Monday, December 26, 2011

Occupy - 2012

This is the year I will occupy 2012.  Yep… my own occupy movement is underway.  It is not so much that I am disgruntled, have grudges, or need to make my demands… It is more about choosing the changes and knowing exactly where I want to go with my reactions to what the year may present.

I am occupying the year to make it count.  When I am very old and look back over my lifetime, 2012 is going to stand out in my memory.  Maybe I will view it as pivotal, a time when I decide that I will make changes for the better.   A time that I will be grounded in what my true purpose is. I am thinking that I will choose my responses to new experiences with a quality of eager motivation, less by obligation and expectations.

It took many years to create who I am today.  No more wishy-washy handwringing questions asking, “Who am I? Why am I here?” My occupation consists of my true authenticity.  There is a profound reason that I get to greet another New Year – my existence is a small but important piece in a much larger puzzle.

As I occupy 2012, I will trust my instincts and my gut.  I am still learning how this phenomenon serves me. My intent is to recognize it and trust it. That “feeling” may not be foolproof, but it has guided me out of some sticky situations in years past.  In 2012, it has my full attention!

During my occupation, I will tend to my garden and my soul.  Both need constant care and cultivation.  While never fully completed, the tasks will keep me very busy for yet another year.

Encouragement will occupy my interactions with others.  I do not have to know the full effect that my encouraging words might have on another person.  Encouragement has powerful results even though it is so easy to offer it to someone that passes through my day.  The power?  Well, I trust it makes everything better for all of us.  There is not one of us that does not benefit from someone else’s simple, encouraging remark.

Charitable contributions will keep content in my everyday. My acts of charity will not be limited to monetary gifts, defined causes and percentages.  Each new day presents opportunity for this type of occupation.  I am determined to notice it, recognize it and step up to the plate as I am invited.

This year I am not going to wish my friends and loved ones are perfect… or that they always have my best interests at heart. The reality of love is that it transcends these “tests” of relationships. I invite love to fully occupy my heart and mind. It is my desire to love… and this decision will help me to overcome the challenges of relating with others and honoring our right to have  differences.

This year will be occupied with my negativity being kept in check.  My actions and words shall be chosen carefully. I plan to make my own truths considerate of others and their feelings.  My thoughts will minimize fear based thinking; my heart will keep soft places for tons of love and compassion as I view my surroundings.

My occupation includes more humor… sometimes I get stuck because I view circumstances with  a most serious spirit of trying to “figure it all out” instead of simply being amused by what I observe – yep, more humor in 2012!

I will occupy my nights by noticing moonbeams and seeing the bright stars in the sky.  Sunshine and rain and clouds remind me that it is not up to me to orchestrate everything that happens in a day – what a relief!

Yes, consider the year 2012 to be occupied.  At least 99% plus… by my choices, determination and with my eyes eagerly wide-open to the possibilities.  I am not budging!  And, I am betting there will be many who will join me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Year I Threw Mary & Joseph Away

When I was a child, our family embraced and celebrated many customs and family traditions. These Rituals made me feel happy inside. They kept our family unity constant over the years. We all knew that we could count on those special things - ceremonies, decorations and the making of traditional special foods and cookies year after year. Holidays became family centered even during the toughest times.

Once I grew up, I brought these traditions into my own family, adding more each year to the busy-ness of it all. We added yet another string of lights and I found more recipes to try. There were scheduled Holiday customs like going to the mountains to cut down our Christmas tree on a wintery day. I knew it was important for my children to grow up with these family bonding experiences the same way I had.

Setting out the Nativity was a sacred part of decorating for Christmas. The cherished set my parents had would be handled so carefully as not to break the ceramic figuines. Over the years, I had collected my own beautiful Fontinini Nativity set, piece by piece. I cherished the set for its beauty and its usability. The figurines would allow little hands to pick up them up and play with them with no fear of breakage. I would never have to scold children for handling the pieces or tell them “not to touch”. As more pieces were added, the absence of a third wise man did not bother me. How do we know there were three wisemen anyhow? No one really knows for sure.

Angels became another collection of significance as I became so aware of their existence through miracles I had witnessed and lived through. One Christmas, I wrote about the presence Angels in my life and shared it with family and friends. Soon, relatives began presenting me with angel figurines of all types! It warmed my heart to see the angels all over our house, reminders of God’s protection.

Our storage boxes were growing in number and with that, the added tasks of putting out, hanging up, taking down and putting away until the next year. Trying to make all of our favorite kinds of Christmas cookies became a burden while trying to get the family off to services and performances. Nevertheless, persevere I did, all in the effort to keep “more” of the *Magic*.

Occasionally an ornament would break, maybe one from when I was a child. Often an old school project decoration made by my child’s little hands would be found crumbling in the bottom of the box. I experienced different levels of heartache with each loss depending on the sentiment attached to the item.

One particular year changed everything - our family broke apart. The big “D”. I knew that our customs and traditions were needed more than ever, especially for the children. But, with each one came a painful realization of what had just been “lost”. The memories, even the happiest ones, would bring each of us to tears at one time or another… We all forged ahead in spite of the changes and each of us tried to keep our chins up and go forward, believing that Christmas *Magic* is about more than just our memories of the past.

Over time, there were new friends, new loves and new places to go. I slowly started to crave simplification and ease with how we would move through our Holidays and Family Traditions. I recognized a need to create space to embrace the new. This became especially important as I remarried and our family took on another new shape.

Little by little, I started weeding out the more ordinary mementos from the massive collections stored in boxes and bins that were marked “Xmas”. Hanging on to so many things was not giving me that satisfaction that I once thought it would. I gave away some ornaments and some of the homemade projects were boxed and thrown in the trashcan. It was somewhat sad, but also liberating. The progress was slow, but the paring down continued spurred on by the realization that we had just “hung on” to too much and that all that “stuff” was just bogging us down. No one missed the items that were gone… No one was asking where it all went.

One year, as I unpacked my beautiful Fontanini Nativity, I could not find Mary and Joseph! As I frantically tore through old boxes and the wrappings, a realization hit my heart with the impact of a sledgehammer. I knew what had happened. In my quest to downsize the decoration inventory, I had accidentally thrown out a box that the Mary and Joseph figurines had been placed in the year before. I was horrified! How would I explain this to my future little grandchildren as they were learning the Christmas story? That their Grandma had “lost” the little Baby’s parents?!

It took me a while to see the significance of my sad loss. At first, I was afraid to display the Baby Jesus without Mary and Joseph present to take care of their Little One. It seemed sacrilege to put out an incomplete set. Then, over time, I reasoned that the Angel, the Sheppard, the Wise Men and even the awestruck barn animals had the Baby Jesus’ back. Surely, they will take care of him in the absence of his parents.

I looked in stores to replace the missing figurines only to find that the set that I had was currently unavailable. This left me to struggle with the phenomenon, year after year. I continued to place the incomplete set out for display and found that its beauty still took my breath away. It told the story even though Mary and Joseph were missing. My admission of my error of why there are missing figurines told to wondering little faces will someday assure them that I am human, make mistakes and have regrets. The story of the Nativity will still be told, the way it should be.

During these years, I discovered that it is not up to me to keep the “constant” of the Holidays for myself or anyone else… nor can I “create” a perfectly complete Christmas. There is a gift in accepting that there will be more evolving circumstances and that changes will occur as the years roll by. Many people travel through our lifetime… And, the mistakes, the losses, the changing customs – it is all OK. The real Christmas *Magic* remains. It is constant. And the real “Gift” is to Believe.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Seed Roasting

Fall is here and with the cool winds and falling leaves come the smells from the oven as the cooking gravitates from the outside BBQ into the kitchen.  Home centered projects leave one to feel content to be inside.
One annual kitchen project is the roasting of the pumpkins ... and the seeds!

My son came to help make Jack-O-Lanterns and expanded on my seed roasting method this year.  The additions of a little olive oil and another sprinkling of salt made the seeds better than ever! 

I am often asked how to go about roasting the seeds, an important part of carving Jack-o-lanterns as well as a side job on the same day that I roast the pumpkins for pies.

My step-by-step method goes like this:

1. Separate the seeds form the pumpkin "guts" and rinse the seeds in a collander.

2. Boil the seeds in a saucepan with water to cover and add about 1/3 cup sea salt.
3. Simmer 20 minutes (do not let it boil over).
4. Strain and let the excess water drip off.
5. Spread onto a cookie sheet and roast at 175 degrees ("convect roast" if you have a setting, bake is fine if you don't).
6. Stir the seeds about every 20 minutes.
7. After about an hour, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a little more sea salt - stir some more and again about every 20 minutes for about 2 more hours.

Once the pumpkin seeds are dry and a little brown, roasty looking, they are ready to put into jars... or eat!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A House, An Era

The old faded photograph sat on the small table between two large recliner chairs… my Mom handed it to me as she explained the reason for its proximity.   The photo showed an old brick house. “This is the house that your Dad grew up in”, she stated. I was visiting my parents when this occurred, they are in their eighties…. and the photo grabbed my attention.  The brick house had a charming look with beautiful detail of trim and stonework.

My Dad quickly came to my side to tell me that under the front porch was a “coal cellar” and a “fruit cellar”.  Well, now they really had my attention, having my own recent interests of home canning and the food storage challenges that result.  Boy! would I love to have a fruit cellar!  I was trying to wrap my mind around a visual, so my questions began…

My Dad explained that the house was built in 1935.  It was 1936 when his family moved in to this brand new “bungalow” style home, a word that I found amusing.  Bungalow” seems an inappropriate association with an old, brick house, but I had to remember that the home was new and modern back in the day. 

Apparently, the two “cellars”, described by my Dad, were sort of like walk in closets - each with a door that stemmed off the basement. The basement was much larger and my Dad spoke of “dances” held by “Aunt Olivette” in this part of the house.

The memories of having to go downstairs to shovel coal into the furnace each morning and several times a day were told by both of my parents. As my interest about details peaked, the memories continued to flow; each parent’s stimulating each other’s remarks with another.  I was clear that these visits with my parents and the conversations held between us were precious.

My Dad described the “small monkey stove” that sat in front of the furnace. It was lit only for those times hot water was needed, such as when it was time to shower or wash dishes or clothes.  Each time someone had to go and light the monkey stove and wait for the water to heat.  I know why my Mom and Dad seemed to stress this part of the description. Our spoiled generations insist on frequent long hot showers no matter where we are or what the agenda is.  Of all of the people I know, Shelby would be the only young person that truly understands the luxury of running water, let alone instantly hot water ready and waiting for one’s desired use.

Returning home from my visit, I had so many thoughts running through my in my head of how things progress over one's lifetime, I remembered what my GrandDaddy said when I was visiting him and I remember the excitement of gathering around a small television to watch the moment of “man walking on the moon”.   With amazement, he just shook his head and said, “what a great era I have lived, from horse-and-buggy to man-on-the-moon!”  He was in his seventies.

I returned home from my visit and the newscasts were suddenly full of the news of Steve Jobs death.  This great visionary and creator of Apple Products had his life cut abruptly short.  Only one year older than I, his fate of contracting pancreatic cancer brought his productive life to conclusion. The memorials and tributes flowed freely for days to come.  It was an end of an era.

My thoughts grabbed at a small part of what he said in his commencement speech to the Stanford raduating Class of 2005.  He spoke of “looking back” and “connecting the dots”.  In this present day, when phrases like “don’t look back” and “live in the present”  are prevelent, I realized how refreshingly important his advice was to each of us.  There is great value in looking back at all the things along the way, these occurrances make us who we are…  To really know one’s self, how else but to look back and connect the dots?  Reflecting on history is one of the most important components in decision-making that I know.

I think about the short era Steve Jobs lived.  He and I most certainly sat in the same type of classroom, reading the same “Weekly Reader” that told of futuristic times when every household would have a computer for personal use.  His short life of 56 years spanned from when computers were barely heard of, all the way to the barrage of computerized electronic necessities in almost everyone’s hands.  And, mostly due to his own vision of progress.

I see the joy when my parents reminisce and tell stories to the younger family members.  And, as they share them with us, there is importance to what we get to take with us, making up who we are!  Living life is a chance to connect the dots!  It reminds me of the reason for the title of this Blog.  It is not so much about a certain destination in life.  The matters of the heart are really about all of the little things that happen along the way… through the Journey….

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Less is More….

      I marvel at how a seemingly tragic situation will often lead to an outcome of promise.  Take the recent economic situation our country faces, the joblessness, the skyrocketing costs of gas and groceries.  This situation forces new ideas about how to live sustainably.
    Never before have I noticed so many people using their yards to grow their food.  It is so important the novice gardener have access to the knowledge of those who have learned over time.  Meet Scott, who agreed to post on this blog for those (grasshoppers) just starting out on their vegetable garden journey…

How to Grow More in Less Space
by  Scott Reed

As I often visit neighborhood gardens, I am always surprised at the large amount of space that people take to grow their flowers and vegetables.  That's ok I guess, if you have the space.  However, more space usually means more weeds, which means more work. People often tell me that they would like to grow a garden but do not have room.  Where did we ever get the idea that you have to have wide rows or lots of room?  If you will stay with me, and read along, I will tell you how to grow enough food for a family of four with  48 sq. feet of raised beds (three 4x4 ), 12 each - 2cubic foot bags of potting soil or 10 bales of rice straw.  The point here is you do not need a lot of room or even have dirt ground-space to grow a garden.  You can grow your garden in containers, in your flowerbeds, along the patio, driveway, blacktop or concrete.  If you want a garden, start thinking outside the box.  Stop looking at those big beautiful fields as you drive down long country highways, they harvest with machines, they need those wide rows.

So where should I start.  First, my garden method is a combination, of what is called, French Intensive and Square Foot Gardening with Vertical thrown in for good measure.  What does all this mean you ask?  Well listen up grasshopper.  French Intensive is a broadcast method.  After the soil is prepared you take your garden rake and furrow the space (lightly rake it grasshopper) broadcast your seed, water and when the plants are about 2 inches tall lightly rake the plants in one direction only. Continue to do this every 2 weeks or until your plants are about 6 inches tall.  You are thinning out the plants and in the case of carrots, beets or lettuce add the thinnings to your daily salad. 

Square Foot Gardening is a raised bed method where your bed is divided into squares of one foot each. Now here is where its gets interesting.  You can grow four corn, 9 beets or bush beans, 16 small onions or 1 Tomato, Pepper, Zucchini or Summer Squash per Square foot, mixing in your herbs or flowers.  I have done it and it works! 

Vertical growing means that if it is a vining plant you can train it to grow up, not out. Example, a vining cucumber plant will occupy 4 square feet on the ground but only 1 square foot if you train it to go up.  There are lots of climbing varieties for most types of vegetables.  This summer I have 30 inch Jumbo Banana Squash growing on my back fence with four other types of squash including melons.   This year everything that can grow up is growing up. Some books that I recommend you read are; Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew or Cube foot Gardening by Christopher Bird.
If any of this is interesting to you, please respond in the comments section.  I can also cover some other topics;  gardening with bags of soil, how to grow a Straw Bale Garden, a quick discussion on container gardening, the fact that not all soil is good, how and what seeds to save, plus the all important Companion Gardening or - not all things grow well together.

Please feel free to request subsequent postings on any of these topics...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Muriel's Garden

I am honored to have Muriel write this guest blog post for itsnotthedestination.  her quest to become a successful organic gardener is her journey... She has learned along the way and has much to share in the way of gardening knowlege... Thank you, Muriel, for this contribution:

Managing an organic garden is much like managing life. It requires balance in all its phases from soil prep to harvest. The foundation of a stable and prosperous life is developing a belief system that will encourage good choices. One that is too rigid stifles spontaneity and one that is too loose can lead to missed opportunities. The foundation of a prosperous garden is the soil.
I started my garden with clay soil that was rigid like adobe in the summer and loose as quick sand in the winter. I have since amended the soil with a dump load of sandy loam (best $300 I ever spent) and organics such as compost and grass clippings. Here’s how it works. I lay out the vegetable beds in different directions each year, sometimes horizontally, sometimes vertically and sometimes diagonally. This assures that the crops and amendments will be rotated throughout the entire garden. When I mow the lawn, I spread the clippings on the paths between the vegetables. I keep them about 2” deep. It not only looks neat and tidy, but it retains moisture, keeps the mud from collecting on shoes and chokes out the weeds. The weeds that do get through are easy to pull. The grass decomposes and adds nitrogen to the soil. I till it in at the end of the season and the organic matter loosens and enriches the soil. Every season brings a little improvement in quality. Giving back to the foundation and distributing the burden of nurturing growth over the entire growing area is of benefit to the productiveness of the whole garden.

I think everyone has the same basic goal in that we all want to get the most out of life. Whether our motivation is emotional, spiritual or material, we all strive for the most bountiful harvest we can coax out of our world. Organic gardeners share that same philosophy, but the challenge is to conquer the evil and foster the good in our vegetable beds without harming ourselves or others. That takes patience, vigilance and hard work. It is easy to vanquish the agricultural enemy with a giant dose of malathion, but, just as in war, to win by force is to accept the resultant collateral damage. The aphids, cabbage worms, cucumber beetles and leaf borers will most certainly be gone, but so will the lady bugs, praying mantises and lacewings that feast on them, not to mention the honey bees. The impatient and heavy handed gardener merely realizes a temporary victory in that the pests will return, and this time with a clear playing field. Ecological diplomacy and patience solve perceived garden crises more permanently than drastic measures.

One afternoon, I went out to water my cucumbers and noticed they were looking rather sad and wilted. I turned over a leaf and was horrified to find it was literally solid with aphids. My first reaction was, “Dang! I’m going to have to spray to get rid of this many aphids.” I had seen a few ladybugs around and a mantis though, and really was reluctant to kill them as well. (Besides, my hairdresser trades me haircuts for organic veggies, and the guilt of passing off pesticide laden cucumbers would have haunted me forever.) I immediately ran down to Orchard Supply and purchased a carton of ladybugs. Ladybugs do not fly after dusk, so if they are deposited in the garden in the evening and they locate food (aphids, scale, mites etc.) they settle in and start eating pests and laying eggs. Patience is a virtue. It has taken three weeks, but my cucumbers and melons are now a veritable ladybug nursery and the aphids are well under control. Knee jerk reactions create temporary fixes.

Snails and slugs present another interesting challenge. There is a product called Sluggo that is iron phosphate and safe for organic gardens. Apparently, they eat it and lose their appetites and die of starvation, but with the wet spring we had, our population was out of control. To stay ahead of the game, constant vigilance is required. I use several methods to keep the numbers down. The first rule on our property is: if you see a snail or slug, it’s mandated that you kill it. Beer traps catch a few, but the most effective weapons are timing, location and the foot. I never let a rain pass without a snail hunt. It brings them out in force and they are easy prey for a stomp. I netted over 300 in 15 minutes the last rain we had. Early morning is optimum for the hunt. I invert pots in corners of the garden and catch them where they hide. Deterrence is another strategy to keep the slimy critters away from tender plants. I noticed they were really going after the beans more than anything, so I chose those as my target area. Slugs have tender bellies and don’t like to crawl across sharp surfaces. I save all my egg shells, crush them and lay a barrier around the plants that are most vulnerable. Walnut shells or cocoa husks will also work. Making it unpleasant to attack slows the enemy down and averts conflict.

In life, it is important to choose our friends carefully. We’ve all seen the successful teen who chooses the wrong friends and ends up “tanking.” The same is true for vegetables. Some combinations create symbiotic relationships that benefit both plants and others end in poor harvest. I once bought plants that were labeled as broccoli from our local high school and they turned out to be broccoflower. It is the Voldemort of vegetables. Nothing will grow next to it. It thrived and everything else withered and died. Ironically, it tasted like cauliflower and no one in my family would eat it. Epic fail! The next year I planted fennel and peppers together. Neither did well. Then I discovered a website called Gardens Ablaze which has a companion plant chart. Now I plant basil with tomatoes, oregano with peppers, pole beans with corn (they use the stalk for a pole . . . no staking required and put nitrogen into the soil for the corn), and, with the right choice of allies get a much better yield.

There is much to learn from organic gardening that could benefit the world. It’s all about balance, patience, integrity and respect. It’s about managing our enemies without destroying ourselves and our allies. It’s about remaining open to accepting whatever harvest gift the day might bring and savoring the joy of the first tomato, melon or cucumber. It’s about conserving resources and giving back to the earth and making choices that carry the most benefit and least harm. It’s about recognizing that nature has provided us with solutions that eliminate the need for us to forcefully control our environment. Perhaps it should be a requirement for the world leaders to spend an hour a day managing an organic garden. Maybe, then they would understand how to maintain self-sustaining, peaceful and productive nations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Harvest

I just got back from Muriel's Garden...

Each time I revisit, I learn something new.  Upon entering the gate, I was taken with the sight of bean plants climbing up the tall cornstalks.  Now if this is not just the best example of sustainable gardening!

Muriel came around the back way and explained that the beans and corn are companion plantings.  The beans use the cornstalks for support, while the weight of the bean plants actually strengthens the corn stalks.  Everything with it's purpose... and a higher plan in action.

The garden represents what I find out more and more about life in general:
  • Things have a way of working in unison.
  • There is a higher plan of action than I will ever know completely.
  • wonderful things happen for those of us that stick around long enough to observe.
Muriel and I struck an agreement as she embarked on the massive task of organic vegetable gardening some years ago.  She would share and I would trade for the food on my table with my own business services.  The barter has been appreciated both ways.

The garden has become a Taj Mahall of vegetables, at least in my own observation.  As Muriel learns and implements her research findings, the yield becomes more efficient with each coming season.

The growing, harvesting and using food that is "in season" is something that was taught to me as i was growing up in the Santa Clara valley of Northern California.  in those days, the "Bay Area" was mostly orchards; plums, cherries and various fruits and nuts.  My Dad would plant the vegetable garden and food was provided during the long California growing season.

"What's for dinner" was decided by what was growing and ripe, not by which restaurant you felt like trying...

It is so easy to put together a meal with what is available.  A little creativity and inspiration is that "love" that everyone refers to when a meal is planned with a little care and consideration.

If there is something I could pass on to my kids, it would be for them to know this and pass it on to their own kids....

One of my sons has a vegetable garden of his own this year.  The learn as you go process has it's frustrations, but the rewards are there for the taking.  You have to start somewhere!

Mealtimes will bring true meaning to the term "fast food".  What might be easier than slicing some tomatoes and cucumbers and placing them on a dinner plate for the side dish.

Now add my own special sauce + sesame seeds:
  2 teaspoonsbalsamic vinegar
  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  1 teaspoon olive oil
Shake in a jar and drizzle over the vegtables. Sprinkle with the seeds.

Tonight's "fast food' became the white corn I had in my fridge from the fruit stand combined with some of the vegetables I had picked:

I steamed my chosen ingredients, then used butter with a slotted spoon to melt over the this entire "medley of flavors" while still hot. 

Honestly, going "out" to eat would have taken more time....

Sunday, May 29, 2011


my wedding bouquet - 10 years later
Destiny dictates the reality of circumstances and events despite intention. A person might be destined to run into someone they thought they could avoid in a crowd. Likewise, one’s destiny will keep them from finding someone whom they might have been searching for.

 A missed turn or detour might be the safest route for unknown reasons and the frustration of delay becomes a minor detail in the bigger plan. Circumstances that seem random or synchronized will put us on the course of where we are destined to be.

Ten years ago, while standing at the crossroads of so many chapter changes in a very short period of time, my own destiny presented itself with the most charming elements of surprise while I was making plans for my own wedding.

The first I learned of the antique music box was in the spring of 2001. The man I was to marry had spoken of its existence following a telephone conversation he had with his 83-year-old mother. At that time, I had no knowledge of its size or beauty, or the “magic” that was to evolve…

The music box was the one thing that my FiancĂ© asked his parents to ship out to the West Coast. The large and heavy shipment, all the way from Charleston, SC would be a costly task. Each time he spoke of the music box, there was excitement in his voice that was hard to ignore. I had seen music boxes, the smaller type that might hold jewelry and have moving parts, but little idea did I have of the quality or history behind this special heirloom.

I received a phone call from my future Mother-in-law just before the music box was delivered. She informed me of the family history of how the music box stayed within the family for generations. She added a little story about her son and his fascination with the hand carved piece. The handle had once been wound too tightly which sprung and broke the mechanics, so the box was retired to the attic for many years, only to be rediscovered years later. Realizing its great value, the family eventually had it repaired and brought it out to play and enjoy. Later, my husband confessed to “messing around” with the handle until it had sprung!

Once the box was delivered to its new owner, I received a phone call and my fiancé proceeded to play the music via telephone. I was completely enthralled with the beauty of the sound! He described the size of the big steel records and how they were interchangeable. I was eager to see it for myself.

I was totally unprepared for my own reaction when I was finally able to the music box. The beauty of the craftsmanship of the woodwork was gorgeous! Once the lid was lifted, I exclaimed at its beauty. The painting on the inside of the lid of a woman and child drew me to a felling of familiarity. My own grandmother’s house was full of antiques when I was a child, and though I cannot recall ever seeing a music box, the feeling I got when gazing upon this work of art took me back to those times.

We quickly unwrapped and few more of the discs leaving most in the original wrapping for the move to our new home in the weeks to come. As the tune was played for me, I could not help but visualize how it must have been in the 1800s, families gathering round, listening and dancing to these very same records in the days before such magic was spoiled with the habits of modern television.

That same evening, while dining with friends, the conversation turned to the logistics of our upcoming wedding. We were planning a small ceremony and had unexpectedly been presented with an opportunity to hold the event at a little known stone house that was built in the 1800s and had been preserved as a National Landmark. The topic of music came up and my groom remembered that one of the discs that came with the music box was indeed of the “Wedding March”. That night we unwrapped all of the discs and played every single one on the music box. We found the Wedding March was indeed included in the collection and selected other favorites to record and later play at our wedding.

We pledged out vows to each other at the Wildermuth House on the seventh day of July in 2001. Located in Valley Springs, California on the Coast to Crest Trail, the stone house had been built in 1861 by William A. Watt. William had constructed the stone house of hand dressed sandstone quarried form a nearby hillside. Centuries later, here we stood with this monument as a backdrop to one of the most important events of my life.

It had rained that morning, holding at bay the valley heat typically know to the area, creating a certain element of the unusual. The mood of the day was full of the romance of the present day as well as the feeling of days long ago. While the recording of the music box played in the background, I could not help but reflect on how it might have been one hundred and forty years earlier. It was at this moment that a realization swept over me; feelings of joy and enjoyment are indeed timeless….

It is now ten years since that day and there is no doubt in my mind that destiny had brought us together and led us to a place where the ages came together to create a new beginning of our own journey through time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Eggs Allelujah!

It’s a custom I grew up with, so I know no other….

Holy Week brought the fun custom of dying colored Easter Eggs! On Good Friday my Mother would boil dozens of eggs in large Pyrex glass pans and pots. The sight of huge mixing bowls full of hard boiled eggs showed the first sign of the anticipation of our Annual Family Custom. “Always add a little vinegar to the boiling water”, I’m still not sure why…

The next day (usually in the evening) we would fill repurposed empty glass jars with a mixture of Easter Egg Dye adding just a little more food coloring to the Paas Easter Egg Dye tablets. We measured the water and vinegar carefully, doubling the recommended strength of the solution. Paraffin wax (later, bees wax was preferred) was heated by stove burner in a shallow pan and my Dad would find the “tools” to create the magic artwork on our Easter Eggs. He had learned this “art” from his Aunt as a child. The tool was made out of a nail with a wooden handle fashioned onto the end. Later years I learned that this technique was evolved from a Ukranian custom called Pynsanky. My Dad is of German descent.

I remember that the heat had to be just right for the wax to adhere properly onto the shell of the egg. We needed to stay vigilant about turning the stove control back and forth between medium and medium-low to keep the temperature constant. If the wax was too cool, It would not stick onto the shell, if the wax was too hot, it would not “pool” properly when the tip of the tool met with the shell of the egg producing a lovely tear drop shaped stroke. My Father was practiced, no one could master his technique to perfection, though some of us came close in later years.

The night before Easter was full of anticipation, I could hardly go to sleep!  We would put our new shoes (bought specifically for Easter Morning Church Services) beside our beds. The next day we would dress in our new pretty Easter clothes and embark on a day filled with Joy and Happy People singing Joyful Hymns as we attended Easter Services. Upon awaking on Easter Morning, the first sight of a beautiful Colored Egg placed in one shiny, new shoe was the first sign that the Easter Bunny had come in the night. Easter Baskets awaited us filled with Colored Eggs and Easter Candy!

None of our friends had such beautiful colored eggs, so we often gave my Dad’s artwork to favorite people and one with the design of a Cross or a Chi-Rho to the Pastor.

Through the years, family members moved to new locations, church memberships changed and new babies were born. The Easter custom continued year after year as new generations were included. The colored eggs my Dad made each year remained constant until he was in his eighties. It was what we knew Easter to be and so it was the same for our own children... which explains why my 4-year-old son, while searching for his shoes one day, said that he needed to find his “footbaskets”!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Earth Day 2011 - inspired!

This year I am inspired to actually DO something in Celebration of Earth Day! I am going to write an email and shoot it over to a few Corporate Offices…

There have been suggestions by certain Bloggers about actually snail mailing a physical letter to Restaurants asking them to be aware of the trash their establishments generate (specifically straw trash).  However, since I am not a participant in the Earth Day 2011 Contest, hosted by GlassDharma and I am not expecting a free glass straw to be mailed to me for writing this email, I get to make up my own rules.

If you are interested in receiving a free GlassDharma Glass Straw in your own mailbox, or if you would like a chance to win a $100.00 Gift Certificate from GlassDharma, you may want to visit these other Blog Sites. They will show you how. These links will take you to their posts:

Safer Choices

My Plastic Free Life

It Starts With Me

Sip The World

Retro Housewife Goes Green

Clean Eating Chelsey
Seven In The Ocean

Recycle Your Day

Now for my own Earth Day project! My letter to my favorite restaurants:

Dear Restaurant Representative,

I would like you to know that I love frequenting your establishment and enjoy the food and service. Your restaurant is a favorite meeting and dining place for my friends and family as well.

It has come to my attention that our planet is in crisis. Our collective habits of wastefulness are having apparent impact on the well being of our environment. We are all in this together! What each of us does will make a difference. Our recent love affair with convenience and single use plastics has brought us to the point where we now know that there is a price to pay.

I would like to address the amounts of trash being generated by restaurants in general, specifically, straw trash. I wonder how many straws are used in your Restaurants? There are many who like to refuse a straw in their drink, only to have it brought to them anyway. My guess is the un-used straw ends up in the waste bins along with other straw trash.

I wonder, If each customer had the choice to refuse/request the addition of a straw to their beverage, would your straw supply be reduced?

If drink options included a choice of an “upgrade” including a reusable straw for the customer to keep, might it reduce single-use straw trash?

If it became normal for a customer to bring their own reusable straw, would the number of straws you supply change?

And finally, if single use straws are the desired method of serving drinks, have you considered alternatives to plastic straws? A simple choice of paper straws over plastic straws would reduce waste that cannot break down and forever pollutes.

Many restaurants are now “pioneering” the idea to reduce their waste, a trend that improves our environment. This trend sets the example for other businesses and each of us, your customers.

I hope that we will all be thinking about how our actions bring us consequences in the years to come. We all have the option to choose re-usable vs. “disposable”. I would love to see more restaurants like yours lead the way into a future that holds promise for humankind and the generations to come.

The desired "Destination" is a Healthy Planet free from pollution, but the focus of this letter is that we now need to prioritize “the Journey”.

Happy Earth Day!

A Happy Customer with Hope for a Healthy Planet

I chose to email my "letter" to Corporate Offices of my favorite Restaurants including some chains like Chili’s and Marie Calendar’s. Some websites do not provide email addresses, so you have to call them or use their contact forms. I do provide complete contact information for myself in email correspondence and contact forms.

For those that would like to act, but find it hard to take the time, consider this. Most Restaurants do have a FaceBook page! You can simply use my letter using this link and post it on the wall of your Restaurant “likes” on FaceBook! You can easily add your own “comment” to the post.

LINK to post on FaceBook

I think it is a good thing to think about how we can make a difference about what is happening on our Planet. We need to be aware, and then we need to make an effort to make changes and encourage others as well. What we do (and don’t do) will have its own impact on us – and each other.

Have a Happy Earth Day! I hope you will Celebrate!

Earth Day Letter

Dear Restaurant Representative,

I would like you to know that I love frequenting your establishment and enjoy the food and service. Your restaurant is a favorite meeting and dining place for my friends and family as well.

It has come to my attention that our planet is in crisis. Our collective habits of wastefulness are having apparent impact on the well being of our environment. We are all in this together! What each of us does will make a difference. Our recent love affair with convenience and single use plastics has brought us to the point where we now know that there is a price to pay.

I would like to address the amounts of trash being generated by restaurants in general, specifically, straw trash. I wonder how many straws are used in your Restaurants? There are many who like to refuse a straw in their drink, only to have it brought to them anyway. My guess is the un-used straw ends up in the waste bins along with other straw trash.

I wonder, If each customer had the choice to refuse/request the addition of a straw to their beverage, would your straw supply be reduced?

If drink options included a choice of an “upgrade” including a reusable straw for the customer to keep, might it reduce single-use straw trash?

If it became normal for a customer to bring their own reusable straw, would the number of straws you supply change?

And finally, if single use straws are the desired method of serving drinks, have you considered alternatives to plastic straws? A simple choice of paper straws over plastic straws would reduce waste that cannot break down and forever pollutes.

Many restaurants are now “pioneering” the idea to reduce their waste, a trend that improves our environment. This trend sets and example for other businesses and each of us, your customers.

I hope that we will all be thinking about how our actions bring us consequences in the years to come. We all have the option to choose re-usable vs. “disposable”. I would love to see more restaurants like yours lead the way into a future that holds promise for humankind and the generations to come.

The desired "Destination" is a healthy Planet free from pollution, but the focus of this letter is to now prioritize “the Journey”.

Happy Earth Day!


A Happy Customer with Hope for a Healthy Planet

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Embracing Autism

"it's the journey" is posting for a Special Contributor in honor of Autism Awareness Month (April).
This is a glimpse in the life of another.  May each of us know... and help... and love.... along the way.

“Circle, CIRCLE!!” Four-year-old Rogi exclaims while frantically patting his mother’s hip. “Circle!” He is pointing to a box of round Waffles sitting on the counter.

“Say, ‘WAFFLE,’” his mom says, chuckling, while popping the waffle into the toaster. Rogi’s chants get louder while he waits for his breakfast to heat up. “Ciiiirrrrcle!”


A loud crash interrupts Rogi’s pleas. Mom turns around to find two-year-old Emi wailing at a spilled DVD collection on the floor. He picks them up one-by-one between his frustrated sobs and stacks all twenty movies up for the third time, making sure his tower is straight and perfect. His six-year-old sister, Lily, sits nearby, oblivious to the commotion, fixating on a repeating video of singing chipmunks on You-Tube. Welcome to a day in the life of Carmen, a single mother of three children with Autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects approximately 1 out of every 150 American children - a 172% increase since 1990. Origins of ASD remain debatable, but it is thought by most scientists to be genetic. It is the third most common developmental disability and affects more children than multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and childhood cancer. With Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), however, there is much promise for the future of these kids. These programs, when implemented at an early age, have been proven to greatly improve skill deficits and problem behaviors.

Rogi and Emi are both thriving with the help of EIBI programs. When Emi began his Early Start program last August, he had almost no eye-contact with his therapists, was constantly banging his head against walls and floors, and his tantrums lasted hours at a time. Now, less than a year later, Emi is giving kisses, saying words like “good-bye,” “apple” and “jump,” and scoring 100% on matching lessons. His tantrums are down to an average of 3 minutes long and the head-banging is gone.

Rogi finally began talking last year with the help of intense vocal imitation lessons and is scoring high in all areas of his program. He is now fully potty-trained and enjoys singing, watching movies, and has taken an interest in Dinosaurs. He knows numbers 1-12, all of his colors, and is getting ready for pre-school this summer. He has been in his EIBI program for 2 years.

Carmen and her daughter Lily

Lily is in Kindergarten and was denied an EIBI program by the school district. “There are things my 4-year-old knows that Lily does not,” says Carmen. Lily does not participate in school, cannot write in a straight line, and has trouble socializing with her peers. Getting her out the door in the morning is a daily struggle complete with tears and screaming. Carmen knows Lily would greatly benefit from an EIBI program, but the School District won’t budge.

In order to get Lily the education and therapy she needs, Carmen will have to come up with $1,200.00 for an assessment with an agency that is separate from the district. To raise the money, Carmen came up with a creative plan to make 1,000 Tamales to sell locally. She will do everything in her power to ensure money does not get in the way of her kids’ education. She has already given up having her own bedroom in order to provide Rogi and Emi with their own therapy rooms.

In honor of Autism Awareness Day beginning April 1st, please remember to wear blue in support of Carmen’s family and many like hers that are dealing with the financial, political, and emotional fight to provide therapy, education, and support for their kids.

footnote: find out more about Carmen's Homemade Tamale sale by emailing carmenstamales @

... and may God Bless the Journey....

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Birthdays mark the years of our life, measuring the distance of time... A cause for Celebration of being alive, of YOU being alive and a celebration of Self! It's our own personal "New Year"... A time to reflect back to see how far we have come on this Journey of Life..... and a time to look forward to the Promise of what the future may hold.

A birthday marks the end of a year while the beginning of new roads stretch before us....Why then, do we say, How "old" are you? Why not, How many years? (have you lived?)

Too often people express dread as another birthday approaches. Aknowledging the higher number makes them groan, "Another year gone..."

In my book of life, birthdays are cause for Self Celebration. I believe that we should all,

"Celebrate each year for the Gift that it is!"

I'm counting them all!!!!!