Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice-Time for Change

Winter Solstice - Now is the time to change from your old life to new beginnings. Get in on the magical potential for renewed prosperity. This is the time of year to set new intentions and anticipate a successful future.

There is no other time of the year quite like the Winter Holidays. There are many Winter traditions - some ancient -- and many still practiced today. All acknowledge the end of the year, and the dawning of a new year, and with it the potential for great good fortune. Some pray, some plan, pledge and promise: This is the time of year to set new intentions and anticipate a prosperous future.

Winter Solstice is the most celebrated time of the year.
Cultures worldwide practice similar traditions: feasting, families gathering, and giving gifts. There's a sense of a deeper meaning celebrated in religions, festivities, caroling, fireside storytelling and dancing, and everyone celebrates the New Year with pledges and promises for a bright future.
Winter is a time of planning and setting intentions. Compiling several traditions shows that the actual "magical time" of year begins on about the New Moon on the 27th of November and ends about the New Moon on January 26th. That period is when you are "planting the seeds" for the kind of year that will grow into your 2009.

Winter is also a time of quiet and of personal revelations and introspection; and also of sharing and enjoying others - and the balance between the two.

How are you "planting the seeds" for your future?

· Begin now at this potent time to actively create your future success - plant the "seed feelings" you want to grow into your life.

· Law of Abundance matches up feelings or vibrations (not words and wishes) with matching experiences. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

· If you are enjoying finding gifts and sharing your resources - you are planting "wealth". If you are fussing and feeling stressed and broke - you are planting "poverty."

· Loving all the fun food and feeling good about your body weight and health? Good! You are planting a healthy fit body...but if you are fussy and feeling fat - you'll get more of that!

· Enjoying balancing work, play and parties? Good! You'll have all the time you need to do what you love. But if you are feeling stressed....well, you know the answer. Don't do that!

· Same with people: if you want joy-filled friendships, enjoy them during this potent time. No complaining and blaming because you don't want more of that.

The key is to live RIGHT NOW as you want your year to become. Hard to do? Think about it. It's much harder to live in an entire year that is difficult, isn't it? After all - Solstice's magic time is only 60 days...and YOU CAN FEEL GOOD for 2 months - how hard is that?

NOW is the time: A few facts and a little history reveal the potency available now - to help you achieve success.
There are some natural events that are so significant that all cultures throughout time have celebrated them collectively.
Solstice is such a time. It was celebrated at Stonehenge and in Celtic monuments spanning centuries. Also marked in stone by the Mayan, Egyptian, Anasazi, Aborigine, Aztec, Inca....and back into time-out-of-mind in monuments and cultures we've long forgotten.
Most people celebrate "something" marking this time of passage: Christmas, Hanukkah, Deepavali (Duwalli), Kwanzaa, Festivals of Light, New Years and many others. You are collectively marking the natural rhythms in nature and in your own body, like the seasons and your own circadian rhythms.

Solstice is the natural phenomenon behind the festivities. Winter has the longest nights of the year and shortest days. Winter Solstice is the day the sun appears to, "stand still." From December 21st, the days become longer and the nights shorter. Six months later, the procession north stops, turns, (Summer Solstice) and again moves to the Winter Solstice point. These are the natural rhythms that cultures mark with ceremonies.

This is also the time of your body's deepest natural internal withdrawal or rhythm- just as life "withdraws" within itself in nature. It's a time to assess the years past and reflect on happenings and changes.

This is a time to remember all those who have contributed to you being where you are now: Friends, places and events of your past. Think of it all as parts of the tapestry that is weaving around you as you journey through time. It's often the most difficult and tumultuous times that give life color and depth. You certainly learned as much from your adversaries as from your friends.

Find the feelings of deep gratitude and stillness. Feel connected to everyone walking your life path with you, from the past, to the Now and into futures unknown. Feel - right now - what you want to feel in your future...and tradition assures that it will come to pass, like magic.

Your good fortune for this time: "Giving and receiving are the same. You will soon receive back the gifts you give."

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Gift of Music - Change the World?

Music has the power to touch souls, bring tears to your eyes from emotions so raw that you wonder where it came from. After all, its just music? Right? Wrong.... Music does have the power to change people. Music is the one universal language that all mankind understands. Not only do we all understand it, we can feel it to our bones. Every emotion that man can feel, he can illustrate with music. All music speaks to everyone with ears to hear it, including animals. There is a song for every mood, every emotion and every culture has the ability to understand the music from another culture whether or not they understand the culture itself.

One man has set out to attempt to unite the world through music. In this beautiful video, he has done just that. This, is of course only one small part of what he is doing but in listening to the interview with Bill Moyers you will have a better understanding. I hope you appreciate it as much as I did and many thanks to
Willow at "Life at Willow Manor", where I found it first. Check this out:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Rainy Day in Paradise

What better day to read a book while curled up on the sofa with a down comforter, in front of the fireplace, than one that is cold, dreary, rainy and a Sunday besides? Living in "sunny San Diego", we don't often see rain, but when we do it is kind of nice to just sit back and enjoy it by taking time off to reflect on things. My daughter just left to drive back up the coast and meet up with her husband who left last week on business. They had been visiting since Thanksgiving and it's always a little sad to see them go. Sad and Glad. I now have my refrigerator back...since they were in-between winery jobs from Napa to Paso Robles, they came with half a frig full of food to store, so Mom's place is as good as theirs. I was unable to see the back of my frig however for two weeks. Friday we spent one whole day baking six recipes of Christmas cookies together for her annual "cookie party" at her old time friend's house, and she came back yesterday loaded with what seemed like hundreds of assorted home-made goodies. Less quantities but quadruple the assortment of cookies. Nothing says lovin like something from the oven....especially when its only once a year at Christmas! One of those family "traditions" I was talking about last post.

Last night I started writing out some Christmas cards (another "tradition") to send to friends around the globe that I only contact a few times a year. Its always nice to get a note back from someone you love but don't see much. Its always a wonder what to write in such a small space...other than a few cryptic notes...I now refer my friends to my blog if they really care to know what I've been doing and thinking. Those that do will check in, those that don't, won't. Meanwhile, my friendly carved cedar Bear totem guards my front door in the rain...

Rain is so cleansing for the soul and for the earth. Its a good day to take off from the insanity of society and the roads and just meditate on life, or nothingness.

If anyone is interested in learning more about meditation and enjoy reading insightful books, some good books I have found to help develop the thought and meditation processes are: Life after Life by Raymond Moody; In the Footsteps of Gandhi by Catherine Ingram; Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh; A Still Forest Pool by Jack Kornfield and Paul Breiter; A Stormy Search for Self by Stan and Cristina Grof; The Sacred Path of the Warrior, by Chogyam Trungpa.

I have decided to re-assert my meditation practice for many reasons. First, I miss the time I used to spend alone, in front of my own personal altar, in reflection of "life", MY life, and others in my life, as well as just breathing and slowing down to think. I try to encourage others, especially my clients when I was in the business of massage therapy and healing, as to how important it is to meditate. I also realize how easy it is to get out of the habit. Bad habits are hard to break but good habits are easy to lose if you don't practice daily. It is simply exercising the brain, like walking or any physical exercise. You must be devoted to it. You must put IT first, before everything. There are no RULES, its just five or fifteen minutes a day or an hour...whatever is comfortable for you. It's not work, it's something you do for your soul.

I am always curious, and love to read all kinds of books. I also have many different interests even though art is probably the first and most satisfying thing to me, or creating something new and fun out of simple raw materials, whether it is fabric or Stone or Glass...its the creative process that counts. Meditation actually helps to focus your intentions and thoughts by practicing breathing and thoughtful silence. Our minds are constantly active and its nearly impossible to stop thoughts, but you meditate on your breath, and thereby keep going back to the breath, to focus. After a time, you can actually be in silent meditation for longer and longer periods of time. When you come back to your thoughts, you don't stay with them as long. Its easier to realize what distracts you and how meaningless most of our thoughts are. WHAT do you focus on? Thoughts become words, become actions, become reality.

I am focusing on practicing meaningful intention to work, creating productive connections in regard to my art and
creating more prosperity in my life. Secondly I am focusing on creating more gratitude and a sense of wonder at all that we do have in our lives. Gratitude is like giving thanks for life - period. We can always find someone who is so much worse off that us, not that it makes life any easier to bear for our own pain and suffering, I believe it is really all in our mind, again, what we focus on, we increase. If we focus on being grateful for the cookies in life, we create more cookies. If we focus on the crap in life - we usually get more crap.

I think that's the reality, the task is to change our thoughts if we want to change our reality. To change our thoughts we sometimes have to dig really deep and start changing some of the old belief's. Open our minds to new ideas and other concepts. Life is not black and white, which some would have us think. It is full of inconsistencies, but there is a powerful pool of creative power in the Universe which if we can focus long enough to tap into, can create miracles in life. Do you believe in miracles? What about a Guardian Angel? They are there and they happen. Allow it into your mindset. Stop "thinking" long enough to hear the magic. Listen to the rain. Listen to your breath.
Yeats writes in this poem:

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,

In a crowded London shop,

An open book, an empty cup
On the marble tabletop.

While on the shop and street I gazed,

My body of a sudden blazed!

And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed so great, my happiness,

That I was blessed--and could bless.

To discover the capacity to bless and find gratitude in whatever is in front of us, this is the enlightenment that is intimate with all things. It is a freedom and happiness with no cause, a gift we bring to each moment and each encounter.

What a way to move through the world, to bring our blessings and gratitude on all that we touch. To learn how to bless, to honor, to listen with respect, to welcome with the heart, is a great art in itself. It is never done in grand or monumental ways, but in this moment, in the most immediate and intimate way. May we all learn to achieve a state of blessing, silence, understanding and forgiveness as a blessing and that it will allow us all to bless all around us.

As the Zen poet Basho reminds us: The temple bell stops; But the sound keeps coming out of the flowers...

Be at Peace.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Falling off the Christmas Wagon

The writing wagon that is...holidays tend to do that to me. I have been preoccupied with too much "doing" and not enough "being"; too many places to go, things to finish such as projects I am making to give as gifts to friends for Christmas. I am of the old school of thought that if you can't really afford to buy someone a gift and you have something you can make, and of course know the person well enough to know what they would like, you can always make one. I love to give homemade gifts whenever I can even if it is just a box of homemade cookies or candies. Even if I could afford to buy a gift from a store, I feel like the art of giving seems lost when you go to a store and pick out some impersonal item that the person probably doesn't need or want anyway and there are thousands more of the same thing. Thinking of something the person would really appreciate and deciding to make it for them, puts your total energy and time into the gift. That is priceless.

I find myself contemplating the true meaning of Christmas a lot these days; what IS Christmas anyway? Is it only about giving? Does anyone recognize it? And why do we celebrate and why only once a year? Why not have Christmas be a holiday we could celebrate anytime? If the true meaning of the holiday is to show love and express your love in "giving" then you can do that any day.

I did not really feel like putting up a tree this year but my kids convinced me that I should.
Maybe its because I have succumbed to the idea of saving trees and a few years ago bought a small artificial tree. Besides not being very romantic, it is at least politically is a green tree in the truest sense, no trees were harmed in the making of this tree and no part of the environment will be ruined for at least five years while the tree is being used. Of course after five years or so, when the colors tend to fade and it looks pretty shabby, then you need a "new" artificial tree. But what happens to the old one? If you just dump it then you are polluting the environment. Which is worse? - cutting down a tree that was grown for the purpose of being a Christmas tree and then re-cycling it into mulch; or trashing the environment with a "fake" tree with absolutely no soul at all? It doesn't know why its a "tree" or for what purpose it was brought here.

I think the joy that a Christmas tree brings is all in our minds. Having a tree, whether its a beautiful natural tree or a faux one, doesn't matter. Once the tree is decorated with love and attention, and lit so it glows in the room, all of that fades. Christmas trees invoke special family times spent throughout our whole lives. Maybe that's what its supposed to do....isn't that what "tradition" is? Why we have the same meal every year, turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, etc., etc...? to invoke the feelings of something from the past?

What I totally despise is the commercialization of Christmas and all of the holidays in general. Consumerism is at its worst when you cannot go into a grocery store or a drug store without being bombarded even months before the holiday with reminders to buy this and buy that. It gives me great joy to resist at all costs, in fact one of the reasons I love to make gifts for my special friends and family when I can is that I know they are getting something that is one of a kind, and they appreciate my efforts. Giving a gift from the store only shows that I went to a store and bought something I thought they wanted, but it does not express my true love for them, that I gave of my own time and energy to create something that no one else in the world has, which to me is what Christmas is all about. That's what a gift should represent--the time and thought you put into making something unique to that person only.

Pictured here are some of the hand-made ornaments on my tree which have been there year after year. It is always a surprise to find them in the box of ornaments and remember how they got there. Such as this pine-cone angel.

Some of my most cherished items are those small handmade gifts that my children made and gave to me when they were small and could not afford to buy anything. I have saved them all and
find them so special even today. Each year I try to find time to make them something special as well just to keep the tradition going. Sometimes it requires starting in June to complete in time, but it is worth it and very satisfying to give someone something that they will hopefully treasure in some way years later after I'm gone.
They are not perfect, but that is what gives them their special charm and personality. One of a kind, each one represents a single, special moment in time when someone I love cared enough to take their time to make something, thinking only of me and how much I would love it. Those are the true gifts of Christmas.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Artists by the Sea

A Grand Opening

Saturday, Nov. 16th was the grand opening for "Artists by the Sea". A new gallery in the beautiful little town of Cardiff, California with a fantastic view of the ocean. This little gallery is owned and operated by three very energetic and ambitious women who have families besides their newly acquired family of artists.

I am very happy to be a part of their family of artists that are featured in their gallery. A small but very well put-together gallery in a brand new building at 111 Chesterfield, Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007.

They have done a great job of designing the gallery to include two full-time working artist studio spaces and a teaching room for classes. They are open seven days a week for maximum exposure.

The works they display are paintings, sculpture, jewelry, metal art, crystals,
mixed media, music,
hand blown glass,
photography and
other unique works
of art.

Paintings by Alex Sample

Weather was fabulous as always, and there
was even a beautiful sunset!

I hope you enjoy some of the photos from the
evening's event. If you are in the area
stop by and check us out.

Harley Art


"Nirvana" by


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quest for Renewed Health

I'm always searching for new ways to be healthy. I am fortunate to have acquired good healthy genes from Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, French and German ancestry, how could I go wrong? However I find that as I get older, my body is asking me to re-define the way I eat, exercise and I am constantly trying to readjust my self image. What I feel like inside and mentally, does not reflect in the mirror. How sad! Now I know the meaning of the quote that youth is wasted on the young. If I had only had the wisdom I now have in my youth! Oi vey....I would be unstoppable!

I recently purchased a juicer and just love the taste of freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. I find many mornings I just don't have the time or desire to eat a large breakfast but the fresh juice give me the energy I need to stay alert and active and juice doesn't bog down my internal machinery.

There are many juicers on the market but I went with the Jack LaLanne juicer because it is not too expensive and is highly rated. It also looks pretty neat on the counter so I don't feel like I have to hide it from view. It came with two little recipe books but you can also find great recipes for ways to use the pulp in cooking and baking. I hate to throw out anything so I put the pulp into a plastic container in the refrigerator and am adding it a little bit at a time, to my dog's meals and they love it. It also keeps them healthier by giving them the fruits and vegetables best part--the rinds-- in an easily digestible pulp form. I also baked banana bread last week using part of the pulp from carrots and apples in the turned out fantastically moist and tasty.

Also the most fun part is that I have discovered a new art form!
Although I don't normally play with my food, as you can see by this photo, it happened quite naturally.

Last Sunday I was making
breakfast by blending apples, pears, celery, carrot and beets, and this is what it looked like after it was ejected from the juicer into the glass pitcher! This is just before I stirred it all together. Beautiful art inspiration with food!

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Love of Having Fun

I sometimes wonder why I don't go out more often. I find myself too comfortable with my my daily routines and lack of routines which dictate my life and yet when I disrupt the norm, I am always SO glad I did. Like, for example what happened this weekend.

I LOVE music, especially live bands, and I am blessed to live in a town where live music is abundant, almost everywhere you go. In tiny tucked-away coffee shops you can find live musicians playing almost every Friday, Saturday eve or Sunday mornings, and larger downtown cafe's and restaurants wouldn't think of not having live music.

One of my best and oldest friends was visiting this past weekend and an old friend of hers was in town with her husband to promote a new CD she had just cut. An amazing woman, Christina Fasano, or better known as that "Funky White Girl", who now goes by the name Cee Cee James, sings with her whole body, heart and soul. She combines the sound of blues, rock, funk and soul all in one stupendous voice and she has the heart of a true angel. She met my friend over ten years ago while they were on a vision quest in the desert of California with an organization called The School of Lost Borders. Ever since that time Christina's career and personality have blossomed into the beautiful and successful person she is now.

My son, Todd, who is developmentally disabled, loves music and of course we brought him with us that night. He was particularly drawn to Christina and couldn't stop going over to shake her hand during the break and tell her how much he liked her songs. Another band was playing while Christina had a chance to mingle with her fans and sell CD's so I went over to say hello and tried to get my son on the
dance floor to dance, but he couldn't keep from eyeing Christina. I suddenly realized he didn't want to dance with Mom, but he wanted to dance with the pretty lady. I was afraid that he was bothering her but Christina didn't miss a beat. She grabbed Todd by the hands and off they went. Dancing around the floor in square-dance style, to the jazzy beat of the band. Todd was beaming from ear to ear and just couldn't stop laughing. I don't know when I have seen him so happy. Christina's joyous attitude was so infectious pretty soon she had half of the dance floor in on their dose-does and twirling around. Needless to say she has made a fan for life. Todd got his CD and was so happy. Such a small thing to do but what an effect it had on him.

Most of the time, Todd is pretty shy about dancing, but this evening he sure came out of his shell, thanks to the spontaneity and warmth of a truly exceptional human being that Todd was drawn to because of the love in her heart. It always touches me when people who are used to being in the spotlight can stop for one sincere moment and just allow someone like Todd to take center stage by giving him their full attention. Todd lives in the moment, he does not live his life worrying about how he looks, or what people will think, or if he knows how to dance or even whether or not he is "interrupting someone", he only lives in "the moment". He doesn't know about "fame" or "stars"; to him everyone is equal. In personal interactions with people, he knows if he is polite and kind to people, then there are no other conditions necessary. He is usually only concerned with telling people "to have a nice day" and that he thinks "they are a nice person" or that in the case of Christina "he really liked her songs". Todd is a constant reminder for me, to stay in the present moment and not let my mind go wandering too far off into space, which I have been known to do at times.

At the end of the night I got this priceless picture of Christina saying goodby to Todd with a little peck on the cheek. You can see by his innocent expression he didn't quite know what to make of this. We all enjoyed a wonderful night of music and entertainment. So much better than sitting at home. If anyone is in the area, I highly recommend The Downtown Cafe, in El Cajon. The food and service is fantastic and they usually have a great band playing.

Unfortunately we won't see Christina for awhile because she lives in Washington State, but hopefully she will make it down here again some day. And if you are in to funky music, please check out some of her music on her website, click on the audio button.

Thank you Christina for being such a breath of fresh air!

We love you!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Perfect Love

A friend I know is looking for the "perfect" person to love, and joined one of those on line dating services. I asked him "how's that going". He basically said that he didn't think he would be able to find anyone who was totally compatible on every level. I said "there is no such thing" for I believe perfection is always in the eyes of the beholder, and even if you found someone whom you think is perfect, they may not return the feelings.

Are you perfect? Don't you need someone to understand you? I said that I don't need someone to understand me, just to accept and love me as I am, and whether I agree with everything they say and do and believe in does not matter if I love them and they love me. I would not want a carbon copy of me in the person I love. I would want someone who is his own person, who knows who he is and what he believes in and stands up to fight for what is right. That person would be so busy doing what he loves that he would not have time to find fault with me, and I likewise.

When you are busy doing the stuff of life that you so love, and that energizes you to be who you are here to be, you don't look around at others finding fault. You are a DOER, and a giver, not a taker and a whiner. When you are doing what you love, you are happy and make others happy by sharing that love. It can't help just pour out of a person who is in love with life and just being.

Anyway, its fine for me to talk since its been years since I have been "in love" with anyone other than my kids, my life, my art, my gardening, my pets, and just being alive every day. Just putting one foot in front of the other enjoying each moment, and trying not to look too far ahead and think about what is "missing" in my life. I'd rather try to manifest the magic by thinking about what I DO want in my life instead of worrying about what is NOT there. Maybe that way the perfect person for me will appear in my life. All it takes is putting the focus on what you want and living true to yourself in the meantime. And maybe a little help from above wouldn't hurt.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Peaceful Coexistence

What We Can Learn from the Animals

I love my animal friends. Annie the cat, is actually a newcomer in our house. Oscar the dog thinks he is the boss of everyone but is really just the resident male. He is a lovable, silly Labrador mix who came into my life almost ten years ago from Labrador Rescue. I have dragged Oscar all over the country with me and he is my best buddy and pain in the neck at times but I don't think my life would be the same without him.

The first thing I did for Oscar when I adopted him was to take him to obedience classes because he definitely needed to learn manners. It was also a great way for us to bond by learning the joys of teaching via "clicker" method. At one point I realized that it was me who was being trained, not the dog! But chewing on my new shoes and anything in his reach was definitely not a good thing and by taking these classes Oscar eventually learned the difference between his toys and mine. After he managed to pass obedience with flying colors, I took him to therapy dog classes so he could become certified as a therapy dog. Oscar had shown from the beginning that he had a natural gift with people, which is one of the reasons I loved him from the beginning. In therapy class it took two tries before he mastered all the commands and different phases of training, but he finally came through on that one too. Oscar now had a profession!

He has been a wonderful companion dog over the years, visiting with me at the home where my Dad lived shortly before he passed on, and then later where my Mom lived it was a joy to see how the people brightened up and looked forward to Oscar's weekly visits. A dog can sense emotional things that humans cannot and has a way of knowing when to stick his nose in your face and when to back off. I've often said humans can learn a lot by raising a Dog. I have seen Oscar gently stand by a person's wheelchair while the person, attempted in their own difficult way to pet him, but what would usually end up for him being banged on top of the head, unintentionally of course, but he would just stand by and allow the person to do the best they could to make contact with him. For some, who could not react by petting him, he would just lay his head gently on their knee and look up into their eyes. Some form of communication was going on because often a little tear would fall from the eyes of my Dad, when he did that. My Dad loved dogs when we were kids, and seeing Oscar always made him happy.

Later on, I had a back injury and had to have surgery on my back. I didn't know how I would ever manage to take care of the dog with no help, but the dog ended up being my savior. He was constantly by my side, and often when I could not get out of bed for days other than to let them out and feed them, he would jump up on the covers and push his back against my back to comfort me. Up to that point I had never allowed him on the bed, but when he knew I was sick, all bets were off on that one. Luckily I had a full recovery in time and I owe it partly to the fact that even though it was hard for me to get up and walk right away, it was the one thing that forced me out of bed and on my feet, and resulting in a faster recovery than if I had layed around for months doing nothing. Having the responsibility of someone who depends on you is a great healer.

Three years ago my son, who is developmentally disabled, came to live with us again and Oscar and Heaven are a blessing for him. He has an autistic spectrum disorder and having the dogs around create an aura of peace and love for my son like no other. When he is having a bad day it is usually because he gets "off track" and the dogs know it and are right there by his side. They say nothing but they do by their presence, what no person can do. They have a way of calming him and putting his mind back into the present moment. If Todd is getting "stuck" or just refuses to move forward on something, Oscar will go into his "silly" act, jumping on his bed, or laying on the floor and rubbing his back on the floor, making silly gestures. This usually makes Todd laugh and gets him out of his "mood". The dogs are fantastic and truly a blessing in this regard.

Oscar on Left - Heaven on the Right
The second dog in our family was Heaven. She is also an adoptee from the Golden Retriever Rescue which I was foster mom for a few years. When Heaven arrived I knew it would be a lifetime connection with her too. She has the most angelic personality of any animal I have known since Oscar. Heaven's history was that she had been raised by a breeder in Canada originally and then placed in a "forever" home to live out her retirement from breeding. However her forever home ended up having to place her with a rescue group because of family problems, and this often happens. I took her in, and loved her from the first moment. She was, at first, extremely nervous and shy and it was a month before she would even leave the kitchen where her bed was. Finally after much coaching and coaxing, she wandered into the living room one night and jumped up on the couch with me. It was the beginning of her transformation. She was nine years old then, and has now just turned 14. She is still the same loveable and sweet dog, just older. Her heart is weaker, her eyes have cataracts, her hearing is not so good any more, but I still love her and treat her with the utmost respect she deserves as an old girl. She gets groomed regularly, and looks beautiful. She is happy and bounces around the kitchen whenever there are treats or dinner preparation going on, she loves to be petted and brushed, and her favorite thing is to bring me a toy at the dinner table, expecting a little snack. Of course I know its not good to feed dogs at the table but how can anyone resist that face!

Oscar is the most tolerant dog I have ever known, and the most gentle and silly with other animals too. When Annie came into our lives this was a new thing for him. Annie is my daughter's cat who we acquired last June because she and her husband were on a trip to Europe and did not have anywhere for Annie to stay. So I sort of cheerily volunteered. I've owned cats before but Annie is her own person. Historically she has been a very aloof cat, but when she got to my house she suddenly became the new boss in town. No place is out of bounds for her, if she wants to go there; in front of my computer the minute I turn it on, on top of my desk, under the bed, in the shower, sitting on the living room couches and windowsills, and the dogs just wonder where the heck she gets off going there. She will get on or off my lap whenever and if she feels like it. But that's just the way cats are! When it comes to the dogs, well, she just barely tolerates them. Oscar though is no pushover and will not be ignored. He is always in her face trying to get her to play. Annie of course doesn't really mind but she won't let him know it. The photo of them laying together separated by the wall, says it all. They like each other but want to keep some "space" between them. Oscar doesn't seem to mind. He is patient and will wait for the day when Annie will be sleeping right next to him. He knows he will win her over eventually, just like he won over Heaven. The two of them wait for each other to go outside and they love to go on walks together. It is a peaceful coexistence, with respect and dignity for all....each respecting each others food bowls, and space to sleep. They share their toys and their love for everyone, willingly giving love to all who give it back, and sometimes to those who don't give it back. I guess this is a good code to live by for all of us.

G'day for now!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Words to Live By

What Matters Most

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me whom you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

........ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What the heck are we doing here¿?

"What if the moments of the greatest wounding in your life were also places where the Divine crossed your path and the unquenchable dream of your life was born?"

There is nothing that drives the human mind more than what is called an incomplete gestalt--an unmet need for closure of some kind. Imagine seeing a pad of paper lying near you with nothing drawn on the page but an incomplete circle. Imagine hearing just this much of the song: "Somewhere over the.."

Dawna Markova says in her book "I Will not Die an Unlived Life" under "Let our wounds become our teachers": if your purpose is only about you, it has no branches. If it is only about the rest of the world, it has no roots. Learning that the moment when our essential needs were not met in some very basic way, holds the possibility to unfold our gifts. Wouldn't it be a good joke if the worst that has happened to us holds the possibility of bringing the best in us to the world?"

Its always easy to look back twenty years or more, and say "Ahhh yes, this situation turned me in this direction and look how well that turned out", or "if this or that had not happened I would not have done such and such". But I believe it's not how well our life turns out, or even what direction we are moving but rather, what is our purpose? Do we even have one other than to exist day to day? putting one foot in front of the other. Surviving one ordeal after another. Going to our jobs, tending to the daily routines that we all have. This is not to say we all have mundane existences, but is it fair to say that the job of life becomes mundane when it offers no purpose, or passion that ultimately leads to some greater purpose other than to exist?

Or perhaps I am just trying to find some greater purpose for my own existence than just "existing", as a mother, as an artist, as a person who has many interests and passions that I love to explore? What do I contribute to the world? What am I giving back? How are my choices, and actions either contributing or contaminating the global perspective of the universe? Or do my actions and thoughts, collectively, culminate in some greater good? Is it even important? Who judges us? Or do we judge ourselves?

Maybe I am just a worry-wart who also happens to be a bit of a hedonist but wants to do the right thing all the time, someone who believes that existing for the sake of existing is not enough. Life is full of fun and beautiful things to enjoy so why go through life feeling bad? and doing things that make us feel bad are not fun! They take the fun OUT of life for me.

Once a free-bird always a free-bird. Seeking my purpose? Where am I going and what do I want to accomplish - or give back - to the world? Is being a good mother enough? What about my art? Does it have a purpose? Does it even
need a purpose? I exist - I create - therefore I am?

Its not my job to tell other people what they should or should not be responsible for, but I do believe that it should be required of each individual by themselves...not anyone look within, discover what truly has meaning in your life and pursue it with passion.

I have thought many times that perhaps "my purpose" should be guided to help others, because I am a mother to a child with a disability and a sister to a child with a disability. I have been "touched" by this ability to be compassionate and involved without feeling like a victim but also to be an activator, one who could motivate others. But as a Reiki healer and massage therapist, even though I am able to use this to help others, I found working with the disabled too close to home. It is all just a little too overwhelming. But as an artist, I find my passion and solace. Art is a creative act, not necessarily requiring any compassion and in fact it is a totally selfish pleasure. I derive so much peace in the creative activity of making things that the challenge is to create something that also tells a story, makes a point, or in a subtle way, targets a feeling in someone that words would not do. Thus allowing the art to be a catalyst for change. Its a
challenge only because that part of it is guided by intent, rather than intuition, and as a free-spirited, intuitive artist, one resists creating "on purpose", which is why I chose early on not to become a commercial artist. I believe creating
art for "sales" or "market driven art" is not conducive to intuitive creativity. But I believe it is possible to have a motive
for your art creations, or purpose if you will, as the driving force behind what you create therefore allowing that force to direct your outcome.

To be more goal oriented, in other words,to have an underlying agenda for my art, just as I seek to find more purpose in my own life is not required, but to me it is important. Is it necessary that my creations, whether it be paintings or sculptures, support some common "community" interest? I'm not sure, and I'm not sure how my own ideas will manifest in the future, but it is my intention, or, my current vision in the making. Making a difference somehow, for a cause, is a goal and a challenge that I believe I am up to. Being a victim and waiting for life to happen to me has never been in my vocabulary and I will not allow myself to do less than what I know I am capable of. Dream big! Believe in impossibilities!

Hopefully, by posting my intention to pursue this goal as the next chapter of my artistic journey, I can set something in motion. Surely nothing happens without action or intention. Inertia has been trying to creep into me for the past several months, but I resist with every day's intention to move, walk, write and think. I am familiar with this from past times in my life, we resist change, we resist doing things that we know are often challenging and difficult because they are in an unknown field of energy. But just intending our new goals, is enough to drive out the indecision, the doubts and start "doing"....

Keeping on!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

On Family, Principles and the United States

"Everyone in such a hurry-going somewhere too fast.
Life passes by in a blur. Did you even notice the
beautiful painting God's angels placed in the sky
over there by the Moon? for us to ponder?
if only for a fleeting moment. Nature waits for
no one.

If only we would
take the time to notice"

"A Letter to my kids"
This letter was originally written on 10/01/01, not too long after the 911 disaster in New York and seven months after the passing of my Father. I was living in Upstate NY at the time, and the subject of patriotism was on the lips of almost every person I saw. It occurred to me that I had never really thought much about affirming my patriotism in writing, but I knew I had very deep seated feelings about it, so decided to write this letter to my two youngest children in California. Somehow it got buried in my file of various writings, only to be uncovered recently and revised. After reading it I felt it was still somewhat timely and have decided to post it. Feel free to comment.

"My Thoughts on Family, Principles and the United States"

I think all of this talk of peace and allegiance to the country and to each other (i.e. meaning total strangers) does no one any good unless it is also extended to our closest neighbors, our brothers and sisters and to our children and parents who also have pain and suffering. For the core of this country was built on the strength of the family and community bonding.

My grandparents came to this country with nothing but the clothes on their backs, their two hands and the principles embedded within them from their parents, and they succeeded in helping to the best of their ability, to build one of the greatest countries in the world, because they believed to the core, that this WAS the greatest country in the world. A country they were willing to die for, to become a citizen of, and they did not object to flying the American Flag proudly or saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the country, under God, indivisible, as did my generation every morning in school before we did anything else. Giving thanks for our country and freedoms was not such a bad thing to do. Showing gratitude opens the door for more grace I believe. Maybe our country could use more of that these days.

I have witnessed the decline of patriotism in this country for many years and often wondered where it would lead. Apparently, to a generation of children who have not been taught what they have. To a generation of youngsters and people who have simply known NO other way of life, and tend to take it all for granted, through no fault of their own, and many who have no relatives who had to fight for their freedom.

Many of our grandfathers died in the mines while building this country, like my own grandfather, or in work camps, but they did so because they wanted a better life for their children and grandchildren than what they had in their countries, and willingly gave their life's blood to build this country. During World War II their sons fought by the thousands and died or came home wounded, to protect our freedom, so their children would have a better life than they had. Then there was Korea, and Viet Nam. Each in the name of "freedom". Every parent in America wants a better life for their children than they have but it does not work unless they also teach the children how precious their easily inherited freedoms are. Then there is the debate about what constitutes a "better life".

Those who came here before us did not have electric toasters, televisions and computers and John Deere Tractors. They built this country with savage skills and bare energy, brute force and the basic elements of this Earth. What they did have was more valuable than electric appliances and computers, what they brought with them was what makes America so untouchable.

It was their internal courage and strength of character and simple faith, belief in themselves, their creativity, and hope for a greater tomorrow; something that cannot be bought, it cannot be bartered, and it cannot be rubbed off from your friends. If you have it, it is because you have learned or inherited it from your parents and their parents or you learned it from truly believing in your SELF and never giving up on your dreams. If you do NOT have these basic strengths of character, you have either not been taught it or you have forgotten it.

True character and belief in oneself cannot be won or earned by fighting more wars, being hostile to our perceived enemies and through more killing. Character is built by being true to his or her highest principles and beliefs at all times. Are these values that are still looked up to in this country or put down?

I believe, like my parents believed, that one must be willing to give him or herself totally in submission to your core belief's whatever they are, and not be afraid of being swallowed up in that submission. By doing so you may be giving to others, but you are also giving to yourself. When you stand for your beliefs you make a stand for all in the name of that belief. Good can only come of it in the end. Too many people just don't know what they believe, and constantly look outside themselves for validation.

We all fight internal wars each and every day. How we choose to fight and how we choose to BE is the important thing. The man or woman should be equal to or greater than the battle or the battle will win. How does one fight the emotional battle? You can't. You will always loose because the emotional battle is within and WITH your SELF. Sometimes, dealing with emotional battles can only be won by being alone. It is then, you learn to confront and know the self, understand the weaknesses and forgive them. You also learn your strengths. You are judged by no one, and you have only yourself to live up to. That can be a very enlightening experience or it can be a frightening experience. Some of us need that from time to time to regain inner strength, balance and courage; things which we may have temporarily forgotten.

We must be willing to die for our beliefs (not literally) but that they SO become who we are-and we become them (our principles and beliefs) that no one can take them away from us. What dies in us are the false beliefs.

If we believe in freedom and truth, dignity and honesty, charity and good will-all these things become part of who we are, our inner nature, and we become one with these values as we practice them. When we know ourselves, its not so easy for others to convince us otherwise.

Why is there so much contradiction in the world today? because many people in this country do not really know who they are and what they stand for. They seem to need someone or some THING to tell them how they should feel and think (people like the news media or advertisements on TV and tabloid magazines). They have forgotten what it feels like to
have a tear roll down their cheek as they say the Pledge of Allegiance and watch the flag as it flies proudly against the sky, remembering a deceased parent who died and fought in the War, or to sing the words of "America the Beautiful". In other words, to really feel a connection to "our" country, the land which represents our freedom to really be all that we can be. A free country founded on honest values by people who were not perfect but who had a vision of perfection, designed so each person could could have the freedome to obtain their highest goals without interference from the Government and to live without fear of other countries attack on us. A nation undivided in that mission. A beautiful country that I personally travelled back and forth over many times, felt the earth, walked on Glaciers in Alaska, pitched stones in the waters of Lake Superior, wandered the beaches of California and Florida, and froze in the snow of Upstate New York. Is it possible to live here your entire life and know how much human blood has been shed on our soil in the name of justice, freedom, truth and love and NOT feel connected? I think not.

I am saddened to think now, that our way of life as we know it, no matter how many wars we get involved in, cannot be protected just by loving our country and being a loyal and good citizen. Our liberties - justly won, for a nation that has flourished because of its freedom, is now at risk of losing those liberties for the sake of security and the beliefs of a very negative element in our country at this time. A great man once said that "a country that is so willing to give up its liberties to gain security deserves neither"....This makes one think twice about what is happening today. We must always be mindful of just what it is that we are yielding TO. Never become so complacent that we lose our ability to see the truth no matter how cleverly it is disguised.

Lovingly and proudly a third generation American.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is Life but a Chess Game?

"After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box".

This is a great old Italian proverb that I have heard many times in different ways. Years ago a college professor I worked for at the University of Rochester School of Medicine whom I respected for his brilliance and always called him "Dr. Berg..." one day came to me and said: "Ilona, please call me by my first name, George, because you know....we all put our shoes and pants on the same way". I was surprised, but also realized he was giving me a gift of respect by saying he was not better because he had a Ph.D. and I did not. My contribution to the world was just as worthy of respect as his. It was a valuable gift that I hope I passed down to my children.

I hope it stuck with them as it did with me. I had been raised to respect authority figures and people who have distinguished themselves with higher education and positions of authority--out of respect. I respected my parents and grandparents too, but did not always agree with them. I was also taught to respect people for what they do and not what they say or what position of power they are in. That goes for friends, teachers, doctors, religious people, people of the law and especially politicians. I'm glad I learned that young because over the years I worked for professors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and politicians. I respected them all, and treated them with respect deserving of their positions, no more and no less.

When I left the "business" world and entered the world of alternative healing, I thought that the people in this profession to be another breed unto themselves. Initially wondering if I even belonged there, I soon realized I was with like minded souls very quickly. Most of us were people searching for a new life...breaking away from the corporate world of "rules" we were all forging ahead into the unknown. Coming from every conceivable background, everyone was excited to be doing something that was healing to us most of all, and that when we went into the world of work, we would be offering ourselves for a profession greater than ourselves. The first few years were a real financial challenge but after many years of travel and learning, I fell into a comfortable place where I felt secure knowing I had a space to work in that afforded me five full days of work with a schedule almost fully booked every week, even into six weeks out at certain times of the year. The other two days were devoted to my sculpting--which was just budding then. I also gave myself a day a week devoted just for my business chores.

My years in the business world helped me to relate with my clients as "real people" with "real health issues" and not Mr. or Mrs. this or that title. In my office people left their titles outside and I, as well. Ego's have no place in the healing world on either side. My clients felt comfortable with me because I related to them with friendliness and compassion and my focus was for their healing in their own time, not mine. I firmly believed that anything is possible, and healing does not distinguish between a person's education, background or professional title. It is the purest form of energy exchange when two people can work together for the same goal but one is the receiver and the other the transmitter of healing energy in honesty, compassion and the highest good of all.

If the entire world worked like this we would have no wars, because everyone would have the best interest of all in mind, not only what is "in it" for them; we would have no greed because the heart has no desire for more than it needs; we would not have wanton killing of helpless animals who have no desire to harm anyone; we would not have a financial crisis because a few people are here to prosper for their own good only, and we would have no need for any government intervention because people would just "do the right thing" by their own conscience and not need anyone standing over them with a bat forcing them to "do it my way". Acceptance of other points of view would allow men and women to succeed at their own pace and not feel they have to "measure up to someone else's standard of excellence" but all would strive to a standard of excelllence naturally that does not take away from someone else but gives back what it takes from the world.

I know this is all idealistic phoo phoo...and a lot of you probably think I'm some kind of spiritual airhead and not very realistic, but I don't get why our world seems to be in such horrific disarray these days. IF it all has to do with the fact that we are in a hot political year, I can understand it because all of the political and media world seems to be so ego oriented that it sets the stage for all kinds of negativity and mind games. But the whole of our world is off course. Maybe I'm feeling it more than most folks but maybe not. I have not even been able to post on my site lately, out of fear of sounding too negative, and indeed I know there is plenty of beauty in the world to be grateful for, so I will try to forego the philosophy 101 lesson today.

What I have done this week is to create an altar for prosperity, thanks to a good internet friend of mine from the
website"Angels in the Whirlwind" and I am expecting very positive results from that. I started a walking regime two weeks ago and when my legs start to recover from the beating that one mile a day is giving them, I will tell you if that is helping or not. And yesterday I finally took some well deserved R&R time and went to Quail Botanical Gardens about five miles from me and spent about two hours walking through the beautiful gardens, looking at the gardens, the water features and 22 beautiful outdoor sculptures that are on display there. (See photo of Lion at the top of the page).

Some of the sights in the Garden": This white flower is a very rare type of tropical plant that is like a shooting star....very beautiful and is in the tropical forest part of the gardens.

All throughout the gardens are colors and fragrances
of flowers blooming everywhere. Many have already passed and many are in full colors.

Color abounds in the variety of sculptures, ponds, water features and places to sit and just enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Since it was Tuesday, the garden was nearly void of visitors, the parking lot nearly empty, so I had the gardens virtually to myself. It was heavenly; just what I needed to connect back to nature.

I hope you enjoy some of the sights and sounds too!

No tropical garden is complete without the lily pond.

"Nature, in its own perfection seeks nothing extra...

Air, Sunshine, Earth and Water...all exist to complete Mother Nature's perfect creations, the plants and flowers.

They, in turn, exist to give back to nature, to the soil, to the air, to us...both in oxygen so we may breathe, and in beauty to restore our soul.

A sight to behold.....

and sounds of natures perfection....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Way?

A human being is part of the whole, called by us "the Universe." Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty............ Albert Einstein

In my studies and reading on "The TAO" I came across this by Huang Po:

Question: What is the Way and how must it be followed?
Answer: What sort of thing do you supposed the Way to be, that you should
to follow it?

Many people ask about "The TAO of Stone"...what do I mean by the TAO? The TAO is not a thing - it is a Way...a way of being, not something to follow, as the answer above explains. It is not a religion or a particular philosophy but I believe perhaps the word philosophy describes it best as describing what the Way IS but in and of itself it is UN-describable. One Taoist master said that if you can describe the TAO, then it is not the TAO. It is a sense of being in spirit with all that is. Deep compassion for "the ten thousand things" or in other words, all of nature and life and being "in tune" "receptive", or at a state of total acceptance, or non resistance to what IS.

Think of a rock...or a stone lying in a quarry in Tuscany, Italy. It is there for perhaps hundreds of years, undisturbed until one day someone comes along and removes it. This person then packs it on a pallet, and it is shipped over the ocean to New York, and subsequently later shipped on to California and ends up in a stone supply warehouse in Escondido, California. There it sits at the bottom of the pile until--along comes me.

Now I am what is considered a "direct" stone carver, one who carves by feeling and touch, rather than forcing an
object out of just any old stone. So when I search for a stone, the stone has to speak to me. Not literally, but something in the stone does grab me, or attracts me to it. When you have found a special piece you just know. The subject of the stone sculpture is already there in its "essence" and you see it with your heart. That is what I mean by following "the TAO" of the stone. It is the only way I can sculpt, or create a new piece. I must be in touch with the material.

The latest piece I created, which I have been talking about for the past few weeks, "Another Side of My Self" was an interesting piece because I did not know I was going to create it until very recently. Unlike many of my sculptures or mosaics especially, I think about them for months in advance and often have the entire concept already completed in my head. This time was different. I was recently selected to show three other works of art that I currently have finished, in a show at Bistango Restaurant in Irvine, California from October through January. The owner asked if I could create another mosaic to go with the piece entitled Mirrored Image which they had selected as one of the pieces for the show: Being that I really wanted to do the show, I said yes, but knowing also that I only had six weeks to complete the piece gave me a little bit of a challenge. Normally I take three months at least to complete a large mosaic because I don't work on them full time. I work a few hours a day or up to six hours max. It may look like you are just cutting glass and gluing the pieces on randomly but there IS a pattern and a method to create the right effect. I try to pace myself to avoid becoming burned out. Stay focused but also keep my mind open and fresh and above all, have fun with it. Nothing ruins a piece of art more than monotony or pressure to complete.

The challenge was in developing the concept from the beginning. No artist works totally without a design even if it is just in their head. I work with a conceptual idea or what I want to convey with my work, and basic and very simple sketches initially. I then determine my general color scheme and what materials I will use. With a mosaic, which needs to be built out of a variety of materials to create the basic structure, the glass is the last thing to go on, but also the most effective and essential for the right effect. You have to know what the piece will look like finished in order to put the mosaic together correctly, as it is not something you can change once the grout is done. That is the final product.

Unlike stone, where you don't have any idea what the finished product will look like when you start, you work totally
by intuition, feel and touch. The concept begins to develop as you work and sketch as you go along. Once the basic
structure is developed then it is much easier to finish but it all takes time and just a lot of trust. The final product in stone is a much more time consuming and tedious project and it is very doubtful that I could finish a stone sculpture in five weeks, but not impossible, providing the stone cooperates.

And last of all, being in the "now" or present moment, also helps when you are working with art. If your mind is wandering all over the place that doesn't work. It is very important to stay grounded and if you are not really grounded, try working with stone. Nothing connects your energy field to Mother Earth like Stone! Glass is close, but not the same. When I work in glass I feel the energy of Fire, more than Earth, which is why it helps to have a fountain nearby to help calm you, and I also play music while I am working , usually either classical or Native American Flute music. For me it is the best way for me to lose track of time and just be in the flow of my work.

So today I finished putting all of the last pieces of glass on my sculpture, and grouted it completely.
All in all it was about six hours of work-just for today. Grouting takes a long time and there is much tedious cleanup and polishing required to make it perfect. It is not something you can do in a hurry or you risk ruining all your hard work. Remember we are working with tiny pieces of glass that are as small as 1/4 of and inch in some cases. The grout fills out the piece, softens the colors and smooths the form so that your work finally comes to life. This sculpture has a story, and
in my next post I will talk about the mosaic series on "the Self"...

She is truly "Another Side of My Self"....more later.

Peace be to all....Love and Light

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On Passing Time

This photo of San Diego taken at dusk from the opposite side of the harbor called Shelter Island, is a snapshot in time. Nothing seems to be moving, but if you look at a photo taken just minutes after, you would see that something did change, the sky looks different and there are boats in the scene that weren't there in this photo. Everyone knows time doesn't change, it just IS. But we wonder often, "where does it go?" there "never seems to be enough time"; "time flies when you're having fun"...and on and on we go with comments about "time".

When I looked at my last blog post, I realized I had not written for two weeks, and I wondered to myself, "what have I been doing for two weeks that I didn't take the time to write one word in my blog?" Well I will tell you, I have been cutting hundreds of mini pieces of stained glass and gluing them to my sculpture "Another Side of My Self"...and I am still not done. It is a labor of love and one in which once started one must persevere until the completion. Kind of like baking bread. Now the mosaic is not all that I am working on, in between that I am, like everyone else, multi-tasking and trying to keep my life in balance, although the latter seems to be a little on the far left of center at the moment. I am always working on the balance issue, whatever that may be.

Lately my thoughts have wandered into the area of passing time, and how "what I do with my time" is either helping or hindering my progress for self-improvement and success. Yes I still think about being "successful" even at my age! Successful at what is the issue. Often, when I become interested in some new idea or project, I never feel as though I have completely achieved success at it unless I have mastered all the parts. I am one of those people who have many interests and when I become interested in something, must learn everything about it I possibly can, short of going back to college. But reading books, talking to people who are knowledgeable about the subject, and studying everything I can to know as much as I can, to not only feel comfortable about trying something new, but in judging what is good and/or bad about it and deciding if I even want to spend my time developing this new idea or project. I am definitly not a
just "jump in and tackle it" kind of gal. No, I'm the analytical type.

Although I have have done that on occasion, like when back about 20 years ago while living in South Florida, one of my best friends and I decided on a whim to become SCUBA certified. This was a total off the chart kind of thing that, on retrospect, I think I must have been slightly out of my mind to do. My reasoning was that I had always been afraid of the water since at the age of five so this would help me overcome my fear; I almost drowned in the Atlantic ocean in New Jersey, saved only by the quick action of my father, who jumped into the water, clothes and all, to save me. Now don't get me wrong, I love the ocean and have always been drawn to it, but it was a love/hate kind of thing. As a high school student, my coach threatened to fail me if I didn't pass swimming, and it was just by sheer luck that I made it across the pool without drowning.

Anyway, back to the SCUBA story. My friend and I decided this would be a great way for me to overcome my fear by doing something so ridiculously difficult for a non swimmer to achieve that surely I would never fear the water again and it was slighly akin to people who jump off of bridges attached only by heavy rubber bands at their ankles; it would give me a higher sense of inner confidence and personal power. Now that sounded great. So in we went and signed up. The class was actually a six week course and entailed all kinds of physical endurance type things, swimming being one of them, but the focus was not on swimming. Staying afloat for fifteen solid minutes while treading water in the pool, fully dressed in all the SCUBA gear was one of the trials. How I passed again was probably due to my strong legs and ability to tread water, rather than swimming skills, and my ability to stay calm. There were others too, and a lengthy and detailed instruction course which gave us many of the important skills to understand in order to survive out there in the ocean if something goes wrong. The most important one being: never dive alone, and never panic!

The second to last test was the compass dive where we had to dive into a 15 ft. deep lake, with visibility no more than 3 feet, (I imagined it filled with alligators) and swim out to a pre determined point, and back, not losing our way and navigating only by our compass, then at the end, remove our masks underwater, and put the masks back on, clear them and ascend to the surface. All in less than 30 minutes. I was amazed when I actually did it! It was an accomplishment that better swimmers than I were not able to do, and as a result it gave me the sense of pride that doing something physically and emotionally challenging as "overcoming your fear and trusting in yourself" can do. It was not about physical ability or being a better swimmer, it was a test of the mind.

The final dive was a deep ocean dive, five miles off shore and 35 feet deep. I still remember how my body ached from dragging the heavy equipment to the boat. The ride out in the early morning dawn, calm waters of the ocean and the sheer exhilaration of falling over backwards into the ocean, and descending down to another world, in a cascade of bubbles. Once landing on the sandy bottom the first thing I saw was a huge parrotfish staring me in the face. What a shock. I quickly joined my group and we spent 20 or so glorious minutes exploring the ocean bottom and the abundance of fish. It truly felt at the time like an out of body experience but a total visceral experience as well. You know you are in your body but time seems to stop, or slow down. The events are so foreign to you, that you remember each moment like it was still happening to you over and over. Even though it has been over 20 years since that dive, I still can recall the tactile experience of the tide, the sounds, and the feeling of bouyancy and lightness in the ocean and what I believe is what attracts so many people to the experience, the sheer beauty of the ocean bottom. I can also recall the feeling of mounting "panic: as we ascended to the surface and I encountered choppy waves. Struggling to get to the boat and avoiding panicking, was probably the worst part of the dive. Once aboard, I could breath again and felt a sense of relief and awe. I knew that I had been through a life altering experience, but just not sure at the time in what way it would alter my life.

I did go on to do many more dives, in the keys especially, but after leaving Florida I have only been diving one time and probably will not go back into the ocean again, unless it is in a boat or as a snorkeler. I am happy to say it is something I've "been there done that and survived it" kind of thing. I will leave it to the younger explorers on their journey through life.

What it does give me however is, on reflection, things I have done in my past and things I still choose to experience, each and every life experience however we choose to explore it, changes us, hopefully for the better. We don't always get to know the outcome of any one thing we do until after the fact, and sometimes not ever, but we CAN choose the intention and integrity with which we program into our activities. I believe the power of our intentions is what makes an experience either positive or negative. We only get one life at a time, and when we get past the middle of it, we begin to feel like time is running downhill for us. I know, personally, I try to do too much and don't want to miss out on anything, but perhaps it is out of a sense of "panic" that I feel like time is running out, I need to do this and do that. "Don't waste so much 'time'....on things that don't matter"....but everything matters. Even those things that we may never master. Just learning about them and trying them IS important. We may pick up a new hobby thinking that this is really fun, and discover a new passion in life that may even become a new career!

Well here is the progress SO FAR...on my latest mosaic.
Remember this is bare bones and still not grouted. What you can see however is how the change in colors dramatically change the effect of the piece. My hope is by next week it will be completed and I will include detailed photos of the effects.

Until next time!