Fabulous Fall, Amazing Autumn

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

I’m back after a week off. Not “off,” really, but last week all of my spare time went into getting my manuscript, Shear Murder, book four in the Melanie Hogan mystery series, finished and off to the editor.

And now for this week’s post…

Whether you call it “Fall” or “Autumn,” the message is the same…

Beyond Beautiful!

When I first moved to Colorado from Minnesota 22 years ago, I’d heard so many exclaim about the beauty of the Golden Aspens of Colorado. I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed. The autumn colors in Minnesota (yellow, purple, red, fire orange, pink, browns that are beautiful, gold…you name it) are unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

However, I now see the beauty of the Golden Aspens and, yes, it takes my breath away. And there are other colors, as well. But I think the real beauty comes from the bluest skies I’ve ever seen and the majestic mountains along with the Golden Aspens. The beauty in Colorado has captivated and caught me in its grasp. Below are some photos of Colorado’s beauty. Enjoy!

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Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Remembering 9-11

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The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom. —Rudy Giuliani

Go forth in Love.

Compassion

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For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

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At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

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The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

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The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

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Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa

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

No Regrets

No Regrets

Why is it that we often don’t realize how much a person means to us until they’re taken from us. Whether it be a move, an illness, life getting in the way keeping two people apart, or death, it’s not until the person is gone, the relationship as we knew it changed forever, that we wish we would have known, would have had some warning, and we stop and wonder what happened. And then in moves the destructive visitor of regret. Sometimes he stays for a moment, sometimes a day, sometimes weeks, months, or even years.

I’ve lost too many people who are important to me, from my grandparents (one grandmother in particular) to my step-daughter to several friends. And each time I look back and wish I would have done something different, said something different, or didn’t say or do something that I did, or simply wish I’d taken more time to give them. Each time I’m haunted by the moments these precious people wanted to spend time with me but I didn’t take the time to give them. And how, afterwards, when it was too late, I’d give anything for another chance, because I would make the time.

When someone wants to spend time with you, it’s an honor. A privilege. A compliment.

It’s all too easy to ponder the moments when that harsh word was spoken instead of being patient, when annoyances caused a hard heart and deaf ears, when things in life that don’t matter stole time right out from under us robbing us from what does matter, and guilt moves in to reside alongside regret.

Guilt and regret will destroy you if it’s given so much as a foothold.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the most recent brutal cycle of beating myself up after learning a dear friend has cancer that has spread significantly, is that I’m strong enough to not allow guilt and regret to hold me hostage. There’s no room for them at the Inn. Instead, I can let the past be the past, learn to be a better, more loving person, honor her by living a life of humility and kindness that she’s shown me, and devote time to help her travel her difficult journey.

No matter how devastating the curveball life throws at you, the best thing you can do is learn the lesson if there’s one to be learned. Get back to making room and time for the people in your life by re-evaluating your priorities.  Wake up each morning with a renewed promise to live a life of love and service. Each day is another opportunity to love, be kind to others, and let the people in your life know you love them. Don’t hesitate to give that hug, make that phone call, say that “I love you.” It’s never too late to show the people who are important to you just how important they are.

The only way to make sure you’re happy is to love and care for others, even when they don’t do the same. Spread love in the ways you know how, because the love you give is its own reward. 
― Connor Chalfant

Happy Memorial Day

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Today as we honor our veterans and those still fighting the fight so we can have freedom in our great country, I want to say Thank You!

Thank you for your commitment.

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for giving your life so that we can have ours.

Thank you for giving so selflessly so that we may “have.”

Thank you for giving up time with your families that we may have time with ours.

And thank you for the ultimate sacrifice of YOU.

Today, let’s honor, pray for, and give thanks to the men and women of our great country who are too often forgotten as we live the life we have because of their sacrifice.

Happy Memorial Day!

 “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy