God is Everywhere

“The presence of God is everywhere, you have only to embrace it with your attention.” – Deepak Chopra 

LOVED this story in Spirituality & Health by Snatam Kaur called “God is Everywhere.” The contrast between her childhood buddy’s view of God and her own made me laugh. I tend to subscribe to the author’s view.  I do believe God lives everywhere.

In an unexpected explosion of fuchsia on the first day of fall.

purple

…in the warm Saturday sunshine.

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…in the intention of a business who focuses on kindness.

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…in every phase of nature’s life cycle.

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…in the littlest gifts of beauty along the lengthiest of bike rides.

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…even in the nutrients that life returns back to the earth.

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…wherever there is beauty, gratitude, kindness, miracles and love, in the smallest of details.

Distracted Runner

A couple of really good runs this weekend brought the most distractions I’ve had in awhile. It was remarkable. I didn’t even get photos of everything. 

I marvel at some of the random stuff I find along my routes. After four years, I just now spotted this peace sign — the fourth one of these etched in the sidewalks along my route.

This star appeared out of nowhere.
Someone had a busted onion strewn about their yard, leaving at least one heart for me to spot.Funky little pod provided a nice landing spot for his firefly friend.The “T” flash card that made me miss my youngest boy.I also saw a baby’s teething ring, plastic car keys, leftover candy from yesterday’s parade, Pom Pon strings, big toadstools, families walking home with balloon animals and kettle corn from a nearby festival, and more.

I am convinced that being a Distracted Runner actually makes me a Dedicated Runner. I can’t imagine missing out on the view of the world that being on foot brings.

Learning the Hard Way

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” – Pema Chodron

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You know, I never really understood that quote until recently. In fact, I’d never even thought about it much. But it popped in my head last night during a run.

One of the things I love about running is that it can sometimes help me work out frustrations or stresses from the day. It’s better than therapy. And yesterday brought one of these runs. I’ve realized that, for quite some time now, I’ve been faced with a disproportionate amount of frustrating or unpleasant encounters with people. So much so that I’ve actually found it confusing. What am I doing wrong? Is it me?? Why have I had to deal with multiple provocative, unfair, or unkind people so much lately? I hate this feeling of sustained anger and stress. I’m not used to it. Why is this happening now?

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I stewed and steamed as I ran last night, replaying scenarios with a couple of people I felt wronged by or treated unfairly during the day.

Ugh, why do I have to deal with this? Why can’t these people just go away?

road

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” 

I almost stopped in my tracks. Maybe I’m being provoked for a reason?? What is this odd chapter of conflict trying to teach me? I seldom have poor interactions with people. Why all at once? Maybe this isn’t just their problem; maybe it’s mine. My lesson to learn.

I’ve preached kindness and tolerance so much in my life. Of course, it’s easy to be kind when things are going my way. But I’ve found that kindness goes out the window when the goings get rough and the people involved are less than likable or behave poorly. In fact, I’ve failed this test miserably lately. I’ve reacted angrily and sometimes snottily. Frankly, it’s been uncomfortable, stressful, and miserable.

But perhaps there’s a lesson in the ugliness. I can’t do anything about the behavior of others, but I can do something about mine. I can try to make kindness a priority again — even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Even if this isn’t what I’m supposed to learn from all this, I’m still grateful to recognize some big deficiencies of mine and know that I can do something about it. Maybe, just maybe, some of these conflicts will go away, even if the people don’t.

 

Hey, I Have an Idea!

An 80 degree day and an outing with my Little Sister?

Yes, please.

The original plan was to go to the zoo, but I had a last-minute idea. Typically, the five most dreaded words in my household are “Hey! I have an idea!” But every now and then, my ideas pan out. Sometimes even some unexpected magic happens. Like today.

Instead of going to the zoo, we opted to rent a paddle boat in Forest Park — something neither of us had done before.

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And this is why I thought of it. I wanted her to see the 7,042 flag display marking the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at Art Hill from a paddle boat.

So worth it.

art-hill

But here’s where it gets funny. We decided to rent a paddle boat the same day as the canine paddle boat races. Pictured below is one of the “heats.” And, obviously, a crane photo bomb. And an oblivious duck.

crane

This dog was my favorite because he looked like he had a fro. He and his owner came in last in their heat, but they looked like they had the most fun.

fro

And I looooved this boxer puppy.

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And of course, I loved spending time with my buddy. Look at this face. Note the rhinestones in her shades. The child was born rolled in glitter and wrapped in a tutu. Seriously.

I love this kid.

diva

I think this is the way 9/11 should be spent — living. Enjoying. Savoring. Giving.

Counting one’s blessings.

You Are What You Notice

A cat’s purr in my ear. An easy morning commute. Homemade pumpkin bread. A thoughtful note from a friend. Rainbows appearing at my feet. Texts from both of my kids at the exact same time. The arrival of a new issue of my favorite magazine. Sparkles dancing under a bridge. A cute couple picnicking under a tree in the park. A stunningly moving tribute. Free time and the ability to adventure wherever I choose.

It took me until the end of the day to realize that the good from today far outnumbered the not-so-good. I’d just invested a lot more energy and attention into the not-so-good. Duh. 

How lucky are we that life continues to be generous and patient with us, even when we least deserve it. And how lucky are we that tomorrow is a new day. We get another chance to be a little better. A little more grateful.

It’s the Japanese Festival!

prickly

Got to spend the afternoon at one of my very favorite places with some of my favorite people. Today our Botanical Garden was host to the annual Japanese Festival. Bonsai displays, art, demonstrations, food, flowers, Japanese product vendors…there was a lot of neat stuff.

festival

tea-house

We were surprised by how many people dressed in ethnic costumes for the occasion. Lots of kimonos and over-the-top Japanese fashion. This girl’s hair matched her kimono.

costume

This was a demonstration of some sort, but I couldn’t get past the cotton candy costume in front of me.

crowd

One of the biggest surprises had nothing to do with the festival itself. As we ambled through the garden, we found a yard filled with (what we think was) crocus! What an unexpected reminder of spring as we head into fall!

crocus-yard

crocus

Loved the pebble mosaics embedded in the pathway in the Chinese Garden.

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My favorite Harry Potter tree in the Japanese Garden.
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garden

And then there were flowers. Lots and lots of lovely flowers, both growing outside in the garden and on display in arrangements inside.

perfection

purple

yellow

white

red

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Loved this day. Loved time spent with friends. So very grateful.

You Have a Good Soul. I Can Tell.

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“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you’d never think a negative thought again.” 

I always knew that running was good for me, but I never knew that it could actually be therapy until today. Midway through my run this evening, I was getting discouraged by my pace. Lots of little criticisms filled my head until I remembered the above quote I’d read about the power of our thoughts.

And then the most bizarre battle ensued.

“You’re ruining this run with your negative thoughts!” Instead of turning things around, my mind went the other direction. I started chiding myself for my attitude, both past and present. “It’s no wonder you’ve always been so slow; your thoughts are powerful and your thoughts have always told yourself how slow you are.” Then every single perceived personal shortcoming joined the collective swarm of self-criticism buzzing around in my head. Oh my gracious. Then, just to continue the spiral, the criticisms a few other people have had for me amped up the volume — stuff that I didn’t even know was bothering me. This was not making for a fun run.

But suddenly out of nowhere, the words, “You have a good soul. I can tell,” interrupted the chaos. Just like that, my brain became silent and the swarm stopped. These were the words a stranger said to me a few years ago. Self-confidence has always been a learning process for me and this unexpected comment came during a particularly difficult time. I remember walking away from that brief conversation holding back tears of relief. I have a good soul. He could tell. The momentum of negativity had been broken. I knew I could recover my misplaced self-worth.

I’ve carried those words with me ever since and I pull them out of my mental pocket when I need them. Like today. You have a good soul. Remember? He could tell. For several minutes, I jogged through tears of relief. Positivity and gratitude carried me the rest of the way home.

To the man who unknowingly continues to help me when I get wobbly, thank you for reminding me there are good people in the world. And thank you for reminding me that I’m one of them.

To anyone who happens to be reading this: You have a good soul. I can tell. Carry that thought with you always.

(Above photo fits this post for the funniest reason. I’d texted it to my son to see if he saw a snail. He saw a thumb’s up. In light of positive thinking and running, I’m going with my son’s interpretation.)

Long and Short of It

“There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time.” —  Carlos Castaneda, author

Getting older has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve not done anything unusual in the way of self-reflection or anything, but I’ve noticed some changes in myself. People, circumstances, and difficult discussions don’t have nearly the ability to set me off the way they used to. At different times, I’ve wondered if it’s fatigue, indifference, competing priorities, or a combination of all of the above. I think I’ve finally realized that it’s age. With age, you just know better. You know which battles are worth the energy.  And frankly, the number of worthy battles is dwindling for me as I age.

I’ve also caught myself saying, “life is too short,” a number of times lately. Which is true. Someone involved in a car crash had a to-do list for the day or plans for their future that were either altered or destroyed in a split second. How many people got up today, got dressed, and moved forward with their day, having no idea what was ahead of them? So yes, life is breathtakingly short. But when God gifts you with health and longevity, life can seem pretty long, too. So balance is needed.

For example:

Life is too long to take your body for granted and not provide it with the nourishment and exercise it needs. But life is too short to not eat that cupcake.

pink-and-green

Life is too long not to exercise your right to vote. In fact, the future depends so much on the quality of our leaders, it’s irresponsible and selfish not to. But life is too short to get into nasty political discussions and name-calling with people with opposing views.

pink-lemonade

Life is too long to make impulsive or knee-jerk career decisions when your family and your future success depends on responsible planning. But life is too short to have a job that depletes you of your joy.

rainbow

Life is too long (and would be next to impossible) not to have beloved, loyal, committed, funny, and supportive friendships. But life is too short to tolerate anyone who takes more than they contribute.

seahorse

Our time is uncertain. Every minute, every experience is a precious gift to savor and an opportunity for gratitude — both in the short and long-term.

*These photos I’ve taken lately share a lovely color palette. Such a happy, lucky accident.

Home

“I never realize how much I like being home unless I’ve been somewhere really different for a while.” – Juno

After a number of trips to really different places over the past month or so for work, vacation and otherwise, I am happy to be home. And my travels are over for a little while.

But I’m happy I got to visit one of my favorite places in the whole world today at the close of a work trip — a convent in Northwest Missouri.

tree

Check this out. That is ONE tree. It provides a natural arch over that sidewalk. I couldn’t even fit the whole thing in a picture.

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This is one of the most peaceful and moving places I’ve ever been. It gets me every time. The silence is profound. Every breath, every step seems deafening and invasive.

I loved this Sister. I watched her for the longest time. She’d pray. She’d read. She’d nod off. She’d pray. She’d read. She’d nod off. I loved the way her fingers gently moved across her Bible when she read. She was delicate and fragile in build and movement, but so strong in presence.

She makes me wonder: what occupies your prayers at this point in life?

prayer

This place. Takes my breath away every single time.

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We finally had to drag ourselves away and head to the airport.

Where I discovered my spirit animal.

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And now I’m home.

Home, home, home. My place, my safe space.

I’m so thankful.

Art Adventure

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he* grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

*or she. Sorry, Pablo. 

evapainting

Check out my Little Sister, the artist!

You can see her handiwork on this wonderful metro bus (in partnership with the Saint Louis Art Museum), along with the handiwork of lots of other artist-children.

What a fantastic idea!

This was the beginning of such a fun adventure at the art museum — a place my Little Sister had never visited before. In fact, she’d never even seen Forest Park from this vantage point.

evaandthebus

After she painted the bus, we walked across the street so she could look out over Art Hill.

The photo doesn’t do the scene – or the day – justice. The weather was gorgeous, so there were picnickers, kite fliers, paddle boaters, bikers, and loungers everywhere.

art-hill

Then we headed inside and this little girl had us exploring every square inch of this place.

Our favorites? The Chihuly…

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…and Andy Goldsworthy’s Stone Sea.

This installation was created to fit in this specific space. The best part? You can see it from inside the museum…

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…and outside (from above).

stone-sea-above

But the most unexpected surprise? Today was family art Sunday. So my buddy was able to create art at a workspace right inside a museum gallery. I was knocked out and so inspired. What a wonderful to encourage young artists (and old).

coloring

Today’s adventure made me love our museum and our city even more than before.

Can’t wait for fall!

A Little Quiet

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

I’m sorry that my blog has been a little quiet for the past few days. I’ve not been neglectful, I’ve just spent the last few days on a silence retreat on the grounds of a convent in Indiana. With all of life’s recent changes and transitions, I really just wanted to let the dust in my brain settle for a bit and sort some things out.

It was surprisingly difficult to cut off most communication and social media for a few days. Fortunately a miscommunication with the convent during my booking  cut my visit a day shorter than I’d anticipated.

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Don’t get me wrong — it was time well spent. I enjoyed the quiet and the chance to think and relax.

I also enjoyed my horse and alpaca neighbors.

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horse

horses

alpaca

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This cat hung out with the alpacas every evening. He seemed to be BFFs with one alpaca in particular.

cat

The grounds were beautiful…when I was able to see it.

It seemed that I brought storms with me when I came to town. It rained practically the entire time I was there. Not. Even. Kidding. Any plans to hike the trails were totally dashed. And frankly, being stuck indoors with only my thoughts for company was more than a little challenging.

Okay, it drove me nuts.

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Fortunately, I’d taken a mandala workshop my first day there. I had no idea how valuable this mindfulness tool would become during this visit. When I was confined to the four walls of my little cabin by the rain, I created a number of mandalas.

This was at the center of the room at the workshop. I just thought it was gorgeous.

candle

These were two examples of my instructor’s mandalas. Suffice it to say, it’s going to take a lot of practice before mine look like hers.

mandalas

This was my first mandala that I produced after the workshop. My goal was to reflect the rainy view from my back window.

mandala-lake

lake

But every now and then, the rain would stop, I could put my pencils down, and I could take a few pictures — including one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve seen in a long time.

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cloudy
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Even when it drizzled, I went to mass and explored the grounds when I could.

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There were shrines, grottos, statues, and beautiful things all over the place. It was like an Easter egg hunt.

grotto

shrine

This was the cathedral ceiling.

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And this was just the chapel. (!)

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There were also two tiny chapels on the grounds, including what was called the “shell” chapel and a log cabin chapel. I’m not sure if they are used for anything.

chapel-2

chapel

log-chapel

The Sisters are also buried on the grounds — this is just a small portion of the cemetery.

stones

This was my favorite photo I took during my visit.

crucifixion

This was a close second.

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sister

jesus

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My cabin was very simple, but it had everything I needed.

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Obviously the grounds were very beautiful and well kept — but it was in total contrast to its surrounding community. I was actually taken aback by the widespread disrepair in the area. Maybe the dilapidation was confined to this particular end of town, but I’m not sure. I never ventured far from the grounds.

Even places of worship were crude. I’m not complaining or judging — still just processing it.

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It was a good trip, and I’m happy to be home with a few more days left to reflect and relax.

Always Remember…

You are braver than you believe,

Stronger than you seem, 

And smarter than you think.” –A.A. Milne

Since the mind behind Pooh Bear said this, I’m going to trust it is true. Because Pooh is never wrong. But if you figure out how to accomplish all of the above, please let me know. Because sometimes it’s really hard. 

But I love that, no matter how things are going, life manages to gift us with funny, happy, encouraging pick-me-ups along the way. 

There is always a reason to smile. Always.

Good to Go

Despite any drawbacks or concerns accompanying pop culture’s Pokemon Go craze, I will say this: I have never seen so many public spaces being utilized by so many people. Especially young people. I’ve had many a Sunday stroll through Laumeier Sculpture Park, and it’s typically a pretty solitary exercise.

Not today.

I’ve never seen the place so crowded. Today I exchanged lots of smiles, scratched dogs’ ears, listened to people discover unusual art.  I don’t care if half the kids had their phones superglued to their hands, it was great to see them wandering through this wonderful space they would likely never visit otherwise. I even heard a teenage boy say, “This is the coolest place ever.”

Yes, it is, young man.

I’m sure the phenomenon will fade and the park won’t be a hotspot for catching Pokemon anymore. But I hope people will continue to utilize the space for what it is — a peaceful, interactive, creative retreat from the world. Frankly, I enjoy having the company.

building yellow leaf canopy hills sculpture

This rock’s tiny face made me laugh. Impish little thing.

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On a different note…this was a utility company casualty along my running route this afternoon. It bummed me out to see it discarded on our sidewalk, but I thought it was beautifully made. I hope mamma bird doesn’t mind making a new one.

nest

Patterns, Shapes, and Hidden Things

Try to find patterns, interesting shapes, and hidden things. That was my photo challenge to myself early this morning when I went to the Botanical Garden. I also confined myself to the front of the garden, with a boundary of the pools near the climatron. My favorite subject, the Japanese Garden, is beyond that boundary. But I wanted to challenge myself to find things where I don’t typically look. So here are a few of the results.

climatron

Okay, this photo from the rose garden fell outside of the challenge, but I had to laugh at this robin. Her posture made me think that she knew that she lives in an upscale neighborhood compared to her feathered counterparts.

robin

cascade

Loved this little fuchsia rebel.

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Below was also outside of my challenge, but demanded attention. This is a corpse flower (titan arums) that is ready to bloom. These guys are weird and supposedly stink to high heaven (a stench like a decomposing body wearing sweaty gym sneakers found in a dumpster of rotting fish at the height of a steaming summer day. Or so I’ve heard.). But to see (and smell) one in bloom is rare. In fact, only 157 blooms have been recorded ever between 1889 and 2008. But get this — botanists across the US are mystified and trying to figure out why so many corpse flowers are blooming simultaneously. In the US alone, at least seven flowers have bloomed this year — and here’s our guy adding to the count. I’m still debating whether or not to go back when the bloom opens. I’m leaning towards no, but we’ll see.

corpse

susans

spikes

succulent

lilies

little-yellow

orange

I spy a little orange butterfly. See him?

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purple

feet

two

white

yellow

But the best sighting came at the end of my visit. In the parking lot, in fact. This mammoth creature floated in front of my windshield as I backed out of my parking spot, coming to rest on the landscape in front of me. So naturally I pulled back in. Isn’t he a trip?? I love the face staring back at me like a grinning Halloween mask. I’ve never seen anything like him outside of the Butterfly House, so this still has me feeling giddy.

big-guy

Three-Day Adventure…and a New Chapter

When you spend 24 hours of a three-day road trip in the car, you make your own adventures.

My younger son started his new job in Tennessee today, so his brother, his girlfriend, and I moved him over the weekend. Each way, we drove through  Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Day One

We didn’t stop much on the way down, but we managed to see some neat things. In the middle of Kentucky, we saw this ginormous bear head on the horizon.

bear-head

We had a rainbow sighting during a rainstorm that dumped four inches of blinding rain within an hour.

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We dined at the same place as this gentleman just 40 minutes from Santa Claus, Indiana. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

santa-sighting

We rolled into Johnson City, Tennessee, around 11:30 that night.

Day Two

And here is one view from a parking lot at Tanner’s new employer.

Not too shabby.

We moved him into his new apartment and ventured into town.

campus

Eventually we ended up at Bays Mountain, one of numerous state and national forests in the area.

canopy

reflection

roots

Loved the creepy root systems snaking their way around the area. Which brings us to…

The last time we went to a Harry Potter midnight release, my children were in grade school. It just seemed like a fitting way to close this chapter in our family and open a new one.

kids-and-harry-potter

Some of these people really take their Harry Potter seriously.

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shades

witch

Day Three

Then it was time to go home and let my youngest start his new adventure. Given that we traveled through the most beautiful scenery in darkness during the drive down, we took our time to enjoy them in the daylight. This was Benge’s Gap in Virginia.

lookout

drew

me-and-my-boy

We stopped for lunch in Pikeville, Kentucky, and stumbled upon significant settings from the famous Hatfield-McCoy family feud. To be honest, I knew little of this story. But I’m really curious to learn more now.

hatfield

roseanna

mccoy

Another torrential storm hit us in Indiana…along with another rainbow. Only this one was a doozy. (Apologies for not doing justice to this end-to-end glory, but it was the best I could do and remain safe from interstate traffic on the side of the road.)

rainbow

We made it through the storm, shifted back to our time zone, and detoured to Santa Claus, Indiana — just before sunset.

welcome

We could not stop laughing at this majestic backdrop for a photo of a ginormous Santa Claus. It was over the top, just like everything else in that little town.

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And then we enjoyed the actual sunset. It was lovely.

sunset

We pushed on well into the night. But we made it home safely to our cats and our own beds.

Only our little unit was one person short. It’s strange, but you invest so much of your life into preparing your children to be worthy of taking care of and contributing to the world — then you have to trust that the world will take care of your children when you release them. It’s a strange partnership.

Okay, world. I did my part. Please hold up your end.