The Hidden Hearts

IMG_7696

If you look very closely, there’s a cutout in the sky and reflection. Can you find them?

On a wonderful vacation recently I started seeing things. No, really. First, after swimming with the turtles, I was resting and taking photos when I felt one in particular might be special. Get it this direction, a little voice whispered. After I peeked at the frame, I saw why. As you gaze into the pool of water as it reflects the sky, you’ll see a shape. A heart. And its twin smiled at me through the windswept clouds as a slight drizzle began.

Two hearts.

The next day, on a boat tour around the island, a lush landscape came into view set off by high mountains and sheer cliffs carved by volcanoes and weathered over the centuries. The orange-brown hues offset the seemingly endless shades of greens. I know some cultures have thirty words for green. This must be a place touched by each one, held in a historic time-delay for us to see. As we pulled into full view, the waves kept leaping higher. I held tight to the railing and, voila, another large heart in a grove of treetops in a contrasting shade of green appeared. Then, as the boat drifted further in, another valley appeared with still another heart grove of trees.

Two hearts.

Then I was playing mini-golf with our family, my son scored his first hole in one. It grew hot and we moved slowly as the palm fronds and bucolic greens swayed in a refreshing breeze. I managed to keep, ahem, most of my balls on target and out of the water features. The urge for perfectionism and mild sibling rivalry slipped away as one carefully plotted his swing. Then, the other just hit for the fun of it all. Like the character Tigger would play golf. I smiled at my husband and I swept dampness from my forehead. I removed my hat, looking at the skyline. I gasped slightly. My husband asked why. A large, white heart-shaped cloud was nestled, and interlocked, with a light gray one.

Two hearts.

I was seeing hearts in various forms all over the island. What was going on? Was there a hidden message within, like a secret code I needed to uncover? Was there some elusive blessing, just awaiting the right moment?

Even the plants I saw held heart like features.

IMG_7971

Then I started thinking in twos. I’ve been blogging here for two years. We have two wonderful boys and, of course, there’s the natural thoughts of love and fidelity with my wonderful husband. All many blessings, indeed.

But I want to stay attuned for the other hearts knocking. The little nuances that dance in front of me like the ocean swells or light tropical breezes. Just waiting for me to enjoy them and notice their importance.

IMG_7978

 

Bubbles of Childhood Joy

ID-100140131

When bubbles of childhood joy replace sorrow and pain, there’s more room for simple pleasures in life.

I walked to school to get my boys at the end of a busy day, and in front of me a young girl skipped down the sidewalk. Then she returned close to her Daddy’s side, never going too far ahead. First she squeezed her Daddy’s hand, then she looked at him, tall above, and decided she couldn’t give up holding his hand. Yet, I could see her dancing a bit, and perhaps she wanted to skip once more. Dad wasn’t into skipping so she just took smaller steps, bouncing up and down while beaming a large smile up to her father.

I loved her determination to keep the joy she was feeling, yet remain close to her Dad. It whispered to the young one somewhere deep inside of me, coaxing a smile to my lips and a joy-bubble to my heart. Remember to smile and have fun, it seemed to whisper.

Then I encountered the busy mayhem of elementary school pick-up time. Perhaps you do it every day, or recall a season when hallway jostling gave way to brief tag games with boys darting in and out of doorways, and you were “base.” Happy parent conversations perked along while you walked, and streamers from some class party littered the floors with happy colors yet to be swept into order. The day’s art project was shoved into your hands, which suddenly spilled over with a mélange of homework papers and vivid colors. Invisible glitter of children’s laughter and excitement to tell you about the day fills the air with a great flutter.

It’s almost too much sometimes, until you remember this day was precious, too, and this age will slip by much too quickly.

Then each paper and craft crammed in your fist became a treasure.

Each messy hug after school, a gem.

Each update about this and that, a pleasure.

The bubble of joy once more pulled to the surface. Tension eased. Cares float to the backdrop instead of remaining center stage.

Your heart settled, and it’s almost like butterflies can finally alight. Discovery and awe replaced the mundane. Colors and scents seemed stronger somehow. And it was very good.

What little bubbles of joy are you looking forward to this week?

 

Photo: pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Three Steps To Create An Elegant Bridge To Summer

Bridgetosummer.jpg

With wisps of scented trees, bees at work in the gardens, and projects due at school, I realized it was time to really think through what we want out of this summer. When one boy left behind kids’ shoe sizes for good, and the other sprouted whiskers, I suddenly felt the slippery slope of time racing forward a bit too fast. Can you relate?

So how do you put on the brakes, without hampering your family’s progress or running up a hefty tab for summer camps?

Here are three key steps to create a more satisfying and meaningful summer plan.

Evaluate your dreams for the weeks ahead.

Perhaps you have some work commitments, and with those are accustomed to setting goals and deadlines. Try treating your current kids’ ages as a benchmark for some of your summer plans. Is time going too fast? Where can you unplug and laugh with them? Where will the word “no” be used less? Wherever that is, it’s a great option. Craft a week or two in a place where joy has room to bubble forth.

Look at their life-skills and see what’s lacking.

Is it important for your kids to know how to put up a tent and light a fire? Are they facing bullies in school and need to up their self-defense knowledge? Are they always so serious that it’s time to be silly? Check out their individual knowledge and seek opportunities to grow at least one new skill this summer. For example, we want our older son to know some basic survival skills, so he’ll get to pitch tents, light fires, aim arrows, and more at Scout camp.

Increase your fun bank account.

I’m intentionally leaving a few weeks without a lot of plans. My kids work hard during the year and I’d like to say “yes” to play times, flying kites, trips to the beach, painting together, or maybe explore a new exhibit about things that interest them. I can create pockets of fun just by being dialed into their interests and seeing what’s in town. For example, if there’s something new at the local science museum or within a one to two-hour driving radius, we’ll consider it. Some museums have free Thursdays so that helps with the budget, too. But nothing is possible if I don’t leave space for fun to fill in the gaps.

What are you planning for this summer? I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

 

 

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Smallstuff

It’s been a full time lately, with big challenges, and neat opportunities, too. But it’s very tiring. And we’ve been battling the spring colds. Now, I’m finding such refreshment in the simple things. Walks in the park, blossoms on trees, cool breezes with bike rides. Flying a kite. Sometimes during a hectic season, it’s nice to slow down and enjoy the moment. It takes a settled soul to look for that pause, and leave room for reflection.

Some of my favorite moments lately:

  • Smelling the flowers at gorgeous gardens

IMG_5510

  • Sipping wine with my favorite guy

IMG_5360

  • Silly moments with games

IMG_5487

  • Stepping into history
  • Smiling with my son on stage

IMG_5182

  • Sharing my writing with kids

Here’s wishing you moments to cast off the cares, if only for a short while, and pick up laughter, love, encouragement, and fun.

And maybe a breeze to go fly a kite! We did!

Continue reading

Seven Ways To Put More Magic In Your Life

Magic

Are mundane tasks dominating your life and stressing your outlook? Here’s seven ways to add more magic into the everyday mixture for you and your family.

 

  1. Light a fire – Whether it’s a candle or a fire in the fireplace, the flickering light seems to signal something special is coming. Usually it leads to more laughter at our dinner table and loosening up for the parents, too.

 

  1. Turn on magical music – We often listen to a station from London broadcasting amazing classical music. Not the kind that makes you snore, but the elegant, heart-lift, gaze sparkling kind. And it’s fun to hear what’s happening so far away on the newsbreaks, too!

 

  1. Read a great book – Check out my Goodreads here for some great suggestions for books that encourage and enhance your view of life, in our world or another one too. When I connect with another sense of beauty it expands my capacity to handle the everyday here.

 

  1. Connect with silly – Put on those Mickey ears or get messy in the kitchen baking. Do something a little youthful and let go for a while. Smiles will expand and hearts will warm.

 

  1. Try some pins – Not the sharp kind, but on Pinterest, there’s a whole world of amazing images to snack on. I’ve selected some here on my Pinterest. Follow your favorite authors there too!

 

  1. Take a walk – With Spring here, I love taking a short walk in the evening. My son sometimes comes on his scooter and suddenly starts telling me everything about his day. Sunset seems more magical with little moments of connection, too.

 

  1. Hang around authors – connect with great authors on line. You can connect with their author sites, follow their blogs, and see everyday life on Facebook and Twitter. It’s so encouraging to watch their posts and feel a little sparkle enter your day with beautiful pictures or words. Some of my favorites (and others recommended by my friends) are listed on my author’s Facebook.

 

How do you keep the sparkle in everyday life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Here’s one of my latest YouTube videos, that includes a little behind the scenes of who I am, and some other fun things bubbling up as we get closer to launching the new website. Lots of good things in the works. Can’t wait to tell you!! Subscribe to the YouTube channel too!

 

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Let the waters recede, the gratitude grow, and the worthwhile rule

Waters3.jpg

Fifth post of 10 Stress Knock-Outs

For this final post in the series, I arranged to discuss perspective, and how growing more gratitude and having less guilt in your life can help to greatly reduce stress.

I grew up living on a lagoon near the San Francisco Bay that would flood easily in years when El Nino really gave a fantastic show, or the pump attached to the bay went out. Instead of letting the tears flow, I’d watch as my mom would study the muddy colored waters and say, “It’s time.” Time to roll up carpets, evacuate furniture to higher ground, and to call the piano player, if he was in town. You see, she’d call neighbors to help and in their kindness, they’d show up with food and drinks, and sometimes a relative with great skill on the piano. Only she could turn a terrifying jaunt with 100 mile per hour winds and rising waters licking the edge of the deck into a party!

It’s funny how when you write about something, it often is the thing you need the most or cherish the most in that specific time. This week, I’ve sat with a new friend who’s just lost everything physical in a fire. In reaching out to help her, I find myself greeted with smiles and wisdom anew. Unexpected grace. In the press of multiple commitments for the kids, it reminds me too of how to breathe and take a walk and taste beauty to be sustained.

Landing somewhere between these moments, I’ve got two nuggets with tangible results in the stress-reduction department to share with you.

The wall of gratitude – or some other tribute

Whether it’s a series of frames around photos of key moments, or a wall full of notes with specific instances in mind, having a tribute to the biggiest things in life is a great legacy to leave your children, and doesn’t hurt to remind us about our own thoughts to ensure we’re on track.

I’ve posted many great ideas on my Pintrest HERE, from tree branches with notes pinned to them, to whole walls painted in blackboard paint so you and the littles in your life can write up daily praises. It’s a visual bookmark in the fabric of life that gives more stretch and texture to the most challenging moments, too. And last summer, we made a gratitude website so our kids would know of kindness to us during our rebuilding after the fires, called MAKEUSSMILE.COM.

Guilt-free passes

Become more attune to your physical and other limits, and allow yourself permission to pass on things that don’t bring great value to your life right now. Maybe your kids need a break, too, and could use some grace bombs, as we call them HERE. I find we have seasons of intense involvement, and these need to be followed by a pattern of less, like the space between squares on an intricate quilt.

That room to breathe. To regroup. To forgive. To relive. To revive. To let the sauce thicken so the dishes we cook are celebratory rather than merely scarfed down.

While we’re not quite there yet, it helps to identify these goals and discuss them together. Somehow, my kids are always ready to play or celebrate the moment, much like their Grandmother. No floods are rising here, but whether dusting off ashes or reaching for new milestones, the legacy from those waters receding is real.

More great reading about making room for gratitude in your life:

Camp Gratitude

And a wonderful post by Jeanne Takenaka about building grace into the fabric of your family in everyday habits Gratitude.

Please share your ideas here! I hope these 10 strategies have made a difference for you and your families!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Give, Pray, Laugh – Helping Others Can Reduce Stress

GivePrayLaugh

Part Two in the series 10 Stress Knock-Outs For The New Year

 Can helping others really lift some of the stress we feel or is it just an old wives’ tale?

I gotta tell you, it really does work wonders. If I could write it in a book title it would go something like Give-Pray-Laugh.

Give

Letting go of clutter frees your mind to express creativity and be more whole with your inner self in daily activities. I’ve set monthly goals to wipe out a corner that’s causing me to trip because, well, it’s not just a physical distraction, is it? Each corner of clutter acts like someone throwing a weight at me when I walk by. It just pulls me down. It costs something in the economy of emotions that I’m not willing to give it any longer.

The boost: Driving over to the donation center nearby, realizing some of these things will be a huge blessing to others is a great reality-check. After the wildfires, when we had no possessions or permanent home, these places were generous to us as we grappled with getting temporary things in place. I relive that moment a bit each time we drive over, and not in a bad way. It makes my kids realize our gifts in life, too. Plus the group “ahhhh” when the garage door lifts now is audible!

Pray

Years ago I had a prayer mentor when I was at a critical juncture making decisions whether to go work full time with teens or keep working in corporate life. I was paired up with an experienced missionary and would go walking or have tea at her home each week. I have a lot to thank her for, in teaching me to bring up the small stuff in life, and how to connect people’s needs with prayer. Sometimes you feel a bit helpless wanting to offer support through a medical trial or life change. It really lifts the burden when you can give the worries of life up to the Lord and admit that although you don’t understand why bad things happen, there’s still hope in holding the hand of the One who does.

Favorite thing: Grab a friend and go walking and bring your prayers with you! Start by thanking God for the beautiful flowers or clouds or whatever you see in your path. Then mention each person by name and both of you can pray through their requests. It gives me tingles thinking of how this simple thing can bless those you care about. And this is great with kids as they battle the stresses of puberty too.

Laugh

Laughter can immediately transform a glum moment to a glimmering one! Especially when children are involved. No matter your slice of life, you can connect with little ones by volunteering at your church, working with a mother’s group (try Mothers of Preschoolers – it’s great!), or hanging out with kids in youth group, take the chance. It will change your life!

What’s best? Decide what you need the most and go for it. Want laughter without strings? Little ones are the best. They always seem to have limitless hugs to give, too. Need more of a challenge? Take on the high-energy elementary grades and mentor a child struggling to read and find success. They appreciate each gesture, and always find ways to surprise you. Then there’s the preteen, or tween, group. One minute you’re laughing at a science experiment and the next discussing big issues in life. There’s a tangible moment of “wow” when you help open their eyes to the universe in a new way. Don’t be afraid to connect with teens, either. I love working with both groups and hearing from them that it makes a difference.

When you connect with giving, praying, and laughing, it makes you a better person. Time slows. Smiles grow. Stress fades to gray. And, yes, joy bubbles from within. Find and connect with your outlet soon.


 

Contest update:

Thanks to all those who entered or offered opinions! It really helped! (Drumroll) Here are the final contenders for the blog name on my new website:

  • Hidden Treasures
  • The Magical Inlet
  • The Thorn and The Vine

++One problem: I came up with all of these, so I’m giving a popsicle party for the fifth-grade classroom that’s volunteered for helping with final selection. I’d still love your vote so please chime in on the comments below!

+++We’ll be having lots of giveaways on the new blog so I’ll save the gifts for the next one, no worries there!


 

Image: Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net