Simply stated. In the wake of earthquakes, tsunami warnings and hurricanes, I am feeling especially grateful for the gift of today. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
I am going on SIX (almost a week, people!) days of a dull, chronic headache. I've gone through a list of possible triggers (ie: it was bloody hot last week with almost zero wind, dehydration, low blood sugar, hormones, etc.) but even after addressing each of them, I still can't find any relief.
So I took my curiosity to the internet and now I am wishing I hadn't. Dr. Google just makes me feel worse. So much so that I secretly scribbled a handwritten note to Phil with instructions before I went to bed last night. You know, just in case I didn't wake up.
I really need to pull it together.
Thank you so much for your kind words and congratulatory wishes over my last post; it is a relief to finally be able to speak openly about it and to begin focusing on ME and my happiness, as narcissistic as that sounds. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked for my old employer, but I'm also a firm believer that it is pointless as well as unhealthy, to stay stuck in a place that no longer fulfills you. Stagnation and ceilings are not my friend.
I don't start my new job until next month, so I have been enjoying the extra time to myself. It feels undeservingly indulgent to have wide-open days with little on the agenda but I'll be honest, when Phil asked me if I could get used to a schedule like this, I answered emphatically, "YES." However, being that I am a creature of habit that craves structure and routine and because I enjoy being able to contribute to our finances, I will simply allow myself to fully enjoy the moment. This stay-cation offers me a chance to relax, refresh, recharge and refocus before I greet the new season that awaits me - one filled with exciting adventures and challenges.
So what have I been up to as a temporary, lady-of-leisure? Plenty!
Today, I finally got back into the gym and took my first, post-injury run. And may I just say that it was flipping fantastic? I seriously forgot how amazing it feels to be running again; I popped in my ear-buds, cranked up a little Missy Elliot, kicked up the speed and resisted the urge to yell and sing and whoop it up. There is nothing better than a run, a good workout and gettin' your sweat on.
I've had lunch dates with a girlfriend and again today with Phil (so fun to be able to steal him for an hour or two, go to a restaurant with him and sit down together over lunch), and early morning coffee dates with friends:
I've had time at home to devote to cleaning and purging the excess (some great before and after shots to share) and tackling the things that I put off for entirely too long (ie: emptying, cleaning out and wiping down the inside and outside of the refrigerator...time consuming but oh, so gratifying).
I've been reading...and by reading, I don't mean magazines or blogs, but actual books! I didn't realize how much I've missed this activity; it feels good to have the luxury to "escape" and devour a book in one sitting. Three great reads for me this week:
The Language of Flowers (Heartbreaking but riveting novel!)
To Heaven and Back (beautifully written memoir!)
Anything (Thought-provoking and inspiring!)
And it would not be an acceptable week if I did not catch at least one sunset with my husband; on this particular night, he came home from work to pick me up and we took a drive before pulling over to watch the sun yet again:
I quit my job.
Grab your attention, did it? It's true. I cannot even begin to articulate how good it feels, how empowering it is to make a decision and follow through with it; how amazing it feels to honor yourself - the very soul of YOU - by choosing happiness because you are worth it and you deserve it.
This decision has been a long time in the making; I have wrestled with this choice for many months now, spending too much time feeling lousy, stressed, and overwhelmed. I've had far too many "bad days" than I care to admit and have wasted energy--not to mention tears--willing the situation to change without necessarily wanting to be the one to change it.
And why? Because of that four-letter "F" word I am all too familiar with. Fear. I allowed it to consume me enough so that I was doubting myself and my abilities, fearful that I was foolish to be walking away from a comfortable and steady income in a tough economy. Anxious that my discontent was breaking me down...breaking my spirit. And it was. Each day, I came home feeling as though bits and pieces of me were slowly being chipped away.
I have prayed for and about this day for so long. I prayed HARD, asking God that if He wouldn't change my situation, then would He at least change my heart so that I could get through it? And it would work, temporarily, but I am human...before too long I'd find myself in the same situation, praying that same prayer. I put little post-its on my computer to remind myself to keep a positive attitude while I waited on God:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters...
On the harder days, I would come home from work, throw a temper tantrum and declare to Phil that I was just going to quit my job; we'd figure out the finances later. That never happened, of course, and I knew I couldn't (and wouldn't) go about it that way, but I certainly fantasized about that as an option. I cried a lot and continued to pray about it and amazingly, there were some days where I was quiet enough and still enough to hear Him. And His promise to me was always the same:
I'd like to say that I trusted Him enough to release it all and wait patiently (I am working on that) but that would be a lie. I waited. Sometimes patiently, sometimes not. But mostly not. And true to His word, He delivered, as He always does. It was in HIS timing and not my own, and now I am thanking Him a million times over for that, because I would not have been given the opportunity that found its way into my lap three weeks ago. In my desperation months before, I was willing and prepared to take a massive pay cut just to be done, but His plan was better. It always is. His plan meant that I would be sought after and offered a job that would not only keep me in the industry, but one with a promotion and a boost in pay.
And all because I waited on Him.
I gave notice (which was not without its drama...this is a very small island, after all) and last Thursday was my last day at my old job. I am taking a few weeks to myself before starting my next adventure and I could not be happier. It is exciting to have a little extra time to myself (I am going on a project rampage here at home) and I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life. In our life.
It's been a long time since I've woken up with a smile on my face. And when Phil kisses me on the forehead before he leaves for work and tells me for the 187th time "I'm proud of you...Carpe Diem, baby," it makes me melt. Every time.
I am so grateful. God is so faithful.
- S. Parker
Will you look at that sky? Magnificent beauty.
I got up at the start of my class tonight (sidebar: fun stuff coming to the blog soon!) to walk outside and just soak this in. When I am old and gray, I will think back with fondness for nights like tonight; nights where I stood in the cool evening air, oblivious to biting mosquitoes and intoxicated by the peace that only His incandescent beauty can bring.
My heart is full.
There are few things in life that hurt enough to feel like an actual punch right to the heart; animal abuse and neglect is one of them. That a human being can be so cruel and insensitive to creatures that--through no fault of their own--are reliant on us for survival is deplorable and beyond the realm of comprehension. It is inexcusable how many cases exist of animals suffering needlessly at the hands of man – and even more heartbreaking, their owners.
My affinity for animals began at the age of four, when I cried inconsolably at the end of The Wizard of Oz because I fell in love with and wanted a dog just like Toto. My empathy for sad and neglected animals is borderline unhealthy; enough so that my own husband refuses to let me go beyond the front entrance of the animal shelter whenever we drop off our donations, because he thinks I will instantly break out in the Ugly Cry and will want to adopt them all (he's right). Fortunately for me, Phil is an animal lover like myself and can (and will) go to great lengths to help our furry friends. Take, for example, the time I called him from my cell phone (crying) early one morning on my way into work, because a squirrel had been hit by a car and, still alive, laid writhing on the pavement. My awesome husband--who at the time was still in bed--got up and dressed, jumped into his truck and drove to the location to check on the squirrel and at the very least, get it off the road. This is just one of many reasons that he and I are perfect for one another. He gets me.
Back in early September, I was cruising YouTube looking for something which now escapes me; I came across this video, sobbed myself through all 3:41 of it and then spent the next few weeks doing a little more research about this rescue organization before resolving to do whatever I could to help these wonderful and amazing people.
Videos like these are powerful; they can do so much more than just engage/move the viewer with the story behind each rescue. These videos, as difficult as some may be to watch, have the ability to educate, motivate and inspire us to action. The sad realization is that nearly ALL of Hope for Paws rescues are in the Southern California region. It pains me to think of the countless other animals all across the country who might never experience a loving rescue that will help them forget the pain of their past.
Fortunately for Fiona, she's been adopted into a forever home and her rescue has become so well-known that the ASPCA has voted her Dog of the Year. Look at that sweet, little face:
This was a recent IG photo I snapped, with a caption that read: Listening to Christmas music and sippin' a pumpkin spice latte. Serious season identity crisis over here. #noshame
It could be argued that it isn't healthy to pine for a season that isn't yet here, but by that mentality, that's like saying you shouldn't dream or yearn or desire for what is yet to come. I'm all about living in the moment, and in my mind, that's exactly what I'm doing. In this moment, I'm relishing the fact that on a tropical island where Fall is virtually non-existent, you can find it at Starbucks, where a barista with a smile will serve it to you in a cup, complete with a sprinkling of cinnamon. And in this moment, I'm also relishing that Pandora withholds judgement when, on this October day, I select the Christmas Radio station on my playlist and unleash all kinds of holiday cheer. No shame.
*This* season is my favorite; the last quarter of the year - the brief window where folks are settling in after a busy summer and life seems to slow down. Temperatures dip, and everyone wants to get all cozy with warm drinks and fuzzy sweaters and fireplaces that beckon. The time of year when my birthday, Thanksgiving and the magic and joy of December blend together beautifully like a perfectly packaged gift that keeps on giving; it's my fountain of happiness, and I'm in it.
And speaking of seasons, I'm entering a new one as I type this, and one that I'll share more about in days to come. It's a season that is long overdue, but I'm taking the proverbial bull by the horns and I'm Choosing Joy, baby. I have prayed for and about this for so long, and as always, He delivered, in His perfect timing. God is so faithful.
I am not doing so well at this 31 Day Challenge; I accept that as fact and give myself permission to simply move on. My normal reaction would be to dwell on it and feel loser-ish, but that will accomplish nothing, so I'm just going to let it go. ::poof:: aaaaannnnndd Done.
Lots of things are happening in our neck of the woods; there is tons worth sharing, but the difficulty is
finding making the time to sit down and write. We've settled into a nice little routine with our Jinner kick (we are extending the program indefinitely throughout the week, with "real" dinners on the weekends), which has given me a couple hours of down-time in the evenings, and I'd be rockin' this 31 Day Challenge if I weren't completely relishing the rest and relaxation Phil and I have carved out for ourselves. The act of disconnecting, unplugging and just "being"? It's nice, actually.
Quiet, yes. But still here.
Have a happy week.
When it comes to spur-of-the-moment, all-or-nothing, split-second decisions all in the name of personal-betterment, I reign supreme. I am the Queen of embarking on lifestyle changes that push you and stretch you and challenge you. I feed on that kind of motivation and have been known to take things just a leeetle bit too far. But that's really all just a matter of perspective.
Phil and I are on a two-week Jinner kick. Jinner isn't an actual word, just a lazy throwing together of the words "juice" and "dinner". We have talked about juicing for months, but never pulled the trigger because I had become exhausted with the psychotic research I conducted, reading reviews and comparing brands, specifications and prices. When all was said and done, I didn't want juice. I wanted a drink. And so I shelved the idea. Until recently.
It was a Saturday afternoon and we were out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. From a menu of at least twenty healthy choices, I chose whatever had fries with it. As I was devouring my baked chicken sandwich and dipping said fries in mayonnaise, I made some flippant comment about feeling gross and bloated and wanting to lose weight (put down the fries...step away from the mayonnaise), and how I felt so burnt out and exhausted and unmotivated at the end of the day because of my work schedule. Phil is the bomb, because at that moment, he single handedly killed two birds with one stone, proposing that we start juicing for both the health benefits AND to give me a break in the kitchen, as he'd be doing all the juicing and clean up.
Twist my arm, why don't you.
That afternoon, we went to Costco and bought the only brand of a juicer they had on the shelf. I'd already done research on this one and wasn't too impressed, but conceded because I knew that if something went wrong with it, we'd simply return it. It's been almost two weeks and I couldn't be happier with it (in all fairness, I can't really say that, because I haven't even touched the juicer and have no idea how to take it apart/put it together, but I CAN say that I am happy with what it produces)!
We are juicing breakfast (fruits) and dinner (veggies); lunch is the only solid meal that requires chewing, and even then, I've switched up our menu quite a bit. I'm so proud of Phil for taking part in this and really sticking with the program. Where it would be so easy to give into temptation and cheat, we are both holding one another accountable and sticking to our agreement. And true to his word, I have not cooked dinner or washed dishes in TEN days. I rather like this agreement, if I am being honest!
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I didn't just stop with two juiced meals, right? Because that is just preposterous. In addition to juicing 2/3 meals a day, I've also given up starches, alcohol and refined sugar. It's been nearly two weeks and just as I knew I would, I've already lost 7 lbs and I feel great. Phil is anxious to get back to "real" food and be able to enjoy a beer in the evenings after our two weeks are up, but I think I might just take the juicing a bit further and see the detox program to the end. This is the third, 6-week detox (of my own) I'm doing this year, so when my birthday rolls around next month, once again I will be celebrating with a glass of wine and some kind of cake. :)
We've yet to follow a recipe in the book that came with our juicer and instead just made up our own. Phil throws anything and everything in there and although it looks disgusting, it is surprisingly very, very good! The photo above is a combination of spinach, arugula, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, bell pepper, tomato, celery and a splash of Tapatio (the Tapatio was my idea, and an amazing one, I might add). And it should be noted that I don't even LIKE hot sauce.
The one thing that I will say about juicing, however, is that you go through a TON of produce. And good, fresh, produce isn't cheap! We've been to both the Farmer's Market and Costco twice in the last ten days to stock up on fruits and veggies; it's only Tuesday and we are already running low again. A bit of a hassle? Sure, but we can't put a price on our health now, can we?
I've already missed a day of blogging in my 31 Day Challenge, but I am surprisingly okay with it; the earth is still spinning, the sun is still rising and setting, and I'm still breathing. Plus, I'm not even sure anyone will notice. So with that said, I'm just going to give myself a little break.
We had such a lovely weekend; I'm a little sad that it went by in a blur, because it is not that often that I have my workaholic husband all to myself for two, whole days straight. We had a lot of couple-time to do the mundane, married-life "chores" that are much more fun to do together because you can be laughing and holding hands and stealing kisses throughout the day. We hit up the Farmers Market on Saturday morning (I am getting good at this rise-and-shine thing), had a nice stand-up-paddle session out on the calm water, ran errands together and just enjoyed one another's company.
Now it is Sunday night; we've just wrapped up the evening with a long conversation about Life, which if I am being honest, is probably my favorite part about the weekend. I love that I can talk to Phil about anything and everything, ask for his insight and then take from the conversation his positive words of encouragement and feel like I can wake up the next morning, walk out the front door and Do Anything. I know that is a lot for any husband to shoulder, but I'm so glad mine does.
I'm going through another one of those seasons where I emerge from a period of introspection anxious and ready for growth and change, but that is another post for another day. For now, I'm heading to bed feeling happy, content and with a hopeful heart.
Have a Happy Week, friends.
Dear Anonymous Gift Sender: Thank you for the surprise subscription to "InStyle" magazine which now resides in my hot, little hands. I will not read into this and assume that you are suggesting I dress like crap and that I should just get some style, already, because I am sure you can understand that it is hard to dress cute when you live in this kind of heat.
Dear Husband: I will believe you when you insist that you did not purchase said magazine subscription for me, even though I know some of my outfit choices (ie: cotton gauchos) are not your favorite. And I will gladly accept your offer to take me shopping for some new clothes. I could also use some new shoes and a handbag or two. Please and thank you.
Dear Maui: Thank you for the sunshine, our year-round, sun-kissed skin and this beautiful island-lifestyle.
Dear Clinique: Nice work on the gift-with-purchase this season; it's nice to score a generous amount of freebies that I will actually use!
Dear Art-Store-in-the-Mall: Thank you for playing Christmas music while I shopped this morning; you have no idea how happy that made me. I know I am in the minority, but thank you.
Dear Creativity: It's about time! Let's do this!
Dear God: Thank you for the amazing, awe-inspiring sunsets you have painted across our skies this week; they are displays that take my breath away and make me think only of You.
Happy Aloha Friday. Have a beautiful weekend!
Sometimes, I will peruse Pinterest for recipe ideas; the stunning visuals breathe ambition into me, but then when I skim the list of required ingredients and I realize that I wouldn't even know WHERE in the grocery store to find said ingredients,
I wind up leaving the site because seriously, those recipes are WAY out of my league. But that doesn't mean that the desire isn't there. More on that, later.
Luckily for me, Phil is so easy to please; I could make pasta 365 days a year and he'd be a happy--albeit chunky--boy. Me? I could live on salads - there are so many different variations (yes, I realize salads do not qualify as "cooking"). On the upside, I can also marry the two to create a meal that is satisfying for both of us! Enter the world's easiest recipe (previously posted on Kelly's blog)...
This has become a favorite in our home, which bodes well for me because it is quick, easy, and requires very little effort on my part. Hope you enjoy!
I have seen variations of this sign throughout my life more than I care to admit; the homeless situation is one that physically hurts my heart, because it seems completely unfathomable that this even exists here in America, one of the richest nations in the world. But that's not what this post is about. Exactly.
A few weeks back, I witnessed something that really disturbed me and eventually had me experiencing a whole gamut of emotions, I couldn't even write about it until now.
It was a delightful Friday morning; I had parked myself at the corner table in the back of Starbucks, happily sipping away at my coffee, listening to music on my iPad and working on a journal devotional for She Reads Truth. My solitary bliss was interrupted when my eyes were suddenly drawn to two individuals who had made a beeline to the back of the coffeehouse and then huddled together at the table right next to mine.
I recognized one of them almost immediately; a dirty and disheveled young kid who--although he doesn't look a day over seventeen--is clearly homeless. Every day, he stands at a busy intersection holding the same tattered cardboard sign that reads: "Homeless. Hungry. Anything Helps. God Bless." with a dirty backpack at his feet. And every time I see him, pain fills my chest, because I begin to wonder what happened in this boy's life that has brought him here?
On this particular morning, as he slipped his backpack off his shoulders and propped his cardboard sign up against the wall, the familiar wave of sadness overcame me, but this feeling quickly vanished when I studied his calculated movements and realized what he was doing.
At 11:00 in the morning, at the table right next to me, this boy was cutting cocaine.
(Let that sink in for a second.)
And right after that, he pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, finds his charger and then plugs it into the wall while he and his friend then take turns locking themselves in the bathroom for abnormal amounts of time.
I know. Right?
Given that I had my iPad right in front of me, on instinct, I start e-chatting with Phil via Skype. And by this time, I'm no longer sad or surprised, I'm just pissed. We exchanged a flurry of messages, most of mine laced with judgement and criticism and anger at being played for a fool. And Phil, always calm and forever the voice of reason, begins to respond to these messages with a perspective that diffuses me: while I was busy feeling angry and bitter and taken advantage of, here was a kid with an obvious drug problem, desperate enough to lie and beg to feed his addiction. This boy didn't need judgement, he needed prayer.
And then I looked down at the journal entry I was working on and the scripture I'd been studying that morning:
Proverbs 27:19. "As in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man." (ESV)
My cheeks burned and I felt a sudden shame in my heart for my self-righteousness; I sat with that for a few minutes before thanking God at that moment for His loving and gentle reminder that we are all His children, every single one of us. And that same love He has for me, he also has for the lost, little lamb that sat at the table right next to me.
It's been three weeks and I've seen this same boy at the same intersection and again at that same Starbucks. And now instead of being quick to judge, I say a silent prayer for him, and I ask God to show me what more I can do. I am humbled every day by what God is doing in my heart and how I am learning how to be quiet enough and still enough to hear Him and feel Him in situations I might not have otherwise. Our God is a kind, loving and merciful God.
Ha. And as I am typing this, Love Them Like Jesus is playing on Pandora. :)
I had a different post planned for today, but that all changed on the drive home from work this evening, when, without saying a word, we found ourselves pulling over on the side of the road to witness this (I love that we're always on the same wavelength):
Just for a second, let's pretend that those power lines don't exist, and while we're at it, let's also pretend that this photo wasn't snapped with the sad little point-and-shoot that is buried in the abyss of the handbag I carry. Instead, just take a moment to appreciate with childlike fascination, this fleeting moment captured like a june-bug in a mason jar. Periwinkle skies and cotton candy clouds, a mountain range aglow like molten lava and a quick fade-to-black to the tune of crickets singing in the distance. This is what "peace" looks and sounds like.
It wasn't long before I realized we weren't alone in our sunset-soaking-endeavor; others had pulled over along the stretch of country road to do the same and this made me smile a bit inside, because it meant that they, too, were taking the time to slow down and drink in the splendor. Moments like these, these brief windows of peace, they are gifts that are freely given to us and I often wonder why there aren't more of us accepting them? Especially in this day and age, when we're all moving faster than we need to be, when we're tuned-in to technology more than we are to nature and when many of us are living to work rather than working to live.
Our lives out here on this tiny island are a lot simpler these days; they pale in comparison to our old lives in San Francisco and I have to say that I rather like it that way. That's not to say there still aren't superfluous "things" that I could stand to shed because life would be less complicated without (I'm working on that), but overall we've made some huge adjustments and I think we're better for it; we have more room in our lives to appreciate the little things we've been guilty of taking for granted in the past.
At least one day this week, grab some Six o'clock Splendor wherever you are; watch the sunset, take a walk in the cool evening or look at the moon. Get outside, get close to nature and for five minutes, just BE STILL.
Last October, I began reading posts by a number of bloggers who were participating in a 31 Days series that originated over at Nesting Place; I was intrigued with the different variations of the theme but was too intimidated by the idea of committing to just one topic to write about not just for one, two, or three days, but for a whole thirty-one days. So when I began seeing the posts surface again in my reader today, I entertained the idea for thirty-one seconds before snorting at my momentary arrogance. September was ridiculously unfruitful and I produced a whopping SEVEN entries, despite having a ton to write about, so I knew I had no business committing to a month-long writing project.
But the writer in me wants redemption.
I started this blog two years ago because of my love for writing, so I am going to write; I will write not from obligation, but necessity. I will write every day this month for the joy and pleasure this simple act brings.
I know myself well enough that I cannot possibly commit to just one topic (lest I start strong and fall short) for the duration of the month, so I'm going to cut myself a little slack here because slack-cutting can be good sometimes. Take a look at the tag line right up on my blog header:
For me, personally, there is a little bit of Aloha in each of these...and therein lies my theme: Thirty-one days of Aloha.
Happy October. It's good to be here.