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Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

When I was in Venice, I spotted these men just sitting at the base of this beautiful doorway-three friends catching a break probably from work.  The were smiling and laughing and seemed to be enjoying each other.  True companions.

3Men.at.the.door

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

IN A NEW POST CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PICTURE THAT MEANS FLEETING TO YOU.

A few weeks ago I was in Venice with my family and as we were crossing one of the many pedestrian bridges I spotted this mime looking up at us.  The pigeon and the mime seem to be keeping each other company, but if only for a moment.

A fleeting moment in time, a random mime and a pigeon.
A fleeting moment in time, a pigeon and a mime.
father

A little tribute to my father

My father’s eyes were the most beautiful shade of pale blue, like azure crystals. I’ll never forget them. During the time my father had terminal  cancer,  he and I went for breakfast one morning when he was still able to get around.   I remember sitting across the table from him engaged in conversation,  and as I looked at him,  the  thought came  to me, “Remember those beautiful eyes.  Never forget how full of life they are and how they sparkle.  Never forget.” 

                                                                                                                                 Some time in the late 1970’s, myself, my dad, Emil and my mom, Annie

It’s been 30 years since I last saw my father. He was a short, handsome guy who was partially bald. He was the most fantastic man. Everyone loved him and he had many friends. He could fix anything, and he loved to garden and bake.  We lived in Chicago, and the little garden plot next to our house was always abloom with color bursting from the rows and rows of dahlias and gladiolas he grew. My dad was always anxious for the gladiolas to  open up because they were his favorite.  Gladiolas were his August birthday flower and as soon as they were ready, he’d cut a bundle of them and proudly display them in a vase in the middle of our kitchen table. He always grew a large vegetable garden every year and I still remember all summer long the tasty bundles of  leaf lettuce, onions and juicy tomatoes we’d pick just before eating our sandwiches.   My father was Bohemian and knew how to bake all kinds of delicious goodies.  My favorite was baked Houska (sweet braided bread with raisins), and it was so good it even topped the loaves you could buy at the corner bakery.  And when I was small, he always made me my own little loaf in a little, mini pan.  Love.

My father adored me.   I was the proverbial ‘daddy’s girl.’ We got along great, but there were times when he was moody. For instance, I could tell how the day was going to go depending on the tone he used to say “good morning” when I ran into him in the kitchen. And when I’d help him work on small odd jobs he always managed to lose his temper because I inadvertently didn’t do something right and he’d lose patience with me.  Funny, but now that I look back at those times I have to smile because I was kind of dopey!

My father taught me so much when I was a child, but one of the things about him I remember the most is the relationship he had with other people.  It seemed that everyone loved him.  He was funny and generous and good hearted.  He was a great neighbor and on the job he was loyal to his peers and as a Union Steward, an advocate to his fellow factory workers.  He always taught me to treat my guests like gold, and was a living example to me on how to be a good friend.

What I do know more than anything is that he loved me unconditionally. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I didn’t grow up with his love and encouragement. One thing I didn’t think would ever happen is that I’d lose him. As a little girl, I remember imagining what would happen if he died and I’d be gripped by the horrible  feeling of how unbearable life would be without him.  He was a two pack a day smoker and I was always afraid the cigarettes would make him sick, I had a gut feeling he was the one, not my mom,  who would suffer from the affects of smoking.  It turns out my intuition was spot on.  He began to get the symptoms of lung cancer during my senior year of high school.  He got sicker and sicker until he lost his battle at the very young age of 52.  And just as I had predicted, life was unbearable without him for a very long time.

There isn’t a day that has gone by since July 24th, 1982 that I don’t think of him. I was 18 when he died, and now, even though I’m now 50,  there are still times when I’m sad and deeply wish he was here with me.  I still need him when times get tough, or when I need some advice only he could give. I wish he were here to hug my children and witness them growing up and  see all I’ve accomplished in this life. I would have loved if he had the chance to have a meaningful relationship with my husband,  and it would have been so cool if  we were given the chance to watch each other grow older. How I would have loved more than anything to have him here with me through the past 30 years.

Dads.grave

To Dad- where ever you might be, I hope you still feel the warmth of the sunshine and are held close to God.  I know He’s got you right there with him-I pray He takes good care of you.  I miss you more than you can imagine   I will never forget you and I love you more than a thousand sunsets-even still.  —Emmy

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My European Vacation-top of the waves observations:

My family and I just returned from a 12 day stay in Europe.  We spent 8 days in Italy and  5 days in Paris.  It was absolutely lovely.  Here are some of my top  of the wave observations, which are really just my personal opinion.  You might feel completely different.

We got back on Sunday which made our trip just two days short of two weeks.  I enjoyed Italy and Paris immensely.  We landed in Venice and stayed there two days then bused over to Florence and stayed there two days.  After that,  it was onto Pisa/Assisi for a brief stop before we made way for Rome where we stayed three days.  Here are my top of the waves observations about each country:
In Venice the canals are so charming.  How refreshing to be somewhere without cars whizzing by.  Instead, boats are the auto of choice and necessity.  Lovely, dreamy and resorty all rolled into one.
gondola
Gondola rides: What was once a very romantic thing to do while in Venice, has now turned out to be one of the biggest rip offs in the North of Italy.  It is astronomical to ride one…like 65 euros and up per person.  So what I chose to do instead is stand on the bridges and watch other people (suckers!) float by, a little lighter in their pockets.  Honestly, to see one float  by is sufficient for me.  It’s all so gimmicky.
In my opinion, the junk vendors spoil the beauty of Europe.  The African and Indian sellers are at every well known attraction/monument hawking their cheap, imported crap where they know tourists will be flocking.  It drives me crazy and makes me want to hit them. I will never look at a red rose again with the same level of admiration as I did before I set foot in Venice.
In Italy (and other parts of Europe possibly-I don’t know) the people are very laid back and restaurateurs don’t look at customers the same way the restaurant owners here in the states do.  One evening in Venice, we tried to get a table at a restaurant that clearly had enough tables to accommodate us, but they flat out refused to seat us and discouraged us from even having a hope of getting a table.  They simply didn’t want our business.  I was amazed, and a bit pissed.  I guess we were too fat for their liking or possibly they just didn’t feel like serving us….maybe laziness overcame them.
I love the Italian language.  It sounds so lovely.  My favorite word is “Allora” which simply means “and so” or “therefore”.  Everyone says it…and it sounds so pretty….”Allora.”  Something you say mid sigh when you have nothing else to say.
allora
The leaning Tower of Pisa was breathtaking.  It is this white marble cockeyed tower that is so beautiful and set against the blue skies, it is captivating.
leaning.tower
Florence is beautiful….it’s a Medieval little New York City where Vespas and other scooters replace yellow taxi cabs.  Everyone drives a scooter.  I’ve never seen so many in all my life.  The driving is speedy and reckless and I’m sure hospital emergency rooms treat at least a few people per week that come in bloody and flattened with a tire stripe on their forehead.  🙂
scooters
The Statue of David is beyond beautiful.  That 17′ tall marble rendition of a young Biblical king brought my big husband to tears.  I turned around and just said to him, “Isn’t David just so beautiful?” and with tears visible in his eyes, he could barely mutter, “Absolutely.”  Lol…Larry brought to tears over Michaelangelo’s masterpiece.  I love it.   Yes, there IS a God…lol.
David
Kabobs are the Middle Eastern imported Italian junk food version of gyros.  Larry couldn’t get enough of them.  (not me. “Hello, where can I find some Gelato?”)
Bidets.  Bidets are EVERYTHING they are cracked up to be and more.  I figured them out (they’ve always been a bit of an enigma to me) and told all my kids how to use it and after their own experience with one, they reported to me we need to call Dave our plummer and have him install one in our house at once after we get home.  Seriously, they are awesome.  And I DO want one.  🙂
bidet
I don’t like Italian coffee.  It’s little 2 oz shots of too hot,  too strong coffee with no milk or sugar.  I searched high and low and rejoiced in the rare times I found a place that served Cafe Americane.  Cappuccino is okay with lots of milk and sugar.  Next to my dog, I missed my coffee.
Speaking of dogs, in Italy and France every good restaurant has one and it is out in the open, seen, slobbering and mingling with the customers.  I kind of like that.
Restaurant.dog
Tuscany has lovely landscapes dotted with wild, red poppies, rose crops and colorful homes painted hues of  watermelon, turquoise and taxi cab yellow among others.
Did you know Italian roosters say “Kee Kee da Kee,” quite different from our American ones that shout, “Cock a Doodle Doo?”  It’s true. 🙂
rooster
Italian men are the most beautiful creatures on earth.   Liquid brown eyes and chiseled features, holy moley. “Buongiorno, handsome!”
Gelato is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted.  My daughter and I were  addicted and tried as many flavors as we could pack into 3 days in Rome.
gellato
I love how the Italians serve water at the table in pretty decanters.  This is something I want to adopt here at home.
Paris.table
Italian.table
Wine is a standard with every meal.  I haven’t been that consistently buzzed on wine in years, if ever in my life.
Art is everywhere in Paris and Italy.  Remember to always look up because some of the best art might be lurking just above your head.
louvre.ceiling
Paris:
What I didn’t like:
 
Air conditioning is pretty crappy everywhere in Paris.
No ice.
No refills on coffee unless you pay (in Italy, too)  Guess they don’t know the meaning of ‘coffee clutch.’
What I liked:
 
The Eiffel tower is actually dark tan (I thought it was grey)  ((Maybe that’s because I have a black and white large canvas photo of it on my wall))
brn.eiffel
The Paris Metro is kick ass efficient.
Did you know Claude Monet, Impressionist painter of haystacks, cathedrals and lily pads actually painted turkeys?  I saw his turkey painting at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.  Here’s a photo of it.
Monet.turkeys
The city wasn’t any dirtier than any other city I’ve been too….in fact, it might be cleaner.
Some French men make me weak in the knees.  I did see a few that were up to the caliber in good looks as some Italian men I had spotted, our Louvre tour guide was one of them.  You can see him here. Lol
French.tourguide
The Pere La Chaise cemetery is an oddly amazingly good time.  My kids LOVED it-got to visit Jim Morrison’s grave, and roam around taking cool pictures of some of the most beautiful tombstones and mausoleums you’d find anywhere.
It’s France, what’s not to love?  C’est Bon!
What lessons I learned on this trip:
Screw fashion-Bring your most comfortable (but preferably, not white) walking gymmies, and forfeit sore feet.  I brought four pairs of  cute, fashionable shoes and they all hurt my feet and left me cursing my idiocy and vanity.  I was aching for my black Nikes.  Oh. So. Bad.
Bring less stuff.  Even though I took the advice from seasoned travelers, and watched all the YouTube videos I could find on packing light for Europe, I still brought too much.  The crappiest thing was I purchased ‘carry on’s’, with every intention of ‘carrying them on’ the plane to avoid lost luggage and the damn bags exceeded the European airlines limits on carry on size and we still had to check our bags.  Fortunately, we all got our luggage there  with us on the way to Europe, but Jeff’s bag was not put on the plane in Paris for the trip back and ended up having an extra two day holiday in the city of love without us.  Lost luggage sucks.
Bring an umbrella and a short trench coat.
 If you get the chance, please do Italy and France.  It’s lovely.
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A Contract of Sorts….My Aha Moment.

I just got the latest issue of Spirituality and Health Magazine yesterday and was enjoying the article on Elizabeth Gilbert about the holy calling of creativity.  First off, let me just say I love Ms. Gilbert.  She is such a wise old soul….every word out of her mouth is like music to my ears and words to live by.

I have been wrestling with validating the importance of  making art and making time to make art, while simultaneously combating the negative force going against me (in that department) who has shown up as my opponent in this match.  Without naming names and their relationship to me, I am trying to convince myself that what I am doing is important, it’s what I need to do,  it’s what I was born to do (thank you Priscilla!).  But my wrestling partner always seems to get the edge on me, causing self doubt and feeding me thoughts of whether the art I strive to make is legitimate and worth my time.  I know it is.  And as much as I put every ounce of strength into pinning this bad guy down sometimes I lose my hold on him.   It is difficult to not let those ugly words sink in and warp the stronghold of my soul.

Ms. Gilbert has written something in this article that has made me think.  Yes, I’m taking ownership of her words and I want to share them with you here and make them my own.  Because now that I’ve read her words of wisdom, they become my mini manifesto.

‘I was given a contract, and the contract is: “We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity.  Your side of the contract is that  you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this.  And then we will work with you on making progress.” That’s sort of what it feels like for me.

My contract is one of creating art and never doubting my purpose or intent in this life and especially not allowing anyone to get in my head and cause me to feel otherwise.  To my wrestling nemesis: If you can’t support me in my artistic endeavors, then just leave me alone.  And keep your damn mouth shut because I have a contract binding to my soul.

correct.your.mind.

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10 Ways to be Who You Really Are

hiding.2

This post was reblogged from a contribution by Paula Grieco over at Tiny Buddha

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E Cummings

I was pretty shy and very quiet kid, so going to school for the first time in kindergarten was a terrifying experience for me.

After a short time, though, life brightened for me in my little elementary school. As it turned out, I loved learning and was a natural student. It was my bliss and often a respite from tumultuous home circumstances, the first place that I spoke out loud with confidence.

Unfortunately, in the urban neighborhood where I lived, being smart meant being very low on the social hierarchy.

For years, I was oblivious to this, but as I moved in to pre-adolescence, I became acutely aware of how my peers viewed me and felt increasingly embarrassed about standing out as a stellar student.

In one particularly memorable experience, I left the stage of a successful debate speech humiliated because I spied several of my peers mocking me in the audience during my delivery. This was a turning point.

Because of an intense desire to win the approval of my peers, I began to actively make decisions to fit in rather than finding my joy by expressing who I really was. Although uncanny to me now, at times, I even would intentionally give the wrong answers on exams to bring my scores down.

An occasional wrong answer didn’t change who I really was, but each decision I made to choose the approval of others, buried my true self deeper.

The momentary gratification of being liked or winning approval could have had profound consequences. It certainly left me feeling empty.

Every time we make small decisions to fit in, whether as a child or as an adult, we are burying a little part of ourselves down deep. This is really serious business, this denying of who we are.

Make it a habit, and you risk becoming confused about who you really are. Just search online for books on topics like finding your true passion or how to get back to your true self to get a sense of the energy it takes to find pieces that are lost.

In high school, I made a dramatic internal shift. Because of a newfound faith, I started to think about my future and felt that I had a responsibility to begin living my life in a way that reflected who I really was.  

This, rather than the approval of others became a driving force for me. Small decision by decision, I began to act with the courage to be me.

I’d like to say that from that period on, I have been always and consistently true to myself. That, though, would not be true. And ironically, not being honest about who I am.

The opportunities for adults to deny their truth in favor of approval are endless, and choices can feel complicated. In some moments, I have done better than others, whether it be stating an honest, but unpopular position or leaving a lucrative career for more meaningful work.

I do know for sure that I have never met one human being—not one—who regrets making choices that reflect who they really are.

Recently, something reminded me of the rewards of being true to who you are. My son asked me if I had three wishes for my life, what would I wish.

I was stumped. Really. Sincerely. Stumped. I couldn’t come up with one wish—not because I have arrived to a particular destination or had everything that I ever wanted, but because I know that I am truly on the right path, my unique, one-of-a-kind path.

There is good news though. Just like denying ourselves can bury who we are, small decisions to be you can have a cumulative impact too. The more often that we are brave enough to express who we are, the easier it gets. 

So, in this present moment, how about you? Are you growing up to be who you truly are?

Here are easy suggestions for building the being you habit. Pick one or more if you like.

1. Express your uniqueness daily.

Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be as simple as a wardrobe choice or saying no to a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.
1. Express your uniqueness daily.

Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be as simple as a wardrobe choice or saying no to a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.

2. Make time for brief moments of solitude.

Even just a few minutes during the day can help you connect to yourself rather than being caught up in outside forces.

3. Re-connect to a childhood passion.

Think about what you loved to do as a kid as it can be a clue to your truest expressions. Anything you want to try today?

4. Write down three things that you truly value.

Take one small action every day to express your values.

5. Go easy on the pressure.

There’s a difference between compromising your true self and having multiple passions. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the right choice when it comes to your calling. Sometimes you just have to pick something and take action.

6. Create relationships based on being you.

Some people are more naturally inclined to care what others think. If you are one of those people, you also likely have a great propensity to be empathetic. Build upon that strength and reach out to others to get the support you need.

7. Find your mantra.

Sometimes we end up compromising who we are because it is hard to say no. Write down on a small card your response to requests for your time or an opinion you are not prepared to give. Doesn’t have to be eloquent—“Huh, I’ll have to think about that” works.

8. Support someone else in self-expression.

When you see someone standing out rather than fitting in, be a voice of encouragement and support.

9. Create art.

Buy a small journal or notebook just for self-expression. It will be one of the best purchases you will ever make. Spend even one minute a day writing or drawing a picture. No directions required.

10. Remind yourself how important this is.

Hang up a sign with the quote at the beginning of this post or another that reminds you the importance of being you.

If you feel like your true self is lost under the debris of fitting in, take heart, you are closer than you think. If you are a being you master, then add to the above list. Either way, I’d be honored to hear your stories in the comments.

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Eat.Pray.Love.Collage

Over the weekend someone I know purchased this lovely lamp at a thrift shop and presented it to me as a gift.  I absolutely love it.  It’s solid brass, a bit vintage and full of character.  One has to wonder why this lady is reading nude, but hey, I’m not one to judge-I love it all the same.  The lamp didn’t come with a shade so I was in search of one while hitting the Goodwill on Saturday.  I found one I thought would work so I grabbed it and took it home with me.  It turns out it fits great!

When I’m at Goodwill I always pour over the books because there’s never a time when I go that I don’t find a treasure.  The Goodwill’s in my area have  great book selections.  On Saturday I found two copies of one of my favorite books,  Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray.Love.   I already have a few copies I keep on hand to pass along to friends, so I just grabbed these two extras to add to my lending/gifting library.  After getting home I started to think about what a fun project it would be to give this lamp some character with a collage of  book pages on the shade.  This brass babe is going to be my reading lamp, so why not embellish her with the pages of one of my favorites.

I wanted to share with you the very simple process in case you’d like to make one for yourself or for a friend.  A Literary Shade can be whipped up in a few hours and would make a great Christmas gift for the book lover in your life.

Okay, here goes:

Your going to need the following items:

-A lamp shade that fits your lamp of choice (thrift for one if you can-it’s a great way to recycle  items. Besides,  new ones can be very pricey.)

-A used copy of your favorite book

-Matte Medium gel or Modge Podge

-Gloss Sealer

-Sponge brush or 1″ wide paint brush

-Beading or fringe for a vintage boudoir look

-Something to protect your work area.

The items you need for collage.
The items you need for collage.
Rip the pages randomly and arrange them askew, being sure to overlap them.  If there's some parts of the book you really love be sure to rip them out and make them visible on your shade.
Rip the pages randomly and arrange them askew, being sure to overlap them. If there’s some parts of the book you really love be sure to rip them out and make them visible on your shade.
My brass beauty.  So deserving of a literary collage shade.  :)
By brass beauty. So deserving of a literary collage shade. 🙂
Finished and unlit.
Finished and unlit.
This is how the shade looks lit.  Notice how it takes on interesting patterns from the collage process. Take this into account when you are planning where your pieces will go.  I usually don't think too much about placement unless I'm trying to fill an area or make something show.
This is how the shade looks lit. Notice how it takes on interesting patterns from the collage process. Take this into account when you are planning where your pieces will go. I usually don’t think too much about placement unless I’m trying to fill an area or make something show.

Accent your lampshade with  some beautiful fringe or beading if you think it will complete the look.  I’m thinking I might add some fringe to this one.  Looks like I’m off to JoAnn’s Fabric for just the perfect touch.

Have fun and get creative with this.  Instead of the pages of a novel, you can use pieces from a French book or a vintage mathematics book with formulas in it for your favorite intellectual.  The ideas are endless.  Enjoy!