Life is not a straight line. It's a downpour of gifts, please – hold out your hand

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Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I am learning...



"How do we evolve? By becoming more aware of who we are. By living more and more from our authentic natural self that knows the way. Remember, 'who I am is always enough.' And when we explore our own natures, we can connect consciously, honestly and deeply with the rest of life." Author unknown



I am cozied up in the warmth of my home; candle flickering, sweet cup of coffee, fire lit (thank you for planting that seed, Kelli!).  Outside it is gray and rainy.  Inside I feel peace and immeasurable abundance. 

I am learning to find the gifts in whatever is before me, even if what is before me doesn't appear "good,"  or "pretty" or "nice." 

I am learning that when i give directly from my heart, my heart fills and opens and spills over with a love that is pure and true and wide open with possibility.

I am learning that when i focus on what is good and beautiful in my life, the good and beauty grows & expands.

I am learning that the only way to offer the best of me is to live more and more from my authentic natural self and to accept all of who i am.

I am learning that when i simply settle in and stop imposing shoulds and shouldn'ts on myself, i am free to be whoever i am in this moment--no trying, just being. 

I am learning that the more i love and accept myself, the more i love and accept others.  And that the more i love and accept others, the more i love and accept myself.

I am learning that what i give to others, i give to myself.  always.

I am learning that my heart always knows and that when i slow down and listen and trust, i am led to beauty greater than i could have ever imagined.

I am learning that what i want most in this whole wide world is to connect consciously, honestly and deeply with myself and others, to love and accept, to find the peace that is always here, now.  And to be fully and completely all of who i am.  And for all of you to know the same.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lake Tahoe

I am back home after spending a week in gorgeous Lake Tahoe with family. It was good to be there and it is good to be home. There was much laughter, game playing, wine drinking, sledding fun, yummy eating, walks, bright sunshine; old stuff stirred, insight, shifts, healing.

And now, lots and lots of laundry to do, a house to freshen up, new things to contemplate. I will write more when i have time. For now, a few photos of our time. Sending love to you, dear, dear readers. Missing this space and eager to write more when time allows.




Beauty

My little family on Lake Tahoe

My girls and me (sledding) and our new dog friend, "Doodles"

My big brother and i having a blast sledding together!

Eight of the eleven of us

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How To Paint a Donkey



Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

She said the head was too large,
the hooves too small.
I could clean my paintbrush
but I couldn’t get rid of that voice.
While they watched,
I crumpled him,
let his blue body stain my hand,
I cried when he hit the can.
She smiled. I could try again.
Maybe this is what I unfold in the dark,
deciding for the rest of my life,
that donkey was just the right size.

I heard this poem for the first time this past weekend at the art retreat i was lucky enough to be a part of.  When the teacher read it, my heart got all soft and open and my eyes filled with tears.  The second time i read it, just a few moments ago, every part of me felt the words, and right there in my kitchen, in the middle of the afternoon, i sobbed.

There is something about this poem that reaches way down deep inside of me.  It makes me want to sweep up that little one, cradle her in my arms and somehow make her understand how "it" has nothing to do with the size of the donkey's head or hooves.  And everything to do with how her heart feels inside.  And how it felt inside while she painted that sweet blue, just right, donkey.  I want her to understand that it has nothing to do with whether someone likes her painting or not.  And everything to do with following her joy-always. 

I want to tell her that she will go her whole life trying to prove her goodness, and she will never feel enough, as long as she is trying to find  "it" outside of herself--whether in a painting, a job, money, a lover, a person's response/approval, etc...  It will be a roller coaster ride of emotions. Heartbreak, bliss and everything in between.  She will feel good and proud if someone approves, small and ashamed if they do not. 

I see that this little girl was me.  I see that i spent years of my life trying to prove my worth, trying to make a "better donkey."  Comparing my donkey with theirs and thinking i didn't measure up.  Thinking "they" had the talent and i didn't.   That they were the smart ones, the athletic ones, the artistic ones.  And on and on and on.  So many boxes, so many limitations.

And i see so many other beautiful souls around me doing the same. 

I also see that there are gifts in all of it, the light and the dark.  And that there was never anything whatsoever to prove; that was my mind talking not my heart.  My mind compares and criticizes. My heart loves and inspires.  My mind diminishes and doubts.  My heart dreams and knows.

It is clear to me now that i simply (and not so simply) need to remember that i already know how, that i am already good enough.  And to trust that all the answers are inside of me, i just need to quiet down and tune in to hear them.
  
I think we're all a little tired of trying to paint the perfect donkey. 

Of comparing ours to theres.  Of trying to be instead of simply BEing.  What a relief it is to know that we have only to paint our own precious, beautiful, unique, just right donkey. 

No limitations.  No boxes.  No needing to be perfect

And that if we slow down and listen to our heart, it will show us how. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Contrast

Poem by Dawna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling
or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live
so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.




A blissful weekend.

Arrived home to a very sick five-year-old; coughing all night, very little sleep, a broken computer, "lost" car keys, no time to create or exercise, piles and more piles of dirty laundry, an argument, an upcoming ten hour road trip to Lake Tahoe (with the whole family), packing, preparing, crankiness...

Life provides us with constant opportunities to expand.  We can step into the moment and meet it, allow it, settle into it, find the gifts.  or we can cling to the lovely, sweet moments of the past, reach for "better" future moments, resist what's in front of us.  One brings peace and expansion.  One brings judgment, resistance, yuckiness. 

This morning I am all too aware of the contrasts and my ability to choose, to allow my living to open me.  Or not. 

The gifts surround, of this i am certain.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What if You Didn't Have to Know?

What if you didn't have to know what comes next?
What if you couldn't make a mistake?
What if it didn't matter what other people thought?
What if you could trust that everything you need is inside of you? 


I've been blown open this weekend.  No, I've been sweetly, gently, beautifully, nudged open.  That space where my heart is feels soft and receptive; savoring what is now, open and eager for what comes next. 

I am on the Oregon Coast in a sweet little coffee shop called Bella Espresso.  I am sipping a vanilla latte with just the perfect amount of foaming sweetness.  A few sweet moments ago, i was at a cafe/art gallery/little piece of heaven, called Inspiration, where I walked slowly and sipped and devoured every morsel of art.  And ate a yummy Caesar Salad created by a brave woman named Sue who moved out here from New Jersey because it was her dream.  And some steamy clam chowder that was truly goodness in a bowl.  Moments before that, i gently walked on the beach until i was sufficiently saturated with sea air; listening to the sound of playful waves and screeching seagulls, watching giggling children and adults run toward and then away from rushing sea water.  Taking deep, full breaths of all of it.

And moments before that I stood before a big piece of white paper, held in the space of warmth and love and lit candles; allowing the brush and color to be my guide.  where i stopped choosing and started allowing "it" to choose me.  Where i stopped asking where it was going and started allowing images to appear.  Where i started to believe that there really aren't mistakes and began trusting something inside of me that has been quietly asking for my attention for as long as i can remember. 

In this moment, i am full and overflowing.  And what if i don't have to know what's next?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Doorways Project

I have been following Doorways Traveler's blog for several months now.  The first time i visited her site, i knew i had discovered a beautiful, brave, authentic woman with an amazing and important vision. 

I am passionate about supporting dreams that lead to greater good in this world and am honored to support Lisa in hers.  Below, Lisa writes about the Doorways Project.  Please join me in supporting her beautiful dream. 

P.S:  She's also offering the chance to participate in a great giveaway to people who donate any amount to this project.  To learn more about Lisa and for details on the giveaway, click here.

*********************************************************************

In Lisa's Words:

The Doorways Project combines my passions for travel, beauty, and connection in a mission to capture images and share stories of women from around the world who recognized and then walked through doorways toward greater freedom in their lives.The doorways I speak of involve subtle or significant life decisions that defy logic, reason, and traditional choices; and that lead to greater peace, happiness, connection, and, ultimately, freedom from suffering.


It is my hope that the images and stories shared through this project will inspire women who may not yet feel they have found their doorway (or who may have been too afraid to pass through) to begin to look for their own unique passages to freedom from the suffering they experience. Further, it is my vision that the Doorways Project will create new doorways through the featuring and promotion of compassionate international humanitarian organizations and the populations they serve; namely, those women who may not have the strength or resources to open the door for themselves.

The photographs and stories captured through the Doorways Project will be shared through a devoted project website (currently being developed) and other social media outlets; and images will always be gifted freely to the people and organizations featured. It is my intent to have the first printed collection of Doorways Project s photographs and stories available for publication in Winter 2012.

The Doorways Project is my way of paying it forward. Of offering myself and my ability to capture images of the things I see. Of finding my own doorways to freedom in the connection and convergence of my story with the stories of women around the world. And of finding that we are truly all the same.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make the next stop of the Doorways Project in Uganda, where I will follow, photograph and listen to the stories of the individuals and communities supported by the work of the Community Action Fund for Women in Africa (CAFWA). CAFWA's executive director, Linda Cole, is a friend that I have admired for quite some time. She and her husband, Tom (the director of Save the Children in Uganda) are the kind of people that make me want to be better. Simply put, Linda lives passionately through her work with CAFWA, which, to date, has opened doors for over 7,000 women through the various partner programs that CAFWA invests in. These include things like microfinance, skills training, income generation, adult education, gender-based violence prevention and victim support, health services, human rights awareness, peace building and conflict management; all focused on improving the lives of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict affected areas. I look forward to following Linda as she oversees these various programs, as well as creating photoessays featuring "a day in the life" with one or two of the women whose lives have been changed since participating in CAFWA's programs.

The photographs and stories I collect in Uganda will be given freely to CAFWA for use toward their promotion, awareness, and fundraising efforts. I will also co-create a fundraising event upon my return, where we will feature the photographs captured and, as always, I will donate proceeds from the sale of any print materials created with the images of women and children served by CAFWA's programs.

And here is the part where I ask for your help.

I need to raise $2000 to cover my travel expenses and to make this trip a reality. I am asking for donations of any amount toward making this happen. I sincerely believe that the images and stories that your donations will enable me to capture and share will give back with interest to the women served by CAFWA.

So, what do you say? Will you help me live my dream?

It's easy. There's a button at the bottom of this post.

As a way to thank you for your contributions, I am offering anyone who donates the chance to participate in a fantastic giveaway. My friends have generously donated their beautiful creations to be given away in support of my dream to do this work. I am so grateful for their talent and their generosity.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass


I don't typically post long poems, mostly because I don't really like them.  I like them short and sweet.  So when I saw how long this one was (below), it almost lost me.  But then i looked again and realized it was written by Mary Oliver and i don't think i've read a single poem of hers that i didn't like.  So, i kept reading. 

And, whew.  It was one of those goose-bumpy kinds-of-things for me...while i was reading, my heart started beating more quickly and then more quickly still.  And when i was done reading, i felt fuller and less thirsty. or maybe more thirsty.   And like i needed to share.  And like maybe i need to get it tattooed on my whole body.

So, grab a beverage and settle in.  And don't stop reading until you get to the end...seriously.  And then go back to the beginning and read it again.


To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
by Mary Oliver

1.
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.

2.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

3.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.

4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

5.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.

6.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world


p.s:  Lori Portka (my new favorite artist) posted one of my paintings and a poem on her blog today!  Go check it out.  And if you haven't yet, you must take a look (and then another look) at her beautiful artwork...

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm in Love!

It's only happened to me a few times, where I see art and am immediately moved by it, like it actually touches me inside and expands me in some way.  Last week I stumbled upon this (below) gorgeous, fun, inspiring, playful, happy art and fell in love. 

Through her paintings, her blog, and a few sweet email exchanges, I feel I have gotten a glimpse into a very special person.  I wanted all of my readers to have the same honor.

Below are a few of my favorites--there are dozens more in her online shop.  Enjoy!


Artwork by Lori Portka

This is my very favorite--i just love all the color and the beauty of this woman-she looks so peaceful and centered.

Could this cow be any sweeter?


And this one!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Embracing Our Emotional Side

I was browsing through this amazing artist's site and came across this very powerful, thought-provoking and empowering TED talk video. (below) A reminder to all of us (boys included!) to embrace our emotional side.

P.S::  One of my readers left the below comment, I think he makes a very strong point.  Thank you, Justin.  Here's to embracing our emotional side and celebrating individuality!

"I really enjoyed that. Some amazing stories.

I want to embrace empathy/vulnerability/passion, both in me and others. But why call these things femininity or 'inner girl'? That seems to reinforce gender constructs. I'd rather celebrate individuality and undermine those constructs..."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Baby


Happy Birthday my sweet sweet Lily.

You are absolutely precious.  so sure of yourself and grounded.  so empathetic.  so wanting to help and give.  so cuddly and loving.  so sensitive and tough.  so silly and serious.   so full of heart and goodness.  and so completely and perfectly adorable.  And smoochable. 
I could kiss your chunky little cheeks for a thousand years.

You so get it.

I can't believe my "baby" is five.

I love you to the moon and back...an infinite amount of times.

Pure Sweetness






Sweet Little Treats

I get these daily "notes from the Universe," as I'm sure many of you do, and they almost always have this lightening, brightening affect on my day.  Sometimes they just crack me up or make me smile, sometimes they bring comfort or inspiration, often they give me something profound to think about.  They are just fun little daily treats that i enjoy receiving.  Plus, the writer of them, Mike Dooley, is a person who just went out there and made his dreams happen, and it all started with these quirky little messages. 

Thought I'd share one that i received recently:  (substitute your name with mine)    :)

Talk about magical rendezvous, julia...

Right this very moment, on a distant farm, there basks a fig, a nut, or a berry, whose very life force will soon be your own. But that's not all...

Right this very moment, there's a gorgeous home on a splendid property with a spectacular view, whose roof will someday give you shelter. But that's not all...

Right this very moment, there are beautiful souls on your beautiful planet, whom you do not even know, yet through your meanderings and theirs, paths will cross, love will be shared, and eternal friendships will be created. I'm still not done...

And nothing you do, or don't do, can prevent these serendipities I've just shared, and so, so many
more.

Amen, hallelujah, rock me Amadeus -

The Universe

Enjoy your day, lovely people.



Monday, March 1, 2010

Showing Up Anyway

"And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."   Anais Nin


It's amazing how intense fear can be; how much it wants to stop us in our creative tracks, how much it wants us to avoid and resist rather than DO.  How it compares us to every other creative person out there and tells us we don't measure up.  And it's amazing how often we listen to it and allow it to squelch our beautiful creative energy.

I'm tired of listening to fear.  I'm tired of allowing it to put parameters around my ideas and inspirations.  i'm tired of allowing it to zap my creative energy today when yesterday i felt like flying.

So, for today, I promise...

to DO despite the fear.  To simply begin even when i feel like hiding inside myself.  To be willing to pick up the pen or place my fingers on the keyboard even when i have no idea of what i'm going to say.  To be willing to pick up the paintbrush even when the idea of creating something "not good enough" scares the hell out of me.  To be willing to keep going, to keep showing up, even while my scaredy cat mind criticizes and berates and places limits.

What i know for sure is that in the moment of creating, when i'm really truly present, when i'm really truly open and allowing and trusting, beautiful things happen.  Beautiful things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the "product, " and everything to do with me showing up and honoring what's inside and allowing it to move through me.

Dear Readers,

Here's to being afraid and DOing anyway.  Here's to honoring all that's inside our hearts and to knowing that there are no limits to what we can create.  Here's to showing up, again and again and again--with trust and openness, and allowing the beautiful creative process to take us where we need to go.   Here's to getting out of our own way and allowing our creative selves to blossom.

With love,

Julia