No Surrender

So many messages from so many places. Shaping our thinking which in turn shapes the next decision and then our mind set as well. Then from mind set to life stance. What do I stand for and what do I stand against? The big stuff is easier to identify but then life isn’t entirely made up of bigs. There’s a whole lot of smalls that are subtly present and vying for our attention, good and bad. The smalls want real estate in your mind just like that burning desire to own Park Place and have four hotels on it.

“No Surrender” is a battle cry of sorts—even when it appears on a coffee pod. What won’t you surrender to today, big or small?

Unfairness to others when safe and wise intervention can stem the tide?

Unnecessary harsh words when kindness will do?

Neglect when even the slightest amount of caring will lift another’s spirit?

“No Surrender” is also a call to action, even when it appears on the seal of a coffee pod. How will I interpret that message today?

Come On In

“Come On In.” That’s what the floor mat says as you enter the newly renovated “Office” at my son’s place in Atascadero, CA.

Together he and Marina have created a welcoming environment that includes a mix of good food and wine, friends and family, music and corn hole contests at any given time.

While on my current visit they introduced me to a delightful couple who own a local vineyard and produce a very tasty Malbec. Joel and Judy of Mystic Hills welcomed us into their home for a private tasting and we left with so much more than the multiple bottles filled with the literal fruit of their labor.

Hospitality beyond that expected in a traditional tasting room. Relaxed, “come on in” camaraderie. Sharing of future dreams and plans for their vineyard. Welcoming us into their home as if family. What an entirely enjoyable experience that almost caught me off guard yet seemed as natural as catching up with old friends . . . friends that I’d met for the first time.

Yes, I had been utterly awestruck earlier in the week when we visited Wm Randolph Hearst’s fancy-dancy castle on the hill, but this experience was a “come on in“ on another level. Our human souls were created for connection with others. When a good source is figuratively poured and freely offered to you its best to gratefully savor, having your thirst quenched and your heart made full. Thank you, Mystic Hills, for welcoming us in.

Donut Shop

You HAVE TO go to SloDoCo when in Atascadero! That’s what they said so I went.

Its not your grandparents corner shop for a dozen assorted cake donuts with bright pink glaze and sprinkles. Nope. Families were playing corn-hole and jumbo checkers out front and the interior was industrial meets lounge meets grownup kid in a candy store of trending flavors. The gluten-free lavender was moist and quite tasty even if just a tad medicinal around the edges. The espresso cream filled bar, divine . . . In a region of California well known for its wine tasting we thoughtfully filled up a box and headed home for a glorious sugar rush and tasting of our own kind.

The fireworks stand in town, on the other hand, looked EXACTLY like the one I worked at one blisteringly hot week in July when I was 16. Seriously! Why haven’t these changed over the years? Hmmm, am I more like SloDoCo or do I resemble something thats been frozen-in-time? Not my style but my mind set. Have I progressed? Have I adapted to new days and new ways? Am I preserving the past over living in the present? We often aren’t so self aware as we might think. Staying connected with a small circle of folks who are sincerely honest and true with us will make the difference between preserving a stale and stodgy approach to life over living with a fresh POV that includes galaxy frosted cro-nuts and such from time to time.

This life. Gotta live it not keep it preserved in grandma’s Tupperware.

Buttercup

I didn’t think they were even real until I touched them.

The fresh peonies in the guest room that had been prepared for my visit were stunning. And to look at the one that was still a tightly balled up orb was as if to be an expectant poet waiting for the birth of the next verse. After all, just look at the fully opened bloom with its ruffled petals all layer upon layer of pink petticoats. Stamen and anthers just totally out there – this blossom has arrived!

There’s something powerful about arriving at a place where you feel safe enough, healthy and strong enough to open up. To be fully who and what you were designed to be. Like the peony it happens naturally when the right ingredients are in the mix. Good soil, water, sunlight. Others in your life who contribute to your growth and progression. It was never intended to be a one man show. So look forward to this “grand-opening” of your heart and soul.

Open up, Buttercup.

Fences

Ornately wrought iron or rustic wooden post fencing. Both were designed with a similar purpose— that of delineating what belongs to me and what doesn’t. As in, “everything beyond that fence is mine.” No matter how embellished or plain the style may be the directive is the same. Mine, not yours. Stay on “that” side.

Fencing in good repair sends a message of ownership, keeping the bad elements out and protecting what is within. Ever see a stretch of old broken down fencing on a road trip to somewhere else? To a less guarded soul, to an adventurous sort it is a neon flashing welcome sign. Maybe no one lives there anymore and it may certainly look that way based on the poorly maintained fencing. If there are no guard dogs present or other visible signs of surveillance it would appear to be open territory . . .

What subliminal message of “welcome” might we be sending when our individual protection systems aren’t in place or are in disrepair? Our own personal fencing must be kept securely maintained in order to protect and preserve the good things in our heart, mind and physical being. Always remember . . . property fences also have gateways. You and I are the gate keepers. We determine who and what may enter here.

This segment of pretty fencing is located on the property of Hunt Cellars winery outside of Paso Robles, CA—gates open daily from 10:30 am – 5:30pm.

Not Worthy

This dignified little fellow captures that head to toe feeling you get when you’re in the presence of someone truly great. Someone you hold in highest regard because of their wisdom, their particular talent, or their ability to use God-given gifts to full capacity.

This particular two foot tall representation of respect permanently resides at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. He’s part of the massive collection of art work, antique tapestries, Italian renaissance furniture and statuary that once belonged to the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst.

I don’t particularly need a six foot tall rendition sculpted in gleaming marble to remind me of that deeply appreciative sense that comes when in the presence of “the truly great.” An emoji will do. An iPhone photo will suffice. When my spirit connects with talent, beauty that inspires, or wisdom that transforms on any level my hands go up.

It might be a PhD or a street corner prophet or a nine year old’s genuine heart. The most common denominator tends to be that of love. Whether love of subject matter or humankind or God. The emoji of my heart —I’m not worthy . . .

Breaking Zippers

Road trip! With a week’s vacation beckoning me I packed my bags, filled the gas tank, alerted the neighbors, and watered the garden deeply enough, fingers crossed, to last an entire week. All I had left to do was to pack some road snacks.

Ginger kombucha, check. Opal apples—2 medium, check. sliced English cheddar, check and check. Dry roasted almonds, organic cherries, black olives, pecan rice crackers—they all fit in the bag. But with no room left I still wanted to add more stuff. Out of space and what to do? I wanted to include more than my insulated lunch carrier would hold and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The bag protested and darn if the zipper didn’t break in my struggle to load the bag beyond its capacity.

Where am I breaking zippers in more important areas of my life? Am I trying to fit too much in and forcing something to its breaking point? Road trips are a great time to contemplate such things.

I realized how quickly I tend to justify this behavior when the ingredients are good. All the items I crammed into my lunch bag were healthy things, mostly organic even. Its not like I was packing cotton candy, Slim Jims, and glazed donuts after all. But, the zipper that I forced didn’t know that. The zipper that eventually broke didn’t know and didn’t care. To my insulated bag, too much was too much. Period.

Sometimes enough is enough and “full” is a good place to stop. Breaking zippers is a pretty good indication of that, don’t you think?

Old or New

Some burn brightly, some cast a gentle glow. In the revealing presence of a flood light all our sins are uncovered. There’s no hiding here. Every flaw exposed, every stain becomes visible and no excuse can stand.

Yet the compassionate and rosy hued illumination displays its subjects in a different light. What is revealed is viewed through a loving lens, a filtered light of crimson that makes all in its gentle glow appear redeemed. The condemnation having been placed upon the Light itself and not upon those who position themselves beneath its rays.

Old and New Testaments. Same light. Same love. Law or redemption? Its a Sunday contemplation.

Stir It Up

I’ve been reading and really enjoying a newly released book by Dr. John Townsend, “People Fuel: fill your tank for Life, Love, and Leadership.”

Close to the end of chapter five my thoughts began to swirl as the subject matter clearly touched some unfinished business that lay beneath the surface of my conscious mind. It was almost as if I heard a small clear ring of a bell. There was a fleeting moment of recognition and familiarity—an “Ah ha! I get it . . .” Then it was gone.

Stay with me while I explain what I experienced in that moment with my own personal imagery. Picture a large pot of vegetable soup simmering on a stove in a commercial kitchen. At first glance all you see is a beautifully rich stock until you dip in a long handled ladle and give it a good stir. Behold! All manner of ingredients begin to rise to the surface, circulating within the pot. Oh . . . you see something swirling there that resonates! Your heart and mind connect and you follow that “something” as it swirls. It gradually begins to slow and as it does it sinks back beneath the surface and out of sight. It is gone! Where did it go? With one good stir it rose to the top as if from nowhere and then almost as quickly sunk back down and out of sight.

Now there is discovery and awareness of something that has been there awhile, maybe all along, and it’s just now being seen. Allow that for some reason it slipped from view, maybe from a need for self-protection or perhaps something entirely different. The important thing is that this hidden element was seen.

All that from chapter five which, by the way, does NOT include a recipe for vegetable soup, LOL! But its a great read and theres so much more to go. I have one word . . . Amazon.

Image from The Kitchen Is My Playground

Not Always

I was thinking about a post I read on social media yesterday. The question the author posed to her followers brought varied responses—mostly positive in nature, a few that took on a supportive tone and one that was a clear admonition. I suppose its to be expected when we put something out there in an open forum. We won’t always receive hallelujahs and crowns being cast at our feet.

The confident don’t necessarily expect a negative response but they do know how to take it with a grain of salt when it comes. The naive expect all sunshine and rainbows and all of the time. And on things of little more significance than a quick tweet or a post. They’re (we’re!) thrown off track when questioned or doubted or challenged and can mistake someone’s varied point of view as an attack. And attacks must be managed or otherwise shut down, right? A true and intentional attack, yes, but our perception doesn’t always match up with reality if we don’t have both feet on the ground. If we’re so “me” oriented that we don’t hear their heart or allow them to think differently than us.

Can we adjust our wiring to hear the heart and mind of the responder that lies beneath their own external opinion? Their version of, “I don’t think what you said or did is correct” has more to do with them than with us. It truly does. And yes, we can learn to fine-tune our understanding but we must choose to do so.

When we are able to objectively strip away our own gut reactions to a comment or someone’s opinion or stance perhaps we will see where their own life experiences have led them to this belief. Not everything out of their mouth has to support what we say and do and it is also not always an attack.