Category Archives: Introspection

Adventures in Writing

Hi!  Lots has changed over the last month.  I’ve moved states, bought a house, started a new job, started coaching 3 volleyball teams, started teaching a youth creative writing class and…found a little sister – 2 months old/2 lbs – for my Oscar (cat) who lost his brother one month ago. PHEW!

I am loving Sacramento.  It is not how I remembered it.  It has such diversity here.  From ethnicity to neighborhood vibes, a wonderful mixture – I just love it.

Yesterday I finally ventured out to explore the Artists Open Studios.  Very creative people here.  Driving through the neighborhoods – full of big trees and quaint houses – made me smile and think about how lucky I am.

I ended my wanderings along the American River.  There are paths for miles along the two rivers here.  So fun to think of great hikes after school once my schedule calms down a bit.

My school, Sacramento Country Day, is great.  The 5th graders I am teaching are so excited to learn and embrace new ideas.  My 5th/6th grade volleyball teams are doing really well.  Last Friday, one team had a game and they really played well together – and won!

img_5642My ‘Adventures in Writing’ after-school class is full of kids that love to write.  I am having fun challenging their minds to explore broader possible paths for their characters and settings, and to create tension and drama – it is all great practice for me as well.

Home life:  I bought a bit of a fixer-upper – and it will be a fun work-in-progress.  Sophie – the newest addition to my little family is so tiny and adds lots of springy, impetuous energy to our house.

So all is good in my world.  I hope it is in yours as well.

Have a great end to your September!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Animals, Education, Introspection

Two Days Not in Mexico

My school has decided that I actually need to have a work visa, ie. legal, to work for them.  So yesterday, a mere seven weeks from the end of my contract with them, they sent me to Los Angeles, California to get a stamp in my passport from the Mexican Consulate.  Yes, I had to leave the country to get this stamp.  And yes, I was asked to not mention that I had been working since mid-January at my school in Mexico City.  At least when I was supposed to lie I was going to be in my home country  – yikes!  No worries, I’m still roaming free, no jail time for me. I didn’t even have to lie as after nearly 3 hours of hanging out at the Consulate, I was interviewed and asked 2 questions: how many schools does the foundation, my school, have and, did I like my salary.  Ok, so maybe I lied on the second question :-).

But that is not why I chose to write today.  Rather this forced escape, vacation, killing of time…has got me thinking about all sorts of random things and I thought I’d share a couple oddities I have noticed about myself.

No Hello: I arrive back in the US of A and I stopped saying hello to everyone that passed me by on the sidewalk.  I stopped smiling at everyone and I generally felt more inside myself.  I noticed this as my walk this morning took me into the Mexican/Latino part of town where the Consulate is located.  The closer I came to the Consulate, the more people started saying Hola, Buenos Dias… to me, as most everyone does in Mexico.  I responded in kind, and with a smile and a nod of the head.  Then caught myself.  I realized I hadn’t done that further away where all the gringos were.  That made me sad.  It is similar to how Mexicans, as they pass by your table while you are eating tend to say Buen Provecho.  Basically saying ‘have a great meal.’  I love that.  I’ve tried to think of a way to casually say that when I walk by someone here in the States.  But going around saying “enjoy your meal” just seems intrusive for some reason.  Are Americans that unfriendly?  Well, I’m at least going to push myself to smile at people while I am here.  That can’t hurt.

Which Language:  I’ve been noticing that I don’t know how to speak – any language here.  Not that my Spanish is very good, but in Mexico I have to use it every day (I love that!).  I stumble and work my way around the correct way of saying it until the person understands me.  I have my pat, memorized phrases.  It is fun (most of the time) and challenging.  But then I came back to the US.  I got in the taxi last night and I struggled to find the words to explain where I wanted to go.  My mind kept trying to find Spanish words, yet I knew I could speak in English.  It was silly and I became tongue tied.  It is starting to wear off now, but I am happy to say that some words are still popping to my mind in Spanish first.

Unsatisfied:  I have been in LA since 11pm last night.  So roughly 15 hours – 4 of which I was asleep.  So in those 11 hours of awake-ness, I have been a picky, unsatisfied, seeing all the negative, kind-of-gal.  What is going on?  I can be negative, but I try to find the positive on a daily basis.  But this is ridiculous.  I noticed all the filthy, gum stained sidewalks, the filthy chairs in the hotel restaurant, the unsmiling people (service people), the blandness of the downtown, the lack of anything unique or interesting.  Wow!  Is it just LA or me?  I’m thinking its me in a funk.  Ugh.

But all is not lost – or rather, negative – as of an hour ago I found this great little cafe called Caffe Primo that just served me the best vanilla latte I have ever (seriously!) had. It is a great atmosphere, the food on other people’s plates look amazing, the music is upbeat but not obnoxious.  It is all good.  The people seem happy and there is this great mix of ethnicities.  I like that about big, American cities – diversity is rampant.

Tomorrow morning I am going to visit the California Science Center where the Space Shuttle Endeavor is housed and the big exhibition on display are the Dead Sea Scrolls from Israel – found hidden in caves in 1947.  They are over 2000 years old.  Should be a fun morning.

Then back to work writing my final paper on global health geography for my graduate program.

So me, feeling odd but coming out of it and starting to see the good again, in English.

Enjoy your day-after-Earth-day!

Gretchen

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Filed under Introspection, Travel

The Intricacies of Ruins


To continue my Cambodia sojourn…

After my escape from the exercising women atop Bakheng at sunrise and a quick breakfast from a street vendor, Mr. Kong and I started the long journey out to Banteay Srei.  As you will recall, Mr. Kong had a small motor for his Tuk Tuk, so our speed never topped 30 mph.  It was just enough speed to have a light breeze to keep me cool.  And wonderfully slow enough to fall into the mesmerizing scenery of green, green, green rice paddies and palm trees.  Mr. Kong drove for two hours outside in the full sun over bumpy, sometimes jarring roads.  While I on the other hand, relaxed under the shade of the umbrella roof with my feet up.  About 30 minutes before our destination the rains hit hard.  I suggested we pull over and get a drink and wait it out.  The bedraggled looking Mr. Kong gratefully agreed and after I was settled with a cool drink, he proceeded to have the lovely ladies at the nearby street cafe extract his back pain with suction cups.

Once the rains stopped we bounced along again and came upon Banteay Srei – the “woman’s temple.”    This little gem was built by the guru of the future king Jayavarman V. in the 2nd half of the 10th century.  Nearly every inch of the red sandstone is decorated with intricate designs.  Although small in size, I kept circling and re-visiting different sides to breathe in the beauty.

Banteay Srei Buildings CollageI was continually amazed at how well the carvings were preserved after 1,047 years.

Banteay Srei Carvings8

Banteay Srei Carvings5

Banteay Srei Cavings4

Banteay Srei Carvings3

Banteay Srei Carvings2

Banteay Srei Carving1After a nice long visit with mostly European visitors viewing quietly alongside me, Mr. Kong and I headed over to Bang Melea, the ruins that are ensconced with rooting trees and tumbling boulders.  I was excited, as I had been told you can climb and explore all you want at this location.  But unfortunately I found three large tourist buses had just arrived shortly before me, so it was over-run with picture-posing frenzy.  Needless to say, I didn’t stay long.

Bang Melea Entrance

Bang Melea

Bang Melea3

 

The roots and their determination to break through wherever they wanted to, was impressive.
Bang Melea Tree Roots5

Bang Melea Tree Roots4

Bang Melea Tree Roots2

 

Can’t you just see a scary movie in the making with this one?
Bang Melea Tree Roots

 

Very few carvings at Bang Melea.Bang Melea Carving

On the way out to Mr. Kong, I had to stop and spread the wealth to the locals.  At every location they were selling mahogany beads.  I’m hopeful that the trees are sustainably grown… they are gorgeous!

Bang Melea Trinkets

 

So then Mr. Kong and I started our long meander back to Siem Reap.  Here are a few of the images I caught, when I remembered to take photos.  It was so lovely to just smile and wave at the curious, happy faces.

TUK TUK Photos7

TUK TUK Photos6

TUK TUK Photos5

TUK TUK Photos4

TUK TUK Photos3

TUK TUK Photos2

TUK TUK Photos

 

What a great day.

So I will leave you there for now.  Coming up, one more day of gorgeous ruins, orphans, art…  Stay tuned.

Gretchen

 

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, Cambodia, Introspection, Photography, Travel

Unabated Frustrations

Its been a little over two weeks since my last post and the near impossibilities of trying to teach rich and wonderful, but conceptually challenging subjects to students who barely speak a few words of English, have hit me harder than I’d like to admit.

After my last post there was a five day national holiday here in China.  I spent those days wandering the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  It was wonderful and I promise to post photos and my fabulous experiences later this week.  But as I wandered, I hoped that the lushness of the land, the warmth of the Cambodian people and the awesomeness of the temples would set my mind to the challenges ahead.  I would return with a desire to conquer the problems and preserver in my quest to educate my students on the delectable subjects of humanities.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen.  As I slowly meandered through the vibrant green rice fields, waving to smiling passers-by in my little tuk tuk, it dawned on me that it wasn’t only the student’s lack of English that was dampening my determination;  it was the whole situation.  I was living in a suburb of one million people in what I call “high-rise” city, where nothing is really pretty and you can’t get out of town on your bike to go for a hike simply because it is so far away.  There is nothing to buy that isn’t cheaply made and can be bought anywhere in the world (they make it all right here in Guangzhou) and their aren’t local craftspeople selling their unique items (which I love the most).  The culture is one of loud.  Individually the people are soft spoken, but something drastic changes when they encounter even two other people (or simply answer their cellphone).  The conversation rises to what I would consider yelling.  Put a large group together in an enclosed location, such as a grocery store, and the decibel levels reach beyond what my ears and mental capacity can handle.

So this is to say that I have not found happiness outside the classroom.  I had so hoped that being in the suburbs and nearer to the mountains, that I would spend my weekends hiking and biking and exploring the little villages.  But it isn’t to be.

The one redeeming happiness is the staff at my school.  For the most part, I really enjoy both the Chinese and the foreign staff.  An eclectic group from the US, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.

So last week, upon returning from my country-side capers, I was supposed to begin with new vigor and determination.  But instead I found that simple requests, written on the white board, such as:  Choose two vocabulary words and write each in a sentence, were received with blank stares and complete incomprehension.  I spent twenty minutes explaining what choose, vocabulary, write each, sentence… meant.  This was a starter, something to take five minutes that would refresh their memories on the vocab.  It was the final straw.  It wasn’t the student’s fault.  They simply didn’t understand.  So I decided that I needed to throw out the curriculum and teach ESL.

I asked my principal and he approved, but that was just for year 7’s.  Then I proceeded to keep trying with the four other grades I teach, which are a tiny bit more versed in English.  I tried.  Although I had revamped my units a few times already, I did it again, slowing them down further.  I left another week wracking my head to find more creative solutions.  The other foreign teachers are doing the same.  We weren’t hired to be ESL teachers and we have all continued to cling to our subject content with the unrealistic hopes that a new day brings enlightenment and fluency to our students.

Yesterday, in near tears, I knocked on my principals office.  We spoke and I explained the reality.  I (we all) believe that he is still in denial of the situation.  He was blown away with the examples I was giving him.  He ended up saying to me “chuck it all and start all over teaching ESL.”  Then proceeded to apologize over and over saying that he knew I didn’t want to teach ESL and he knows how excited I was to teach humanities.

Well, another day has come and gone and I am having the hardest time letting go of my content.  I so want to enrich my students with skills of critical thinking and to open their eyes to what is beyond China.  So I continue to try to find creative ways to infuse ESL with the wonders of the world.  A process, a bit of a roller-coaster and I’m finding, very emotional.

Thanks for listening.  I will bring you beautiful photos and a few tales of ancient Cambodia in a few days.

Gretchen

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Filed under China, Education, Guangzhou, Huadu, Humanities, Introspection

From Ugh to Ahh in One Day

Will you allow me a moment to complain?  Or at least a bit of a vent?  I promise to reward you with photos and happiness later on.

Teaching third grade is time consuming and really hard.  Hats off to all those that do it and love it.  It requires so much more planning than the one subject courses I have taught in the past to older students.   As a world geography teacher for both high school and community college levels, I could teach full time and get my lessons planned within a 45 hour work week.  Designing four subjects for my little munchkins seems to take me upwards of 60 hours.  Then of course there is the after school club once a week (I’m co-chairing the school Newspaper) and of course I offered my services to teach adult ESL twice a week.  So I have definitely filled my plate nice and full.  I had forgotten how draining it is to be “on” all day long.  No sitting at my desk drilling into a problem.  The few moments between 8:30 and 3:30 (or 8:30 – 5:00 on M/T) when I am not teaching, I am correcting papers, devising alternative plans for my struggling students, speaking with parents etc.

I know.  Blah, blah, blah.  Every teacher in the world knows this.  But I guess I felt the need to mention my revelation because I have been feeling so down for the last couple of weeks.  I suppose its just stress, but in reality I think it is the fact that I haven’t been breathing the proverbial Myanmar air.   I have been feeling very removed from the culture.  I think living on campus is a huge part of the problem.  We (all of us foreign teachers) live in free accommodations built right on the small campus grounds.  So we never really leave.  Of course we do, but its not like going home to your own place surrounded by the culture you are here to be apart of.   I can’t complain too loudly – it is free accommodation.  But I have been missing the connection with the heart beat of this place.

So to remedy my disconnected feelings I spent yesterday alone.

Ha!  I’m not sure that is possible here.

I was sans-foreigners (not that we are all that bad :-)) and instead surrounded by this wonderfully rich and diverse populace full of smiles, giggling children, outrageous juxtapositions, wonderfully spicy smells, monks with iPhones, and a rich history oozing from its very core.

Let me tell you how I jump started my good-feeling, glad-to-be here mood.

I woke up with the sun and lazily laid there listening to the birds that nest right under my window.  They are a happy little chattering lot.  By 8:30 I had motored over to Mandalay Hill, removed my shoes and started the steep climb to the top.  Climbing on stones barefoot is amazing exercise for your calf muscles.  Along the way I met numerous people selling their wares, making the trek to pray, snuggling with their sweetheart and children running up and down as if we were on a flat sidewalk.   At various spots there are platforms with a variety of Buddhas in different states of repose.   Buddha must have been a joy to be around.  He is always depicted with such a gentle and serene gaze and sometimes with an outright smile.Buddha - Mandalay Hill 2

I thought I had reached the top about four times.  But just as soon as I started to relax and look for the promised vista, some smiling, bowing soul would see me and motion me onward.  Its a bit of a maze in the middle.   Then just before the top you enter into the trinket zone.  T-shirts, bamboo flip-flops, bamboo purses, jade jewelry etc.  Just as I was starting to fear that I would never escape, but be circling the stalls for years, I spied yet another staircase and up I went and this time I was greeted with the flashing of gold and cut glass.  The cool breeze swirled around me and I was lifted out of the trees to a near 360 degree view of the Mandalay valley and surrounding Shan mountains.  It was a bit of nirvana.

Mandalay Hill - Top

Beautiful arches at the top of Mandalay Hill.

The temperature was at least 15 degrees cooler than the valley floor.  The whipping wind was a joy.  After photos and a wondering I just sat, leaned back against the gold, facing west and the Ayeyarwaddy river.  I breathed deeply and smiled, well smiled mostly because I was such a spectacle that everyone was smiling at me, so it only felt right to oblige and smile back which resulted in giggles and blushing.

Mandalay - Looking NW from Mandalay Hill

Looking NW from Mandalay Hill. Mandalay city is on the other side of Mandalay Hill.

Buddha - Mandalay Hill 3

In most of the Buddhist temples there is swirling iron work that I have really been enjoying, especially next to the brilliant colors of paint and gold leaf.

Architecture - Mandalay Hill IronAfter an hour or so I found the view of the Palace below was beckoning to me.  I had to go explore its expansive interior.   Although burned out extensively during World War II, much has been reconstructed of the palace itself.  I am currently reading The Glass Palace by Amitov Gosh, an historical fiction novel.  The palace is known as the glass palace due to King Thibaw’s bed made of glass bedposts.  Inside the palace grounds there is a small museum and it houses his glass bed.  Quite unique.

I motored over to the palace, over the moat bridge (good sailing weather by the looks of the white-caps on the moat!) and parked.  I could have driven in, but I wanted to fully feel the immensity of the grounds.  Foreigners are only allowed to visit a very small portion of the grounds as the military has taken over the walled in location.

Never the less, I walked among tall trees, with little disturbance from the dust and grim of the city.  I met three very nice monks visiting from a city far in the north. Walking makes it so much easier to meet people.

The main palace first came into view.  It was hard to get a full photo of it.  The grounds are full of residences of the once thousands of people that lived and worked for the royal family.

Palace - Collage

After wandering through all the residences and council houses, I climbed to the top of the “Watch Tower” – the spiral staircase in the photo above.  The trees have grown so tall that it was hard to see very far, but the photo of me is from the top.  The black and white photo is of King Thibaw and Queen Suphayalat.  I loved all the detailed wood carvings on each of the buildings.

While sipping ice-cold water purchased from the vender at the base of the Watch Tower, I was joined by a happy family with three adorable boys.  They were all smiles and racing to and fro.  The wind was really whipping at the top and although it felt great, you could really feel the Watch Tower sway.  I took a few photos of the boys and then out came their phones and we had a full on photo shoot.  Funny how we are all so excited to take photos of each other – complete strangers.  But all our silly grinning and happiness just filled me up.  I think when this picture was taken was the only time these boys weren’t grinning from ear-to-ear.  They were such happy souls.

Palace - My Boys

As I started to motor home, sticky, sweaty, filthy… I decided to make a stop to get my toes polished.  Why not?

Other teachers had done this, so I thought it would be no problem.  Well, it was a HUGE deal to the gals that I popped in on.  I had 12 girls, many with orange-ish hair, apparently that is as close as the bleach here will get there lovely black hair, trying to decipher what I wanted.  No, I didn’t want a fancy design on my toes.  Just color.  That, I, was very strange.  They said the polish gal was on her way, so while we all waited they just sat around and stared at me, smiling, giggling, staring.   At first it was tiring and I was getting grumpy.  But I wasn’t on a main street and this probably had never happened to them before.  I had to remind myself that I must seem very different to them.  With that I got over my “I’m tired of being stared at” attitude and started smiling and trying to engage them.  Might as well try and make a happy and lasting impression.  Soon the polish gal came and within 5 minutes my filthy feet (remember I had walked to the top of Mandalay Hill without shoes on that morning) had new polish on them.  No foot soak and no leg massage.  Simply wipe off the old, clean a bit of dirt of the nail and re-polish.  Then a hand fan and some physical leaning over and blowing on the toes and I was on my way for a whooping $1.00 – yep, one dollar.

Toes - Getting a Polish

With bright toes encourage my new serenity, I motored home, took a quick shower and was out again with a fellow teacher to have cocktails and watch the sunset over the Ayeyarwaddy river and then to listen to a local band sing mostly foreign songs in Myanmar.  What a fantastic day!

New energy and a determination to SEE all the little, beautiful things that surround me each day, its a good way to start the week.  Just riding to a place where I could write this blog today, I was once again seeing the arching trees, the vibrant colors and the uniqueness of the people again.  Feels good.

Have a great week.

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Filed under Adventure, Introspection, Myanmar / Burma, Photography, Uncategorized

Dreaming of Bright Colors

Over the past year I have been hankering to go abroad again.  Not just to travel, but to absorb a culture, to live and breathe in the aromas and surround myself with the wonderful sounds and bright colors.

And as I’ve pondered this idea, I’ve been thinking about my third act  of this short life.  And, happily, I’m thinking it may be similar to my first act.  After graduate school I went to Costa Rica seeking work in sustainable development.  I had no leads, no predetermined path, just suggestions from friends in the development world that Costa Rica had lots of opportunities for a young, excited do-gooder.  I went.  Traveled much of the country exploring.  I ended up in Monteverde, a stunning locale with hundreds of animal species just asking you to see them.  But there just wasn’t any work to be had.

Plus… I needed to learn Spanish.  So off I went to Guatemala, where everyone suggested I go to get the best Spanish education.  It was there that I found my place.  The country is exquisite.  Thirteen different climate zones, 26 different language dialects.  The colors, the smells, the terrain, the people so warm.  It was perfect.  I stayed for four years.

I ended up starting two ecotourism companies and consulting for Conservation International.  I had an adventure nearly every day.

Fast-forward…here I am, after nearly 11 years back in the USA, I have two wonderful cats, I’m a lover of writing and photography, a certified teacher without a teaching job, and no other satisfying career.

Sound like a good time to try something new? YES!

I am ready to fill myself up on the beauty of other cultures and have a bit of adventure again.  But where to go?

Now that I am obsessed with the idea, I have been asking myself the details…  Where can I go that will resurrect my Spanish skills, offering me a good-steady- exciting-well-paying job, some place I haven’t lived before and doesn’t have an animal quarantine (I can’t leave my two babies behind!), isn’t too far away so that airfare to come back and visit family and friends isn’t too burdensome etc.

So I am excited to say, I’ve landed on our neighbor to the south – MEXICO!

And now that I have a focus for my obsession, I have started gathering reading material that is giving me all sorts of fun insights into this beautiful country.

On Mexican TimeMy latest find, by Tony Cohan: “On Mexican Time” has a similar theme to “Under the Tuscan Sun”, but his story is a recount of him and his wife’s exodus from L.A. in 1985 to discover the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende.  I’m half way through and it is a fantastic, easy and fun read.  Loving it.

So a bit of a long story to tell you that I am now looking for teaching positions in International schools, figuring out the logistics and planning my escape, or rather, my third act, that is destined to be full of adventure, warm days, bright colors and with a bit of luck, love.

Here’s to adventure!

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Filed under Adventure, Education, Introspection

Visioning… Our Futures

Such a fun evening with the girls last Saturday!

I rounded up three friends and with a lot of magazines, scissors and glue, we created our vision boards.

To get the visions flowing and to learn more about these great women, I poured us all a glass of wine and then asked each to share what their past year had been like and what they wanted for the upcoming year, etc.

Listening to the challenges of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the future year was really fun.  Each of these women are strong, confident, capable and caring.  Listening to their stories was so fascinating and I have to say, this coming year is going to be great!

A synopsis of each story:

One gal was recently out of a long-term relationship and had re-located to change her life.  She felt she had been accommodating, giving in, doing what others wanted, way too much and needed to focus on creating balance in all areas of her life.

JenAnother had been bucked off a horse the year before and had broken her humerus bone (that’s the one in the upper arm).  After a year of stress and extreme pain, as well as 4 surgeries, she is finally able to use the arm again with quite a bit of mobility and a lot less pain.  So her goal is to continue to get healthy and to travel with her husband – she made two boards – one for health and one for travel.

LauAnother gal was determined to find love.  A recent move from one state to another, deaths in her family and a break-up had made the last seven months not exactly happy.  So her focus for the year was on joy, love and health.

NanFor me, last year was a whole lot of accomplishing little.  I allowed the lack of interesting or challenging work, to squash my normal energy and settle into a dull existence that was uncreative and uninspiring.  So my focus is three-fold: Find that great job (looking to teach Social Studies or ESL in Mexico!), get back into shape both physically and food-intake-wise, and finally, find that elusive man.  Not asking too much.  Of course my fourth is to get one of my children’s books published, but my board didn’t have room for that too!  I guess it wasn’t a completely dull year 🙂

Gre

We started our foray into the world of the future at 7 pm.  We finished our boards around 11:30pm.  Phew!  It was so interesting from start to finish.  Each of us had had a vision of what our vision boards would look like.  But being regulated by the available options within our magazines, each one turned out great, but much different than we had anticipated.  A fun experience, with great women.  I think we all feel more focused on where we want to put our energy.  Now to take action and make it all happen.  Here is to a great year!

Group Cropped

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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Introspection

Animal Symbolism

As I was sick in bed all last week, I had to post-pone the Vision-Action Board (and dancing) get together last night until next Saturday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Henry, my sweet boy.

But when I wasn’t sleeping last week  I continued to read a variety of books, one of which is The Happiness Project that I mentioned in the last post.    In one short section the author writes about symoblism and animal totems.  And that got me thinking about what animals I am drawn to.  Besides my wonderful cats and my recently passed dog, what types of animals draw my attention more than others and why.

Although as a child when asked what animal you’d like to be I would always say either a Cheetah or a Falcon.  But reflecting on their qualities and passions, they didn’t seem to fit me today.  Both of those animals are a bit more solitary than I like to be.

So I googled some keywords and found a few sites that offer quizzes indicating your animal totem.  The animal that I had the most likeness to is the Wolf.  It is a social, caring, protective animal that according to Native American Legends is considered to be loyal, has perseverance, is successful, has intuition and spirit.

wolf-color-photo

Photo Credit: http://wolfweb.com/

That sounds nice.  Although I love furry creatures and wolves are majestic, proud and strong, I don’t feel a strong connection to them.

So then I started thinking about animals that I have seen in the wild that draw my attention more than others, which ones give me a thrill every time I see them, and those that I seek out.

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Me feeding baby Cha’im, infant Howler Monkey, Guatemala

After going through the exotic animals, monkeys in particular, as I have had some lovely experiences with them in the wild, I looked closer to home, to the exotic (at least to me) in my area of the world.

And I have to say, as I did so my animal flashed before my eyes.  In my mind, but it was there hovering quietly and I could see it as clear as day.  It was thrilling.

Every time I see them I get a tingling, a jolt of happiness, a must-stop-and-stare moment of pure pleasure.  I just knew this had to be my animal.  So I immediately got back online and looked up Hummingbirds.

And to my happy surprise they hold wonderful meanings – depending on which site and which culture you read through – but the general, over-arching belief is that they bring, offer, exude the following:

Joy

Happiness

Timelessness

Energy

Vitality

Playfulness

Sincerity

Their wings beat in a figure 8 motion – or the symbol for eternity.  They are very social, strong minded, independent, work hard… and they build the cutest little nests that they camouflage with lichen or moss.

Hummingbird-Nest1

Photo Credit: birdsandbloomsblog.com
Hum Nest 3

Photo Credit: http://www.komar.org

So I feel good about my totem.  The symbolism surrounding Hummingbirds resonates with me.  So with that I decided that I would start to bring hummingbird images into my life.  Slowly, choosing only the ones that I simply can’t resist.  I’m not into clutter, so a collection over a long period of time, that adds rather than fills up.

It just so happens that my first piece came to me yesterday.  I was out, feeling a tiny bit more energy for the first time, and was early to meet a friend for a movie so decided to wander through some shops.  I am attracted to beautiful, rich colors ( I really should live in Mexico) and was looking through some fun dishes and couldn’t believe it, but I found this:

Hummingbird PlateSo my collection and devotion has begun.

Every thought about what animal is your symbol, your totem, your guide?  I would love to hear.  Write a comment and let me know.

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Filed under Animals, Gardening / Outdoors, Introspection, Uncategorized

Visual + Action…Board

Next Saturday I am getting together with friends and we are planning on creating Vision Boards.  Di-VisionBoard-vlowresOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So in preparation, as I have not done this before, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the psychology of this act and what others are saying out there.

This morning I have been doing a bit of research and it seems that ONLY visualizing, dreaming, and thinking positive thoughts may actually lull us into non-doing, sitting back and waiting…taking the easy road, all to find that we are still dreaming of what we want rather than achieving the outcome we envision.

Digging a bit deeper I also found that taking action without having a goal, the big dream, or a vision of what the result will be is also a detriment to getting what or where we want to be as we are  not focused.

“Vision without action is a dream.
Action without vision is simply passing the time.

Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”

– Joel Barker

Cover of

Over the last couple of weeks I have been slowly reading through “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  I have found it very inspiring, even though my life and circumstances are quite different from her’s.  I too feel happy but want to be happier.  In “The Happiness Project”, she outlines how making specific, small tasks a regular habit is very important.  From getting in at least 30 minutes a day with your heart-rate elevated to a 10 minute nightly “tidy” up of the house – whatever works for you of course, but the focus is on the small.  Small things that make a big difference de-cluttering your mind and energizing your body… more happiness.  I like this way of thinking as I can implement my list more easily.  Having the big goal of losing 20lbs is, well, depressing.  But getting my heart-rate up for 30 minutes a day is doable.

So visualizing the goal but with actionable steps to get there makes a lot of sense to me.  So I think Saturday’s vision board is now going to be a VISUAL~ACTION Board.  

Have you ever created a Vision/Dream Board?  Did you see results?  Ever created an Action Board?  I’d love to hear what you’ve created and how it worked for you.

I’ll update you after our Saturday fun.  Oh – and we’re going Conga dancing after we finish our boards – so should be a fun night of talking about where we want to go with our lives and then shaking ourselves silly!

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Filed under DIY, Introspection

Visual DNA

Has anyone out there taken the VISUAL DNA Personality quiz?  A friend of mine turned me on to this site and I found it really interesting.  If you take the test (or have already taken it) I would love to hear your results and why you took it?

I’m always interested to learn more about how the world perceives me, even if it is a computerized generalization.  This one seemed, to me at least, to hit me on the nose.  Here is the summary of me.

top-graph-seeker

You’re a Seeker

You believe in living life to the fullest. You’re curious and enthusiastic, with a bright spirit that is a real inspiration to your friends and family.

A sensitive soul with an expressive nature, you tend to be a romantic at heart. Sometimes you love nothing more than escaping into your very own dreamworld. Spontaneous new experiences can be inspiring to you, and you like exploring your creative side from time to time.

~~~~~

Take the test – it’s super quick and then leave a comment – I’d love to know what you think.

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Filed under Introspection