A Grave Interest

My husband and I went on our first vacation in three years (other than visiting family). Destination? Taos, New Mexico. Between the arts and the history, it fed both of our interests. Of note was how often they go hand in hand.

Something I’ve taken a particular interest in is old cemeteries. I love the architecture, carvings, and creativity in the headstones. I enjoy reading the names and any identifying information written there–or lack thereof. Taos had several cemeteries to feed this interest of mine.

With Taos known as the art community it is, I was elated to discover the grave of the woman who helped establish it as such. This particular cemetery is very old, as can be seen in several of the other photos, but it’s apparent that Ms. Luhan has had many recent visitors.

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Kit Carson’s headstone (below). He’s buried next to his third wife, Josefa Jaramillo, with whom he had eight of his ten children.

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The headstone below was a little confusing. Given the fact Kit Carson had been married three times and had ten children in all, I spent some time trying to figure out why it said he only had one grandson. Until I realized the correct message is “Only Grandson Serving WWI and WWII.” Now that made a lot more sense!

Of special interest is the different opinions people there hold of Kit Carson, whether he was good or bad. I personally believe it’s not that black and white and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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The grave below, neglected as it is, saddened me. It made me wonder if their extended family even knows they’re buried here.

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In the photo below, notice the urn sitting on top of the ground, the thin slab of marble simply leaning against the tree.

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This was perhaps the most unique headstone. Unfortunately, the engraving was too faded to read.

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The simple crosses were eerily poignant. Many of the burial sites were bordered with concrete or individual fences.

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Any other Cemetery Tourists out there?

The richest person in the cemetery is the one who left the most happy memories.
― Matshona Dhliwayo

 

 

All Things Gratitude

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Gratitude fills my heart, my home, my life. And I’m so grateful for that. But I also realize that it’s all too easy to get busy with living and default, as human beings often do, to feelings other than gratitude, forgetting to be grateful. Especially for the small, simple things in life that make a big difference.

So I’ve created a gratitude jar that sits on my kitchen counter. Right beside it are pre-cut strips of paper and a pen for easy access. No excuses that there isn’t time to find a pen or “I’ll get to it later.” My husband and I frequently fill out a slip as we pass by the jar, and family and friends who visit are encouraged to participate as they wish.

Our plan is to go through each item of gratitude on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for in the past year. And what a way to bring in the new year–with hearts filled with gratitude!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -Melody Beattie

Another item of mention that I’m so excited about is that a non-fiction article I wrote titled Gratitude in All Things has been published in an anthology titled Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction and has been released this week. Yay! It can be found here and here


May I suggest making your own gratitude jar? Get creative. Got kids? Have them help! Make it a family activity.

And in the meantime, let me know what you’re grateful for last week, today, in this moment.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. -William Arthur Ward

This and That

Blessed!

Last week found me a bit under the weather, which included a trip to see my cardiologist. A reminder of how precious life is and how blessed I am to have a device that keeps my heart beating as it should. So this week I’m listing the top three things I’m grateful for.

1.  Family–A husband who supports and encourages my faith and who stands by my side no matter what; Children who are so good to me and are truly good people; grandchildren who love unconditionally and remind me to live with the innocence and acceptance of a child; And parents who daily model true love.

2.  Medical professionals who are not only knowledgable, but kind and compassionate. And health insurance to afford their care. We are so blessed here in America.

3.  Life! Yup, all of it–the good, the bad, and the ugly. The bad and the ugly because they develop perseverance, patience, and strength and make me really appreciate the good. And the good not only for obvious reasons (we all like good, don’t we?), but it feeds my soul, helping me survive the bad and the ugly. The totality of life is such a gift. Every. Single. Breath.

Go out and live each moment of this day. Really live. And give thanks. For all of it.

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Unique Boulder

We had family visiting from Minnesota this past week. With all the snow Minnesota has had this spring, my husband and I thought we would treat them to new sites. And the sites don’t get any better–or crazier–than Boulder, Colorado. In fact, Boulder is like it’s own little state. Comments like “Only in Boulder,” “That’s something you’d see in Boulder,” “Of course that happened—it’s Boulder!” And the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder is the cream of the crop.

However, that being said, Boulder is the best place to escape. It’s in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and home to University of Colorado Boulder, so it’s populated with full-of-life college students. It’s home to people who are comfortable being themselves, free from the chains of what society expects us to be. It’s a city that celebrates art and all walks of life, embracing human uniqueness, and holds no discrimination. It’s pure human freedom.

Below is a sampling. The gardening along the Pearl Street Mall was breathtaking, and the rest of the photos–well, there aren’t even words to explain. The pictures say it all.

Enjoy!

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And here’s a little shot of beauty with which to end.  And in the end, I’m all too happy to get home, where I’m free to be me. There’s nowhere like the quiet beauty of home.

And now it’s back off to Camp NaNo to finish up my writing goal.

Have a beautiful week!

Being different gives the world color.  Nelsan Ellis

Camping and Writing

It’s Sunday, April 1st, as I write this. I saw (or at least noticed) my first Robin today.

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Watched a squirrel busily building his home.

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And got all settled into my virtual cabin with my awesome cabin mates at Camp NaNo.

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It’s off to the races. Additional family plans have been added to my calendar at the last minute, and family always comes first, so my Camp NaNo goal has changed from 50,000 words to 40 hours.

If anyone is interested in Camp, it’s not too late to start. Unlike NaNoWriMo in November, you set your own goals for Camp which is in April and again in July. You can set words, hours, minutes, lines, or pages as your goal. It’s a perfect way to get that project out of your head and onto the page. If you want to try, go to Camp NaNo and sign up. If you decide April won’t work for you and you want to try July, let me know if you want to share a virtual cabin. When the time comes I’ll start a cabin and send you an invite.

And I’m off to camp! Hope to see you there.

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Social Media – Friend or Foe?

Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Instagram. Tumblr. Snapchat. Pinterest. Flickr.

These are only a handful of the dozens of social networking sites and apps. One study predicted  the number of those using these sites and apps is likely to cross the 2.6 billion mark by 2018.

And here we are. It’s 2018.

But is the facination with social media a good thing, a bad thing, or individual?

We are, by human nature, made to connect with others. People are relational. With so many options and opportunities to connect, we should be an enormous group of connected, people, right?

Yes. And no.

We have relationships that begin, flourish, falter, and end on social media sites.

The more social media we have, the more we think we’re connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other. JR

We as a society have become so busy multitasking and striving to use every free moment to be productive, that we have absolutely no free moments left.

We have no time to connect with family and friends in person anymore. And personally spending time with friends and family has been radically linked to better health and happiness.

Social media has its perks. It allows for keeping in touch with long-distance friends and family. However, a telephone call works here as well. And social media allows for quick connections in an age where we’re chronically short on time. And because of how busy we are, it allows for more frequent check-ins with our loved ones.

In-person perks include deeper, more meaningful relationships. The handshake, hug, and physical touch that social media doesn’t afford. Not to mention the health benefits of friendships. It saddens me when I’m in a restaurant/coffee shop and see people spending time together physically but each is connecting to someone else on their smart phones.

Do you feel more inspired after a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a friend or a quick social media check in? What about meeting a friend at the gym or connecting to work out via Skype. And is social media really more time-saving? I know I can spend an easy hour or two surfing Facebook feeds before I realize what happened. And I’m not a particularly fast texter, so calling someone often is much more time-saving. And yet, I default to whipping out my phone and shooting that text message.

For me, personally, social media is convenient, but I feel so much more fulfilled when I meet with someone face-to-face. Actually see the smile of a loved one rather than through an emoticon. Get that parting hug rather than the texted cyber hug ((((((Hug))))). Though I have to admit I often don’t take the time for it. It’s easier to take the quick route. However, it’s critical for me–and people in general–not to allow social media to fully replace face-to-face connections, because that would leave us relationally bankrupt.

Please share. What is your preferred connection style–social media or in-person? Or both? Do you love social media, hate it, or are you indifferent?

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Foundations

Every chance I get, I tell people of the foundation of faith, family, and love on which my parents built their lives. That, in turn, set such a wonderful example for their children and from there, their grandchildren.

I went to stay with them for a couple of weeks a while back as my dad was preparing to begin his journey of treatment for stomach cancer. That treatment consisted of rigorous and brutal chemotherapy, a total gastrectomy (stomach removal), followed by more chemotherapy.

The evening before surgery as I was going to bed, I walked past their room and this is what I saw. Each knelt by the side of their bed, heads bowed in prayer. Prayer has always been an important part of their lives, but this picture, this moment, caused me to pause and catch my breath. And it’s forever etched in my memory.

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Today my dad is cancer free. Their prayer life is every bit as important now as it ever has been. The difference their example has made to their family as well as friends, is without borders.

My question for all of us is what are we doing to make a positive difference in the lives of others–family, friends, and others looking on that we’re unaware of.

My challenge for all of us is this: If you can’t think of anything, why not start now? It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

A person's most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear r

Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday Fun

I participated in a craft and vendor show this past weekend at Harvest Fellowship Church, manning a table with my books. A writer friend of mine was there as well, her table next to mine. I’d been waiting a long time for this event, as it always promises to be a wonderful time and sets the mood for the beginning of the holiday season, including Christmas.

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Christmas? you say? But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, I know. I, too, am not a fan of stores displaying their Christmas merchandise before Thanksgiving. It seems to be getting earlier every year, to the point that one of these days it will probably be in the stores year-round.

However, that being said, Christmas means different things to different people. For the world of retail it means money. It means starting sales as early as possible, taking advantage of the marketing opportunity to make as much money as possible. Christmas music pipes through the speakers in department stores, subconsciously inspiring people to buy, buy, buy.

For others, me included, celebrating the Christmas season in combination with Thanksgiving means something entirely different. I don’t believe it can ever be too early to celebrate the birth of Christ. To begin preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior. Thanksgiving isn’t only about remembering the Pilgrims, it’s about giving thanks to God for the thousands of blessings he gives me.

On October 3, 1863, in the third fall of the Civil War, President Lincoln issued a proclamation:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …

Giving thanks to the Father for the birth of His Son fits in nicely here. It’s never too early for that. So bring on the Thanksgiving holiday, complete with turkey, pumpkin pie, family, and football, while at the same time preparing my heart for the birth of Christ. And Christmas lights and music? When the heart is focused on Him, Christmas music isn’t about buying, it soothes and helps prepare. And lights? Who doesn’t love the beauty of lights.

Enjoy this holiday season, the entire season, for all it’s worth.

Wishing you a most blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. – E.P. Powell

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

What may appear to be a small difference between two things can lead to a significant difference in the ultimate enjoyment of something.

Examples that immediately come to mind include:

  • While a cup of coffee from Starbucks and a cup of Folgers are both coffee, there is a distinct difference between the two.
  • Nikon and Canon cameras both have obvious similarities, yet each has characteristics unique to each.
  • A Kindle and a Nook are both e-readers, but each has their distinct differences.
  • Liking what you choose to do vs. choosing to do what you like.

When I was a new mom I signed up to take an online journalism/short story writing course. I absolutely loved every moment of that course and should have kept my love for that in mind as I traveled blindly on the highway of life over the next couple of decades. However, since I already had my cosmetology license, it was more practical to find work in a salon and make instant money as I raised my children. Since money is an obvious necessity, especially while raising children, making instant money made sense and was the responsible thing to do.

As life passed by and the needs of my family changed, my boys’ dad worked, earning enough money to support our family.  I was able to stay home with my boys and provided daycare for a few children to supplement that income. While the children napped or during quiet times, when I could have been writing, I found myself whiling away the time by doing other things like cleaning up after a house full of children. Necessary? Yes. But I could have squeezed in a few minutes of writing throughout the day or after my children were tucked in for the night. Instead, I only thought about it.

As my children grew, I changed jobs to best accommodate their schedules. Never did I think to practice my writing skills by actually writing. Rather, I spent that time with even more dreaming of the day that I could write again.

As my children continued to grow, I survived through a divorce by working where I needed to in order to best accommodate my children’s schedules and to make instant money. It never occurred to me to actually write simply because I enjoyed it. Once again, I pushed that dream to the back of my mind for a later date when I would have the time.
That “time” never appeared as I continued my education for things that were more practical. Things I had a tendency at which to excel.  I took a medical transcription class not because I  loved to transcribe medical terminology, but because my typing skills were fast and accurate and because I wanted to work out of my home. That worked until life circumstances pushed me to get a job outside of my home.

When I landed a job in the legal profession and learned I had the capacity to do well at that, I decided to go back to school to receive my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. It was a wonderful opportunity that made sense, because my job provided a  tuition reimbursement program, which meant as long as I maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire program was paid for with the exception of books. So, essentially, I received a free degree. It was something I did because I could. Not because it was my dream. And while that education is something no one can ever take away from me and something I can always use, it wasn’t what I loved. I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

Since then, I work at a job that does not require that degree. A job that I truly like, nonetheless, but it’s a job that I chose, not a job that chose me.

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The difference is, in addition to my paying job, I now choose to write, the one thing that truly brings me joy. It’s something I’ve done–or dreamed of doing–throughout my entire life. Something that breathes air into my lungs and gives me life. Not something that takes my energy away, but something that gives me energy. And that, in turn, has breathed life into the job I do by day. And, hey, now that I’ve pursued my passion of writing, I even make money at doing what I love. Bonus!

It’s important to like what you do, but it’s critical to do what you love.

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