in a foster home. When I first met her, she was smoking on the patio. I remember wondering why in the world a foster parent would allow a teenager to smoke. This was a completely new experience to me. After I asked her to put out her cigarette, we began building a pretty strong relationship.

I followed her to two more foster homes and a group home. She ran away from one of the homes and was hit by a car so I followed her to the hospital. She had no clothes with her at the hospital so I raided my sister's closet. I drove this girl to a therapeutic foster home where I was promised she'd be given the support that she needed. She arrived in bandages and holding the few bags of clothes I had just taken from my sister.

On her 16th birthday, I picked her up from a group home and took her out to dinner. Where the hell was her family? They didn't care. This beautiful girl's father had raped her for years. She finally spoke up in order to protect her younger sister, he went to prison and she became the family scapegoat. My first time in court was standing next to her. I was there to advocate for her. When her father began talking on speaker phone from prison, neither one of us expected it and we were both shocked. She started crying and so did I. I couldn't even talk to the judge or the attorneys. I couldn't speak for her that day because I let my walls down. I fell in love with this girl and I became too emotionally attached.

I don't regret any of it. She needed whatever I gave her during those few months. She began finding herself and became stronger. Right before I left that job, she told me that she was going to request emancipation from her family. She realized that they are not good for her and she needed to move on with her life. How amazing that a 16 year old learned this lesson on her own. She was so full of potential - I admired her independence.

This experience taught me to know when to put my walls up and when to let them down. These walls have affected me personally. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. I guess, it is just the way it is.

Note: This post did not transpire the way I originally planned but I really felt the need to remember this girl and commemorate her for being so strong and beautiful. She will always be a part of me. Thank God for resilient children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Finding My Voice

I began thinking of how one finds his or her voice with experience. This was a common theme during my human relations work in graduate school. I had struggled with finding my voice as an adolescent and even into my 20's. Now, I do feel like I have found it but that doesn't mean I don't question myself or always know how to use it. In the last group relations conference I attended, one of the large groups focused on social sensing. It was the first time I truly connected with my voice in a large group. This is my reflection about the experience that I wrote in my final paper:

During the social sensing group I feel like I woke up from a dream.  I was aware of so much going on around me, I felt overwhelmed and invigorated at the same time.  I was amazed by what people were sharing and how interconnected everything is.  This experience was an example of awakening the soul.  It seemed that way for me on an individual level but also on a larger systemic level.  It was an experience that I’ll never forget.  It was wonderful. 

For fifteen minutes, I struggled to find words for what I was holding.  I was thinking of my cousin.  I had been thinking of him a lot.  I found it so painful and confusing to balance supporting his decision to become a Marine with the possibility of him being killed.  Dualities were swarming around in my head:  life and death, good and evil, innocence and war.  I cried silently and I experienced some very physical reactions to what was going on inside of me.  My heart was pounding, I felt dizzy, and I could not stop crying.  I really felt like I needed to share what I was feeling with the group but I didn’t know how it connected to anything.  I tried waiting until I gained control of myself.  I didn’t want to cry when I spoke.  I also didn’t want to regret not talking because I was afraid.  I’m tired of holding back.  When I did speak, I spoke from a deep place and I cried with all those strangers around me.  I couldn’t help it but also, in that moment, I didn’t care.  I was being sincere and I shared something that was really resonating with me even though I didn’t know why. 

After I shared what I was feeling, someone talked about finding the warrior within himself and what it means to have courage and take risks.  When we grow and become new, sometimes pieces of ourselves must die.  Someone in the group made a connection and I was appreciative of him for doing that.  The evening before, in my review and application group, each member shared a one-word intention for the next day and I chose the word “strength.”  My consultant had said that in his faith, when we ask for something, it is already given.  I didn’t know why I had asked for this but in the moment that I spoke up in the large group, I realized that I felt courageous and vulnerable at the same time.  I had been given the strength that I needed to be authentic and to share a piece of myself with the group.        

For more information about a group relations conference, click here or check out the Tavistock Institute at    

“You never know whose future life you are shaping simply by pursuing
your own aspirations and living up to your own core values.”
- Bruce Avolio, 2005

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ukulele Adventures: Finding My Inner Hawaiian

About a month ago, my husband came home with a brand new ukulele for me. It was such a surprise. I am not a big fan of surprises but this one was awesome. I think the uke sounds so refreshing and happy. Now, I haven't really played all that much but I'll blame it on the amount of writing I've been doing lately. I am really excited about learning how to play. I've noticed that I can be impatient, though. I sort of want to skip the learning phase (though some would say this is the most important part) and just pick it up and play cool beach songs.

I took one lesson at George's Music and had to fake my way through the G chord. I've never played a string instrument before and my fingers don't naturally curve like they need to for many of the chords. One thing that I think is amazing about string instruments is how open you have to be to play. They seem like the kind of instruments that bring out true creativity and flexibility. I tend to be more structured in playing music. I used to play the flute and I like knowing that there are specific ways to key notes. Learning to play the ukulele is going to force me to be more fluid and open-minded. I'm looking forward to this.

Finding my inner Hawaiian is finding that really happy and content part of myself that I've somehow lost over the past few months. Lately, I've been struggling with this. I have been trying to figure things out on my own but nothing is working. This morning, I gave everything to God. I stopped pretending that I'm in control of my life. I came to the realization that my plans may not be His; because, I'm truly out of sorts. I just wish I knew how to go about this. Do I look for signs? How will I know what path God wants me to take? I guess I'll just have to pray about this as well.

Today's prayer: God, thank you for my life. Though I don't always voice my appreciation for everything you've given me, I really do. Help me use the various tools that I have, such as my new ukulele, to find my inner Hawaiian, my happy place. I know it is there. I just need You to help me connect with it.

I want to learn to play like this. Eddie Vedder is amazing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today, I Celebrate Life and Remember My Dad

Today is a unique day.  It is both my birthday and the anniversary of my dad's death.  I turn 35 today and 16 years ago my dad passed away.  Every birthday since then has been special.  I celebrate my life as well as his.  I can't help to wake up on my birthday and relive those last few days with him.  It is my way of remembering the intensity of losing a parent.  Though painful, I don't want to forget.  I want to embrace the grief and loss I feel for him.  The pain is real and it is a part of who I am.  When I write about my dad, I can't always think clearly and I don't really want to.  So, I just go with the flow and voice whatever comes to mind.

My dad had AIDS.  I never really accepted the disease.  I stayed positive and really thought that the handfuls of vitamins and herbs he took would prolong his life.  This was before the cocktail so he had to rely on things such as garlic and shark cartilage.  I was completely shocked to get a phone call from my mom telling me to come home from college.  I was a freshman and it was the week before final exams.  My roommate and I found my professors and, through tears and snotty noses, requested that I take my exams early so that I could go home and be with my dad who was dying.  This was difficult.  Still, I have no recollection of those days as I crammed for my exams and packed my belongings not knowing what I was going home to.

He wasn't too bad when I first saw him but that didn't last long.  I think that he lived for a week or two after I came home.  Sometimes, I miss him so much that my soul actually hurts. I can't catch my breath and I feel like I am suffocating. 

I never heard my dad yell and I never saw him get angry.  He worried about my sister and I and he would have done anything for us.  His love was unconditional.  My dad was compassionate, peaceful, spiritual, funny, loving and creative.  I truly admired him. 

The night before my dad died, I kissed him goodnight and told him that I would take care of my sister.  He didn't have to hang on any longer.  It was okay to go.  I didn't' care that it was my birthday.  He died a few hours later.  That day was so awkward.  Everyone was in shock while we picked out an urn and cemetery plot that morning and ate birthday cake later in the afternoon.  I think my entire family was floating in some other dimension.  It was completely surreal.

God, I miss my dad.  Sometimes, I have nightmares that he is alive and the only reason I don't see him is because we lost touch with each other.  In my nightmare, my dad is living his life somewhere but I have no idea where.  I feel so alone after these dreams and I grieve for him all over again.

I feel hollow when I miss him only because I loved him so much.  After allowing myself to remember his death, I spend the day celebrating life.  I know that I will see my dad again one day and this brings me peace.  Today, I am thankful for my life as well as his.  I am grateful that I could be myself with him. We didn't even have to speak, we could just be with each other and feel connected.  I will carry this connection with me forever.  He has inspired me in so many ways: learning to love myself, embracing creativity, opening myself to true love, connecting with God and furthering my education.  I completed my graduate portfolio in his memory and included this photo and poem: 

My father, my past

He who taught me to love unconditionally

To savor every moment and to laugh at the little things.

When I think of my father and the life that he lived,

I am reminded of the importance to be myself and to love who I am.

He was the embodiment of peace, love, and spirituality.

My father’s contribution to my leadership capacity was teaching me

to be compassionate and understanding.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sarah McLachlan

I'm sure that most people (especially those of us who love music) have that one artist or band who makes them feel at home. Sarah McLachlan is that singer for me. Her music is beautiful and she helps me create a certain atmosphere in my home. It's a combination of relaxation, peace and love. Floyd, my dog, has grown up listening to Sarah McLachlan's songs. When I turn her music on, he becomes really relaxed and sleepy. I think that he loves her as much as I do. She takes me back to simpler times - those where I didn't worry as much or think too much. Her music is sort of freeing in a way. When I listen to her songs, my mind becomes clearer and free from clutter.

What music makes you feel at home?

Recycled Post

I am determined to complete the A to Z Challenge. Life has gotten in the way for my Q, R and S posts, though. So, I'm writing very brief ones and even recycling an old post from February of 2010.

This is one of my favorite posts. I remember sitting on my sofa and feeling like I just had to write. In that moment, I embraced creativity and began writing again.

Cheeseburgers & Cabernet

When you have one of those crazy days – the kind that makes your head spin – there isn’t anything as wonderful as coming home, taking your heels off, putting on pajama pants, and eating a comforting meal. If you haven’t tried pairing a cheeseburger and a glass (or two) of Cabernet after one of these days, you don’t know what you are missing. It doesn’t even have to be a gourmet, homemade burger. An In & Out double double will work just fine.

While I was meticulously balancing my bites of burger with sips of wine, I began thinking about simple pleasures. At that moment, my cheeseburger and Cabernet made me completely content, even happy. The mind-boggling day that I had began fading away, like a dream that you can't remember. I was amazed that the body and mind could be nourished by such simple things as burgers and wine. Aren’t simple pleasures the most wonderful gifts in the world? Here are some of my favorites:

Kissing my dog's ears, walking barefoot in the grass, taking my bra off after a long day, eating pistachios, my feather pillow, feeling my husband’s mustache tickle my nose when he kisses me, taking photos, grilling veggies, listening to Sarah McLachlan, wearing flip flops, fresh basil, breathing into my baby blanket, spooning, drinking margaritas, camping, and sitting in the sun.

What are your simple pleasures?


I love the quiet. What I love about silence is that you have nothing else to focus on except for the here and now. You look within yourself. If you sit in the quiet long enough, you even connect with yourself. I become more appreciative of my life and I pray more when my mind is free. I'd like to share some wonderful quotes about quietness.

Prayer is commission. Out of the quietness with God, power is generated that turns the spiritual machinery of the world. When you pray, you begin to feel the sense of being sent, that the divine compulsion is upon you. – E. Stanley Jones

We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly. . . spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order. – Susan L. Taylor

True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. – William Penn

We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude. – Helen Hayes

In the Quiet
Princess Place Preserve

I'm spending the next few days in the woods and will be immersing myself in nature. I will embrace the quiet and allow it to feed my soul. Q, R and S posts are all scheduled ahead of time. I look forward to connecting with the rest of the A to Z bloggers upon my return.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

3 Posts in 1 Day

I am determined to complete the A to Z Challenge and I'm going to be without Internet for a few days. So, I wrote three brief posts for Q, R and S. I planned on scheduling them to post automatically but this feature has stopped working for me in Blogger. I refuse to be late so tomorrow I will be posting three posts in one day. Call me crazy but I really want to complete this challenge. I guess that I'm just addicted to productivity. I look forward to reading any comments and everyone's blog posts next Monday.

Photography Love

My love for photography began in high school. It was very unlike me to take an art class. I had hurried through my courses and had the opportunity take a break from intense academic classes my senior year. This is when I fell completely in love with photography.

I'm an introvert and an observer. I think that I was always making photos, I just didn't have a camera until I was 17. Photography allows me to capture moments in time, the way I see them. It is a tool that helps me define my perspective of the world. As an adolescent girl, struggling with life and trying to find her way in the world, photography fostered my sense of self. In a way, it gave me a voice. One that I have finally found and will forever be developing.

Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
– Ansel Adams

Though it has been years, I also love being in a darkroom. I love the scent of chemicals, the hue of a safe light, loading my film reel in pitch darkness and watching my photographs develop in what seems like magical liquid. I learned to develop photographs in a darkroom back when digital photography was unheard of. Even when I took photography in college, all of my photos were developed in a darkroom. You lose track of time in that comforting cave and the hour you set aside to work somehow turns into three or four. When I reflect on those times, I realize that it was an awesome way to be in the here and now.

For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography.
It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all
in the same few moments in the darkroom.”
– John Sexton

I have finally made the transition to digital photography and I absolutely love my software program. The thing I love about digital photography is how simple it is to finalize a photo (if I don't think too much). I can create a photograph in a couple of minutes. Now if I get into my neurotic/perfectionist mode, I can spend a substantial amount of time on just one photograph but at least I'm fostering my creativity. I love seeing the before and after. I will always be amazed at how you can make one photograph look so different. For example,

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”
– Alfred Stieglitz

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Old Dog

I love my old dog. His name is Floyd and he's been a part of our family for almost 15 years. I've always had pets growing up but Floyd is my first as an adult. I just can't imagine my life without him. However, I know that he won't live forever and, when he turns 15 in August, I can't ignore the fact that he is getting older and older. The only thing that brings both my husband and I any peace about this is knowing that Floyd has lived a good life. He has traveled across the country, been camping many times, eats well, plays a lot, sleeps with us and has even stayed in luxurious hotels.

I've learned many things about life through Floyd. My old dog has taught me how to be patient, how to enjoy the small things, that family is the most important thing on earth and to not worry. When I practice yoga and am on all fours, Floyd will walk over to me to lay his head on mine and walk underneath me for snuggles. He reminds me to appreciate my loved ones and to be intentional when spending time with them.

Floyd is really scruffy. We've never had him groomed - he's just not that kind of dog. One of my favorite memories is seeing him walk into the Marriott Le Merigot in Santa Monica on a red carpeted walkway. The doorman was wearing a long-tailed tuxedo and top hat. He held the door for old scruffy Floyd who walked into the hotel like he owned the place. In the elevator, a man gave us a snobby look and asked, "They accept pets at this hotel?" and we just replied, "Yup." Floyd and I share the philosophy that if you're going to stay in a hotel, make it a really nice one.

Old dogs are old souls and Floyd is no exception.

Floyd Loves the Beach

Taking In the Sights

Floyd in the Woods

Floyd Camping at Big Basin State Park

Floyd Playing with His Favorite Toy

Today's prayer: God, thank you so much for bringing Floyd into our lives. He's awesome. Please keep him happy and content for the rest of his life. Let others feel compassion and rescue pets who are in need of loving and safe families. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Being in Nature

I love being outside. I love walking barefoot through grass and sand. I love absorbing the healing elements of the sun. I love the feel of the wind on my skin and I love breathing in the variety of scents in nature. I feel alive when I’m outside. I keep my windows open as long as possible throughout the year. I'd much rather have fresh air circulating in my home than recycled air conditioning (though, Florida summers are brutal and I sacrifice fresh air in order to stay sane and cool during the summer months).  

I’ve always loved nature but it took me a while to really appreciate it, to be in it.  It isn’t easy truly being in nature. You have to let yourself go. You have to let the busyness of life become a distant memory.  Being in nature isn’t just hiking a trail or sitting on the beach. It is immersing yourself in your surroundings. Quieting yourself so that you take in everything around you. All of your senses work together and you become cognizant of details such as the scent of jasmine, the sound of doves cooing, the warm/cool feel of the breeze, the distant sound of the ocean and the taste of salt in the air.

Letting go is difficult for me. I think too much and I always have things swirling around in my head. Do others feel this way? I try to embrace the plethora of thoughts in my mind and then let them go but it takes work. Deep breathing helps and so does prayer. Being in nature forces me to let go. It’s the only way I can really appreciate the beauty that God created. For me, being in nature is the easiest way to connect with God and put things into perspective.  

Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve
Beautiful Sunset

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."
- John Burroughs

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Museum Reflections

I visited one of my favorite places recently - the Lightner Museum.  It was the first time I've ever gone by myself.  I enjoyed being able to take my time and journey through the museum at my own pace.  I sat in a cove surrounded by art and began to free write.  It was very refreshing:

Classical music is playing and lifting my spirit.  The murmur of voices and scents of delicious food from the Alcazar Cafe below me are comforting.  The ballroom is so open and airy.  There's lots of light and it reflects beautifully off the dark hardwood floors.  I love open space.  I love being surrounded by antiquities and amazing architecture. 

Grand Ballroom

Glancing out a window, I look out over my favorite city, my home.  I'm feeling thankful for life.  When the world seems dark and ugly, being here reminds me that the world is still full of beauty and creativity.  I'm appreciative of history, of being able to remember other times.

I reflect on paintings, such as Woman with Necklace, and I think of simple times.  Times of leisure.  When people knew how to slow down.  This museum helps me quiet myself.  I notice my surroundings in a way that escapes me when I get caught up in the busyness of life.  I am happy here.

Woman with Necklace

Friday, April 13, 2012

Listlessness is a Part of Life

This is my first post during the A to Z Challenge that I didn't write ahead of time. I thought about various topics for today's post but, to be honest, I'm tired and I'm feeling listless. One definition of this word is "characterized by lack of interest, energy or spirit".  I'm definitely lacking in energy. I considered faking my way through this and writing about Leadership or Life Lessons but I wasn't feeling either topic. My theme for the Challenge is being authentic so I decided to be honest about my listlessness. Feeling this way is a part of life. Today's post is not an insightful one but it is genuine.

Life is about embracing everything - the melancholy moments along with the happy ones. The past few days, I have been feeling extremely tired. My husband has been encouraging me to walk to the beach with him after work. This has helped in making me feel more positive but I don't have any more energy afterward. When I feel this way, I get stuck and it's difficult to move forward. I'm so used to always doing something, being productive and working hard that it feels unnatural to be this enervated. I need to regain my strength - physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually. Thank God it is Friday. Weekends are always rejuvenating and I'm so looking forward to this one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kindred Spirits

I've never used this term before but I came across it recently while blogging. It has been lingering in my mind and I found that one definition of a kindred spirit is an "individual with the same beliefs, attitudes or feelings as oneself". My husband is definitely a kindred spirit and my soul mate. The interesting thing is that most people think we are completely opposite. He's quite a bit older than I am, he's much more outgoing, I'm quieter than he is and I don't express my opinions like he does. Before meeting each other, we lived such different lives. Yet, we connect on a level that I never thought possible.

The love I have for my husband is both simple and complex. In the simplest terms, I love him because he is his own person. He is honest, direct, humorous, intelligent and hard working. He is also protective, creative and strong. I love that anyone he comes in contact with sees these aspects of himself. He cannot hide them - this is who he is. What I love even more are the characteristics that aren't so obvious to others: his vulnerability, compassion, beauty, faith in God, ambition and insight into others.

He knows how to both relieve my anxiety and push me to get out of my comfort zone. Though I may get frustrated when feeling pushed, I love him for having confidence in me and pointing out the strengths that I don't always know are there. He sees parts of me that I don't. We are similar yet so different. He knows me: what I am capable of, what my limits are, why I disengage, when I need to be inspired and when I need to do things on my own. I could not have made it through my graduate program without him. He supported me when I felt incompetent and gave me space when I needed to work in silence. Knowing that he was my sole supporter at my graduation ceremony was the epitome of our life together: it was just he and I - everything that really matters. He is my one true kindred spirit.

I dedicated my graduate portfolio to my husband and included this poem:

My husband, my future

The person who inspires me to make my dreams come true

And does not let me give up.

He who teaches me how to be courageous and fully embrace life.

When I think of my husband and the life that he lives,

I am reminded of the power I have to create my own possibilities. 

My husband’s contribution to my leadership capacity was

fostering my inner strength and creativity. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jimmy Buffett Reflections

I love Jimmy Buffett. I'm a Floridian and his music speaks to my soul. His songs instantly relax me. When I listen to his music, I travel to my own personal Margaritaville. It is a place of simplicity, warmth and happiness. His music makes me feel at home and helps me connect with my inner Floridian. When I am in this state, the air smells like Coppertone and sunshine. I become more conscious of my breathing and the way the sun reflects off my skin. I am happy in these moments and I'm thankful for coastal living.      

I've been to Jimmy Buffett's house - it's pink and modest. My husband and I spent a week in Key West for my 21st birthday. We snorkeled, laid on the beach, drank margaritas, smoked cigars, walked all over the island, rented a scooter, went to the movies and had multiple picnics. We were riding around Key West on a scooter and my husband, who will talk to anyone, began asking people where Jimmy Buffett lived. Somehow, we found his neighborhood and were directed to his house. My husband rang the doorbell but no one answered. We took photos of each other in front of his house and created some wonderful memories. It was a birthday that I will never forget. The week was filled with laughter, love, frozen concoctions, sand, sun and tranquility.

“If life gives you limes, make margaritas.”    
Jimmy Buffett

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Island Memories

I spent my childhood vacationing on an island. It was located on Long Lake in Michigan and it was my grandpa's. The story is that my great-grandfather won the island in a poker game. He passed it onto my grandpa who became the caretaker. Eventually, it became known as (my last name) Island. It is no longer in the family but I do have wonderful memories of this place and I'd like to share some that are significant to me.

  • When we got to the lake, we would park at the public landing, my dad and grandpa would swim to the island, unlock our Jon boats and row them to the landing to pick us up. If we were expecting guests, they would honk their horns to notify us that they had arrived.
  • There was a two-bedroom cottage and an outhouse on the island. That's all. No running water, no heat and no phone. There was a stuffed deer head in the living room overlooking our potbelly stove that kept us warm on cold Michigan nights.
  • Since there was no bathroom, we took our baths in the lake. Ivory soap floats so we could set it on top of the water while we washed. If it was winter, we bathed inside using wash basins but we'd have to pump the water by hand and heat it on the stove.
  • I remember my dad sunbathing on a float. He fell asleep and floated away so far that we had to pick him up in the boat.
  • My grandpa used to catch Sunfish and Bluegill that we'd eat for dinner. We never went a visit without making s'mores and roasting hot dogs in the fire pit.
  • One summer, my mom, dad, sister and I spent a week on the island by ourselves. This is where my parents told us that they were separating. My dad always broke bad news to us somewhere outside. I guess that he felt that being outside, where it was beautiful, would ease the pain of bad news.
  • I learned the correct way of peeing in an outhouse at a very young age. When having to use an outhouse, you learn to either hold your breath or breathe into the sleeve of your shirt. Lysol is your best friend.
  • When I was in high school, I spent a few weeks on the island with my dad, sister, grandma and grandpa. The night we arrived, a tornado came through and took out the power. My dad cooked gourmet meals on the potbelly stove and a charcoal grill. He had a way of making everything special.  
  • I was able to spend a couple nights on the island with my husband. I'm so happy that he got to experience this wonderful place with me. I absolutely loved being there with my grandparents as an adult. It was such a beautiful experience and I will hold it with me forever.

It amazes me that a place can hold both happy and sad memories. When I think of this island, I travel back in time. I sense my childhood again, how simple being with family can be and the spirits of those who are no longer with me. I don't know if I will ever have a child but, if I do, I hope that he or she will have memories of a place like this. I hope that everyone has a special place like my island.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Humor is the Essence of Happiness

Humor is a significant part of my life.  I never go a day without laughing.  Never.  I am married to a comedian.  Literally, a stand-up comedian.  Some mornings we actually wake up laughing together.  My husband officially became a comedian a few years ago in Hollywood but he's been making me laugh since the first night we met.  This is what attracted me to him - his laugh is contagious and he can draw anyone into his world. 

I truly believe in the power of humor and the basic human need to laugh.  Without humor, life is dull and boring.  Humor can turn any situation around.  It can heal heartache and transform despair into hope.  When life begins to feel heavy and overwhelming, laughter is the most amazing way to reduce stress.  I am a happy person and so is my husband.  We live a happy life together and I really feel that humor is a major contributor to our happiness.

One night, my husband and I were watching a show at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.  From our table I had both a balcony perspective of the audience and was also a part of it.  I focused my attention on a very big guy whose belly shook when he laughed.  I could tell he was trying to hold back a lot of his laughter but he couldn't hide it all.  He was experiencing true joy.  So was the rest of the audience.  We did not know each other but we were all laughing together as one.  I felt so connected to these people.  It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced.

Today's Prayer:  God, thank you for the power of laughter.  Please help me find humor in stressful situations.  Give me the ability to make others laugh when they need to.  I am so appreciative for my wonderful marriage, keep us laughing together throughout the rest of our lives.   

Saturday, April 7, 2012

God's Word

A few months ago I set off on a spiritual journey with the intention of reconnecting with God.  I knew that I wanted to do this but I didn't know how to start.  In high school, my eyes were opened one Sunday and I saw both hypocrisy and superficiality in the church that I had dedicated myself to.  I was heartbroken and I lost touch with the church as well as with God.   

Seventeen years later and I still do not attend church.  I have been to a few services recently but I don't feel any closer to God when I go to church.  For me, my relationship with God is between Him and I - I don't need the church to strengthen or foster it.  So, when I first decided to reconnect with God I was pretty confused.  Then, I remembered my old pink Bible and I began reading God's Word again.  I still do not fully grasp the history of the Bible but I do believe what I read.  I believe in the Bible because I have faith that it is a true account of God's Word.  I've been reflecting on the meaning of real faith.  I love this example in the book of Hebrews:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance,
obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  
Hebrews 11:8

I think this verse is so indicative of true faith.  In today's world, can you imagine someone saying that she is following God's path even thought she has no idea where she is going?  Most people would think someone like this was mentally unstable.  I think this verse explains the beauty, simplicity and strength of faith.  I want to be like Abraham.  I want to follow God even when I have no idea where I am going. 

When I read God's Word, I feel connected to Him.  I feel that He answers prayers, explains things I am confused about and guides me to do His will.  I have faith that God's Word is the flame that has ignited my relationship with him.   

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  
Isaiah 40:8

Big Cross
Mission of Nombre de Dios

Friday, April 6, 2012

First Friday Art Walk

I love the first Friday of every month.  There is an Art Walk that my husband and I usually attend.  We have a blast.  I love the people, walking the streets of a historic town, talking with artists, enjoying creativity and drinking wine.  I also love that the letter "F" post just happened to fall on the first Friday of April.  I had to post about this and I decided to chronicle my evening through photographs.  It is my creative way of posting about the Art Walk after a very long day and some complimentary wine.

Looking into the Butterfield Garage.

Fountain at the Dow Museum of Historical Homes.

This is a really groovy gallery & one of my favorites.

This store is awesome and has the most amazing gifts.

The exterior of Rembrandtz.

Coquina Wall at the Dow Museum of Historic Houses.

One of many galleries on Aviles Street.

Aviles Street

This is a wonderful gallery & I love seeing the same artists every month.

Another local gallery on Aviles Street.

Today's Post Will Be a Late One

For today's A to Z Challenge post, I will be chronicling my town's First Friday Art Walk through photography. So, I will not be posting until after I visit a few galleries, enjoy a variety of different art forms, have fun with my husband and drink some wine.  Unless, it rains this evening.  Then I'll have to figure something else out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Embracing the Eternal Life

For years I have been fearful of death.  I felt like death was this huge void and I was almost paralyzed by my fear.  I just couldn't grasp the meaning of life knowing that death is coming.  I felt very alone and there was this hollowness deep inside of me.

Things changed when I reconnected with God.  I didn't have an epiphany or vision.  As my faith in God became stronger, so did my understanding of life and death.  Being here on earth is sort of like studying abroad.  I'm learning, doing good work, having fun, meeting wonderful people and then, whenever God sees fit, it will be my time to go home.  Going home.  This is how I embrace the eternal life.  It brings me a sense of peace.  Life is so full of wonder.  I absolutely believe that life is eternal.  There's too much beauty in the world for there not to be.

Blue Sky
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I often think about the direction my living room sliding glass doors face.  I live in a condo and I do not have many windows.  I only have three windows and two sets of sliding glass doors.  Even with so few windows, my condo is filled with light during the day.  The most wonderful time is in the mornings.  My balcony faces east and as the sun rises, it shines into my home to wake me up and help me start my day.

As I stumble into my kitchen to make a pot of coffee, I look through my sea foam-colored curtains toward the light.  I take a deep breath and give thanks for the day, the sun and the many blessings in my life.  I appreciate all of my experiences and I have no regrets.  In these moments I think about the directions my life has taken:
  • From the east coast of Florida to the west coast of California where I completed my graduate work (a lifelong dream).
  • Coming to the realization that I may never have a baby and not really knowing how I feel about this. Am I ambivalent or am I just hiding my true feelings?
  • Losing my father on my 19th birthday and feeling lost without him. I also hate that my husband never knew my dad.
  • Being okay with the relationships I have with family members; though, I will always wish that we were closer.
  • Discovering that I love change, moving to different places and experiencing new adventures. I can't imagine staying in one place forever.
  • Getting a pretty big adrenaline rush the first time I discovered EBay and ending up with some land in Arkansas.  Neither my husband nor I have been on EBay since that late-night purchase.
  • Celebrating that 15 years ago today my husband and I became a couple. We had no idea our one night stand would turn into a beautiful life together. I never would have imagined that I'd meet my soul mate at a tavern over a pitcher of beer - God works in mysterious ways.
Sometimes I get anxious when I don't have a sense of where my life is headed.  It is so easy to feel lost instead of excited when I'm not sure what path I'm on or what direction to go.  I discovered a verse that I carry with me during moments like these.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Winding Path
Somewhere in Florida
(I have a bad memory & can't remember where this is)

Do you embrace all of your experiences or do you have regrets?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Camping and Connection

    One of my most favorite things to do is go camping.  My husband and I have owned five campers and we even built one of them.  My current camper is the newest of all the campers – it is a 2005 Ameri-Lite.  The others include a 1979 Nomad, a 1983 Sunliner, a 1957 Westerner and a homemade teardrop camper.  I’ve loved them all but our current camper is fully self-contained and I absolutely love the idea that I can take this camper with me anywhere and have everything I need.  There is an amazing sense of freedom that comes with camping. 

    People who don’t camp have asked me what I do when I go camping and why I love it.  It is difficult to explain.  I read, write, cook, fix up the camper so it is really cozy, sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature, take naps, drink sangria, meditate, take walks and listen to music.  I love it because it is a refuge.  Camping allows me to get away from the daily things in life that keep me from being present.  When we get so caught up in the busyness of life, it is easy to forget all of our blessings.  Camping puts life into perspective.  It is about spending time with family and with God.  It is about connecting with nature and breathing in the scents of the forest.  Scents that both remind me of my childhood and keep me in the moment. 

    El Capitan State Park
    1957 Westerner

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Beach Therapy

    I’ve lived by the beach almost my entire life and I am thoroughly grateful.  I find the beach to be therapeutic for it fosters my connection with God and helps me be present.  The beach calls out to me.  I might be sitting on my balcony or walking my dog and when I hear the ocean, whatever my initial intentions were, somehow I end walking to the beach.  10 minutes of fresh salt air, the sound of the waves and seagulls, feel of the sand on my feet (because I just have to take my flip flops off) and expansive horizon remind me of the important things in life and I am humbled.   

    I wrote about how therapeutic the beach is for me a couple of summers ago and I’d like to re-visit this post as it describes exactly how I was feeling in that moment:

    The Beach

    I've been feeling really overwhelmed. I really love my job but it is very challenging. I have been working extremely hard - harder than I ever have in my entire life. I'm trying to put things into perspective and accept that I can only do so much. I haven't been doing a good job, though. Well, until my husband and I went to the beach yesterday.

    I had forgotten how amazing the beach is. Going to the beach is better than taking anti-depressants. I sat in my pink beach chair, drank a few beers, squished sand through my toes and thanked God for creating such a beautiful world. I waded into the ocean intending only to get my feet wet but the water felt so refreshing, I had to jump in. Diving into waves and completely immersing myself in the cool, teal water washed away all of my stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

    My husband and I laid in six inches of water, rubbed sand through our fingers, kissed each other under our cowboy hats and talked about how wonderful our lives are. The current was so strong that our bodies swayed with the rhythm of the waves - it was one of the most natural feelings ever. I love going to the beach and I go quite often. For some reason though, that day at the beach will be a moment I will always remember. I felt pure and happy and refreshed. It was the kind of feeling that reminds me of what is important in life - like the scent of the ocean, watching a hawk dive for fish, remembering how salt water turns my husband's eyes a beautiful blue-green color, and eating Twizzlers while the sun warms my skin and absorbs all things negative.   

    Sunday, April 1, 2012


    The A to Z Challenge begins today.  I thought a lot about a theme and finally decided that it will be a way of being.  In all of the posts that I write, I will be authentic.  I love the quality of authenticity and I've been reflecting on what it means to me.  Authenticity is being honest, real and present.  I realized that I consider it a core value.  I gravitate toward authenticity and I run from anything superficial.  For example, it is difficult for me to make friends.  I only want to surround myself with genuine people and I am learning that these kind of people are rare.  That is why I am so grateful when I meet good people.  I often thank God for the wonderful friends He has blessed me with.   

    Authenticity is also about being honest and living with integrity.  These values are crucial to being a good person, a positive role model, a true friend and a significant other.  Being authentic was a common theme during my graduate work in leadership studies.  While I learned about the practice of leadership, I realized that those people who are genuine are the ones who can impact others and foster change the most significantly.  It is a way of connecting with others and being able to work at a very organic place whether in an organization, a family or on a project. 

    I'm thinking that my desire to be authentic is why I love photography and a writing non-fiction. They are ways for me to capture real moments in time. Even with adding artistic effects to these art forms, they are based on reality (however subjective that reality might be) and genuine intention, thought, emotion and purpose are portrayed in my art.  As I pursue my writing, I know that I need to become more disciplined and, though a bit anxious, I am looking forward to seeing where this journey will lead over the next month.