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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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Head in the Clouds

 

 294

 Its a number that has haunted me, a number that dominates my thoughts 9 months of the year. 294 is the average number of cloudy days in Seattle annually.

I moved to Seattle 5 years ago from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, a state that can boast of 300 days of sunshine a year. I completely under-appreciated those 300 days until I got to the Pacific Northwest and realized that a clear blue sky is not a luxury  enjoyed by all. During my first year in Seattle, I found myself amused by the morning weather forecasts. A meteorologist in Seattle is about the most unnecessary role because 80% of the year the weather is comically predictable. But to keep themselves employed, forecasters have found 101 different ways to say the same thing. Daily weather reports are decorated with descriptions like, “Partly Cloudy,” “Cloudy,” “Drizzle,” “Rain,” “Heavy Rain,” “Showers,” “Sprinkles,” “Marine Layer,” and “Wet Weather.” You know you are in a rainy climate when weather announcers predict the time of day you can expect “Sun Breaks.” If you need a term for when the sun comes out, its not coming out much.

As entertaining as this myriad of rain terms may be, on many occasions I have looked up at the hovering gray clouds and have felt my own happiness being enveloped by their darkness. Their heaviness has just seemed so immensely inescapable at times; until one day I saw those same inescapable clouds as the welcomed escapes of my childhood. It was laying in the grass looking up in those clouds that I imagined what heaven looked like. It was staring at those clouds on long car rides that I laughed with my  brother and pointed out the shapes of squirrels and pigs and castles.

Clouds have long been symbolic of fantasy. Cartoon thought bubbles and movie dreams sequences are usually captured with fluffy clouds. And it makes sense. In reality, clouds do hold the dreams of tomorrow. They give life to every colored flower. The have nurtured every living creature since the beginning of time.  They perch the brilliant colors of a sunset and illuminate the hue of a blue sky.

Now every time I look at a sky, I am struck by the beauty the clouds add to an otherwise monotonous sky. What has changed to transform the grey clouds from the source of my annoyance to the marvel of my daily drives? Nothing…but my perspective of them.

Its amazing how a slight change in perspective can make all the difference. Are you walking around with a gray rain cloud over your head or a thought bubble? What in your life could use a slight change in perspective so the possibilities can shine through?

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

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Free Yo’ Miiiiiiiind (in my best En Vogue Voice)

Egypt and Libya are conversation buzz words. Since the citizen uprisings in Egypt began in January, not a day has gone where headlines haven’t  invited us to consider the fight for freedom around the world. At this very moment, there are millions of people across the globe that are vehemently fighting for, barely grasping onto, or hopelessly losing their freedom. By no means do Egypt’s and Libya’s quests mark the start of some new endeavor. The pursuit of freedom is perhaps the most fundamental and timeless desire of humanity. Generations of people and some of history’s most celebrated heroes/martyrs have been defined by the presence or absence of freedom.

With such a large portion of our time and history spent chasing freedom, it begs the question: How do you know when you are actually free?

Is it by your ability to vote? To hold the job of your choice? To live where you would like to live? Access to education? Freedom to worship? Political representation? To share your opinion? To have control over your own body? To earn a living? To build a family? To walk and move? What or who is it  that grants you your agency?

The line between free and restricted is hazy at best.  An investment banker living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has a far different concept of living out his freedom than a kindergartner living in public housing in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Is that same investment banker who sits chained to his desk 14 hours a day more free than a farmer in Honduras who lives off the land and spends his time with his family? And doesn’t that same kindergartner in New Orleans have a different concept of freedom than an kid orphaned by AIDS in the Congo? And that same Congolese orphan has a different concept of freedom than a man sitting on death row even still.

Perhaps true freedom is not an objective standard of living but rather a state of mind,  granted to you by your own perspective.  It is a liberty given to you by your own  thinking that allows you to live a life not through its limits but through a commitment to discovering its limitlessness.

Are you truly free? How do you know?  Does your life reflect your freedom or does it reflect a perception of  restrictions? Are you free in your thinking? Are you free from fear? In what areas of your life are you not free?  How are you enslaved by your own thinking?

And if you are free, what are you doing with your freedom?

I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!- The Message II Cor. 6:12

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What Does HOPE Look Like?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ~~Philippians 4:8

At the start of 2011, I decided that I would ditch my default new years resolution of losing weight (thought I haven’t ditched the desire…just the “setting it as a news years resolution” part) and chose to commit my year to something greater and a bit more inspiring: gratitude. Of course this commitment could take many forms but, for starters, I am committing to keeping a gratitude journal and writing at least one thank you note every week. Its incredible what that simple commitment has done for my life. Everywhere I go now, I am searching out opportunities to be grateful and, in doing so, have become uniquely aware of the abundance I am blessed by. The universe is constantly surrounding us with love and that simple but powerful commitment to seeing it makes all the difference in our ability to receive it.

In hopes of giving your eyes a similar blessing as mine have received through gratitude, I ask you, “What does HOPE look like?” It is my wish that as your eyes seek out opportunities to address the question, that its answers will flood your life and grant you a predisposition to seeing the the world’s most beautiful offering.

Hope is the dream of a soul awake ~~French Proverb

Here are a few images that symbolize hope for me….

There are few things more inspiring than children praying. What they lack in knowledge, they make up for in wisdom. What would be more wise than trusting the creator of Divine wisdom with your questions?

This is an image of a Habitat for Humanity build.  It is the perfect picture of shared humanity being recognized. A community devoted to sacrificial giving is a community destine for abundance.

What could spread more hope than people who invest their lives in teaching children to discover the world around them and their place within it? If you haven’t thanked a teacher….do it…now! 🙂

Hope is timeless values. This is my family (well a small slice of it). It is amazing that the values of my great grandparents can live for generations beyond their last breath.

Art makes hope tangible. When we can create, we can create ways out and ways up, in our thinking and in our living.

Its a blessing that there are still places on this earth where nature has not been tamed by greed.  Natural silence is one of the most humbling and awe-inspiring sounds. No matter how overwhelming our own world looks, there is always something bigger outside of us waiting to remind us of the smallness of our current thinking and of our worries.

 

OK Your turn….What does hope look like for you?

Please share what epitomizes hope for you in the comment section.

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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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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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