Day 69: Watch Gravity

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As I watched the Academy Awards recently, I realized I had not seen any of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture. Not one! I believe that might have been a first! I decided to remedy that. My first, therefore, is twofold: watch all nine of the nominated movies and do a review of each film after I’ve seen it. For today’s first, I began this adventure with Gravity.

I was surprised at the number of nominations that Gravity received, including Best Picture. I’d seen a couple of previews and my first impression was that this movie was a space thriller. A couple of big name actors starred in the film, true, but I didn’t see enough to make me head to the theater and I definitely didn’t expect it to receive all the nominations that it did, 10 total. On Oscar night, as I filled in my ballot, I began to just select Gravity in each category it was a contender in. It won seven Oscars, including Best Visual Effects and the big category of Best Director. I was curious now and I had new respect for the film. As the idea formed to view all of the Best Picture nominated movies, I knew Gravity would be the first one I watched.

Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and is directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It’s rated PG-13 and has a run time of 91 minutes.

I enjoyed the movie! It is a fast paced, short film, that had me clasping my hands tightly together as Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, finds herself facing the unimaginable in space.  On a routine spacewalk, disaster strikes, leaving Stone and veteran astronaut Kowalsky,  played by George Clooney, stranded outside the destroyed space shuttle. I don’t want to include spoilers in these reviews. I will say that the rest of the movie follows Dr. Stone as she fights to survive. It’s not just space that has attempted to defeat her, nor is this the first unimaginable event Ryan has faced in her life.

Gravity is more than a movie about space. It is about what connects us to life, what grounds us to the earth. Tears filled my eyes watching Ryan struggle with the decision to engage or disengage with life. She knew, as did I, that it was not a matter of surviving or not, it was about living, really living. Don’t we all have the same decision to make? Whether we are facing a catastrophic event, or a dullness that has seeped into our souls, we choose whether we will slowly die or truly begin to live. Will we find that which connects us to life and engage, bringing joy and passion and purpose into our lives?  I choose to engage! I choose to reach.

You’ll have to watch Gravity to see what Dr. Ryan Stone chooses.

Day 68: Gala of the Royal Horses Show

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Today’s first was a beautiful event in Springfield, MO. The Gala of the Royal Horses Show is an international horse show that is touring the US for the first time. I was really the invited guest on this first. Greg discovered the show and thought of Elissa, our daughter. She is the horse lover in the family. When she expressed interest in going, it became an opportunity to experience something I hadn’t before. Greg, Elissa, my grandson Dayan and I made the trip to Springfield, and what a fun day and evening we had, watching the horse show, eating dinner together and browsing at Barnes and Noble!

The Gala featured four magnificent breeds of horses: the Andalusian, Friesian, Lipizzaner and Arabian. What a gorgeous display of horses and horsemanship. The show is called an “Equestrian Royalty presented at the highest level in a culturally rich and stunningly beautiful tribute to The Royal Horses, complete with Flamenco music & dancers.” We were enchanted. The power and grace of the horses was amazing to watch. The riders wore beautiful costumes and together with their mounts, performed a variety of maneuvers . There is bond of trust and affection that must exist between man and animal and that was evident this afternoon. Force would never have produced such results. Rene Gasser, the trainer and producer of the show, demonstrated how the young horses are trained, much to the delight of the audience, and showed off his skill at handling horses. I admired his use of love and reward in training his equine performers.

The show was educational and a joy to watch. Having Dayan there for his first horse show was fun too. He went with us good naturedly,  with low expectations and it was great to see interest light up his face and to hear that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He was glad he attended and we were glad he chose to accompany us.

Watching Elissa during the performance was heartwarming. She began riding horses when she was 13 year old and quickly moved to showing in local and national horse shows. Elissa is a natural rider and trainer and has a bond with horses that is magical to watch. Her deep love for these big animals endears her to them and I’ve seen a huge American Saddebred gently take her ponytail between his lips and follow her around the arena like an overgrown puppy. Her father and I have spent many hours in arenas watching her ride and compete. She sold her horses and stopped riding when she was pregnant with Dayan, who is now 14. She has only recently begun to ride again. Being in the arena today in Springfield felt like a homecoming…the sights, the sounds, the smell even, all reminiscent of her years of working with and riding horses. Seeing the sparkle in her eyes I’m guessing that she will be picking this passion back up!

Helen Thomson says, simply, “In riding a horse we borrow freedom. “ This afternoon as I watched the horses and riders move as one around the arena, I thought, how beautiful, graceful, soulful, and free. It stirred my heart. I think Elissa would agree.

Day 67: Ride Along With Son Nate

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Although I’ve experienced a night time ride along with my son, Nate, who is a police officer in Carthage, I’ve never done a day time ride along. Today’s first was to spend the day in a patrol car with my son.

Nathanael wanted to be an astronaut when he was four. Then, tragically, the space shuttle Challenger exploded and for days he watched the sad news coverage. He decided he didn’t want to be an astronaut any more. He wanted to be a police officer. By the time he was eight years old, he had a police scanner and had made his own uniform. He planned his future and never wavered in his intention.

Many children want to be police officers or firefighters or professional athletes when they are young and they grow out of that dream and move on to another. Nate only committed himself deeper to his chosen profession by learning everything he could about being an officer. He learned codes and how to respond to calls by listening to his scanner and repeating what he heard. Soon he was responding, correctly, ahead of the officer on the call.

He used his artistic abilities to create, from cardboard, hot glue and paint, the front half of a police car and sat for hours behind the steering wheel, his imagination creating situations for him to respond to. He practiced “making arrests” although his sisters weren’t always cooperative with being handcuffed! He did his first ride along with a police officer when he was barely tall enough to see out the windshield. When he was 14 he joined the Police Explorer Program and all that he had been practicing began to be used in reality. He graduated from MSSU with degrees in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement and has been a police officer now for almost 9 years.

Today, I watched the man, living out his dream with expertise and confidence. Nate is an excellent officer, serving his department as a field training officer and he’s certified and qualified in so many areas. He knows how to handle himself well and I saw the respect he receives from his fellow officers. He’s more than a good officer though, he’s a good man. I watched how he deals with people who are having problems or have been pulled over because of a traffic or vehicle violation. He treated everyone with respect, dignity and compassion. I was struck by how polite and yet firm he was, how gracious to those who needed help.

I discovered something new about my son today. He is an old soul, in a young man’s body. He has wisdom and a set of beliefs often found in an older generation. He sees the value in each person he deals with and has hope for humanity. He cares about what happens to others. His young daughter proudly tells everyone that her daddy is a hero, her hero. I proudly say the same thing….he’s my hero too.

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Day 66: Watch Mr. Peabody & Sherman Movie

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As I have shared previously, I love movies. I am blessed to have a granddaughter who shares my passion and enjoyment of films. At the age of five, she has an impressive collection of DVDs that rivals mine.

Today’s first was to go see Mr. Peabody & Sherman, on opening night no less, with Aubrey and my sister Linda. We made it a girls’ night out with dinner at Chick-Fil-A ( where I enjoyed grilled chicken bites and a fruit cup), the movie, and funny pics in the photo booth to commemorate the evening.

Aubrey has been waiting to see this animated feature. When she realized it opened today, she made a request, via her dad, to go to the movie theater. I was happy to oblige. We invited my sister, who is Gigi to all the kids in the family, because she is always a fun companion. I felt a tug of nostalgia watching the dog-father, human-son duo. These characters were first introduced in the 1960’s as regulars on The Rocky and Bullwinkle show. They had a segment called “Peabody’s Improbable History” where they time travelled and met famous figures and witnessed historical events.

The movie keeps the premise and freshens the story with fast paced action, a bit of school age romance, and more back story on Mr. Peabody and Sherman and their adoptive relationship. The movie contains an abundance of humor for the kids and for the adults, puns that cracked us up and caused Aubrey to turn to me several times and ask, “Why is that funny?”

Overall, it was a fun movie. As always, I enjoyed watching Aubrey watch the movie as much as I enjoyed seeing it myself. Like me, she absorbs a film, repeating dialogue to herself and often acting out scenes for days after the final credits. I love discussing the story and characters with her afterward and hearing her keen insights. The world is fresh and new when seen through the eyes of a child and her perspective on a movie we’ve just seen delights and impresses me.

During the previews, my granddaughter picked out several upcoming movies that she wants to see. I look forward to each one. I look forward to being Aubrey’s movie companion!

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Day 65: Teach an Energy Class

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Today’s first, teaching a class about energy, was an item that went on my list of possible firsts very recently. The opportunity to present such a class showed up last week! I am grateful to Lisa at Keller Williams for asking me, and my amazing office for allowing me to teach what I am passionate about. Keller Williams Realty believes in creating an atmosphere that nurtures personal and professional growth for their agents. I thrive in such an environment.

Energy work is a topic I’ve been studying for a while. Everything is energy, or Spirit, everything. My thoughts, my emotions, this chair I’m sitting in, are all forms of energy, vibrating at different frequencies. It has been a fascinating study, and in many ways, confirmation of what I’ve instinctively known since childhood, to see the correlation between what I think, and the way the world appears around me. My beliefs are evident in the thoughts I have, the words I speak, and the actions I take. The world reflects back to me what I believe to be true.

Our bodies are greatly impacted by the energy swirling within and without. Stress takes a toll on our energy level, depleting it. Hurtful experiences in the past can become clogged energy around our hearts that affects how we live now. Resisting what has already happened in the past, or worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet, uses up huge amounts of energy, leaving us with little vitality for living in this moment.

Our bodies respond to daily stress by becoming agitated and then sluggish. In today’s class, it was a joy to share about the importance of watching our thoughts, beliefs and words. And about releasing the energy that can get stuck, and keep us stuck as well. I also shared some simple tips for releasing stress and increasing personal energy. We breathed together. We thumped our spleen points. We stretched and moved. We did some things that the casual passerby might have thought looked strange! But there was purpose in each technique and movement of energy.

I appreciated the willingness of the agents taking the class to participate, ask questions and share. What a fun and gracious group they were. At the end of our time together, I believe they felt energized. I know I did!

Day 64: 10 Day Detox Diet

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My first for today is that I have completed the 10 Day Detox Diet, as created by Dr. Mark Hyman. My body has been telling me for quite some time that I needed to eat differently. With the wonderful energy surrounding me as I do my year of moving beyond, I felt drawn to listen inward, to what my body was saying.

She was telling me she was sluggish, stiff and in pain! I have headaches quite often and several of my joints were painful. I’ve lost some mobility. I also have had high blood pressure and a blood sugar reading that was borderline. It truly was time to take back my health! I wanted to combat these ailments with good nutrition rather than medication. So I put the desire out there, “I want to be healthy!”

Standing in line at the supermarket, a woman’s magazine caught my eye. Featured on the front cover was a headline that proclaimed: 10 Day TOTAL BODY MAKEOVER! Heal imflammation, reverse diabetes, allergies and high blood pressure, end junk food cravings. Perfect! I bought the magazine, and armed with that single article and later Dr. Hyman’s book, 10 Day Detox Diet, I began a 10 day adventure.

I’ve known that inflammation is a THE cause for most illnesses, aging, weight gain and joint pain. I didn’t realize that sugar, gluten, flour and dairy products create inflammation and that they are extremely addictive. Sugar is 8 TIMES more addictive than cocaine. Wow. I went cold turkey, giving up these four substances. Dr. Hyman suggests we can do anything for 10 days. I was willing to give this diet a try and see how I felt on day 10.

And, I feel great! The first couple of days, as my body purged itself of toxins, I had a headache and itchy skin. By day 4 I was feeling higher energy, less pain, less stiffness, and no hunger. I’m sleeping better and deeper at night and wake feeling refreshed. Normal blood pressure. No headaches. No cravings. I feel clear headed, optimistic and lighter. I AM lighter. Six plus pounds melted away in 10 days. My desire is to be at optimal health. If I weigh less as a result, that’s a bonus!

Today, I’ve decided to continue with this program for another 90 days. I’m deeply grateful that I listened to my body and that I discovered Dr. Hyman’s plan. I feel like I’m contributing in a positive way to my health and wellness. I’m eating lean proteins, berries, nuts and fresh vegetables. Drinking lots of water. A month ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be enjoying such simple fare, but I am, and my body thanks me for it, every day.

You can check out this program here: http://www.10daydetox.com/

Day 63: Sponsor a Dog at the Joplin Humane Society

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I am a lover of all kinds of animals. And throughout my life I’ve owned, cared for and rescued a variety of animals from stray dogs roaming the neighborhood, to baby birds fallen from their nest, to snakes caught in a grass fire. My poor mom, I was always bringing some creature home to take care of. I really thought about becoming a veterinarian but my emotions were tightly under control by the time I hit my teens and I didn’t think I could bear watching the faces of those who would grieve over the illnesses or loss of their faithful companions.

As an adult, I had an amazing dog for 11 years until old age took her from me, and a cat who graced our lives for almost 22 years until she too slipped quietly away. Since then, I’ve by choice remained without a pet. I’m busy with work and I travel some. Plus the heartbreak I experience when my beloved pets die is overwhelming.

Recently, though, three small kittens showed up at my house. A neighborhood cat brought her babies to me to feed, because she knew I would! When temps dropped below zero one night last November, I opened my door and my heart and invited them in. Mama cat will allow me to feed her but refuses any other hospitality. However, Rilynn, Angel and Shy Boy are still in my house, and quite comfortable. It took weeks before Angel and Shy Boy would allow me to pet them and longer before they would sit on my lap, but we are all buddies now.

Being a responsible pet owner, I’ve had the females spayed and Shy Boy was neutered today. I am grateful for the low cost spay and neuter clinic at the Joplin Humane Society. They make it very affordable to prevent unwanted litters. It is difficult for me to go to the Humane Society however. The need is so great for adoptive families. I want all the animals there to find good homes. I’ve got the three kittens so I looked for another way to help. For my first today, I sponsored a dog at JHS, a sweet mixed breed boy named Beau. His adoption fees are paid and he’s ready for a family.

I wasn’t quite prepared when the kind volunteer told me to go on back and select a dog. I thought she would pick one! I asked for guidance in choosing the right dog as I rounded the corner and walked slowly past rows of kennels. Beau’s sweet face and friendliness drew me right away. I whispered to him that this was my way of helping him. I whispered to all of the dogs looking at me and wagging their tails that someone would come soon who would love them and take them home.

Anatole France says, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” My desire is that someone will love Beau and give him a home.  If not Beau, then may they adopt or sponsor one of the many dogs and cats available at the Joplin Humane Society or one of the other animal shelters in the area.  I am awake. I love.

Day 62: Create a Health Bubble

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During this cold winter, I’ve created ice bubbles and icy winter globes as firsts. Today was another cold day with yesterday’s ice and snow covering the ground. It was the perfect day to stay in and create another first, a health bubble!

I recently decided to take back my health, using a detox diet designed by Dr. Mark Hyman. More about that in a few days, as I complete the 10 day detox. One of the things I’ve appreciated about Dr. Hyman’s book is that he has a section for daily use, full of encouraging tips and ideas. Today’s section was called Design. And it fit in perfectly with my day. The action plan was to make sure my environment is supportive of my desires and intentions for my health. Dr. Hyman says, “We need to create our own “health bubble”. I want you to discover how to sync up your motivation, your ability, and the environmental triggers to make doing the right thing automatic.” My strategies for today that I focused on: Organize my kitchen for healthy meal preparation and make my bedroom a sanctuary.

Eight days ago, I emptied out my refrigerator and stocked it with fresh produce and healthy proteins such as eggs, chicken, turkey and fish. Today, I tackled the cabinets, where unhealthy processed snacks still lurked. It is difficult for me to throw away food. I had to override that voice in my head telling me I was wasting perfectly good food. I did attempt to give some of it away, but found that created a conflict as well! If I don’t consider it healthy for me to eat, how can I foist it on someone else? Once I threw a few things in the trash and silenced any sense of guilt about it, I made great progress! I felt very good about cleaning out the junk food. I now have a refrigerator AND pantry stocked with healthy food choices.  I have a great food prep area ready to go as well.

In his book, Dr. Hyman asks the question, “Is your bedroom designed to be a peaceful, stress-free environment that promotes rest?” I took a critical look at my bedroom with that question in mind, and decided it could use some tweaking. The TV that I had moved to my bedroom when my young granddaughter spent the night was still present. Back it went to the spare bedroom. After a bit of tidying up, I decided to add a bistro table set that I had bought last weekend at a junk show. I love this set and it will eventually end up in my backyard garden, but for now, it has a home in my bedroom. I think I’ve created my new morning spot for breakfast, tea and reading.

I have a quote that I attach to the bathroom mirror occasionally. It reads, My entire living space is an affirmation, reflecting the energy I wish to utilize in fulfilling my personal destiny. I am being intentional about creating an environment that not only supports who I am, but who I am becoming!

Day 61: 86th Academy Awards Bingo

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This was not my first time to watch the Oscars. No, I’ve been watching this yearly event for most of my life. My family knows not to contact me on Oscar night, unless it’s an emergency. When my kids were little, their daddy would entertain them in another room or take them out for the evening so I could watch the Academy Awards without distraction. That’s how meaningful this show has been, and is, to me.

Naturally, I wanted to be able to incorporate today’s first into this special evening. I had planned a small viewing party, but the weather canceled that plan. So for today’s first, I printed out a ballot so I could vote and keep track of the winners. And I printed out Oscar Bingo cards. Greg and I watched for things to cross off, like “bilingual acceptance”, “#Oscars” and “name mangled”. Neither of us yelled out “Bingo!”, but it was a fun activity, and something I had not done before.

The theme for tonight’s show was “Heroes”. I enjoyed the tributes to the many types of heroes portrayed on the big screen over the years. There was a special nod to The Wizard of Oz, this being that movie’s 75th anniversary. The Memoriam brought a tear to my eyes, as those in the film industry who have recently passed were honored. Their works live on as a legacy to future generations of movie goers. Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” at the end of the memorial segment was very fitting.

I didn’t do well on the ballot, only correcting predicting 8 of the 24 winners. But that’s okay. I don’t watch the Academy Awards to see how many of my favorites win. I watch because movies have been, and continue to be, such an important part of my life. They speak to me, deeply. By drawing me into the story that they weave, movies impart to me lessons for life. I watch a movie that captures me, over and over again, until there is nothing more to receive from that particular story. Some movies, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I’ve watched 20 or more times. With each viewing, another nugget of wisdom is uncovered, another significant truth is revealed. The Oscars honor the year’s best movies, and I watch to pay tribute as well.

I was delighted that Frozen won for best animated film. And the song from that movie, MY song for this year, Let It Go, won best song. Twelve Years a Slave took home the best picture award. I realized as I checked my ballot that I had not seen even one of the nine movies nominated for best picture. That’s unusual for me. I intend to rectify that by watching all nine films. That can be a first me in this year of firsts, one I will enjoy a great deal!

Day 60: Destination Imagination: Live and Let Fly Skit

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As a grandmother, Yaya to my two grandkids, I do my best to attend all their activities. It’s not that I have to force myself to go! I enjoy having both of them living nearby and participating in their lives. Today’s first, watching my grandson Dayan and his team perform their Live and Let Fly skit in competition, was a special treat.

Dayan, who is a freshman in high school, and his six other team members, took part in the Destination Imagination competition today at his school. Destination Imagination (DI) is a non-profit, volunteer-led, cause-driven organization with the purpose of inspiring and equipping students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders. This unique drama program gives the kids a challenge and then steps back, allowing them to create and produce their own solution, in the form of a skit, without any adult input. Dayan’s group had the challenge of “extremes”.  They chose to create a skit about a ship traveling toward Venus. Their fuel source runs low and they are forced to make use of “extreme” technology to survive in an “extreme” environment.

I was amazed by the creativity and ingenuity of the team. They worked together many weeks, meeting after school, creating characters, writing a script, memorizing lines and making props and costumes, all on their own. And the actual skit was incredible. The lines were clever, the storyline humorous and they nailed the challenge. I was quite impressed with their props, especially the “botanical air supply and sulfuric protector” device that they dreamed up for their extreme technology. Someone may have a future in space exploration!

I admire these young people. At such a tender age, they are stepping beyond their comfort zones and letting their creative souls shine brightly. They are also learning the power of teamwork, allowing each member to have a voice and share ideas. And they have fun. Watching the way they encouraged each other and joked and laughed brought a smile to this Yaya’s face.

Apparently the judges appreciated Dayan and his team’s efforts as well. They won 2nd place and now advance to the state competition.  I’m so proud of them all! Live and Let Fly, indeed.

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