Movie Review: A Star is Born

When I heard about this remake, the 4th movie titled A Star is Born, I was intrigued. The last version, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, released in 1976. I was ready for a fresh take on the musically rich film.

Daughter Elissa, who had not seen any of the previous versions, joined me for a Saturday night showing.

Movie Review A Star is Born

A Star is Born Cast

The musical drama stars Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot and Rafi Gavron. Bradley Cooper also co-wrote the screenplay, based on the earlier versions of the film, and made his directorial debut. A Star is Born carries an R rating, for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 16 minutes.

Many of the songs featured in the movie were written by Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper or both, and performed by them also, wonderfully well.

The Story

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a seasoned musician, with some hardcore vices, traveling from concert to concert. His life revolves around singing and writing music, alcohol and drugs. Late one night he walks into a bar, in search of a drink, and catches a remarkable performance that enchants him.

Ally (Lady Gaga) is an aspiring artist who writes her own songs but does not sing them. She has almost given up on a career in the music industry. Too many times she’s been told she has a beautiful voice…but not the conventional looks needed to succeed as a musician.

Movie Review A Star is Born

Jack appreciates Ally’s unconventional beauty and her musical abilities. She has a fresh perspective on life and translates what she sees into soulful lyrics.

A relationship immediately blossoms between Jack and Ally. She accompanies him as he completes his tour. And he pulls her, literally, into the spotlight, encouraging her to use her voice to tell her stories. Jack’s older half brother Bobby (Elliot), an accomplished musician himself, travels with the entourage, acting as both manager and father figure.

After she’s recruited by high level talent manager Rez (Gavron), Ally’s star rises and opportunities abound. However Jack descends. He teeters on the edge of a dark abyss where alcohol and drugs wait. Their love is real, the musical talents of both are very real. Life lived publicly is hard.

Movie Review A Star is Born

My Thoughts on A Star is Born

This is a beautiful remake. I thought I remembered the story from the 1976 film. However, apparently I have very selective memories about it. Although the names change in each version, and the different times are reflected in each film, the basic story is similar. For me though it was like watching for the first time.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Copper are amazing together. They have strong chemistry that makes their onscreen relationship all the more believable and their struggles heartbreaking.

I love the musical soundtrack accompanying the story. Lady Gaga not only unleashes her voice, she shines as an actress. And Bradley Cooper possesses a wonderful voice as well. As the man behind the camera and in front of it, he skillfully builds an emotionally packed film that had the theater audience laughing and crying, in turns.

Movie Review A Star is Born

Telling the Story

My favorite quote from this movie occurs when Bobby shares with Ally Jack’s thoughts about creating music.

“Jack talked about how music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes. That’s it. He loved how you see them.”

The same is true with telling stories. We have 26 letters, in the English language, to combine into words and sentences. How we combine those letters reflects how we view the world, and ourselves. Bradley Cooper offers A Star is Born as his story to the world, and it is a worthy one to receive.

View it. I intend to watch A Star is Born again, most likely after it releases digitally so I can enjoy the film at home. In the meantime, I am listening to the soundtrack. “Shallow” is on replay, on my phone and in my head. Have a listen too.

Better an Oops Than a What If

Tonight’s Sunday Short, which is very brief indeed, was inspired by a few words.

“Better an oops than a what if.”

Those simple words, that I almost passed by without noticing, triggered an avalanche of thoughts.

Better an Oops Than a What If

Better an Oops

Thinking about living without regrets, which is my response to preferring oops over what if, I came up with this rapidly scribbled list.

BETTER…

…an embarrassed laugh than a sigh of resignation.

…trying and failing than never trying at all.

…taking a risk than staying safe.

…living large than playing small.

…doing something while afraid, rather than being afraid and doing nothing.

…stumbling over the right words than not speaking at all.

…to get lost while adventuring than lose the opportunity to explore.

…to love with all my heart than protect my heart and not love at all.

…to create an imperfect reality than live a perfect lie.

…to lose someone for being unapologetically who I am, than to lose who I am to keep someone.

Than a What If

These truths are still firing in my brain, but you get the gist of my thoughts. I am so determined to live a life without regrets, free from the soul damaging “what ifs”. The rapid fire pop, pop, pop of these sayings bouncing into my consciousness shows me how much my life has shifted away from the carefully chosen persona that I used to hide behind.

I’d love to include more Better… statements to the list above. Play along and add any that pop into your head, in the comments!

Better an Oops Than a What If

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

The Maple Leaf Parade, hosted annually in Carthage, Missouri, celebrated its 52nd year today. Known as the area’s largest parade, the 2018 theme was “Magical”.

What began in 1966 as a marching band competition has developed into a festival, named for the trees in the area that begin colorful transformations in the fall. The parade begins in Carthage’s historical square and ends at the old junior high school.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Highlights from the Parade

Here are highlights, captured in photos:

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

The Carthage Police Color Guard leads off the parade at 9:00 am, on the west side of the square. That handsome police sergeant in the back is my son.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

The first band today, among many, was the Marching Tigers from Carthage. As one who marched with the band in Maple Leaf as a high school student, I enjoy these on the move performances. Speaking from experience, I know about the hours and hours that the students put in before parade season starts.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Grandson Oliver gives me a smile as his football team sails by. He’s at the top of the float. After the float rolled by, I saw Oliver drop back into his seat on the far side, out of view. This sweet kid knew where I would be standing in the crowd and popped up just so I could take a photo.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

This adorable dog wears his hat and rides in this car, every year. He is a crowd favorite. I’ll miss his presence some day!

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Grandson Dayan marched with the Carl Junction Bulldogs all through junior and senior high school. I recognized the band’s big sound before they even came into view. Partly out of habit, and partly so that I could send Dayan a video, I recorded their amazing performance. Listen to the Marching Bulldogs.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

The long string of Volkswagen Beetles generated excitement! I’ve not seen this car group represented in the parade before.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

The Star Wars group shows up every year, however, much to the delight of fans. With a large cast of costumed characters and the Star Wars theme music playing, this group draws cheers.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

And toward the end of the parade was the rest of my family members who participated…daughter-in-law Megan and grandkids Joey and Aubrey. They helped out with Megan’s work float, and had a fun time handing out candy.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Carthage Courthouse

And the horses signaled the end of the parade. A total of 170 floats, bands and groups participated. The day was cool but with ample sunshine, making it perfect parade weather.

The old Carthage Courthouse, in the center of the square, presided over it all. This gorgeous building was built in 1894-1895. The Richardsonian Romanesque structure, designed by architect Max A. Orlopp Jr., was constructed with local Carthage marble and has medieval castle features that include turrets, towers, and arches. It is the second most photographed building in Missouri and remains in use by Jasper County officials.

I love the picturesque building. I turned to looked up at it several times and snap photos. Fifty two times the Maple Leaf Parade has circled the courthouse. What an amazing celebration of creativity and music. I hope that old building stands for many more years to come, as a silent witness to future parades.

Magical Maple Leaf Parade

Movie Review: Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

What a treat this afternoon, to attend a movie after school with several of my grandchildren. When I announced we were headed to a showing of Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween, one child excitedly pulled a RL Stine book from a backpack, to show me this was an excellent choice.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween Cast

Haunted Halloween stars Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris and Jack Black. This family adventure comedy, directed by Ari Sandel, is based upon the Scholastic Goosebumps series, written by RL Stine, who had a cameo in the film. Goosebumps 2 carries a PG rating, for suspense, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween follows the adventures of siblings Sarah (Iseman) and Sonny (Taylor) and Sonny’s friend Sam (Harris), as the spooky holiday approaches. Single mom Kathy (McLendon-Covey) is busy working double shifts, leaving Sarah to keep an eye on her brother and Sam, who is spending a few days with the family.

While Sarah works on a college entrance essay, Sonny and Sam begin an entrepreneurial endeavor as the Junk Brothers. They offer their services cleaning trash out of houses, in exchange for items of value collected in the process.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy

The boys’ first junkin’ job takes them to a creepy abandoned house with the name STINE lettered on it. Inside they discovered a secret room containing a chest. Within the chest is a single object…a partially written book called Haunted Halloween. After opening the book and reading an incantation inside, Sonny and Sam are startled to find a ventriloquist dummy resting in the once empty box.

They soon realize this is no ordinary dummy. It comes to life, walking and talking, and he shares his name…Slappy. At first Slappy seems innocent enough, if an inanimate object that walks and talks can be considered such. The dummy helps with chores and homework, defends the boys against bullies and protects Sarah from an inconsiderate boyfriend. It seems Slappy just wants to be part of a family.

However, things turn more sinister when Slappy’s true motives are revealed. His magical abilities animate the town’s Halloween decorations, creating havoc while Slappy gathers a very unconventional family around him. Sarah, Sonny and Sam realize the key to stopping Slappy is finishing the book that reclusive author RL Stine (Black) began 30 years ago. Will they be able to write the ending of Haunted Halloween before Slappy’s takeover is complete?

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Thoughts About Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

This was a fun movie to watch with kids…my grandkids and the other children in the theater audience. I love how expressive children are, even when they are reacting in hushed tones.

I found the film to be more humorous than scary, although an animated ventriloquist dummy definitely adds a high level of creepiness to the story. Slappy doesn’t come across as evil as much as he does calculating and determined. He does have a wicked cackle however!

I asked my grandkids what they would add to my review. All three have seen Goosebumps 1…and I have not. Two of the three kids preferred this movie to the first one. They were not bothered by Scrappy at all even though they agreed that they would not want a ventriloquist dummy in their house.

One of their favorite scenes in the movie involved gummy bears. Who would have thought that those little fruit flavored chewy snacks could have a mean streak? The kids enjoyed a film in which children their age, and slightly older, are the heroes of the story.

My favorite scene took place in a store with a seasonal aisle. As the Halloween masks came alive, arms, legs and bodies grew from the bottom edge of the mask, until a full sized form existed. The effect was very cool!

Most of all, I enjoyed watching my grandchildren’s reactions and listening to their whispered comments and chuckles. And if they occasionally held my hand or snuggled close, laying a head on my shoulder, or flashed me a grin in the darkness, well that was worth the price of admission.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Who You Choose to Be

I’ve been in a thoughtful, reflective mood today, after spending time in conversations with others about how our choices impact who we are. So I was not surprised when into my awareness the perfect words appeared, to build upon the thoughts I was entertaining.

Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, writes,

“Where you are is a result of who you were. But where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be, from this moment forward.”

Who You Choose to Be

Where You Are

The first sentence in that quote makes perfect sense. When we go for a walk, and pause to rest, we know that we got where we are, in that very moment, because of the choices we made as we walked. And our choices are influenced by who we are. Simple, right?

In every city that I visit in Europe, I walk. My companions and I get to know the sprawling city or the tiny village by exploring along the twisting, winding roads. In my opinion, it’s how you get to know the town and the people and culture.

At every intersection, through every plaza or courtyard, we make a decision. Go left? Right? Straight ahead? We often get lost. But that’s part of the journey. Wandering we discover beautiful churches or fun pubs or green parks or hauntingly beautiful statues and sculptures.

Standing and looking around, we try to recall how we arrived at our destination. It’s  always because of the choices we make as we walk.

Life’s journey works the same way, doesn’t it? We make this choice.  Choose this path. Decide to go this way. Every decision we make determines where we ultimately end up….lost….or enjoying the view….or arriving at the place we envisioned.

The wonderful news here is, it is the person we were when we set off on the journey, who determined where we ended up. The future path? It’s wide open and full of fresh opportunities and promises.

Who You Choose to Be

Where You Go

But where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be, from this moment on.

THAT sentence brings with it such freedom and such immense hope. No matter where I’ve been, and who I was, I get to decide who I am and where I am going, from this moment forward…this moment right now.

I’ve had pangs of regret, when I wished I had done something differently in my life. One crazy example? If only my teenage self  had invested babysitting money in Wal-Mart stock.

I can’t go back and change any of my earlier decisions in life. There is no way to go back and turn right….when I turned left. However, with the awareness I have informing the decisions I now make, I can go in any direction I choose.

Who I am right now determines where I go. That sounds so easy. So why do I let any of my past decisions, mistakes or triumphs, affect my present choices? My future is not created from my past. I can start fresh, every single day if I choose to.

It is all about choice. And being aware that our choices impact where we end up. Because of that truth, we can stop at any time on our journeys and say,

“I am not who I once was. Where I am going is different from where I came from. From this moment, from this point, my life goes in this new direction.”

And then we do it, because we choose to. And not choosing to…well that’s a choice too.

The outer journey truly is a reflection of the inner one. Who do you choose to be, right now? And dear heart, where are you going?

Who You Choose to Be

 

 

Series Review: The Haunting of Hill House

I heard much about this new Netflix original series, and saw a couple of trailers for The Haunting of Hill House, before it premiered this month. Typically I don’t watch scary movies, if they are primarily geared toward gore or making the audience jump. However, this series is based upon the 1959 gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson, which is considered one of the best literary ghost stories ever published.

The Haunting of Hill House inspired other authors and filmmakers, such as Stephen King, and generated two films before Netflix created the ten episode series. The first Haunting of Hill house film, released in 1963, was in turns terrifying to me and fascinating. It scared me, as a child who experienced hauntings of my own, and yet I could not look away. With these connections to the story, I had to see this newest creation.

Series Review The Haunting of Hill House

Cast and Crew

The Haunting of Hill House stars Timothy Hutton, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Michiel Huisman, Paxton Singleton, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Kate Siegel, McKenna Grace, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Julian Hilliard, Victoria Pedretti, and Violet McGraw. The horror/drama, created and directed by Mike Flanagan, carries a MA rating for scary scenes, adult themes, language and violence, and each episode has a run time of 50 minutes.

The Story of Hill House

Hugh Crain (Thomas and Hutton) and his wife Olivia (Gugino) purchase a huge old mansion that has been vacant for many years. Known by the locals as Hill House, Hugh and Liv intend to restore the property to its former glory and then flip it. Selling this house takes the Crains one step closer to building and settling into their dream home. Hugh doesn’t pay attention to the fact that everyone who is familiar with the house refuses to stay in it after dark. Even its long time caretakers make sure they are away before the sun sets. Hugh and Liv move in with their five young children…Steven (Huisman and Singleton), Shirley (Reaser and Wilson), Theodora (Siegel and Grace), Luke (Jackson-Cohen and Hilliard) and Nell (Pedretti and McGraw).

The story moves back and forth between the past and the present day, detailing the strange and disturbing events that took place in Hill House and showing how they affected the children into their adulthood. The haunting that takes place is not just a physical occurrence that stigmatizes the house, it has psychological and emotional consequences that remain with the former occupants all of their lives. The story is as much, or perhaps even more so, about how the family learns to deal with the trauma, guilt and shame that overshadows each of them, as it is what creeps about in Hill House.

Series Review The Haunting of Hill House

Thoughts on The Haunting of Hill House

I don’t want to talk about the storyline any more than that brief summary. This is a series that is best viewed without a lot of prior knowledge. Watch it and experience it and let it unfold.

I will share some personal thoughts.

This is an extremely well done spooky series. On a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being “nah, it’s not scary at all” and 10 being “watch it with a friend during daylight hours” the scare factor hovers around a 3 or 4, for me. At times it elevates briefly to an 8. And at times it isn’t scary at all. It’s sad and troubling. As a bonus, Netflix creates an incredible backdrop for the action that is full of dark surprises. Many of those extra details escape the human eye initially, although the viewer may wonder why they suddenly feel the hair rising on the back of the neck.

What I love most about this series is that it tells a story about family relationships. The first five episodes focus on each of the children, and we see what happens, at Hill House and later in their lives, from their unique perspectives. We see how the children relate to each other and the past, and how some were affected more greatly by the haunting than others were.

Many times my eyes filled with tears, as raw emotions bubbled up in Shirley or Theo or Luke, feelings such as anger, fear, resentment, sibling love and bonding, sibling rivalry and jealousy. Every child had a role that they fulfilled when they were young. As adults they realize how much those roles were shaped by what they encountered and experienced.

Series Review The Haunting of Hill House

We Are All Haunted

Ghosts and jumps and bumps in the night aside, The Haunting of Hill House reminds me that we are all haunted to some extent by our pasts. Until we work to free ourselves from those troubling episodes that we’ve all had, they will continue to affect us and shape us.

I’ve seen this as true in my own life, from the fears I carried forward from my childhood to my fierce independence to the way I handle current situations, if I allow myself to fall back into default mode. Exorcising the ghosts from our pasts clears the way for light and wholeness and fresh ways to respond to events.

Such revelations make The Haunting of Hill House a powerful series to watch and re-watch. Netflix got it right. Still, even with all the insights and the deeper stories, I’d recommend viewing the first few episodes during the day! It is a haunting story, after all.

Series Review The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

A Place to Work and Create

I spent yesterday in my creative studio…the place I have set aside to work and create in. However, as I have shared previously, this room also tends to collect “stuff”. It is possible that every house has that sort of room…the one junk mail, books, papers and odds and ends get tossed into, with the intention of sorting through it later.

Traditionally, I use the holiday season to declutter this room so that I can decorate in it. But this year I had strong motivation to tackle this task early. After months of limping along on a dying laptop, and then finally closing it up for the last time, I purchased a new one. My messy studio is symbolic of the way I’ve been working lately as my phone became my computer…I’m all over the place, and out of place, and I can feel that, energetically. It was time to shift that and get back into my studio.

A Place to Work and Create

Cluttered Space Equals Cluttered Energy

Yesterday’s task was to create a better flow of energy in the room. I know better than to let things pile up. And yet, I get “busy” and let it happen, until the reduced energy flow literally keeps me out of the room. When I start avoiding a room or a space, it’s a strong signal to clear it.

A Place to Work and Create

This side of the studio wasn’t too bad, and look at that gorgeous sunlight streaming in through the windows. I love this small room because it has six windows that overlook the garden. And I have happy associations with this space. Previously it served as my son’s room and then my older daughter’s room when the kids switched bedrooms. I can hear the echoes of their laughter in here.

A Place to Work and Create

But what happened on the other side of the room? Stuff happened. Some of those items are garden related, but most of the clutter is from me dropping something in here and then not finding a place for it. Clutter kills my creativity. That’s not true for everyone. Some people thrive in a messy environment. I know myself well and this does not work for me.

My task yesterday was to DO something with each out of place item: toss it, put it away or drop it into a donation box. I carted out two bags of trash, have a box to go to Goodwill, and the rest was put away or found a new place to occupy. The great surprise from yesterday was uncovering a watercolor my daughter created almost 20 years ago. That beauty is hanging in my bedroom tonight.

A Place to Work and Create In

A Place to Work and Create In

A Place to Create

After a satisfying day of decluttering, today I have a beautiful and functional place to work and create in. Gone are the piles of stuff on the floor and the overflowing workspaces are neat and organized. I am surrounded by the things that inspire me: family photos and keepsakes, vintage items repurposed to serve in new ways, maps of my recent trips, art, my coloring supplies, and a bookcase full of favorite books. I have a reading chair. And on my writing table my mascot Absolem the caterpillar, from Alice in Wonderland, perches on his mushroom and watches me. When I talk to him, and trust me, I do, I imagine he answers in Alan Rickman’s voice. (Google that if you wonder why!)

I spent the day in my creative studio. Real estate work occupied my time first. And then….I shifted to creation mode as I work to take both of my blogs to the next level. I do not use the word “work” lightly. Technology can be daunting and if I look at where I want to be, it is overwhelming. However, as I proved to myself today, I can do it…one step at a time.

A Place to Work and Create In

A Place to Work and Create In

Creating My Reality

In the Star Trek series, the holodeck was introduced during Next Generation. I loved the idea of being able to walk into an empty room and energetically create anything place, any time period, and interact with the environment. My kids used to tease me that it was good I didn’t have access to a holodeck, or I might never leave it.

This space, this creative studio, is my tiny earth bound version of a holodeck. I have the ability to create the life I want here…or at least, set it into motion. The room isn’t empty. It contains the things that I love. However, the flow of energy is full of the potential of creation and it ripples outward from this space. Guided by the Divine, I am creating my reality and happily interacting with it.

The best part is….when I leave this room, my creations don’t all disappear, as they did in Enterprise’s holodeck. They are manifesting, continuously, in my world. Life is good, indeed.

A Place to Work and Create

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The Relentless Call of the Sea

I found a sea lion today. Cleaning in my studio, I got carried away decluttering and dared to tackle the closet in that room. How wonderful it feels to me, to clear space and bask in the lightness that accompanies the increased flow of energy. As I emptied a drawer in the closet, I made a delightful discovery. Years ago my daughter Elissa created a watercolor of a sea lion, perched upon a rock, in the desert. Her work of art was inspired by a beautiful story.

In recent years it has been my joy to haul treasures out of storage and use them or hang them or set them where I can see them and appreciate them. Studying the watercolor, remembering the sea lion’s story and Elissa’s journey and mine, I knew that work of art would not go back into the closet.

The Relentless Call of the Sea

The Lost Sea Lion

The story of the sea lion comes from the book, Journey of Desire, by John Eldredge. It is woven throughout the book, an integral part of the narrative.

I’ve summarized the story below.

Desire

There once was a sea lion who had lost the sea. He lived in the barren lands, far from the coast, on a dry and dusty plateau. He couldn’t remember how he came to live there, but he had been there so long that he thought of it as home.

The sea lion asked every traveler who passed by if they could help him find his way back to the sea. But no one knew the way. Finally the sea lion took refuge beneath a solitary tree beside a small muddy water hole. He settled down there and learned to survive.

In the evenings the sea lion would sit upon his favorite rock. On the best nights a faint smell of salt air would come to him on the breeze. Closing his eyes, he would imagine himself once more in the sea. And sleeping he dreamed of a vast, deep ocean. The sea called to him.

Loss of Desire

Night after night he dreamed of the sea. Eventually it became too much. He only visited his rock occasionally. Waking so far from home was a disappointment. The day came when the sea lion quit visiting his rock and no longer lifted his nose to catch the sea breezes.

His friend the tortoise, who was really a sea turtle who had left the ocean many years ago, told the sea lion, “You must learn to be happy here.” With his words he convinced the sea lion that the sea had forgotten him and that in time he would forget all about diving deeply beneath the cool water. The tortoise told stories about his adventures, and eventually the memory of the sea faded. Between the solitary tree and the muddy water hole the sea lion lived his life. The sea no longer filled his dreams.

One day the fierce desert winds began to blow and for many days they did not cease. When the wind storm was over the sea lion looked around in disbelief. The tree was stripped of its leaves and the water hole dried up. Three weeks later, the sea lion dreamed again of the sea. The water was clear and deep and in this dream, he was surrounded by other sea lions. They played in the water around him.

Journey of Desire

Tears streamed from his eyes as he awoke from the wonderful dream. He did not even pause to wipe them away. The sea lion set his face toward the east and began to walk. “Where are you going?” asked the tortoise.

“I am going to find the sea.”

The Relentless Call of the Sea Artwork by Elissa Moore

A Relentless Call

Re-reading the sea lion’s story moved me deeply. How easy it is to not only lose our way, but to lose the desire to find our way to that which calls to us and haunts our dreams.

It is not a mistake that I found Elissa’s beautiful portrayal of the sea lion, longing for the sea. During this part of my own journey, as I long for that which calls to me, the painting and the story remind me not to settle, not to give up. I am created for more. My dreams call to me because they are what I am created for.

I am a sea lion surviving in the desert…a queen sea lion…dreaming of the sea.

Awake, I have remembered who I am and what I am made for. The watercolor and the story are wonderful reminders to keep walking toward the object of my desire…toward the life I know I was born to live.

I framed Elissa’s artwork and hung it in my bedroom, next to my bed, where I will see it morning and night. Beneath it on the bedside table rests the picture I drew, of the pawn seeing the reflection of the queen in the mirror.

They are all marvelously connected, these magical, enchanting, Divinely inspired “dots”. As they coalesce, a bigger picture is forming. I am breathless with anticipation, to see what appears.

The Relentless Call of the Sea

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Pierced by Beauty

I love rainy Sundays. The falling rain curtains the house, shutting away the world and encouraging me to stay indoors and rest or participate in light, enjoyable activities. Several times today, the words of Simone Weil came to me.

“There are only two things that pierce the human heart. One is beauty. The other is affliction.”

I understand those words. My heart has been run clean through by both in my lifetime. I much prefer being undone by beauty. For today’s Sunday Short, I chose to share some of the beautiful arrows that have pierced my heart, by way of photos.

Pierced by Beauty

My heart is pierced by the beauty of …

Nature

Pierced by Beauty

Water

Pierced by Beauty

The Garden

Pierced by Beauty

My Family

Pierced by Beauty

Venice, Italy

Pierced by Beauty

My Beloved Scotland

Pierced by Beauty

Beauty Surrounds Me

The photos above are just a sampling of the beauty that moves me to my core. In truth, if I am open and aware, with eyes to see, I can be pierced daily by the beauty found in a sunrise, a stranger’s smile, a gorgeous fox running through a field, piles of fresh fruit, autumn leaves quivering on a tree, or a silver moon high in the night sky.

I am grateful for beauty’s ability to find the heart no matter how protected it may be. Even the most barricaded heart cannot withstand the sharp, sweet agony of great beauty. Nature, art, humanity, animals, architecture, candlelight all soften us and expand us so that we may then receive, and give, joy, hope, compassion and love.

Taking in beauty allows me to know I am enough. I’ve done enough. I can breathe it in and sit quietly with it, in deep appreciation. Beauty nurtures me and sustains me and leads me onward.

Pierced by Beauty

7 Truths About Positive People

I admit it. I’m a positive person. Put simply, positive people are hopeful, encouraging and optimistic, even when faced with challenges, problems or set backs. Being optimistic isn’t the same as being unrealistic, although I’ve been accused of that. It also doesn’t mean that higher energy people don’t feel sadness, grief, anger or uncertainty occasionally. They just don’t get taken out by those situations and emotions.

I’ve compiled a short list of seven truths about positive people, characteristics that can be adopted by anyone who desires to shift a negative attitude.

7 Truths About Positive People

1. They express gratitude.

Expressing gratitude aloud, through prayer, meditation or song, or in journals is essential. One negative experience during the day can overshadow the good experiences we had. Expressing gratitude shifts attention from the negative to the positive. Research has shown that gratitude significantly increases happiness and wellbeing while lowering stress, anxiety and depression.

Tip: Strengthen your gratitude by writing five things you are grateful for, at the end of each day.

2. They reframe challenges.

Positive people don’t live challenge free lives. They view them differently. A challenge can shut us down or shift us into victim mode or present an opportunity for growth. I choose to see the potential for learning and growing. One of my favorite things to remember when encountering a problem is that someday I will look back at this time and see the tremendous shifts that occurred as a result.

Tip: During a challenging time, write a letter to yourself from your future self, five years down the road, detailing how you grew through this time. Bonus: Save the letter and read it five years later.

3. They look for the silver lining.

Bad things happen and tragedies occur. Positive people don’t pretend bad things never happen. They do what they can to help themselves and others through the experience, without glossing over what happened. And, they look for that silver lining. Looking for the good, they find it. The 2011 tornado in Joplin was devastating. Lives were lost. An unbelievable amount of damage was done. I was affected as was my family. As a result of that destruction however, a community came together. Whole neighborhoods changed, for the better. Volunteers blessed us. And I got new dirt, in a new yard, and at last created my long dreamed of Backyard Paradise.

Tip: Practice looking for the good when bad things happen…for what we focus on, we find. If we look for good, we will find it. If we look for bad, we will find that too.

4. Positive people practice excellent self care.

We cannot take care of others, and encourage them, unless we first do the same for ourselves. Self care looks differently for everyone, however a solid foundation includes eating healthy foods, getting enough rest, being active, spending time doing favorite things, and developing a spiritual practice. Positive and negative have to do with energy. Positive energy has a higher vibration while negative energy is lower. Taking care of the body, mind, emotions and spirit results in a higher vibrational frequency that we experience as bliss and joy.

Tip: Create an easy to follow self care regimen that includes diet, rest, exercise, fun and a spiritual practice.

7 Truths About Positive People

5. They use positive words.

Positive people express themselves with positive words. Words are powerful. They create reality. We literally speak our reality into existence. Don’t believe me? Start your day with a string of low energy, negative words and see how your day progresses from there! The words we speak to ourselves and about ourselves are crucial as well. If we constantly criticize ourselves or call ourselves names, we will live up…or down…to that spoken expectation. And if we are in the habit of criticizing ourselves, we are much more likely to criticize others. In spite of the nursery rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, words DO hurt. Negative words have a negative impact on the body. For a fascinating study about this truth, see Dr. Emoto’s work.

Tip: Wear a wrist band or a simple rubber band around the wrist and every time you catch yourself saying negative words, or even having negative thoughts, flip it. Set a goal of going an entire day without speaking negatively.

6. They don’t dwell on the past.

Dwelling in the past, blaming the past, does not contribute to a positive now. The past is unchangeable. Thinking about what’s happened, reliving it or talking about it constantly keeps us stuck there. And it keeps our energy low. Low energy = negative energy. I love the expression about not looking at the past…we aren’t going that way. Positive people focus on the present moment and let the future unfold. Sure, we can have dreams and goals for the future. Stressing about outcomes though isn’t helpful either. Let go of the past. Turn around. Live in the moment. Embrace what comes.

Tip: Create a focus word that immediately brings you into the present moment, when you realize you are dwelling on a past experience. My word is adsum, which means “I am here”. Use any word that is meaningful to you.

7. They don’t get drawn into other people’s drama.

Drama has a negative, draining effect. Some people, however, seemed to prefer to dwell there and want to ensnare others to occupy that space with them. Misery loves company. Eliminating drama from our lives means refusing to get drawn into it to begin with. Which in turn means being careful about who we hang out with. Because like draws like, being positive will naturally attract more positive people while being unattractive to negative people. Positive people may occasionally have to deal with drama, however they do not stay in that space. It does not feel good.

Tip: If you find a lot of drama going on around you, use it as a sign to increase positivity in your life. Use the six tips above to shift your energy. When you must deal with drama, offer help and then exit the situation as quickly as possible and practice extreme self care.

I don’t regret being a positive person. Truthfully, I don’t know any other way to be. Being positive doesn’t make me unsympathetic toward others. Rather, it gives me empathy and compassion for others, especially those who are struggling or hurting.

Recently my granddaughter, who is an old soul in a young body, said to me, “Yaya, you’re a positive person. What do you think about this?” She went on to talk to me about a very negative situation. How precious and tender her heart is, and how special the opportunity she offered. I told her that yes, I’m a positive person but that bad things are not okay with me. They make me angry or sad too, however I don’t stay that way for long. I attempt to change what I can and hope for the best. I let her see the tears in my eyes and I saw the tears in hers. Our conversation ended with hugs and I love yous.

That’s what’s at the heart of a positive attitude. Love. Love and the desire to do good in the world and good in the lives of others and to see things in the best possible light. I can do that. You can do that.

7 Truths About Positive People