Archive for identity

On Reproducing…

The other day I was engaging in my favorite procrastination technique of perusing facebook when I came across this beautiful photograph on the National Geographic fan page. The headline read “Moss Has Cloned Itself for 50,000 Years, Study Says.” The article went on to explain that this plant which paints the forest floor at Hawaii’s Kohala Mountain has copied itself relentlessly and, as a result, may be one of the oldest multicellular organisms on earth. As fascinating as the science is behind this phenomenon, the thing that struck me was the sheer beauty of this moss’ clones. Its brilliant green hues and delicate patterns have been a part of the story of Hawaii’s breathtaking qualities for thousands upon thousands of years.

The Hawaiian Island moss reminded me of a similar story  told by the aspen trees of Aspen, Colorado. Similar to the moss, aspen tree colonies often endlessly clone themselves at the roots, creating one of the most picturesque fall landscapes in the world.

All this cloning made me ask the question,“If I were cloned thousands of times over, what would I be producing in my environment?” Would I reproduce fruit that added radiance like the aspen trees and the moss? Or would I choke out life from other things attempting to grow? Would my reproduction create a place people looked forward to coming to, even escaping to? Or would it create a place people are looking to escape from?

I don’t think these questions are that far-fetched. In reality, we are all constantly reproducing ourselves in our environments. We reproduce our beliefs, attitudes, fears, possibilities, work ethic, passion, and apathy all the time through our impact on other people. What is it that your character is reproducing? Is it a fruit you would be proud of if you learned it lasted for years to come?

Aspen, Co (September 2005)

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God Given Gift of Voice

A few days ago, Ted Williams passed the time standing on the streets of Colombus, OH pleading with strangers to listen to him for just a few seconds. Day after day he held a cardboard sign with his direct request, “I have a god given gift of voice. I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please! Any help will be greatfully appreciated. Thank you and God bless. Happy holidays,” Hundreds of cars passed him by, his desperation no match for tight schedules and closed hearts. Today, the whole country is listening to this homeless man. They are listening to his perfect-pitch. They are listening to his story. They are listening to his heart. Yesterday he was simply a part of the urban backdrop. Today he is “The Man with the Golden Voice.”

Ted’s life story is unique. His challenges, however, are not.  We are each looking for a home for our most authentic voice and gifts. Each of us was born with a golden voice. It was given to us by God to share our unique story with the world….our unique love, our unique compassion, our unique honesty, our unique character, our unique perspective. Some of us have discovered that golden voice and used it. Others have discovered and muted it. And still some of us are still hoping to find its beauty.

Are you using your golden voice or is it muted, the world still waiting to hear it? Perhaps, like Ted, you feel the world is passing up your incredible gifts day after day because of its own apathy. Well, speak up. Demand its listening. Turn the volume on high. God has colored your Your voice in gold and the world is hungry to hear its most perfect pitch.

Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes – goodwill among men and peace on earth.”- Albert Einstein

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Put a Ring On It

On October 14th, I got engaged to my favorite partner in crime. He is a breathtaking reflection of God’s love for me and my personal reminder of the beauty in the world.  I am blessed just to know him and it is the honor of a lifetime to plan our tomorrows together.

While Sean and I have been on this journey together for the past two years, I believe our walk towards lifelong commitment started long ago with our very first crush. Mine was Jason Hoyle, the love of my kindergarten life. I cracked a smile every time I could see the birthmark on his head in the distance coming towards me. I drew stick figure versions of us on dates during play time. I loved him with every ounce of my five–year-old heart. He inspired my first heart flutters and was the catalyst to beginning my journey of exploring and understanding the ingredients for committed relationships. Over the years, my kindergarten heart flutters developed into crushes and crushes matured to dates. Dating opened the doors to taking on serious relationships and now…here I stand getting ready for nuptials.

There is an unspoken relationship spectrum many of us have found ourselves sliding back and forth across in hopes of discovering that defining love. One thing alone separates the “summer fling” side of the spectrum from the “20th Wedding Anniversary” side: Commitment.

During my engagement period I have been thinking…A LOT, not about wedding cakes and color schemes but about what it means to make a commitment and to live by it and through it. While marriage is often put in a league of its own when it comes to commitment conversations, in reality, every commitment we make or avoid defines the course of our lives in the same manner that marriage defines our direction. We make decisions everyday to flirt with, date, or marry the circumstances of our lives….our jobs, our families, our spirituality, our passions, our purposes and even ourselves. I cannot count the number of times I have flirted with the gym or a better diet or have put myself in a serious relationship with unhealthy beliefs and limited vision.  I have flirted with  career and dated gifts and talents. With each budding relationship, I’m discovering that  how I define my relationship with aspects of my life defines the life I get to live into. In the same way a woman takes on the last name of her husband, the passions, experiences, beliefs, and values we marry create a name for us and determine how our name is spoken and among who.

Who you are and all you will be is a function of your collective commitments. What in your life are you truly married to? Do those things deserve your lifelong vow?  What are you in a serious relationship with  that needs to be downgraded to “just friends?” Are you married to your purpose or dating your destiny? In the words of the great prophet Beyonce, if you like it then its time to ” put a ring on it.”

The height of your accomplishments will equal the depth of your convictions.
William F. Scolavino

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A Whole New World

The other day I was walking down memory lane, singing one of my favorite Disney songs “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. Classic.  There is something timelessly beautiful about Ariel’s curiosity about worlds beyond her eyes.

Then it occurred to me. Why the CRAP was Ariel’s home so polluted???? She lived under the sea, not in the town garbage dump! Sure, there was the occasional shipwreck that she and Flounder might have rummaged through but this chick had a whole cavern of gadgets and gizmos aplenty…whozits and whatzits galore! I wonder if we had the same curiosity about Ariel’s world as she had about ours if she would even have all that trash at her disposal to sing about.

When you look out onto the ocean, what is it you see? Colors? Waves? Seagulls? Perhaps. But what we see is nothing compared to what is. Those waves cover the world’s largest mountains ranges. The blues hide its deepest canyons. Marine plants provide half the oxygen you are breathing. Sebastian and Flounder are among more than 1 million plants and animal species living there…and because much of the ocean is still unexplored, there are likely 9 million species waiting to be discovered.

Our curiosity about worlds beyond our eyes creates the largeness of our lives. In many cases, it is our questions that preserve the future that allows for their answers. Languages and species do not become extinct when we care enough to discover them. Cultures and traditions live in the sharing and understanding of them. What worlds are you interested in or currently discovering? So often we get caught up in the routines of our lives and forget there are whole new worlds waiting for us to find them and love them. Ariel’s discoveries of small knick-knacks set the stage for dreams fulfilled. What unexplored questions about the world around you will set the stage for yours?

 

Need inspiration? Here is how one family’s curiosity about worlds beyond their eyes is feeding and educating nations living in extreme poverty around the globe.

The Movement of One Day’s Wages from One Day’s Wages on Vimeo.

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Cracking Up

It’s a well known fact that the majority of people would actually rather face the grave than stand in front of a crowd and try to convey an idea or sing a song with sweaty palms, blushing cheeks, and the infamous cracking voice.

After talking to a voice teacher I learned, however, that the cracking voice is actually the sign of something incredible making its way to the surface. Its our most beautiful voice pushing through. You see, our authentic voice is produced by air flowing through a long, complicated tunnel that starts at the pit of our bellies, goes over our larynx, passes our vocal cords and finally comes out our nose and mouth. When that tunnel is fully open, our true voice has the space to make its way through. The problem is that 99% of the time we walk around utterly terrified of one another for one reason or another and our muscles tense up, blocking the flow of air through the tunnel. Sometimes you can feel the butterflies in the pit of your stomach that knot up our tunnel. Other times tense muscles in our neck block out our voice. Sometimes something as simple as our stand-off nature becomes detectable in our pitch. No matter where the tension is in the flow, the result is the same: suppressed, muffled voices posing as safe placeholders for true selves. Fear literally puts barriers in the way of our most clear voice.

When a singer or a speaker stands up on stage and their voice cracks, it is like a hiccup being pushed out of the way of the air flow. Somewhere, tension and nerves have caused their tunnel to tighten and that cracked voice is in fact victory pushing its way through. It doesn’t usually feel victorious when people laugh at the crack up. But the crack is actually fear being pushed aside so that one’s greatest voice has a place to shine. Its the tense moment right before a person gives up their nerves, tensions, and expectations and relaxes enough to simply be themselves.

Next time I hear a singer’s voice crack, I’ll applaud in my heart. In fact, I hope my own life can become filled with crack ups. Opportunities for cracking up only come when you live your life out loud, standing in front of your fears and pushing through them. Its only in allowing myself to crack up, that the beauty inside can make room in the world to be heard.

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Set It Off

The other day I came across an intriguing headline on espn.com:

“Golfer’s Swing Sets 12-Acre Blaze”

Apparently a man was playing a casual round of golf (probably not a very good one) in Irvine, CA and knocked his ball into the rough. Determined to get his ball in a better position, he swung his club. In addition to hitting his ball, he also snagged a nearby rock, causing a spark. That little spark amounted to 150 firefighters and a 12-acre blaze in Southern California. Crazy huh? I promise I could not make this stuff up. See for yourself: http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=5517195 I wonder if he saved par?

Its incredible to think that one spark we create could set our world on fire. What seem like small, inconsequential actions to us could have lasting impacts on the world around us.   What’s interesting is that this man was not a professional golfer. He was not Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. In fact, he remains nameless. Yet one action from an ordinary man started an enormous inferno.

What caused this inferno? His pure passion for something better and a vision for what was possible. No ordinary swing creates sparks. You cannot simply swing at the ball and set 12-acres on fire. You have to be swinging with everything you’ve got to create the friction needed to change the environment the way he did. This man was not in an ideal spot. He was in the rough, literally in between a rock and a hard place. Yet he believed he could create a better position for himself with just the right swing and he gave that swing all he had.

There are worlds that are waiting for you to set them on fire with your sparks. There are workplaces, schools, churches and people, waiting for us to take the small seemingly inconsequential actions that will ignite a new fire for living in others. What could you set on fire with your determined passion and tiny spark? Who is waiting for your passion to set their world on fire? We can live our lives smothering fires around us with apathy or we can set this place ablaze with our love. You choose.

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The Ride of A Lifetime

During one of the many “not really news” segments of the Today Show, I came across this fascinating photograph of a whale. The segment led with “ A Whale of a Tale: 40-ton mammal lands on yacht.” From the headline and the photo, its safe for you to assume the obvious. The picture was snapped moments before the whale hurled itself through the mast of the ship, destroying the boat, an act that entitled the couple sailing the ship the 15 minutes of fame I was now participating in.

Interesting enough, the part of the story that caught my attention was not the 80,000 lbs soaring through the air. It was what soared with those 40 tons: barnacles. Look closely and you will see the clumps of white crustiness that are at the center of my fascination.

Have you ever thought about the life of a barnacle?  Barnacles are tiny crustaceans that attach themselves to hard surfaces and perch there indefinitely. Once stable, a barnacle kicks its feathery feet out of its shell and collects nutrients from the surrounding water. Many barnacles find rocks to hug.  Some attach themselves to the remains of dead animals or the shells of animals who have outgrown their skin. And some, like the ones of the photograph, find huge whales to tag along with and hold on tight for the ride.  Though this photograph paints an unfortunate scene from the sailors’ points of view, the barnacles are likely having the ride of their lives. It is the substance that the barnacles decide to cling to that determine the course of their lives.

In many ways we are like barnacles…and not just because some of us are crusty. The course of our lives is largely illustrated by what we cling to. The relationships we hold close, the values we stand firm in, the mindsets we are attached to, the jobs we hold, the faith we lean on each play a role in the direction of our lives. Some attachments keep us standing firm, while others keep us standing still. And some of our wisest attachments keep us hurling from adventure to adventure.

What are you attaching yourself to and where is it taking you? Are you holding on to things that are taking you to new levels of living or clinging to dead ideas and mindsets that keep you in the same place?

You are where you are for a reason
What You Did Yesterday Got You Here
What You Do Today Will Get You
Where You Will Be Tomorrow
~Jack Egener~

“Bloom where you are planted.”

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