Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Puzzle Pieces

In an effort to switch things up one night last week, the Hubs and I decided to put a puzzle together, as our normal nightly routine consists of eating dinner, doing schoolwork, and then watching either an episode of the Office or a movie. Well, the puzzle was a fantastic choice to change things up. It was a 750 piece scene of a dockside marina in Amsterdam. A total of seven colorful buildings decorates the picture, in addition to a cafe or two, restaurants, and dozens of people. Needless to say, it took us a while to finish it, and the end product is one that is now beautifully displayed in our home.

While we were picking out the corners and end pieces, it was pretty overwhelming. I mean, that's 750 pieces to go through! The entire top of this puzzle is a blue sky, so that is a lot of thinking we had the right piece, only to find out it wasn't. Hours upon hours of working on that blue sky turned into days. Literally. But, eventually, it was starting to come together! As we took frequent breaks, I would walk by the table and just stand and look at the unfinished picture.

It was beautiful, even unfinished. A work in progress.

I slowly started to piece ideas together, as we were piecing the puzzle together. This puzzle is no different than life. Truly. While we are all unfinished works in progress, we still are beautiful. Its not the finished puzzle that makes it beautiful, it was the work that went into it!

I mean, think about it. When you have put a puzzle together, what happens when you are all done? It either sits there as decoration, is framed and put on a wall (as decoration), or it gets taken apart and put back in the box, just to be stored away and never looked at again.

Every day of our life is a process of finding the right puzzle piece that fits, and placing it where it goes. Sometimes we find a piece that seems to be the perfect fit, just to find out that its not. We then have to remove it and try again. Sometimes we find an individual piece that is beautiful on its own, yet we cannot find where it goes. And sometimes, we are able to build an entire section of our life in no time at all, only to just let it sit there and try to figure out how it fits in the big picture.

No one is a finished puzzle. We are all works in progress, and honestly, who wants to be a finished product, only to sit as decoration or thrown back into a box - never to be touched again?

Find a piece today, and figure out where it goes. Or, put a small inner scene together and take an effort each day to see how it fits into the big picture.

Just remember: All the pieces you need are within your reach, its your job to put them together.

Good luck, and HAVE FUN!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beauty Through Destruction

When was the last time you saw, heard, or felt something that made you literally stop where you were and ponder the beauty of it? In the scene shown above we see a young woman, dressed in a black turtleneck and black pants, hair pulled back into a ponytail, and black-rimmed glasses, taking a walk. Her hand is casually lingering on her hip, her head is turned to the left, a frown decorates her face, and her eyes are focused on something in the distance. The building she is walking past shows a contrast of light and dark colored brick while the dirt and debris-filled street she is walking can be reminiscent of post-war Europe. Strategically placed between this young woman and the building behind her stands an upright piano on plywood platforms engulfed in flames. Although beauty is oftentimes sought after in perfection, sometimes it is through the destruction of an object that it then becomes beautiful.  

            The entirety of this photograph is in black and white, giving the viewer a sense of significance and solemnity, which is accentuated by viewing the look on the young woman’s face. It is interesting to note that her gaze is not focused on the burning piano behind her, but instead on something in front of her. This young woman is on a journey, and does not stop to digest the destruction. She keeps walking, as depicted by the blurred movement lines on her lifted right foot. The beauty noted by this action is that while the burning piano is out of place, on fire and outdoors, this young woman keeps walking.

She seems to be oblivious to the burning musical instrument behind her, yet we suspect that cannot be. The heat of the flames makes her warm, the sound of the strings burning and popping alerts her ears, while the smell of the wood and veneer burning signals her nose. This piano on fire is not beautiful in the sense of destruction, but through the destruction beauty can be found in the way it affects the senses of the young woman.  

While at first this picture portrays to the viewer a sense of gloom, devastation, and confusion, it is then through those initial feelings we can appreciate the warm, musical qualities that it exhibits through the two framed focal points: the beautiful young woman and the burning piano. Beauty can be defined as something that makes you stop, think, and appreciate.

            We all have a choice to see beauty every day of our lives. We can relate to the old dilapidated building in the background by witnessing destruction in front of us, but still having the ability to stand tall. We can connect with the young woman who is on a mission- a journey- in her life and while she passes by destruction, she chooses to keep walking. In contrast, we can be like the piano who, when under fire, is still able to give warmth and a musical quality to those who see our despair. Finding beauty through destruction is your choice, and a choice that will affect the viewers of your life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life is Good.

She cautiously steps out of the vehicle, warily gazing upon her new surroundings. Her life has been good – no, great – for the most part, and she anxiously walked about. The house was quiet and was situated on four acres of sprawling green grass. With not another soul in sight, she set out to explore.
A little creek was nestled at the edge of the property, and she dipped first her left foot into then, then the right. Before she knew it she was splashing around and became reminiscent of times past.
The creek was splendid, but the feeling of the grass between her toes made her shiver with delight. She found that the faster she walked, the faster she wanted to walk. Before she knew it, her snow white hair was cascading down her back and behind her, and she was running towards the house.
It was apparently close to meal time, because her food was set out for her when she arrived back at the house. Appreciating such a glorious day, she ate her food, found a nice shady spot of grass under a tree, and laid down for a long afternoon nap.
“Life is good”, she thought.

Not all of us may have the luxury of playing in creek beds, running through acres of green grass, or taking a nap under a tree, but we all have the choice to think, “Life is good”.

Did you wake up this morning? Life is good.
Did you take a hot shower? Life is good.
Did your car start today? Life is good.
Did you receive a hug from a child today? Life is good.
Have you had a cup of coffee today? Life is good.
Do you have loved ones in your life? Life is good.
Turn on some music, draw a bubble bath, light some candles, and pour some wine. Life is good.
Even in times when things are hard… Life is good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So You Had A Bad Day...

Striving for daily positivity can sometimes be a challenge. Not that it can’t be accomplished, but some days are harder than others. Let’s face it, some days you may be overwhelmed with the amount of things you must get done, coworkers or family members may disappoint or irritate you, or you may just wake up on the bitchy side of bed. I have found that for every negative thought I have, I must counteract it with a positive thought or endeavor.

One of the things that I have found to work well in order to pursue daily positivity includes cleaning. I know that sounds a little obsessive compulsive (and it quite possibly could be!), but a little hard work scrubbing your bathtub allows your hands to be busy, mind be distracted, and the instant gratification of a clean tub helps too!

Another thing that I have found to help the mind stay positive is exercise. I have noticed in my personal life that when I have had a stressful or overly-busy day that an hour of yoga will give me a calm energy for the rest of the night. Not only will exercise release endorphins (a natural chemical in your body that reduces stress and tension) but the long term effect of muscle strengthening paired with flexibility is a positive choice in the right direction!

Being creative is another avenue I travel in having an “off” day. Rearrange a piece of furniture, paint a piece of pottery, choreograph a dance in your living room, or go take some pictures. Using the right side of the brain will help you to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal communication skills, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

Use your time wisely, my friends! Remember that no one will make you happy – that is YOUR job! Take time out for yourself, and keep yourself healthy by instituting positive thinking in every aspect of your life; and don’t give up!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Artistic Tuesday"

One of the things I love about my husband is that when he says he is going to do something, he does it. That may seem to be a trivial, minute observation or cause to love someone, but in this day and age that is something to be proud of. So many people say they are going to do something and then it never gets done.

John has deemed Tuesday to be "Artistic Tuesday". His goal is to express himself in a creative way on Tuesdays. Not that the other six days of the week are to be artistically neglected, but Tuesday is his day off and as far as goals go, consciously making an effort to let your creative juices take control is what he has set out to do. Today is Tuesday. He went on a photographic adventure in the park and then came home to refurbish an old cabinet that is now loudly and proudly displayed in my kitchen.

Tuesday is also piano lesson day. I teach an eight year old every Tuesday evening, and every Tuesday evening I am amazed at the progress she has made since her last lesson. As a somewhat vocal piano teacher I have come into contact with all sorts of people who express a sentiment of "I wish I knew how to play the piano". My response is very simply, "you can".

If there is something you wish to do, do it.

Honestly, it is as simple as that.

If you are sitting at your computer, I am assuming that your fingers work. If you are reading this, I am assuming that you know your alphabet. By drawing a simple logical conclusion based off the previous two assumptions then I am also assuming you can count. Those basic necessities are all you need to learn how to play piano.

What do you wish to do? Take a moment and think of what is holding you back. Is it fear of the unknown or of failure? Is it time? There are hundreds- no, thousands- of excuses for every wish that you wish to come true. It will not happen on its own. Make your mind up to do something and do it.

I wish you passion, drive, focus and commitment to your next adventure!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Death of Sour Patch Kids

I am addicted to Sour Patch Kids. The way that those little pieces of candy perform a perfectly orchestrated sweet and sour tango upon my tongue makes me shiver with delight every time I pop one into my mouth. I don’t get them often; I would be twice my size if I did!
Everyone deals with some sort of addiction at some point in their life. It may be you. It may be a family member. It may be a friend. In this day and age addiction is something that bombards us wherever we go and even if we do not go anywhere.
What can we do to break that addictive cycle in our lives? For some, it is replacing one addiction for another. Some recovering alcoholics will slowly over time replace their bottle with their work. Is this any better? Both the drink and the work will drive a wedge between loved ones, will cause physical infirmities and will essentially be the death of the addicted.
Where does this addictive personality come from? Is it genetic or is it an escape from truly knowing yourself? Most children who have alcoholic parents will drive themselves into patterns of gluttony, workaholism, or alcoholism themselves. Is this a sign of a genetic disorder? Or is this a behavior trait passed from one generation to the next of how to be oblivious to both your current surroundings and yourself?
If you are struggling with addictive behaviors, you are not alone. My grandfather was an alcoholic and my father is a workaholic. My addictive tendencies manifest themselves in different areas, one being Sour Patch Kids. Harmless? Not if I let those little guys control my life.
Turn your TV and computer off. Turn your iPod off. Close the refrigerator door. Put your magazines away. Take a day off. Make a date with yourself and get to know yourself over a cup of coffee. Meditate. Figure out who you really are and overcome these patterns with a healthy mindset of authority, control and belief. Fill the voids of your life with positive thinking! Then, and only then, will you have the power to overcome your addictions!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Your Life's Soundtrack

As music is such an important part of my life, I tend to incorporate general musical attributes into my everyday thinking. Anyone who knows basic music theory knows that you need three notes to create a chord. Take, for instance, a “C Major” chord; you need a C, E, and a G. This is your basic “happy” sounding chord sound. If you wanted to play a “C Minor” chord, you would play a C, Eb, and a G. This is your basic “sad” sounding chord. As you can see, for both chords, you use a C and a G. The choice is up to you in choosing an E or an Eb to make it “happy” or “sad” sounding.

The same is true in any situation or circumstance you may come across in your personal or professional life, your physical or spiritual life, your day to day activities or long term goals. It is your choice to create a “happy” chord or a “sad” chord. Choose wisely, my friends! These chords create your life’s soundtrack – what do others hear when they think of you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Coffee, Computers and Keys

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and recently baked doughnuts fills my nostrils. I hear a bell chime and the door opens. A young couple, probably in their mid-thirties, walk in laughing. From my place in the corner I doubt they see me, but I have an unassuming and incredible visual of them.

Observing from the sidelines, the love they have for each other is very apparent. The laughter, the looks, and the life that exudes from both of them fill the small café. I smile and continue to work on my computer. Again, the smell of coffee fills the room.
"Whipped cream on your mocha, today?”
“Yes, please!” she responds.
The taller of the two starts walking around the café and observing the different pieces of art on the walls.

Reds and yellows and oranges fill a blank canvas to create the enamoring silhouette of a city at sunset. Blues and blacks and whites create an abstract painting of squares, yet always make me think of flowers.
I take a bite of my apple fritter, thankful it's the winter. Washing it down with my peppermint mocha latte (again, thankful it’s the winter) I watch the blonde meander towards the black piano placed inconspicuously in the back of the café.

Pressing a few of the keys, her eyes light up.

“Can I play this?” she asks the owner of the café.

“Of course, that’s why it’s there!” he responds.

She sits down at the professional upright and begins to play a soft ballad. I don’t recognize the song but it is beautiful. When she is done she just sits there with her hands in her lap, looking down at the keys. I realize that there is no smile, only tears.

Quietly observing the pair while appearing intensely consumed with my computer, I hear the taller of the two softly say “Mom loved to hear you play.” After a moment of silence they walk out the door together, the blonde’s head on the taller one’s shoulder. The bell chimes again and they are gone.

Pay attention to your surroundings, my friends! There is always a being that needs a hug, someone that could desperately use an encouraging word, a friend that needs honest advice, or an acquaintance that needs a gentle push to do something that scares them. It is our responsibility as citizens of humankind to help one another. It is our duty as residents of a common earth to demonstrate love towards one another.
“Do one thing that scares you every day.”
 –Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Have Coffee With a Stranger

A brand new year.
A new year full of adventures to be experienced, lessons to be learned, friendships to be built, differences to be reconciled, and love to be given. A new year bursting with choices to be made.
A new year to start from the beginning.
Your goals, aspirations, dreams and achievements are in your hands. This year is your year.
Climb a mountain. Learn to walk again.
Save your money. Give to the needy.
Have coffee with a stranger. Adopt a pet.
Call your brother. Draw a picture.
Play a game. Write a letter.

“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” - Helen Keller