Year of Inspiration

This is it! The end of the year review. How incredible, to be completing my fourth year of daily blog posts, and a phenomenal year that focused on two things: making life a little more tender and art a little more robust.

I began this year with the light bulb as my symbol, and inspiration as my word. Instead of a song, I had a quote, from the late Alan Rickman. “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” I took Alan’s words to heart. Not a day passed that I didn’t think about that quote. It became my inspiration and my daily activities were guided by those two invitations.

With my creativity on overdrive, I thought I would have many more art more robust posts, than life more tender. However, that was not the case. When I checked today, I had used the Art a Little More Robust byline 169 times…and Life a Little More Tender, 170. When my blog shifted to a travel blog, I created a third category that I posted in 26 times. I could not have pre-planned that if I had tried. This year has shown me, once again, what happens when I keep my heart open, let go of outcomes, and stay in the Flow, as guided by the Divine.

Here are highlights from this most beautiful of years:

I did, indeed, express my creativity in myriad ways. I enjoyed gardening projects, writing, repurposing old items into new ones, creating vignettes, cooking…and I sketched more than I have in years. I love creative play, and my daily question, to the Divine, was How shall we play today?

I was always given an answer, although it was often an answer or an activity that I would not have dreamed up myself. Those unexpected invitations to play in bigger ways grew my faith and trust, increased my artistic abilities, and enlarged my life.

Making life a little more tender took many forms as well. It was easy for me to celebrate my family members, and engage my grandchildren in fun and crazy activities. The awareness of creating tenderness in the lives of people beyond my close circle of family and friends greatly enlarged my territory and my ability to impact others in a positive way.

I took part in organized events such as Red Nose Day, Giving Tuesday, Random Acts of Kindness Week, Together Rising, and letter writing campaigns that offered encouragement to others. There were opportunities for me to walk alongside people, to go above and beyond with clients, to listen when someone needed a sympathetic ear, or to share from my heart, when the hurting needed to hear that they mattered, and that they were appreciated, and loved.

A crucial part of making life more tender this year was caring for myself as I continued my healing journey. There were creative elements as well, as I tried new recipes and came up with ways to playfully challenge myself, as with the 30 Day Walking Challenge.

Embracing a plant based lifestyle is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I have healed from years of chronic pain and a host of other disorders, increased my energy, vitality and overall wellbeing, and found another platform from which to share and encourage others.

When my left knee twisted on me, shortening my 30 Day Walking Challenge to 27 days, and throwing me back into pain, I had the opportunity to practice the greatest of self care and self love. I had to call upon all that I knew, health wise, and be patient. I had to forgive my knee, release my fears that I would not heal, and trust. I did heal. And my trust in the Divine and myself deepened greatly.

My greatest adventures in 2017 involved travel. My bohemian spirit exulted in the freedom to explore other counties and experience new places, people and cultures.

My grandson Dayan, daughter Elissa and I traveled to Italy at the end of May. This trip was my grandson’s graduation present. Italy was his chosen destination. His mom and I are so grateful that we got to experience this country with him.

Italy was beautiful, full of old world charm, and medieval villages, and incredible art. The Italians were just as beautiful and charming. I fell in love with Italy and her people. This was an adventure I will never forget. And it created within me a hunger for more travel experiences.

So I took a second big trip in late August, traveling this time to Ireland, Scotland and England with my mom, sisters and niece.

These travel experiences deserved a category all their own, causing me to merge my subtitles together to create a new one…Life a Little More Robust. What fun adventures I had with my family, exploring Dublin, Ireland, the whole country of Scotland, and London, England.

We have roots in these countries. Our ancestors lived and worked and died in these villages and castles and farms. There was such a sense of going home, and reconnection, even while we met new people and rode the double decker tour buses and tried new foods.

I am smitten with traveling. I can’t wait to see where I will journey to next.

This has been such an amazing year that I am reluctant tonight, as the minutes tick away, to let it go. My life has shifted these past four years, increasingly so as I began to write about my experiences. This year will go down in my memory as one of the best of my life.

And yet…let it go I must. I cannot walk into my future, and all the goodness and richness that it holds, while gazing back at the past. I am tremendously thankful for those who have walked beside me this year…my ever adventurous family members, my friends, new acquaintances, and the inspirational Mr. Rickman. I am grateful for the Divine, and the playful guidance I received through synchronicities, signs, wonders and gentle whispers.

My heart overflows with love and gratitude.

In a few hours I will bid 2017 goodbye. I may shed a tear as I sing Auld Lang Syne. It won’t be sorrow that brings the tears, but deep appreciation for all that I learned this year and great joy for my life and my journey.

And then, as a new year dawns, I will open wide my arms and my heart, and welcome 2018 with eager anticipation and excitement.

A new adventure begins…

This is Me

I love movie soundtracks. They are one of my favorite music genres. If a film captures my heart, then the musical score accompanying that movie has the power to instantly transport me back into the story. For that reason, I have a tendency to play a soundtrack over…and over…and over, just as I watch a compelling movie multiple times.

Often there is a song within that soundtrack that arrests me for reasons of its own. Beyond taking me back into the film, it usually has a powerful message that resonates with me or cracks open my heart. That song, within the amazing The Greatest Showman soundtrack, is This is Me.

Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, this song is performed by Keala Settle, who portrays Lettie Lutz in the movie. Lettie is considered an oddity by her family and work colleagues. She has a full, luxurious beard. The term “bearded lady” doesn’t cut it at all in describing this amazing woman. She has an incredible voice, and she uses it for more than singing. Lettie becomes the spokesperson for P.T. Barnum’s group of unique performers. She is nurturing. She is brave. She is beautiful. In the course of this film, she comes into her power and glory, fully.

The lyrics to This is Me reflect Lettie’s journey.

This is Me

[Verse 1]

I am not a stranger to the dark

Hide away, they say

‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts.

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars.

Run away, they say

No one’ll love you as you are.


But I won’t let them break me down to dust.

I know that there’s a place for us.

For we are glorious.


When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

Look out ’cause here I come.

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.

[Verse 2]

Another round of bullets hits my skin.

Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in.

We are bursting through the barricades.

And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become.


Won’t let them break me down to dust.

I know that there’s a place for us.

For we are glorious.


When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

Look out ’cause here I come.

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.


And I know that I deserve your love.

There’s nothing I’m not worthy of.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

This is brave, this is proof

This is who I’m meant to be, this is me.


Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come).

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum. (marching on, marching, marching on)

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.

Lettie’s song is the song we all long to sing. None of us are strangers to the dark. We’ve all hidden who we really are, because we fear ridicule or misunderstanding or not being accepted and loved. Even the most perfect, seemingly, among us has something about themselves that they dislike, some flaw that is glaring to them.

And some of us are so unique, so different, in appearance or thought or ability, that those differences are all that are seen. We feel shame. We feel outcast. We feel bruised.

How beautiful is this song’s reminder that differences are to be appreciated and celebrated. We can be exactly who we are and be seen, be glorious, be loved. Lettie’s journey is the journey we are all on, becoming real, becoming who we are, allowing others to do the same.

I have already listened to this song many times. It is currently my heart’s cry. Please take a moment, and listen to This is Me HERE.

What if we all celebrated our own uniqueness and each other’s too? What if we refused to hide, to be afraid, to fear others? What if this song began in our hearts and became our voice and our battle cry and our anthem, uniting us in our glorious differences?

Sing it with me…

“And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.”

Thank You, Alan

Incredibly, I am three days away from the end of my Year of Inspiration, and from completing my fourth year of daily blog posts. I’ll be writing a year end review on Sunday. And, I couldn’t let these last days slip away without acknowledging the person whose quote inspired this year of making art a little more robust, and life a little more tender.

I came across the quote that would become the foundation for 2017, shortly after actor Alan Rickman passed away on January 14, 2016.

“If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust.” Alan Rickman

I felt such a sense of loss when Alan died. I had never met this genuine and talented man, and yet a light winked out in the world with his passing, and I was very aware of it. His words resonated with me, and eventually became the basis for this year’s theme. My word for 2017 has been Inspiration. My symbol was the lightbulb. Instead of a song to inspire me, I had Alan’s beautiful words.

I have thought of Alan, and his words, every day. The blog posts divided easily between two natural categories. As I typed those phrases…Life a Little More Tender…Art a Little More Robust…Alan would pop into my awareness and I would send him gratitude for his inspiration and his life.

I have long been a fan of the actor, watching his movies that began with Die Hard, back in 1988. But what about the man? Who was Alan? As this year progressed, I took to heart another quote of his that helped me to see beyond his legendary acting career.

To know him better, I simply needed to watch his work. During these last twelve months, I have filled in the gaps in my knowledge about Alan Rickman by watching all of his movies. There were quite a few that I had missed, including independent and artistic films such Close My Eyes and Snow Cake, and dramatic shorts such Song of Lunch and Dust.

From Sense & Sensibility

From A Little Chaos, a historical film that Alan starred in and directed.

Beyond his many films, I watched clips from his theater performances. I am sad that I never got to see Alan on stage. His acting career began with live performances, and it was this format that he loved dearly, playing to a responsive audience. I’ve been able to see much of the play, Private Lives, thanks to YouTube, and only a bit of of the 2011 Broadway production, Seminar, for which he was nominated for a Drama League Award.

Alan and Helen Mirren in the play, Antony & Cleopatra.

From the Broadway play, Seminar.

Perhaps I have learned the most about Alan by watching the interviews he gave, on talk shows in the UK and US, at red carpet movie premieres and during stage door appearances. Alan spoke eloquently and honestly about his career and his life. And, I discovered, he does not suffer fools gladly! I cringed more than once over crudely worded questions from interviewers hoping for an inside scoop or a tasty bit of gossip. Deservedly so, those people would get a short, clipped response and a long, steely look from the man who initially built his career upon playing the villain. Alan would arch an eyebrow and purse those lips, effectively silencing stupidity!

Outside of his extraordinary body of work, Alan was a man of passion and compassion, an encourager and supporter of many, a brother and a husband. He was in a long relationship with his partner, Rima Horton. They married in 2012, after 50 years together. Private, and willing to let her husband command the limelight, Rima nevertheless held Alan’s heart. His final days, here on earth, were spent taking care of Rima’s future life without him, and saying goodbye to as many of his friends as he could.

Alan and Rima.

One of Alan’s dearest friends, Emma Thompson

This year, I have come to know better a man I never had the pleasure of actually meeting. Perhaps because of his guidance, with his words and actions, I feel a strong connection to him. As I traveled this year, I realized that the places I explored were some of Alan’s favorite destinations in the world. He loved Tuscany and Venice, in Italy. He often walked the streets of Dublin, Ireland, and he was a frequent visitor to Edinburgh, Scotland…my favorite city in all the world.

I felt Alan’s presence, his artistic spirit, most strongly in London, England. This magnificent city was Alan’s hometown. He lived in the theater district. I could feel the pull of his larger than life personality every time the London Tube sped by his neighborhood. If we had spent another day there, I would have enjoyed exiting the Tube and walking quietly in the art district.

Alan in the garden of his London home.

This has been an amazing year for me. I have expressed my creativity in many ways. And I have endeavored to make life a little more tender in myriad ways as well. I owe much to Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman. I feel a hint of sadness that this Year of Inspiration is drawing to a close. However, I will continue to carry Alan’s words in my heart, seeking tenderness in life, making robust art. I do it to honor him. I do it to expand my soul and enlarge my life.

“Alan deplored injustice, inequality and hypocrisy. He loved the industry he worked in, and the potential of art for everyone. His celebrity status was irrelevant, except as a tool to help give light to all the things he believed in. That light still shines.” Ian Rickson

I came across that last quote, unexpectedly, a couple of nights ago. I had intended to write this thanks to Alan that day, and yet I was held off, told to wait. It was not the right time. I needed to read those words, by a good friend of his. I needed to know that Alan’s light is not extinguished from this world, after all. It is still shining brightly, illuminating dark places and warming hearts. That light has touched my life.

Thank you, Alan.

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

I have looked forward to seeing this movie since viewing a trailer for it this past summer. The Greatest Showman, based on the extraordinary and imaginative life of P.T. Barnum, is a musical. The 11 featured songs were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of one of my favorite films from last year, La La Land. With such musical talent on board, I knew before the opening number that I was going to love this movie.

Daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan met me tonight at the theater, braving cold temps in order to be entertained. And entertained, we were.

The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle and Sam Humphrey. This musical drama, directed by Michael Gracey, carries a PG rating and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Phineas Barnum (Jackman) comes from a poor family. As a young adult, having struggled to survive, much less thrive, he marries his childhood sweetheart, Charity (Williams). Phin doesn’t have much materially, but he has big dreams. He doesn’t just want to find his place in the world, he wants to create his own world.

When he loses his job, Phin comes up with a creative plan, fresh from his imagination. With the support and encouragement of his wife and two young daughters, Caroline (Johnson) and Helen (Seely), Barnum secures a loan to purchase a somewhat seedy museum of curiosities and oddities.

Ticket sales are not what the dreamer had envisioned, or needs to pay his bills, until he begins to put together a troupe of real life curiosities. His cast of performers includes the bearded woman, Lettie (Settle), who has a beautiful voice and a just as beautiful heart, Tom Thumb (Humphrey), the little General who is 25 inches tall, and the amazing trapeze artist, Anne (Zendaya).

Phin’s show, dubbed a circus by New York’s top journalist, becomes a success as people flock to see these unusual performers. Far from being ridiculed, or disdained, the members of the diverse group find themselves being applauded, cheered, and appreciated, for the first time in their lives.

Encouraged by his growing fame, Barnum hires an apprentice, Phillip Carlyle (Efron). A playwright from a wealthy family, Carlyle has connections to New York’s elite. Barnum hopes to attract a higher paying audience.

Barnum perhaps takes his plans to create the Greatest Show on Earth too far when he brings Jenny Lind (Ferguson) to the US. Touted as the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny is considered the greatest singer Europe has known. Barnum convinces her to join him on a tour across the United States, bringing both of them greater fame and riches.

But at what cost do all of P.T. Barnum’s dreams come true? As he becomes the Greatest Showman, what affect does that have on his personal life, his family and his dedicated group of unique performers, left under the direction of Carlyle?

This was a fun film, with an exceptional musical score. The choreography was amazing as well. I smiled at the opening song and dance, and that smile remained on my face throughout the musical.

The movie was inspired by P.T. Barnum’s incredible imagination, and isn’t considered historical, although many of the characters represent actual people associated with the showman. The music is contemporary and uplifting, intended to convey how ahead of his time Barnum was.

A photo of the real P.T. Barnum and one of his performers, Tom Thumb.

What I loved about this film, beyond the songs and the dance routines, was the underlying message that all humanity matters. Barnum created a family when he brought together his diverse troupe. He showcased the best about people, not just their peculiarities, celebrating their unique qualities.

We enjoyed The Greatest Showman. Elissa turned to Dayan and me as the credits rolled and wondered why I didn’t make her take singing and dancing lessons, as a child. I could relate! I left the theater happy and feeling like I could dance my way across the parking lot. I didn’t. But oh, I wanted to! Perhaps it’s not too late for any of us to incorporate more singing, more dancing, more creating out of our imaginations, into our lives.

Series Review: The Crown

I recently began watching the lavish Netflix original series, The Crown. I’m three quarters of the way through the first season, which premiered in November of 2016. Season two just released last month. The series has a projected run of six years. I’m glad. Being a history enthusiast, and one with a long time interest in the royalty of Europe, I am enchanted by this well done show.

The Crown stars Claire Foy, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, Victoria Hamilton, Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and Jeremy Northam. The historical drama, directed by Philip Martin and several others, is based upon the award winning play “The Audience” by showrunner Peter Morgan. It carries a Mature Audience rating, and has a weekly run time of 58 minutes.

The Crown chronicles the ascent to the throne of Elizabeth II (Foy) at age 25, after the death of her father, King George VI (Harris), and her life from the 1940s to current times. The king, who was more ill than his family realized, died unexpectedly, deeply affecting his wife, Queen Elizabeth I (Hamilton) and his daughters, the future queen and his younger child, Margaret (Kirby).

Elizabeth II has a young family with her husband, Philip Mountbatten (Smith), the Duke of Edinburgh, a naval officer whose career is on the rise. She expected to have years living a somewhat normal life with her growing family before she would be required to wear the crown. The first season covers the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and the intrigues and challenges of the monarchy, along with the political rivalries between an aging Winston Churchill (Lithgow) and prime minister hopeful Anthony Eden (Northam).

The focus of the series is on the relationship between the young Queen and her husband, the Prince. They must learn to live in this new world they find themselves in. Philip gives up his naval career, his last name and the home he shares with Elizabeth and their children, to become the Queen’s consort.

Elizabeth is in the important role of queen, which must take precedent over that of wife. She must adapt, and quickly, as the needs of the monarchy never cease.

I am not only enjoying this beautiful production, my perspectives about England’s royal family is shifting. The casting is excellent. Matt Smith embodies Prince Philip. I read he was given one piece of advice from Prince William, about playing the role. William described his father as “legendary “.

I feel strong sympathy toward Prince Philip. He knew he was marrying the future Queen of England. However, the ascension to the throne happened earlier than they dreamed possible. Philip finds himself in a role he doesn’t quite yet know how to play. He will never be king, and yet he is a pillar of quiet strength beside his wife.

Matt Smith and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Claire Foy and Queen Elizabeth II.

The newly crowned Queen draws my earnest respect. She was so young when she took the throne. And yet she shouldered the heavy and demanding responsibilities well, learning quickly, making decisions that oft times were contrary to tradition or against the wishes of the Queen Mother or her husband. I find her life fascinating, and I am already seeing the royal family as so much more than figureheads with a celebrity type status.

There were, and still are, many political decisions to sort through and masses of people to care for and a country to represent, all while living in one of the most elaborate glass houses in the world. This family is under constant scrutiny, and I can’t imagine living day to day under that kind of pressure.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.

I look forward to furthering my education about this powerful woman, and her stalwart Prince, who have, in reality, been married for 70 years. That is a lifetime together. I appreciate The Crown, and the peek I am getting into that extraordinary life.

Vegan Egg Nog

Two years ago, I became reacquainted with a traditional holiday drink, egg nog. During the Christmas season, I enjoyed a nightly cup of the store purchased variety, with a splash of rum added. However, last year, adhering to a plant based lifestyle, I didn’t want to drink egg nog, at least not the sugar laden dairy version with eggs in it. I searched everywhere for a non dairy, sugar free product in the stores, without success. I looked for a recipe online, so I could make it myself, but my search didn’t turn up a good, plant based one.

Today, without any effort on my part, I found a vegan egg nog recipe, posted on a Medical Medium Support Facebook page. I knew it was completely compatible with my chosen diet, and I couldn’t wait to try it. After a busy day, tonight I created my first dairy, egg, sugar and alcohol free egg nog. My daughters teased me, when I mentioned during a group text that I was excited to try this drink, asking me what it was, exactly, since this egg nog doesn’t contain any of the traditional ingredients. It’s more properly a faux egg nog. Or a non nog!

I already had all of the ingredients on hand. Here is the simple recipe, from Incredible Smoothies.

I used unsweetened coconut almond milk. Any non dairy milk would be fine. I have whole cloves so I broke one in two and tossed half into the blender. I purchase very ripe bananas on sale at the grocery store, chop them up, and keep them in the freezer for smoothies and making banana ice cream. I had frozen bananas ready to use.

My new Ninja Blender quickly turned the assembled ingredients into a thick, cold, creamy drink. The frozen bananas sweetened the nog naturally and gave it some body. I added an additional sprinkle of cinnamon across the top, and took my first sip.

This non nog was so good! I preferred to keep it alcohol free as well, however a splash of rum could be added. The cinnamon, nutmeg and clove piece gave it that classic egg nog taste. I could enjoy it without concern about foods on my “no” list.

I am grateful that the plant based egg nog recipe I was searching for last year, found me. In the past 12 months I have come to appreciate a variety of wonderful, health boosting drinks that I can sip on in the evenings. Perhaps because of that, I had not felt compelled to hunt for a healthy egg nog this year. I’m glad for the recipe however. It is a tasty addition to my night time drink choices.

Cheers! And Merry Christmas!

Signs of the Season

My day changed, when my shopping buddy for the afternoon ended up not feeling well. I’m sending healing thoughts to grandson Oliver and I hope that we get to go on his shopping trip tomorrow. Late in the day I headed out to do a little shopping on my own, with the Inspiration Starter I had drawn out of the jar in my pocket.

I selected this slip of paper:

I’m not sure what my intention was when I wrote that starter out in July. However today that piece of paper tucked into my pocket made me very mindful of my surroundings and the signs of the season, which were everywhere.

I was very intentional in the photos that I took. Here are some of the highlights.

The store parking lots were full this afternoon. But these gorgeous lamp posts towered above the cars, the crowds, the busyness. And as the already overcast day became darker, they offered welcome pools of light.

I decided to skip this stop, since I only needed a couple of small gift bags. You can imagine why!

Traffic was steady and heavier than normal for the time of day. Which caused me to sit through this stop light, after I didn’t go to Walmart. I didn’t mind the delay. In fact, being at that red light created a significant opportunity for me.

Unfortunately, homeless people on busy street corners are a sign of the season as well. Joplin, like other cities, has too many people who are in need. We have shelters and wonderful programs that offer assistance. And yet, I saw several people sitting in the chilly drizzle, holding up signs. This man’s sign was lettered with the words: HOMELESS AND DISABLED.

I often feel torn about how to help. I’ve given money, and looked the other way, handed out gift cards, and hurried on through the light rather than stop. It is difficult to know whether every person holding up a sign has legitimate hardships.

Today, being mindful, being so close to Christmas, feeling great compassion in my heart, it didn’t matter whether this man’s needs were legitimate, or not. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t drive on.

I tapped my horn lightly to get his attention and held up the cash that I had. He walked with difficulty to my car, where the window was lowered. I apologized for honking at him. He said it was okay. After we exchanged a few words, I handed him the cash. And at the exact same time, we both said, “God bless you.” The man dropped his head and bent low, then looked up with tears in his eyes. I immediately had the same response. I can’t explain what happened. But for a moment, we connected, soul to soul. I wished him well, and a warm place to sleep, as the light changed to green. He called out ” thank you, thank you”. I cried as I drove away.

On my way to pick up dinner, I enjoyed Christmas lights…from the joyfully ridiculous dancing Santa in a hula skirt watched over by the gigantic soldier…to gorgeous homes that looked like Christmas card covers.

Santa apparently dines at Cracker Barrel and wears overalls before his big night. And discount prices on Christmas items told their own stories about the approaching holiday.

Tonight, I am working on final Christmas projects and preparing to wrap gifts. As I work, one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, is playing on my laptop. I have two films that I watch every year at this time. This is one of them. As many times as I’ve seen it, there is always something new, some fresh aha. Why? Because I am not the same person who watched it the year before.

I am sipping hot rose hips tea, and enjoying the complex and interconnected stories that are unfolding in the film. Some make me smile. Others make me tear up. A few of the stories break my heart open. Alan Rickman is in this movie, and seeing him is bittersweet. I am reminded of the crucial role he has played in my year, inspiring me with his words.

The signs of the season, they are everywhere. How those signs are interpreted and the stories they tell depend on the heart and mind of the viewer. I am very grateful for that slip of paper that pushed my awareness to a higher level today and helped me to see in a bigger way. This is the season of love and peace, loss and sacrifice, joy and hope. I am so glad there is hope.

Take a New Class

It was rather late in my day, when I suddenly realized two things: 1) I wasn’t sure what I was going to be writing about this evening because 2) I did not draw an Inspiration Starter out of the jar this morning. My work day started the moment I woke up. And these double realizations came about at 6:00 this evening.

Reaching into the Inspiration Starters jar at night requires courage…and trust. The day is spent. There isn’t time to drive to a new town for an adventure or work on a large creative project. I reached into the jar anyway.

This is the slip of paper I drew out:

I smiled. This was very doable. And as it turned out, traveling down this trail as I searched for a class to take led me to an unexpected destination.

I checked out several options for furthering my education, in local shops and online. I found classes on nutrition, painting, photography, cooking, and a variety of artsy crafts. All looked interesting or fun…and yet none “rang my bell”, as Aubrey would say. They didn’t resonate with me.

And then, with my laptop plunked on my lap, I stumbled across a word that directed my path. It got my attention because it is my word for 2018…Story. I’m very excited about next year’s adventure as it is evolving and unfolding.

My new writing journal, with next year’s word and symbol on it.

As the year winds down, and the new year approaches, I experience this overlap of the old word and symbol and the frequent appearance of the new. It is the way life flows for me. When the word story caught my eye, it became a light on the path that drew me onward.

As a result, I found a wonderful website called Story Circle Network…by, for and about women. Visit the website HERE.

Founded in 1997, by Dr. Susan Wittig Albert, Story Circle Network is dedicated to helping women share the stories of their lives through memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, and to raising public awareness of the importance of women’s personal stories. They carry out their mission through a wealth of resources and activities, including online classes.

I am so excited to have found this place. I feel divinely guided and invited. And just as I was inspired this year by Alan Rickman’s quote, about making life a little more tender and art a little more robust, I will be empowered through Story Circle Network next year as I write stories.

Checking their online classes, I was immediately captivated by this one: The Love of Everyday Things: Telling the Stories of Our Lives by Teresa Cutler-Broyles. This class resonated with me. It begins January 22 and concludes March 5, with weekly writing assignments. Each week I will choose an object in my home and tell its story, its connection to my past or future, to my hopes and dreams and losses, to people or places or memories.

This class is perfect for me, on so many levels.

I’m excited about the class. Even more, I am excited about joining Story Circle Network. I already appreciate what it will offer to me as a member in the upcoming year, and I am eager to discover what I can offer to the network in return.

I love that I was led to this class, this place, because I drew a random slip of paper out of a jar, late in the day. I love that Trust whispered Do it… and belief enabled me to go for it. The beauty and wonder of it all makes my heart beat faster with immense gratitude. Isn’t life a grand adventure?

Winter Band Concert

What a treat this evening, to be in the audience during grandson Jonathan’s band concert debut. This talented young man, who sings, dances and performs in musicals and plays, added a band instrument to his repertoire three months ago, choosing the clarinet.

Tonight the 6th Grade Band opened the winter concert at the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.

Looking classy in a white button down shirt, suspenders and a bow tie, Jonathan was front and center on the stage. He did not appear to be at all nervous for his first band concert.

The 6th Grade Band, Jazz Band, and 7th & 8th Grade Band performed under the direction of Mr. Matthew Reimer. He did a fantastic job of introducing each band and explaining their musical numbers. It was easy to see that this dedicated band teacher is building skills in his students that will further their musical talents.

Jonathan and his fellow musicians led off with A Mozart Melody by W.A. Mozart, a readily recognizable tune. Listen to it HERE. Their next selection was Listen to Our Sections by John Higgins. Mr. Reimer explained this piece helps the students learn when to play, and when not to play. Watch it HERE.

Aura Lee by George R. Poulton was musical piece number three. You can experience it HERE. And for their grand finish, the band performed a Christmas classic, Jingle Bells by J.S. Pierpont. Sing along HERE.

I was so proud of Jonathan, and the 6th Grade Band. These children are at the beginning of a musical journey that will take them through hours and hours and hours of practicing and perfecting. Ahead are many performances in marching bands, ensembles and concerts. I am thrilled to have witnessed this auspicious first performance.

Jonathan’s big brother, Dayan, who made it home from the university in time to be present in the audience, began his musical journey in 6th grade as well. I spent the next six years enjoying his concerts and performances. How perfectly timed is Jonathan’s decision to pursue band as well. I have more years ahead to enjoy his performances.

There are powerful life lessons to learn, mastering a musical instrument. Those lessons about playing their parts, focusing on the music in front of them, and allowing the other musicians to play their parts well are apparent to me also as I watch with appreciation and gratitude.

It just would not have felt right this December, without a band concert to attend. Well done, Jonathan. You played beautifully. Bravo!

4 Bean Vegan Chili

On cold winter evenings, a bowl of steaming hot chili makes a satisfying and warming meal. I have used a chili recipe for many years, adapted from one my dad created. Since going plant based, I have tried several chili recipes I found online or in cookbooks. They tasted fine. And yet I still felt compelled to keep trying, keep looking.

Ultimately, I ended up creating a recipe of my own.

This simple to make chili comes together in minutes, and uses easily found ingredients. I used organic, and non GMO, canned goods from the grocery store, with fresh veggies such as onion, green bell pepper and garlic.

Putting together this recipe gave me the opportunity of also try out a recipe maker. The app I selected works well enough, but doesn’t have a format that makes it suitable for using in my blog posts. I will keep searching.

I chose to use pinto, black, great northern and red kidney beans, however, any variety of beans could be used. I want to add lima beans next time. More, or less, seasoning could be used. And red bell pepper could be substituted for the green.

I liked the ease of preparation and the spicy aroma that filled my kitchen as the pot of chili simmered on the stove. I diced an avocado and anticipated a homey, warming bowl of chili.

I was not disappointed. This was a very tasty chili, and exactly what I have been looking for. That old adage that says “if you want something done right, do it yourself”, rings true in this case. I created what I was looking for.

There isn’t any meat in this recipe, but there is wholesomeness, goodness and lots of love. I think my dad would approve.