Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gratitude Journal #148

Today, I am grateful for inspiration. It comes from so many places, unexpectedly or with planning, and enriches our perspective on life, our creativity, our sense of wonder and beauty, and our connection to others.

One of many photos I've pinned to my Pure Inspiration Board
on Pinterest

Today, I am grateful for experiments. Trying new things is fun, and sometimes it works out perfectly. Other times, the frog legs taste unpleasant and you have to cleanse your tastebuds with goat cheese and fried polenta.

Today, I am grateful for the wildlife around my house. This weekend, we saw a mother deer and two spotted fawns in our yard.

Today, I am grateful for Bible study in Christian community. Today, we get back on schedule, and I'm so happy!

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, July 29, 2012


When I was a child, my father loved my hair long. I had gorgeous, straight, thick, dark-brown hair. He took such pride in my hair...it was sort of biblical.

When I went to college, I started to find myself and decided a really cool way to rebel against my dad was to cut my hair (just call me James Dean). I went from Farrah Fawcett to short. Really short. My senior picture, which mom kept in her office, elicited comments like, "Dianne, your son is so handsome!" I had on make-up, earrings, and a purple turtleneck sweater. But my short, straight hair made me look like a guy.

Then, a girl at a convenience store asked her mother, right out loud in front of me, "Is that person a boy or a girl?"

Fine. I grew it out.

And it stayed long until our dog Shemya died. My hairdresser told me Native Americans used to cut their hair as a part of mourning. It made sense.

My hair has been short ever since.

Then there's the color. My mother used to color her hair, and my sister and I gave her crap about it. Her gray was so pretty, so shiny, so silver, so complimentary of her complexion. The color-from-a-bottle always looked fake and unnatural. So she let it go gray. And it is beautiful. As my own hair grayed, it felt like the height of hypocrisy to color it. My gray is silver, too.

My sister took the first head shot on my Blogger profile...my favorite photo of my short hair. Plus, the photo makes my nose look not too irregular.

I'd have rhinoplasty if rubber stamps weren't more fun to spend money on.

Last October, I decided to grow my hair long. Again. I was sick of it short, as it has been for the past 12 years. It almost never looked as good in real life as it did in the photo above. Also, the texture of it has completely changed as it has turned gray. Before, it was coarse and straight. Now it is even coarser and given to fits of occasional random waves or kinks. Wire. That's what it most resembles now.

So why not grow it out and see what happens? At least, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fortunately, my hair grows fast. It's touches my shoulders now and swings when I turn my head. I feel girly again, girly and feminine and middle aged.

Last weekend, my sister saw how long my hair had grown and begged me never to braid it. My mom saw how long my hair had grown and suggested I braid it.

There's a generation gap at work. And a perfect demonstration of the strong opinions people have when it comes to hair. Wear it long. Wear it short. Curl it. Straighten it. Put it up, Wear it down. Color it. Don't color it. Perm it. Tint it. Chalk it. Put a feather in it.

Everyone has an opinion.

I'm aware that "women of a certain age" are supposed to have short hair. We're supposed to cave to middle-age style and not braid it (and wear overalls) or put it in a bun old-lady style. We're supposed to age gracefully but that usually means coloring it because gray makes you look old. We're supposed to look and act our age but not look and act our age.


I'm going to be me. Grammatically and follicularly incorrect, but that's just fine.

How are you going to be you? What conventions and styles do you thumb your nose at?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hula, Leis, and a Lesson in Tourist Clichés

Before going to Hawai'i, I saw so many pictures of tourists in leis and heard so many stories of substandard luaus that neither held much appeal for me. They sounded so cliché, and we English majors know that clichés are to be avoided like the plague.

Ba, da, bump.

Besides, leis die pretty quickly, and no one I'd ever met who had tasted poi liked it, so common sense dictated we avoid leis and luaus during our limited time on Kaua'i.

Although...I was a tad disappointed when nobody in a grass skirt draped a lei over my head when I deplaned.

We did avoid the luau. Our fabulous dinner at Plantation Gardens gave us fresh, wonderful, local cuisine of the finest quality, and the ono fish tacos at the Fish Hut were sublime. But from the moment I saw the sign for free hula shows at the Coconut Marketplace, I wanted to go. Hula without the overpriced luau sounded perfect. If it wasn't a good show, we wouldn't feel cheated.

Besides, the timing worked out perfectly. We had to vacate our hotel by 11:00 on Saturday, but our flights didn't depart until evening. That meant a whole afternoon to kill, and the hula show was at 1:00. We ate fish tacos and wandered around the Coconut Marketplace until time for the show.

Turns out the hula performers were students, mostly teens, raising money for hula lessons and travel to hula competitions and shows all over the Pacific islands. The teacher played music in the band and sang while the girls danced.

We loved it.

Five younger students and two more experienced dancers
changed costumes multiple times and performed a wide variety
of island dances.

Leilani Rivera Low: dancer, musician, singer, teacher

This little girl was adorable!

At one point in the show, the girls invited four men from the audience to join them in a dance. Our very own Matt was chosen (two girls zeroed in on him first...muscles, cowboy boots, and a ripped t-shirt are apparently sexy across cultures). This had our group helpless with laughter at seeing big, tough, macho Matt making his hands move like a fish and wiggling his hips.

He did a great job for a first-timer. If he ever loses his job at Caterpillar repairing diesel engines, he can take up a career in hula!

The men started off rough...

but improved with excellent instruction.

I got the tail-end of Matt's performance on video and will post it on YouTube one day if he ever annoys me. That's not likely to happen because he is a swell person and a good sport to boot.

The dancers changed costumes multiple times in the 45-minute show, with the Tahitian costumes being the most dramatic in red and black.
This young woman was the best of the dancers. She was so graceful
and controlled in her movements and a delight to watch.

After the performance, the girls sold leis as their fundraiser. We simply couldn't say no, could we? It would have been rude in the extreme, and of course we had to show our gratitude to the dancers for such a wonderful show.

Barbara, George, and Angela

George and I, about as cliché as a couple can get

And that's how I learned that no matter how cliché a thing may be, sometimes it's entirely necessary and unavoidable.

Which is, of course, how it became a cliché in the first place.

Have you ever indulged in a tourist cliché that put a smile on your face?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gratitude Journal #147

Today, I am grateful for yesterday's incredibly smooth road trip home from Maryland, where the boys and I were visiting my mom, sister, and her family.

Today, I am grateful for our annual pilgrimage to see my family, for time spent talking about everything and nothing, and eating wonderful food, and enjoying each other's company in cool places like the Mall in Washington, the National Aquarium, and my sister's back yard around a fire.

Today, I am grateful for George's welcome-home dinner (yum!), for the clean kitchen, and for Daisy's crazy welcome that knocked me on my butt.

Today, I am grateful for monuments because they help us remember. There are lots of monuments in Washington, but one of my favorites is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The power of a list of names on a black wall, a wall that grows taller until it eventually towers over your head and then diminishes again as you walk out the other side...well, how can anyone walk through it and not be moved?

How big would such walls be for each of the World Wars and the American Civil War? How big would they be if all the names of all the dead on both sides of those three wars were included?

Today, I am grateful for a photo, one that acknowledges the sacrifices our military makes, one that brought a tear to my eye when someone shared it on FaceBook....

Leaving his newborn to deploy

Today, I am grateful that the peace and prosperity and freedom we have in America allowed me to meet an internet friend in real life. Hi, Joan!

Today, I am grateful that there were more people in the DC area who wanted to see me, whom I wanted to see, than I had time to meet up with. I hope I can stay longer next year and see Rhonda, Ray, and Veronica, too!

Today, I am grateful for rain.

Today, I am grateful for Sally Ride.

Today, I am grateful for the outpouring of love and compassion following the Aurora shooting. May justice be served and healing come.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


This weekend, I read the latest issue of Real Simple magazine, which has several stories of conversations that changed people in some way, stories of times when someone's words had a vital influence on another person's life and perceptions.

Funny how I was reminded of this very thing a few weeks ago while on Kaua'i.

Jack, Eli, and Barbara on the pier at Hanalei Bay last month

You see, while we sat by the pool enjoying a sweet ocean breeze rippling through the palm trees, my nephew Eli shared a memory with me, one that left me reeling with shock and of which I have no memory at all.

Matt, Me, and Eli reading a book together many years ago
before my hair turned gray

When he was young, the family had gathered at my parents-in-law's home in Boulder, Colorado. We decided to go to a movie, but it wasn't the movie Eli wanted to see, so he whined and cried on the way.

As he remembers it, during the drive to the theater, I told him, "Eli, you're acting like a brat."

For the record, I officially deny ever saying such a sentence to any child, much less a beloved nephew. I have told my own children they were "not behaving nicely," which is an example of the rhetorical trope of litotes and sounds much better than "you're acting like a brat" but means exactly the same thing.

Eli, however, actually appreciated my saying this to him, and ever since, when he catches himself whining about not getting his way, he remembers that Aunt Susan, the woman who read books to him and talked to him and spent time with him, and whom he admired and thought "cool," called him out for acting like a brat. Even today, these words resonate with him.

Because if Aunt Susan says it, he needs to listen.

His mother claims that she had told him he was acting like a brat a number of times, but he never listened to her. In fact, she brought up the very good point that our moms are constantly telling us to behave and not pitch fits, but we tune our moms out simply because they are always saying these things.

 Blah, blah, blah, whatever, Mom. *insert rolling eyes here*

When another adult says something, however, we listen much better.

Of course, this aunt never called her nephew a brat, but if it has helped Eli, well, I concede that might be what he heard. But I never said it.

When I'd gotten over the shock of Eli's gratitude for something I never said, I remembered a similar instance in my own early childhood when an adult told me a truth that I actually heard. I was five and our preschool class was outside picking up pecans and eating them. I was far too busy running and playing and having fun to pick up pecans, so when I got hungry, I plopped down next to a random grown-up and said, "I'm ready for some pecans now."

And yes, I said "PEE-cans" because we were in southern Georgia at the time, and that's how they say pecans down South. For the record, I now say "peh-CAHNS" because I don't live in Georgia anymore and people look at me funny if I say it any other way. Unless, of course, I want to annoy George, in which case I say "PEE-cans" really loud and with a pronounced Southern twang that adds an extra syllable so it sounds like "PEE-ca-yuns."

But back to the story. The man replied, very matter-of-factly, "I picked up these. You need to pick up your own."

I was stunned.

You mean to tell me I'm NOT a princess to be waited upon by men?

You mean to tell me that a grown-up isn't going to share with me?

You mean to tell me to get off my ass and get my own?

Well, all righty then. I got up and scavenged my own pecans.

The man helped me crack the pecans since my five-year-old hands weren't yet strong enough to crack them. I remember the lesson and his kindness afterwards.

I wonder if he does.

What words spoken to you influenced your understanding of life? Please share your story!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gratitude Journal #146


Today, I am grateful for an email responsing to my post yesterday on my stamping blog. The reader shared a lovely story of how my essay helped her put a non-stamping-related event in her life into perspective. That's why I write...to help others. Sometimes, I actually do.

I had debated posting the essay here rather than on Simplicity, but it's ostensibly about stamping and blogging (even though it's really about life). If you're interested, click here: This Little Light of Mine

Today, I am grateful for rain. Good, soaking rain. Our dry, crispy lawn is grateful for it, too.

Today, I am grateful for moments of quiet and peace, moments to reflect and pray, moments to feel the world going round, moments of stunning sunsets, and moments of firefly flashes in the woods.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Things on Thursday: Sunny Dog

"I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons."  Will Rogers

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” Milan Kundera

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” Edward Hoagland

“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.” Gilda Radner

“Happiness is a hound dog in the sun." Hannah Schneider

Daisy daily moves around the house to where the sunbeams are.

"Happiness is a warm puppy."  Charles M. Schulz

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Under the Sea

Please note: you may click on the pictures in this post to see them larger.

I expected to see natural wonders when we went to Kaua'i. Natural wonders, in fact, are everywhere if you choose to look closely enough, and there's no real need to go to the middle of the Pacific to find them. Nick, for instance, recently found the most adorable salamander in our yard, and George and I have seen coyotes out our front window. Deer wander freely here, as does a giant snapping turtle. Cranes visit our pond. The neighborhood has played host to a black bear and an escaped rodeo bull.

While we live in suburban Ohio, Kaua'i, an island paradise, offers a somewhat different take on natural wonders. For one thing, it has the Pacific Ocean, which is noticeably absent in Ohio.

So my feeling was that something as big and naturally wonderful as the Pacific Ocean couldn't possibly disappoint. In one very small way, it did.

I expected to see dolphins in the waters off Kaua'i, partly because the Blue Dolphin cruise we took guarantees dolphins. But the dolphins had other plans that Monday morning.

Which reminds me of a funny story. Years ago, mom and I went to the Mystic Seaport aquarium and saw a beluga whale show. The whales responded to touch commands...the trainers would touch their heads in particular ways, and the whales would do tricks. The ledge the trainers stood on gave the whales a place to hide their heads when they didn't want to perform. Mom and I missed the show because the whales were, ahem, noncompliant. Our respect of their right to figuratively flip off their oppressors outweighed our disappointment.

So while I was disappointed not to see dolphins in Kaua'i, I understood.

Swim free, dolphins. Swim free.

I did not expect to see endangered monk seals on Kaua'i, mainly because they are seriously, deeply, frighteningly endangered. Only about 1,100 survive, and their numbers are decreasing. Yet we saw two of them on the beach at our resort.

George snapped this thoughful fella.

I snapped this lovely lady.

I also snapped the informational sign posted about her. If you can't read the side note, it says that she gave birth to a pup on April 23, which was already weaned. K13 definitely needed her rest!

The Kaua'i Monk Seal Watch program does an excellent job of protecting resting seals and educating the public about them. It's much harder to ignore the warning signs and to be disrespectful of the seals' privacy when the seals have individual stories posted on the barricades. The more people know about them, individually and collectively, the easier it is to accept that they have a right to the beaches and waters of Hawaii, too. 

Of course, a man was recently convicted for harassing a seal on Rabbit Island, which is a wildlife sanctuary.

Bad man.

We also expected to see sea turtles, although we thought our encounter with them would look more like this:

than this:

George even snapped this picture of me floating above the turtle. Don't I look like I want to give it a hug? Not really, because touching them is wrong and I knew it. What the picture can't show is my yelling into the snorkel: "That's a sea turtle!!! I'm two feet away from a SEA TURTLE!!!!"

These pictures were taken as we snorkeled at 'Anini Beach. The water was roughly six feet deep, so just barely over my head as I stood on the tips of my flippers trying desperately to clear my foggy mask to see the sea turtle better.

What amazed me the most was how the turtles completely disregarded us. They could not have cared less that we were so close. They just went about their business of being sea turtles, doh-dee-doh, grazing on bottom plants, surfacing for air, diving again. The smaller of the two turtles kept angling toward me as I scrambled gracelessly to get out of its way and not touch it. My frantic flailing two feet away would have sent fish darting for cover in the coral. A shark might have thought, "Oh, lunch!"

The turtle, however, seemed tolerant and pitying of my poor water skills as it effortlessly navigated the current. Its benign tolerance was the greatest gift I carried away from Kaua'i.

Fish are rather wonderful (not to mention occasionally tasty), and George was able to snap many pictures of them with his little Pentax. These are assorted pictures from 'Anini, our Blue Dolphin cruise, and Lydgate Beach.

This skinny fish makes the other fish feel fat.
He's sort of prehistoric looking, isn't he? Or is it a she?

Pretty Colors

Lydgate Beach wasn't quite as clear as the open reef we snorkeled
on the cruise or 'Anini bay.

This fish was my favorite...the yellow-masked
plaid bluefin. I brought it home with me.

The scorpionfish at 'Anini...don't mess with this fish!

I think this is a Hawaiian Spotted Toby.

A sea cucumber

Pretty lavender coral

A school

Moorish Idols...showing off

Is that enough? Do you want more fish pictures? 'Cause I have plenty. Really? You've seen enough? Oh good. I'm getting tired.

My point is, the wonders of nature under the sea and resting on the beaches of Kaua'i are worth the long flight to the middle of the Pacific, whether you get to see whales and dolphins or not. When you go to nature, you never know what you'll get. Sometimes nature shows up, and sometimes, it has business elsewhere.

If you embrace what does show up (figuratively speaking, of course) and feel gratitude for God's amazing, wonder-filled world and your tiny place in it, an island paradise will deliver the experience of a lifetime.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The Scene: Curtains open as Nick and I are loading bags full of back-to-school supplies and laundry detergent and contact lens solution from our cart into the back of my station wagon in the Target parking lot. Jack has high-tailed it into the back seat and opened his bag of Swedish fish.

Nick: I'll help you put these in the car, but I'm not going to help unload at home. That's wouldn't be fair. Jack's not helping now at all.

Me: Well, it's not fair that I have to do both the loading and the unloading.

Nick: Wow. [Pause] You know, Mom. I just thought of something. You DO always have to load and unload, especially when we're not with you. Now I feel bad, like I'm a really horrible person. Here I am worrying about what's fair to me and not thinking about you. How selfish is that? I'll help unload, too.

Me: Thank you, Nick. I appreciate that.

He puts the cart in the return, gets in the car, and we drive home, where both boys help unload the bags. Curtains close...

Bravo, my son. One step closer to maturity. I'm proud of you.

Or you really, really really want that rated M for Mature Xbox game.

Either way, well played.

Weekly Giggle: Cowboys are Deranged

Stumbled upon this Letter of Note and chortled.

Hope you enjoy it, too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gratitude Journal #145

Today, I am grateful for Pinterest because I've found so much there to make me smile.

Ms. Mellby, for instance, has an entire board dedicated to gray hair. Whenever I feel like I'm the only 45-year-old woman who's not coloring her hair, I'm going to go to her board and see that gray is beautiful. If you read Questioning in email, you might want to click on the blog link to see my gray-and-proud-of-it picture on my profile. Jack recently took the picture, and it's pretty cool.

Some other Pinterest finds that make me feel grateful....

I am grateful for companions in misery. I can relate, Funny Hare. Only too well.

I am grateful for this room in Florence, Italy, even though I will likely never see it. Its very existence makes life worth living, doesn't it?

I am grateful that books take you places and that some artists know this to be true.

I am grateful for gorgeous calligraphy of an uplifting verse.

I am grateful for absurdity...in math as well as life. (But Everytime should be two words, not one. Grammar Nazi strikes again!)

I am grateful for my mother.

I am grateful for beautiful rooms and the inspiration to create them in my own home.

I am grateful for timely reminders, even if initial capitalization is optional.

I am grateful for goldens. Awwwww.

I am grateful for good advice.

I am grateful for visual representations of my personal philosophy: I can see both sides.

Links to all these photos may be found on my Pinterest boards.

What are you grateful for today?