Thanksgiving and Appreciation
On this mountain skyline is a rock formation we affectionately call, “The Sleeping Giant" because it looks like the profile of a giant man sleeping on the horizon. As you settle your eyes on the center of the picture you’ll see his chest and continuing your eyes to the right, you’ll see the profile of a face with a very pointed nose.
I took this hike several weeks ago after our first heavy snow. The crisp air bit at my skin, snow crunched under the footfall of my boots, and I could almost hear the forest breathing. Experiencing the quiet of the woods sets my heart at ease and fills my soul with peace. This late day view was especially pretty with pale blue and plum colored skies. This simple moment felt perfect. I appreciate my mountain time.
Tonight, sitting in a very messy house after a week of Thanksgiving activities and flicking through pictures on my phone, I hear the hum of my furnace. I smell leftover pumpkin pie spice in the air and the aroma of an evergreen candle burning. There are piles of laundry and a mountain of dishes to match. I feel my heart melt into a warm happiness. Snowboarding, shopping, conversation, laughter, working a ton of schedule logistics with all the people I call family, cooking (my pumpkin pies ended up being a big challenge to cook right!), and of course, eating… are only some of the activities of my family’s holiday this week. I appreciate my family time.
Deep in thought as I flick through pictures, I feel how much I value my family. I allow myself to feel light with the laughter we shared. I greatly appreciate my family’s good health and their ability to make life happen in positive ways. I allow the feeling of belonging to grow and expand in my heart. I appreciate how generous each and every person was bringing food to the many meals we shared. Even though this little snowboarder would have LOVED more snow, I appreciate our mild weather making it easy for people to travel. I treasure the place that I live and the communities of people I create with and care for.
I keep coming back to the Sleeping Giant picture and the moment I captured when I was alone on the mountain. Simple, clean, crisp, and neat describe that moment. The moments I experienced this week were messy, funny, complicated, honest, and loving. No one picture I snapped could encapsulate all that took place and the feelings we experienced.
The moments of this week have left me with a giant amount of appreciation for my life that feels alive and bubbly. Appreciation can be experienced SO many different ways. I found appreciation for strength of character, critical thinking, and problem solving at times when my life has had epic sized family and personal crises in health, emotions, and finances. When my life feels picture perfect navigating with ease, support, and independently, I’ve found appreciation in celebrating accomplishments and light feeling moments. I’ve come to appreciate my solitude when I climb mountains, create amazing feelings of confidence and value in myself, and share those feelings through encouragement to others.
This Thanksgiving, I am appreciating the great imperfect but yet beautiful mixture of people, experiences, feelings, challenges, solitude, and things that make up my life experience.
As I look at love in my life, sometimes I don’t want to touch it, feel it, clean it up, start over, or even acknowledge that I need love or feel lonely. Hiding or running away feels easier than being real. Today has just been a weird feeling day.
Recently, I was challenged to look at a pattern showing up in my writing. It was a pattern of freaking out inside, being calm on the outside, and handling it. Without letting the comment throw me into a tailspin, I’ve been thinking... How do I express myself? How do I handle what life, love, or people throw at me. How can I use my words to better inspire others and keep myself feeling upbeat and optimistic? If words I choose to say to myself create my inner beliefs and eventually the life I live, what kind of words am I choosing to make my beliefs? What are the words I am using to create my beliefs about love?
Allowing someone to know your heart takes guts. Allowing them to feel and love your heart takes vulnerability. How do I allow vulnerability without getting my heart hurt?
About seven weeks ago, I got an artistic urge to do an impromptu photo shoot with my sweet friend Jaime, a blossoming photographer and writer. I loosely explained the photo concept idea I wanted to shoot for inspiration to write my monthly blog. She listened and said yes right on the spot. While I was at work, she picked me up a second-hand dress. Later that day, she called me to schedule a date and started running questions by me of the what, where, and how to get it done.
That night she mentioned it to her three daughters and our good friend Shelly, who also has a daughter. Suddenly there was a whole lot of buzz, love, and excitement going into my simple monthly blog project. I felt somewhat embarrassed and yet warmly loved being the center of their attention considering I hadn’t firmed up the writing or idea for my blog. I marveled at how these two ladies were getting totally jazzed to get up early, fix their children’s hair, and put on their glitter makeup to make this photo art project. The girls chattered away about how they wanted to be fairy princesses on the frozen lake we had selected as the location for the photos. Before I could think too much or say no, they helped plan a whole adventure of creating some photographic art.
At the wee hours before sunrise on the next Monday we had off work, five children, two adults, and myself dressed in ball dancing gowns and were running, jumping, and holding hands on frozen lake. Houses puffed smoke out their chimneys greeting our day and photographic adventure. A colorful band of dresses followed Jaime’s shout outs instructing us to move for the photos. The remnant of a full moon and sherbet colored skies made a dreamy backdrop. Bare tree branches tickled the sky. Shelly corralled children for the photos and fluffed up dresses. And of course, no morning that early is complete without some righteous crankiness as the air had a frozen bite from cold temperatures and tummies rumbled for breakfast.
As we tumbled into warm cars back to Shelly’s place, my heart was beaming with good feelings. Kids were hangry, but goofy poking at each other. With rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes each one was retelling their story of what they created in their photos. I couldn’t stop smiling. Even my stomach felt like it was smiling :) I felt giddy, light, and goofy. My heart welled up with warm, happy tears. I felt like I could build a rocket ship to the moon if that was my dream. I disregarded feelings of guilt for getting so much enthusiastic help. I chose to ignore inadequacy feelings that I didn’t have my blog written yet and chose to bask in the wonderful weirdness of the morning we created.
Right underneath my nose, these two ladies felt my heart. I allowed them to feel my confusion, need for help, and my incomplete fresh born creative idea. I took a risk to trust. It was uncomfortable and scary but not hurtful. They helped me connect some dots I have been struggling to do in many of the wrong places and with the wrong types of people. They shared their time, robustly nurtured my vulnerable idea, and added to it their imagination and optimistic life energy. In my heart, I keep saying more YES to adding more of this feeling to my definition of love!
It’s been said, speak of things you love rather than bash things you hate. I agree wholeheartedly and keep pointing my words and feelings toward believing love is more about being supportive, choosing kindness over meanness, finding peace, sharing encouragement, optimism, helping someone be their best self, showing up, and keeping your word. I dared myself to meet the challenge this month in up-leveling my writing pattern. Way to grow… in love! <3
I love these pictures. I thought taking the pictures would just spark an idea for my blog. Instead, allowing myself to be immersed in the experience of feeling and creating the pictures melted more of my heart walls, allowed me to be vulnerable, and to be loved in a way that felt good to me.
Be empowered to keep growing. Be inspired and dare yourself to let go of old definitions about life and love that don’t serve you being your best you! Cheers!
Feeling my heart, connecting me to others, finding beauty,
cheekiness, expression, and optimism are only a few things the arts
help me do in my life. Keep in mind, defunding of the National Endowments for the Arts,
pending cuts in funding of PBS, and other publicly funded programs
affect the richness of how we all experience, feel, and create life.
It affects how we transmit ideas and love to one another.
(I can’t help but put a shameless plug for the arts here!)
Support the arts.
Support political candidates that support the arts.
We have our work cut out for us keeping art alive in our life, schools. love, and communities.
Waaahoooot! Naked soul celebration! …get your attention, hmmmm? ;) Wowzers, I sure hope so! And I hope it raised your eyebrows and stirred up some curiosity. When was the last time you were so loopy tired from celebrating and doing something you were into with your whole body, heart and soul? …so god blessed tired you can’t speak very well, you have a body/head buzzy feeling that will pop on & off randomly like a light switch, your heart smiles for no reason and if you leaned up next to a wall you would slide down it with eyes half closed and fall asleep in public?
In the last three weeks, a creative tornado shredded my normal 9 to 5 schedule to film a passion project. I took a few full vacation days to be totally present and immersed on the project and then would pop back and forth between work and filming (sometimes filming until 1 am and going to work the next day). I felt I was in a time machine jumping back and forth from the past (think late 1800’s) and then back to my over saturated techno work world, making my way living and thriving.
Being present, oh boy, a cliché that is soooo overused…at a closer look, how often do I truly, deeply feel it?
If you have ever been on a movie set, holy cats, there is A LOT of waiting, a mix of different running chaos as shots are set up, peeps shouting out for things needed to make everything click & run and there is an overall tingly feeling of deep magic as you feel everyone is elbow linked together to create something. A something that did not exist before right now, right now in this very moment.
Being an uber dork here (jus’ love this about me!!)… I did not want to miss a single thing in this filming experience and committed myself, every moment of every day to feel the experience deeply. Feeling the chaos & stress and with diligent attention how it worked itself out, feeling the lens when I was in front of the camera, feeling so exceedingly tired and reaching deep inside my soul for energy to share and support everyone, and allowing the feeling that I CAN be vulnerable, talented, capable…and enough.
I can show up and be present with every ounce of my naked soul and shine my light brilliantly, share my talent and create. I can celebrate with my whole body & spirit without the clothing of shame and being over conscientious. How powerful is that?!? Presence is allowing yourself to be the paintbrush magic in painting the picture of your life.
It was incredible to watch every person around me bring their creative soul A-game and connect with each other to create. I have been sit down in my pants happy (my own way of puttin’ it). My sweet friend Nina caught this moment with us beautifully.
Breaking up my day job/life pattern has reminded me in a profound and exhilarating way where my soul needed watering and self-care. As always, I aim to share and in full faith as you read this, feel the magic -the magic of creating outside the little cracker box life you have created. I mean FEEL IT! Feel the possibility that exists even in thinking about doing something different or taking that first step toward a dream in your heart.
In fact, I dare you, I DARE YOU to do even one positive thing today that changes up your pattern and gives you cause for celebration, stretches you toward a dream…and then do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
It would be too easy for me to ramble on about my recent filming experience -my lil inside preacher has a TON to say, always ;) Words feel terribly inadequate to describe the sense of possibility and lightness I feel. If I could send a shot glass full of this magic I’ve been feeling to boost you up, I would be ecstatic!
I would just encourage the heck out of you, celebrate your soul today. It's truly and honor and a gift being alive. If you feel so inclined, leave a comment below and share what you did and/or how you are proud of your own awesomeness.
…she said, “According to statistics, I only have a 2% chance or less of finding love since I’m over 40...” Mustering up courage and my most tactful voice, I interrupted her mid-thought and verbal runoff saying, “Woah, WOAH, WOAH there, why the friggin’ hell would you leave THAT to a statistic?!? If I lived MY life by a statistic then I should be missing teeth, have more children than I could handle, be on welfare, remain uneducated and still live in the trailer park and poverty I grew up in!! I was labeled a high risk mother when I had my first daughter as a teenager… meaning, there was a group of ‘well meaning’ peeps that thought I was going to fail!“ God bless those lovely folks, it made me sit myself down and think, how can I be the best mom I can even though my little ones came along WAY earlier than I planned.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to my best ski buddy’s college graduation. We had the honor of being addressed by our governor as the guest speaker. He spoke about a few things he had learned along the way of life and on those bullet points he expounded. When he told a group of bright eyed college students they were going to fail in life. Holy cats, I popped up and down in my seat like a jumping bean once or twice and felt like hauling ass up to the stage to beg to differ.
I can’t calm down on this one!! It’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks now and bam ~ topic to share about. Resilience baby…the ability to bounce. Come back with your inner champion, find your inner resourcefulness, take accountability for creating life and most of all, GET UP when you fall flat on your face.
It’s hard for me to sit still anyways… and it’s especially hard for me to sit still when I feel people squashing their future, their potential, or their soul’s light. Just gotta speak up.
I do just thank God for the gift of resilience. For as many times as life as smacked me square in the face with a 2x4 or I have made dumb decisions which involved clean up, I seem to find a way to “turn death into a fighting chance to live.” (One of my fav Star Trek quotes) :)
In the face of statistics and the sometimes loud, obnoxious, negative focused peanut gallery: I thrive. A WAY different word choice than survive, which implies to me -just getting by, existing, fighting to breathe and just be in this life -often in a very small way. Thriving is seeing miracles in everyday life, finding the good as much as possible in everything, enjoying the in the moment creation, laughing, crying, and living in vivid color. (My personal choice)
Figuring life out and executing the processes of moving anything in life is bumpy and rough! If you are moving, you are winning! Period. There is only one fail in my book in life and that is: quitting moving. It means you refuse to take any movement options. Moving at any speed, means you have the privilege and honor of your next step in the process whether it's living, celebrating or breaking.
For me, when I come across those dreams I want to elevate into a living reality or when crappy things happen, I turn inwards. That inside chat you have with yourself is priceless.
Being a mom and having a family was a super important dream of mine and crikey! It came along in my life timeline really early! I can’t tell you how many inside fits I threw and how mad I was at me, for not being smarter. However, pretty darn quick after they were born, I thought, Well, they are here and sh** I gotta grow up pretty damn quick -(BIG understatement). It won’t be too long before they are caught up to me. I had very few parenting skills that I could bring forward from my own upbringing for application and I threw most of the junk information out. So now what? My parenting toolbox was mostly empty. I had moved to a new town so there weren’t any familiar people references and my marriage was already making high squealing tension noises in my head. No matter what, I only had one shot to raise my daughters the very best I could.
Barb, the blue-green haired (literally) lady from social services visited me soon after I got my daughter home. She came into our tiny apartment, sat on the couch. I sat on the floor next to my daughter sleeping on the floor near the only little heater we had. I almost whispered, “Well I have fed her, talked to her, bathed, changed her, what else do you do with a baby?” A hint of compassionate smile crossed her face and she began to talk to me about parenting and listening to me. It was a relationship that lasted over two years and gave me the best jumper cables start I could ask for to begin make my way, MY way. I allowed her belief in me to open up my shut down mind.
From there, I read parenting books, made daily choices and LIVING the desire I had to be the best mom I could. I did not have the 'how' figured out, I only had the 'why' figured out. I fell on my face as I figured out what didn‘t work, had to course correct, rephrase my voice and actions, cried and yes, sometimes I got foot stomping mad. I did not give up. I knew my why and held that close to my heart. I chose to bounce. I chose to bounce, get up, start, and thrive with what I had.
My daughters and I have gone through injuries, hospitalization, some deep emotional traumas, scrimping by on super low budgets, arguments, tears, death… AND we have celebrated birthdays, have had food adventures, holidays, learned about the world around us together through libraries, museums, picnics, cooking, goodwill shopping. We have learned about money, communicating, laughed, just plain figured life stuff out and lived joyfully out loud together as all three of us figured out who we were.
Resilience is a way of feeling your way through life with your heart, ALLOWING your heart to know that there IS always a door to something else, and running with your arms wide open towards the curiosity to explore those doors!
Outside of smart safety statistics and listening to wise advice… ignore statistics and “well meaning” folks when they feel a need to rain down peanut shells from the gallery. Most importantly, tune into your heart and soul’s voice. The best wisdom is there.
When all seems hopeless, do what I do to get the process going -get physical! I was inspired to jump on a trampoline for an inspirational pic for this story… I looked high and low for a place to jump and take a picture to share. This became a treasure hunt and In a serendipitous moment I remembered, we have a gymnastics place in town!! :)
Man-o-man, for the love of you, if I could infuse some of my natural bounce in ya after reading this, I would! I just know you are struggling to figure out something in your life after you have gotten knocked down. I am going to say it again: Resilience baby…the ability to bounce. Come back with your inner champion, find your inner resourcefulness, take accountability for creating life and most of all, GET UP when you fall flat on your face.
Share with someone you know that could use some faith and hope today. Share a comment below and send it out there with a whole bunch of courage and resilience today!
I SWEAR I heard a boing-ing sound, felt my head bounce and my eyes blinked twice as I overheard a lady say, “Oh she can’t be smart…she’s pretty. She’s good natured, happy, oh you know, the sort, the Pollyannish, goofy type. She can’t really speak intelligently. Dresses young…and ya know, just who does she think she is anyway…” and on and on the lady went ad nauseam spitting out negative things about a chick I didn’t know. I kept waiting for the horrible thing this lady did to warrant the comments, like maybe run over their cat on purpose, hurt their children, steal their man, sabotage their life in some big way, was mean -but nothing came up in their conversation.
I felt myself slide slightly downwards in the booth at the restaurant where I ate lunch alone. I thought about saying something to them as I felt I had been verbally punched in my own personal sunshine. My cheeks burned and my throat got tight as I recalled when people have said similar things about me and it‘s gotten back to me. Or times when peeps have bluntly said things to my face. That group of ladies in the booth behind me finally got up to leave and pay for their lunch laughing and giggling.
I sat there. Thinkin’. Finishing my lunch.
I am happy. Most of the time. Ok, so I don’t wake up all sunshine and roses when I first roll out of bed… I have bed head (I like to call it rock star hair :) always got to at try and re-frame negative stuff in my head, yeah baby!), stinky breath, leftover makeup I didn’t get off from the day before, pillow imprints on my face as I feel my way down the hall to get to the bathroom with one eye open, one eye closed. My happy blooms as I start getting my thinking going, as I start making my way.
In my imagination, my hair was suddenly restyled into a big 80’s hairstyle and I jumped onto my church pulpit… (I think there is a lil Baptist minister in me somewhere because boy-oh-boy can I rain it down ;) and Iet’er rip. Then I thought, wait just a hot minute here, why am I doing this? Now I am shutting down my sunshine because of an overheard conversation. I’ve been guilty too of lack of sunshine & positivity resulting in shooting off my mouth. Think about it…
To me happiness is living sunshine, that I choose. It’s an intelligent, loving and higher vibe choice.
Just because someone is good natured, kind or happy doesn’t mean they don’t have a ton of poop going on in their life! Sometimes, when people seem to be super happy, they are covering up a lot of pain and life struggle. Hats off and a HUGE shout out to you if you are one of those people who make your way in life with the best sunshine you can like some badass superhero. What a brave choice to make! Way to go using your mind and heart to choose your words, attitude, and be responsible for the energy space around you.
There is SO much to appreciate in living life and I get to do it! What a cool way to honor myself by building internal sunshine and expressing it. Sometimes I feel my heart will burst with warm and fuzzy poofs of sunshine by observing and taking in the miracles around me. In drinking my coffee, I get to taste it, know it energizes me. Every system in my body is a universe by itself and oh my goodness, isn’t that just a dizzying, make you sit down in amazement thought? I get to drive, go to work, breathe, help out my workmates, create in film and on stage, write using my imagination, go to the doctor when I am sick, love my family & friends and keep making my way even when I fall on my face. I get to eat up every life adventure with a fork, knife and spoon choosing to fill up my soul with the experiences of life.
Just so you know too, sometimes people are full of sunshine because they are feeling good, thinking good thoughts and that sunny feeling shines out of every pore in their face. I think as you grow (or don't) through life, you wear your soul on your face. Your face shows when you are making choices that support goodness and staying curious with an open mind and heart.
Yup, these are a whole lot better thoughts than where I was headed after I overheard that conversation.
As I let this sit and re-read it, I judged my own writing…it’s too full of fluffy feel good. However, I stand by it. 100%. There is a ton of science, spiritual, and positive psychology information (which I read regularly to help feed my sunshine) supporting how leaning into positive improves attitude, perspective, humor and health. Besides reading, I love filling up my positivity by being out in nature, drinking in sunshine for my heart, soul and attitude.
I encourage you to get up just one day in the next week, a whole heck of a lot earlier than you normally do and enjoy a sunrise. Really take it into your heart and mind. What a gift of light to bring that sunshine into your day and bless it. After you get filled up with all that lovely light, think about some things you deeply appreciate and then get after your day. Send it out there with all the sunshine and loves you can muster. Feel free to share in the comments below what you do to stay positive and honor your own sunshine too!
PS: In case you have life circumstances that make it hard for you to see the sunrise, I got up at 5:15am yesterday and got my buns over to Mt. Helena so I could share one thing that helps light up my soul, mind and heart. Without fail it shows up for us every day…gloriously bringing our day to life. And it really is just for YOU honey.
Blog by Mary Riitano...
I'm a Montana actress on a journey sharing my heart and growth through blogging, stories, and poetry, I have faith you'll find empowerment and inspiration to create like a champion in your own life!
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