Bye bye, Violet

get-attachment.aspxViolet celebrated her 4th birthday this week. Walking on tiptoe in her floor length pink princess gown, she introduced adult guests to her tiny friends with precision and ease.

It’s our last time to chalk the driveway before she moves to Portland.  Giggling sweetly, she asks me to draw bicycles and an ocean. She selects shades of blue and grey, then carefully explains to her little sister Lulu how the world works, “Only sometimes the sky is blue…”

Chalk in hand, we bend over the cement.  Lulu can’t color inside the lines yet, and part of me hopes she never learns that restriction.  Maybe she won’t; her parents are exceptional at coloring outside the lines. Daddy takes talent and creativity to a new level and Mommy just stepped away from a traditional job to run in new directions.

Only a few months ago Violet didn’t like the ocean or sand.  Soon she’ll arrive in Portland in time for the Sand in the City annual sand castle event, sponsored in part by her mother’s new employer. Sending Violet’s family love as they move to their new home closer to a different ocean!

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Time Stands Still

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Sunshine envelops the longest day of the year.  Here, at the farthest western edge of the Eastern Time zone, our day is bright and dusk is long.  The hour tops, and time stands still.

As we collectively wish to rush forward, Summer starts by hitting the pause button. Spring’s last bright breath is a moment of meditation; collecting mindful energy required to produce the bountiful blessings of the season to come.

New Year, New Horse

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Chinese New Year brings us eye to eye with the Green Wooden Horse and the high-stepping energy of good fortune.  Don’t expect him to stand still long; travel and noble victory are happily promised in the months ahead.

In 2013, Snake was quietly planning for this journey. Saddle up! Now is the time to embody strength, speed, perseverance, and the willingness to bend to direction.  This year Horse, long revered for safe transportation, will get you where you want to go at full-gallop.

Open Door Policy

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The past year lines up behind me as a long, colorful row of doors. Some I walked through and others were never touched. A few were slammed, and locked.

In 2014, I’m implementing an open door policy. I won’t force myself to enter if it feels better to simply peek, but I’d like to open a new door each week. It’s a formula to deliver all the richness a broad set of experiences can provide.

Happy New Year!

Perfect Cat

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The sweet cat I rescued and nursed back to health has called my house home for a year. Homeless for many months, she drank from puddles and relied on neighbors to offer food. We all knew her owner, who refused to reply to inquiries.

Now healthy, happy and heavier, she rarely ventures from my garden.  She never jumps on tables or counter. The furniture is intact; she only claws her scratching pad.  A perfect cat.

The Tortoise breed has unique coloring and a chatty vocabulary. Mine is a mottled mix of brown and black; the tips of her toes are cardboard brown with a patch of pure white over her heart.  In retrospect I see that as a sign; caring for her heart has helped mine.

Everybody Can Help Somebody

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In 1998, Denver Moore and Ron Hall’s worlds collided when Ron’s wife dreamed of a homeless man who would change their lives and community.  Initially reluctant, the ex-con and wealthy rancher forged an unlikely friendship that led to raising over $70 million for homeless shelters nationwide. Their story is told in New York Times best-seller Same Kind of Different as Me.

I met Ron after he spoke at National Philanthropy Day®, an event recognizing generous contributors. Ron described his own transformation as he realized that looking at Denver, he saw himself in the same mirror.  Both were afraid, one of giving and one of receiving.

Nearly a third of annual giving occurs between now and the end of the year. (Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report)  Consider sharing your resources of time, talent and finances.  Don’t turn away because you feel you can’t give enough.  As Denver says, “Nobody can help everybody, but everybody can help somebody.”

Grain Of Sand

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Mom and I paid another visit to Violet and her sister.  The girls were lively, and became even more so when I joined them jumping on the sofa.  Our mothers frowned at that.

Stretching upward Violet whispered to me softly, “Can we draw with chalk?!”  I ask, What should we draw? “The ocean!”  Why? “Going to a beach.”   Do you like the beach? “No.”  Why not?   With a scrunched face and tight lips she snips, “Sand.”

I describe buckets and sand castles.  But she looks me straight in the eye and says, “Make a boat.”  Pressing on the chalk, I consider that sand has a bad rap.  It’s scratchy in bathing suits, makes the car a mess and is the medium of choice when drawing a line of ultimatum.  So I drew an ocean, sun, boat, fish and palm tree.   No sand.

Satisfied, Violet pretends to get in the water.  Precious and precocious, it won’t be long until she is riding the waves, turning sand into castles and lemons into lemonade.

Let Freedom Ring

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Cracked at the first stroke, recast twice, then hidden during the 1777 British occupation of Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell endures as a symbol of the possibilities a very big dream can bring.

Rung for the last time in 1846 on George Washington’s birthday, the bell was placed on display in Independence Hall in 1852.  Today it is housed in the Liberty Bell Pavilion, opened for the 1976 bicentennial, and is freely visible to all, 24 hours a day.

Fuel Bill

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She didn’t ask me for help.  Gas tanks between us, I watched as she opened her car doors and then the trunk. Reaching for her phone, as the pump continued to click, she left a message, “Forgot purse.” Realization hit and she sprinted to cancel the flow of gas.

I’ve been in her shoes. Well dressed and on the way to the office for a 12-hour day before logging a few more at home. Producing good results, yet only a step ahead of the story now unfolding in front of me.

With empathy, I paid for my gas and for hers.  It wasn’t much.  But her gratitude was enormous and the gesture fueled us both.

White Shoes Rule

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I asked my Mom if she donned white shoes for Memorial Day. She replied with a sigh, “Growing up, you just knew the rule.  But no one is burdened anymore by this law of dressing.“ Then she admitted to padding out of the house in white leather flats – two weeks ago!  Speechless.

I remember shopping for white sandals as a little girl with my grandmother, then squirming until the end of May when I could finally free them from my closet.  Today fashion mavericks break the rule, and icon Coco Chanel wore white year round.

Maybe it hearkens back to those trips with Grandma, but I enjoy the anticipation and pleasure crisp bright white brings after waiting.  So today, I slip on white sandals.  And wherever you are Grandma, I hope you’re rocking a pair of white pumps with a St. John knit suit.  Happy Memorial Day!

The Forest For The Trees

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School’s out for the summer!  Another session teaching yoga in the Boys & Girls Club K-6 after-school program has come to an end.  We’ve played games, practiced poses and learned to slow down by focusing on our breath, harnessing attention to help stress melt away.

This is Tree Pose.

In January, all eyes scanned the room, comparing.  Today the kids realize it is their unique beauty and effort that counts.  Each tree in a forest is different, just as each child is specially unique.  By releasing their grip on an artificial idea of perfection, each child’s branches can reach for the skies.

This Little Piggy Flies

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Early each May, the City of Cincinnati shines as a series of small towns strung together along the Flying Pig Marathon race route.  Full, half, or relay, encompassing every color, shape and size, runners for a lifetime or for the day pace themselves to complete the hilly course.

A 5-star event for its panoramic views and energetic community support, all are buoyed by the encouragement of tens of thousands of neighbors who wake early and gather along the route to chap and cheer, wave signs, ring bells and shout encouragement.

Inspiring and uplifting to witness, the people of Cincinnati are the true wings that lift these runners.  Each year, this day in May everyone is a winner.  Wake up early, and come as you are, to witness a magic combination that allows us all, both on and off the road, to fly.

Art Director

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Violet and I go way back.  Within days of her own birth, she joined my birthday celebration and was the hit of the party.  Tonight, as her mommy and daddy prepared dinner, Violet and I went outside to play.  She placed sidewalk chalk in front of me saying, “You draw.”  “Violet, you draw!”   She refused, “No. You are the drawer.”

Clearly in charge, Violet has vision. Flowers, then ‘sunshine,’ then an airplane.   I ask why we need a plane.  Placing her hands on her hips with an incredulous look, she tells me firmly, “We… have… planes.“  So I set about recreating a flight coming into Lunken Airport, near her hillside home.

At one point she appears to lose focus and walks away to play with her toys.  I ask if we are done?  She calls out, “Toys help drawing!”   Like all good Art Directors, Violet understands the creative value of redirecting attention.  She trusts others to do work she oversees and she gives decisive direction; “No. I don’t like it”  or  “Make more of those.”

But what makes Violet great is enthusiastically sharing her ideas so the finished result really shines. Before declaring the job complete, she handed me a tool I’d never seen before and showed me how to blend chalk. Then, stepping back, she flashed me a happy 3-year-old’s smile, lighting up the twilight as dinner was served.

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Wedding Prayer

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20130421-130817.jpgFew moments in life compare to the joy of witnessing two truly happy people marry.

Longtime friendship fueled affection, and today, surrounded and supported by love, a young man and woman wed by the sea, underneath the interlinked branches of hundred-year-old oak trees.

I read Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Wedding Prayer, giving thanks for blessings and uniting hearts present with those far away.  Like the massive oaks overhead that shaded us, may this union provide them shelter and strength.  May their love grow and weave deep roots, providing stability and nourishment for generations to come.

Pulling Up Spring

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The weatherman may say “cold,” but my mind is pulling up visions of tulips and sunshine as I mentally will the earth to warm.  This morning, March 20th brings the Northern hemisphere equal light and night – a gift that will continue to give as the days grow longer through June.

The transition to Spring brings a time of hope. Plant your mental seeds of good thoughts today and watch them grow…

Picture Perfect Friendship

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Daylight savings time begins and sunshine softens the earth as polished cars arrive at The Country Club. Local friends and family gather to shower a bride with gifts. Shared stories of childhood memories are laced with warmth and love, faces beaming with happiness for her happiness.

After lunch, the bride’s best friends join her before a mountain of gifts. As each is unwrapped, Elizabeth details the generosity and Martha reengineers bows into a bouquet – bright bits of the bounty bestowed.

A surprise appearance from the groom is met with applause and a starry-eyed gaze from the bride; the blush in her cheeks rising with the corners of her smile. New beginnings are celebrated as birds chirp beneath a clear blue sky, feathering their nest for the life ahead.

The Snake Smiles

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Chinese astrologists provided their interpretation of the Year of the Snake, and I have my own:

“Snakes are adaptive to land and lake, active day and night, and consume mammal, insect, fish or fowl. Utilized wisely, Snake’s flexible energy promises all things are possible in 2013.

One eye visible, one hidden; Snake smiles silently. Encouraging flexibility and thoughtful reflection, he bends back upon himself to gain insight.  This newfound wisdom guides right action taken today, yielding great accomplishment at year-end.”

Happy Chinese New Year!

Heart Health

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Two people I care for just had quadruple bypass surgery.

One younger, one older.   Neither suspected life’s pause button would interrupt their routine.  Now both cling to a stuffed pillow when they cough – an aid to hold the chest together as it heals.

The heart stops for hours during the procedure.  Pumps circulate life-giving blood and drain fluids the body produces to fight surgery’s assaults.  Yet within a day most patients sit up; the next they are walking.  This miracle is performed in the US over half a million times annually, from rural hospitals to major medical centers.

Lifestyle changes are your first defense against heart disease. A great time to take the first step is now.  The American Heart Association lists heart health risks here, and Walgreens is offering you or someone you care about FREE blood pressure tests all month long.

Less Is More

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January’s unusual warmth and sunshine prompted me to open closet doors and get a head start on Spring-cleaning.

Clothing has long been my creative palate.  Colorful blouses and skirts are my brushes, allowing me to paint pretty pictures that travel with me throughout my day.  Artists clean their brushes after every project, and my closet was overdue.  Worn items were discarded, outsized garments are slated for donation to Dress For Success, and the sun set with a smile on the open space I’ve created.

With every item now visible and organized, I’ve multiplied the prospects for my creativity exponentially, and also provided professional apparel for women transitioning to the workforce.   Less really is more.

Light Up The Dark

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Across cultures, from Hanukkah and Advent to St. Lucia Day, candles are lit as winter’s darkness descends.

Here at Turner Farm, a solstice bonfire illuminates the longest night.  Crossing an irregular diameter of nearly 50 feet, it is a brilliant amalgam of branches and underbrush, whole felled trees, loosened shingles and rotted fence posts burning simultaneously to extinguish our accumulated trash and celebrate the return of light.

Words on paper describing what we no longer need are tossed into the flames, destroyed instantaneously and magnificently. Prayers are placed in the fire as well; hopes for the New Year rising in the smoke to the place where heaven and earth meet.

On this Christmas Eve, a night of eager expectation, I send you bright holiday greetings. For as certain as the outcome of fuel to flame, the darkness will end and the light will come again.

Life’s Lemons

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This growing season, my Meyer Lemon tree produced 11 lemons which is a windfall of abundance after last year’s harvest of one small fruit.  Bright yellow, they hang heavy and ripe, encouraging my culinary creativity and spurring a dinner party.

The adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a way of life for me literally and figuratively.  I choose the glass-half-full, expecting the best from whatever situation I find myself in.   Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report that a positive perspective provides many benefits.  And it makes me happy, even when life’s lemons surround me.

An Explosion Of Giving

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Traffic crawled to a stop for a few days in Oakley, as thousands patiently waited in line to drop off cardboard boxes stuffed with Thanksgiving dinner essentials for distribution to 70 inner-city churches and charities.

This high-energy annual event is an explosion of giving.  A colorful maze of orange cones, horns honking, boom boxes blaring music, carloads of smiling faces, police directing traffic, and volunteers wearing turkey costumes and waving signs.

The air is filed with gratitude and heart-swelling generosity, as an estimated 50,000 regional holiday dinners were donated.  Many share and all are blessed, those who give and those who receive.

Embers Sushi Sailing South to OTR

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On Wednesday evenings at Embers, specially priced sushi overshadows the high-quality American style menu and becomes the star of the standing-room-only bar.

Rice barrels embracing fresh fish and colorful vegetables, accompanied by wasabi and gari (pickled ginger) are comfort food to me.  Sushi is visibly delightful; its simplistic presentation calming.

Soon this treat will also be available at a beautifully restored space in Over The Rhine at Kaze.  Located on 14th and Vine, chef/co-owner Hideki Harada will draw upon his training in Osaka to serve sushi and Japanese and Asian-inspired dishes.  I can’t wait!  Until then, enjoy iSPYCINCY’s great summary here.

Your Vote Is A Privilege

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In Ohio, we’ve had our fill of political speeches and commercials, and of closed roads and secret service barricades.  Post-election silence is just around the bend.  Regardless of your choice – vote.

The first year women were allowed to vote in the USA my grandmother cast her ballot.  Never forgetting a vote is a privilege not a right; Grandma took her children with her to vote.  Years later, my Mom took her little girls behind the curtain of the election booth.  My sister has done the same with her children.  Less than 100 years ago, none of this could have happened.

Your voice matters.  Vote!

BzzAgent Gets Another Bee

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Today’s drawing is of a bee, the lively symbol of BzzAgent. I recently visited the Cincinnati Hive (office), where I learned first hand how the company has formalized participation in word-of-mouth marketing.  Anyone can sign up to be an Agent, and will receive products to review and to share with their social network.

It’s social marketing genius.  Marketers gain valued shopper data and advocacy from consumers they may not otherwise reach.  BuzzAgents influence – and their friends, families and colleagues enjoy experiencing new products from global brands, and knowing their voices are heard.  It’s a win-win.  I’m in!

Everyday Gratitude

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Around-the-clock election coverage transformed into storm coverage, as Sandy hit the northeast coast today. Many people now don’t have what they need.

I am grateful everything in my world tonight is where it was yesterday. Heat and electricity on. Groceries a short drive away.  Remember everyday gratitude. The ordinary becomes precious once it is removed.

Drawing #24 created with MyPaint Free by MyMedia

A Bone To Pick

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The phone rang.

“Hello?”
“I’ve got a bone to pick with you…”
“What?!”
“You didn’t show up at the Halloween party.”

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, all about celebrating creativity, not the dead. But my friend Tom – who is a cancer survivor and the subject of today’s drawing – was correct. I didn’t go to the party. I thought I had some good excuses but he cleverly shot down each one.

As All Hallow’s Eve approaches, Tom’s call was a reminder that Halloween isn’t about costumes and ghouls. It’s about living spirits and gatherings that connect us with friends.

Drawing #22 created with Chalk

Independence Day

On July 4th we unite in celebrating our greatest gift, freedom.

I am free to cross thousands of miles without borders. Personal safety from an enemy is not a primary concern. But am I really free?

I don’t always say what I think. I edit my words. I skimp on my truth, in the process often guessing, “what do others around me need or value more?”  I’m not alone in this. By holding words in, we don’t reveal what means the most. We do not allow our true self to be free.

On Independence Day, I’m wondering how my life might better honor the full use of this gift of freedom that many men and women honored today have earned for me.