Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taking Time Off

The holiday season is upon us. I find my days getting busier and busier as the time of gift giving and family visits approach at lightening speed!

I'm going to take a little time off from blogging to devote my time to the activities of the season.

I'll be back soon...

Happy Holidays to all!

Contagious Giving

I wanted to pass along this great article on how generosity can be contagious. This is what the holidays are all about... or should be anyway!

Mystery Pair at Diner Spark Cascade of Giving

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Comic Relief

I wanted to share this letter to Santa that I wrote when I was 8 years old. It proves that my opinionated and 'verbal' courage started very early in life. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009


I'm working on a project to scan a lot of old family photos and preserve them digitally. I'm having a ball reliving my childhood, exploring the youth of my mother and father, and connecting to the energy of all my ancestors. It's a great project to facilitate self discovery!

I came across a delightful picture of my grandmother, for whom I was named. Her name was Nola Joy. Mine is Nola Gay.

Check out these pictures! My grandma was photographed around 1905. My photo was taken over 60 years later.

What struck me most about the photos, is that we are sitting in the same position!

Nola Joy

Nola Gay

It's not the most lady-like of poses! It's still my favorite position to sit in to this day. It just feels 'right.'

To see her sitting that way, so long ago, showed me that many of my traits come from my lineage. I've had countless examples of it in the past... but this visual reminder was comforting. I'm certain I never saw my grandmother sit this way! As a girl growing up, I was corrected for sitting this way on more than one occasion. Yet... she did it... and I do it.

My family is full of independent, strong women. I'm proud to take my place in this long line of amazing women. Seeing my grandma's photo, and comparing it to my own, helps me claim it even more!

Celebrate the positive and unique traits that you have received from your ancestors and those who raised and influenced you!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What it Takes to Appreciate

Our weather in the Seattle area is very cold at present. I mean REALLY cold!

A couple weeks ago, I needed to drop my car off for service. It was a bright, sunny day, so I decided to walk about 2 miles to meet a friend for lunch. Although it was a gloriously beautiful day, it was cold and windy.

My walk proved to be rather uncomfortable, from a temperature related perspective! My ears and nose were extremely cold by the time I arrived at my destination.

I'll tell you what though - walking in to that warm restaurant felt wonderful! I go to that restaurant pretty frequently, but until that day, I never appreciated the warmth that greeted me when I walked through the door.

Nothing like being freezing cold to help you appreciate being in a warm place.

Sometimes I think that's why we have some of the extremes in life. We can't really appreciate being relaxed, unless we experience times of stress. We can't fully enjoy being loved if we haven't also spent some time feeling alone and lonely. The list could go on and on. For any pleasant experience in life, there is an equivalent negative. Without experiencing each side of the coin, we wouldn't know just how fortunate we are when the good experience appears.

I'm enjoying the cold weather, even though it's bringing me some strange problems, like a frozen water valve, delays in getting my gutters and windows cleaned, and the inevitably higher heating bills.

When I stand over my heat vent, or in front of my fireplace and bask in the warmth, I'm thankful that I have a warm place to be! Many don't have that privilege.

Next time you're experiencing an extreme... remember that nothing lasts forever. Everything is impermanent. Life is change. The heat wave of today will eventually yield to a cold spell. The snow storm of today will eventually yield to a mellow, spring day. It's all part of life.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Life Happens

I watched a great movie last night, "Mr. Holland's Opus." There are many great lessons in that movie.

In the movie, Mr. Holland, a high school band teacher, sings and signs a song to his deaf son during a concert. He sings John Lennon's song, "Beautiful Boy."

There is a line in the song that is worth reflection, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I think at age 45, I'm finally beginning to understand what that means.

There are some days, when I feel I should be doing something more important with my time, or when I'm feeling overwhelmed by my 'to do list' and I just stop myself and say (often out loud), "Nola! THIS is your life! THIS IS IT! This is where you are meant to be right now. This is what you are supposed to be doing."

It helps with that restlessness and discontent that sometimes is present more often than it should be.

It really is true. For the most part, life is not grandiose. Surely some grand things happen to us in life, but for the most part, our lives are comprised of an endless stream of ordinary moments. Moments that can be lost to us if we spend all our time thinking we should be elsewhere.

This stream of moments however, weaves together into what can be a beautiful tapestry. All that is required is that we notice each moment and appreciate what it has to offer.

The good. The bad.
The bitter. The sweet.
The joyous. The sad.
The comforting. The painful.
The exciting. The boring.
The hot. The cold.
The exhilarating. The frustrating.
The peaceful. The angry.
The calm. The stormy.

Each moment has it's meaning, no matter how insignificant it might seem. They all matter. Each and every moment matters.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Kindness that Heals

Last year, when my home was burglarized, it was a really tough time for me. Dealing with the insurance, and my security concerns was a bit overwhelming. One of the first days after the burglary I went to a restaurant for lunch. It is a restaurant that I frequent. The waiter knew me as a regular, as did the manager.

I was feeling very vulnerable and a bit 'beat up.' I mentioned to my waiter that my home had been burglarized. He looked concerned and said he was very sorry.

I ordered my lunch. While I ate my lunch I worked on the insurance claim. It was a tough moment in my life's history.

The time came when my bill should arrive at the table. It hadn't come. Eventually, my waiter came by and said, "The manager wants to buy your lunch today. He's really sorry for what happened to you... and so am I."

I almost burst into tears. I did, in fact, get teary eyed. It touched my heart that two people I barely knew wanted to do something nice for me, simply because I'd experienced a hardship in my life.

It was such a simple act, yet for me, in the midst of a dark time, it lifted me. It made a difference that is hard for me to put into words.

It doesn't take much to make a difference in another person's life.

What simple act could you do today to lift some one's spirits? Go for it!

Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm Fascinated by What is Left

Last night, I was watching a movie called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants II. One of the young women, who's mother committed suicide, is participating an archaeological dig on her summer break. She is having a bit of a struggle, and is befriended by the woman who is leading the dig. During a conversation one day about how to relate to one's past, the older woman tells Bridgette that she too has lost people... as well as her home, to a bloody and horrible war... and that it has fueled her passion for archeology, because she is "just fascinated by what is left."

I was touched by this line. Having traveled in the middle east so much, I have met many people who have lost more than you or I could ever imagine losing. Yet, they too, often have a passion and enthusiasm for the simple pleasures offered us by life.

Our 'oh so complex' lives sometimes overwhelm us and pull us away from what is important. We forget to enjoy what we do have, as we focus on all that we don't have. We have a tendency to focus on what is lost, rather than on what is left.

What a shift in perspective that offers us! We can focus on what is left, rather than what is gone. We can focus on what we have, rather than what we don't have. We can focus on what we have in front of us, rather than on what is behind us. We can focus on who is still with us, rather than those who are gone.

It offers us a totally new way of relating to what is... right in front of us.

Next time you think about the failed relationship, the betrayal, the abandonment, the loss, the struggle, the pain, the fear... try shifting to what's left.

See how it changes everything!

Friday, December 04, 2009


The other day, I walked 2 miles through town to meet a friend for lunch. I had dropped off my car for service. It was a gorgeous day, and I decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity in Seattle winter to walk in the sunshine.

It was a cold day, and I walked fast to keep warm. I was walking through an area with a lot of strip malls and development. Not the most attractive area to be taking a winter stroll.

As I walked along, I noticed a little stream flowing off to my left. It turned into a larger and larger flow of water. I came to a little bridge that crossed the stream. There, in the water, was a heron! Right there in the middle of the city! This bird was standing in the water, 10 feet from a 5 lane road, hunting for food. The sound of the cars whizzing by was undeniable. Yet, here was this wild creature... surviving with what it had to work with. I was impressed.

His or her habitat has been taken over by humans, yet this creature perseveres. It has adjusted to the changes, and lives on. Is it ideal... probably not. Is it comfortable... most definitely not. Yet... the creatures lives on.

We could take a lesson from this Heron. We can't control what happens around us. We can curl up and die, or we can adapt. I say... we adapt!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Ugly Marks are Gone!

Last spring, I went to a charity car wash and let a bunch of kid's wash my car to raise money for their sports team. I was a little nervous, because the hoard of kids descended on my car with a lot of sticks with cleaning rags/mops on them. The 'clanking' sound didn't soothe me, as they moved quickly and beat on my car... I worried. There were adults supervising them, and they didn't seem to be concerned. I assumed it was OK.

I was trying to be nice and support the kids.

When I got home later that day, I noticed that I had a lot of black scuff marks all over my car! I was... UPSET!

Today, many, many months later, I went to the body shop to have a little problem fixed. As an after thought, I asked him about the scuffs on my car. I asked if it had damaged the paint, or if it was possible to get them off. The guy said, "No problem" and walked to his workbench, put some liquid on a cloth and proceeded to go all around my car and remove all the scuff marks! It took all of 5 minutes.

I have agonized about those marks, and what it might take to remove them. I feared being told that I'd need to repaint the car. My $10 car wash would have increased in price by a orders of magnitude! Instead... it was a 'free fix' that took very few minutes. WOW!

How often do we blow our problems out of proportion? How often do we 'write stories' about how big our problems really are, when the aren't that big, after all? Often, I suspect.

Got any scary looking black marks in your life? Fearing that it will cost you an arm and a leg to fix them? Maybe you should get another opinion!!!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

We All Have It

As I grow older, I'm becoming more and more aware that we all truly believe we're 'different' and the truth is we are all remarkably similar!

At some level...

We all have more going for us than we believe we do.

We all have inner challenges, stresses and darkness that we think no one else has.

We all think that other people have it together, and we aren't like them.

We all fear that if people really knew us in all our weirdness, they would probably think twice about loving us or caring about us.

We all think no one has the same defects that we have.

We all think we are so different that no one could ever REALLY understand us.

Sound familiar?

I'm truly coming to the understanding that there is nothing new under the sun, we all have stuff inside us that we wish wasn't there and we don't believe other people deal with. We're wrong!

Everyone has 'stuff' inside them that is dark, difficult and causes us discomfort. It's part of the human condition.

As I'm coming more fully into acceptance of this idea, a funny thing is happening. I'm lightening up on myself!

That doesn't mean I don't want to improve and deal with what is mine to deal with. It just means that I am not so dang critical of myself all the time.

When we compare ourselves to the 'ideal' version of other people that we create in our heads, we can never measure up. No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws and everyone has their demons to wrestle with.

If we all were more willing to acknowledge that fact, we'd all be better off!

When we compare ourselves to unrealistic, impossible ideals we can't measure up. When we constantly feel 'less than' we can act out in strange ways.

You're normal! I'm normal! We're all normal! Let's just live our lives and relax about it all!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Checking the Warning Light

Cars these days have lots of 'indicator lights' to alert you to problem conditions.

The fancier the car, the more indicator lights you will find.

On just about all cars, there is the ever ominous 'check engine' light. That one always strikes a little fear in the unhappy eye of the beholder.

There are indicators for a door left ajar, a seat belt left undone and any host of other 'error conditions.'

For quite some time I have had an indicator light coming on to warn me of a problem with one of my tires. It used to come on every few months. Now, it is coming on every few times I drive the car.

I have had it checked out before, when it was extremely infrequent. No authentic problem was uncovered. Recently I became more concerned because of how often it has been occurring.

I decided to take the time to get it checked out... just in case. It wasn't convenient and it probably wasn't necessary. I just wanted to be sure.

Remember the old saying, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" I believe in that saying.

What if I ignored the warning light and just assumed it was a false alarm? I could be right, but I could be wrong. The 'wrong' in this case could be devastating. I wasn't willing to take that risk.

Sometimes 'warnings' in our life turn out to be nothing, but it still worth 'checking them out...' THOROUGHLY before overriding them.

A lot of times the warnings are real and we can save ourselves a heap of trouble by heeding the warning and taking corrective action. The times when we have a 'false alarm' might be inconvenient, but they are a small price to pay for developing sound practices that will serve us well in the long run.

Got any flashing warning lights vying for your attention? Pay attention and check them out. Take action if you need to. If it's a false alarm, brush off the minor inconvenience of checking it out... and move on!