Finding a Connection

Whether you use the word God, Universe, Creator, Spirit, or some other term we are all talking about the same thing, that force of life that is in all of us, that guiding force that lets us know there is something greater than ourselves that we are part of that. It is not something separate but something that connects us. For me, it is important to feel this connection. That does not happen by going through my mundane life, plodding along and checking the boxes. It takes an effort on my part to attend events, connect with others on the same spiritual path, and go to locations where I can feel that connection. This weekend I had just this sort of event on my calendar, because a friend had reached out and asked me to attend with her. I am so glad she did. It was an amazingly moving event that inspired us and left us fulfilled.

On Saturday night we went to a Kirtan. What is Kirtan? According to Courtney Amundson and Chi Johnson (the people lead the Kirtan we attended) “Kirtan, also called Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotion), is an ancient practice that stems from India. The call-and-response nature of Kirtan involves both performers and audience, setting a unique and sacred space that quiets the mind, reduces stress, and awakens your spirit within. Kirtan is open to all people, regardless of spiritual or religious beliefs!”  It was held in a beautiful space. A yoga studio in the lower level of the Compass Center in Stillwater, MN. The people in attendance ranged from an infant to seniors. Some people sat on the floor and others in chairs. The music was beautiful. The voices, raised together in song, created a beautifully energetic connection between all in attendance.

The music moved my body. As I sat on my yoga mat, I could not help but feel my body swaying in response the rhythms that filled the room. My voice raised signing/chanting the response to the call from the facilitators. I do not feel I have a gift for singing nor do it in public, but on this night, my voice would not be silent. I was a part of the communal energy. The vibration that resonated through the studio. The 3 month old infant was mesmerized by the music and her tiny foot also moved in response. The beauty of this experience even moved some to tears. When I had entered the room, my neck was tight, full of knots, and uncomfortable. It had been a harried day of trying to get projects completed, readying for the arrival of winter, and keeping promises to friends. I walked into this beautiful room, stressed from rushing about and with a headache. As the music and the voices were raised, as I was picked up within the loving, supportive vibrations and everything changed. The stress dropped away. The knots in my neck seemed to melt and released. The headache disappeared. I felt renewed. I felt energized. I felt connected.

I am grateful that my friend reached out to share this experience with us. I am blessed to have a husband who will try new things and is open to attending events like this with me. My life is magical. This spiritual adventure was one of the many blessings that flow into it everyday.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May your life be filled with events that fill your cup in whatever way you need, as if by magic.

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Croatia; A Visual Journey Through a Country of Splendor

My husband, stepson, and I recently journeyed to Croatia. This country was such a surprise to me. I found a country full of rich heritage, natural beauty, and kindness. I had first heard of it a few years ago when another friend traveled there because of his family’s heritage. I had no idea what to expect. Through my blog, I would like to share some photos of this beautiful land. 

I must tell you, I thought writing an “photo” blog would be an easy short cut to get a blog done. This turned out to not be true. There are so many lovely photos to chose from and so much I want to share with you about Croatia, I will have to do a short series to share even a handful of the photos and the experiences with you.

Lets start by talking about the people of Croatia and the hospitality. Complete strangers opened their homes, restaurants, and kitchens to us.

Long lost relatives brought us grapes they had grown, bread they had baked, and salami they had made from animals they raised.

The generosity was overwhelming to me. Such a blessing.

Early one morning as we were traveling along the coast we stopped for breakfast. We did not really grasp that Croatia does not do breakfast in the way America does. A restaurant owner who was setting up for lunch welcomed us in. Her brought us a smorgasbord of food and cooked us eggs. Another blessing on our trip.

Next I want to share with you the landscape. Croatia is a relatively small geographically. The state of Minnesota (where I live) is 4 times larger than Croatia. The landscape of Croatia is diverse. As we drove across the country we would see the landscape change, and change again. It is a beautiful country.

There were coastlines, forests (of different types depending on region), mountains and valleys. We saw farmland and we saw land that would never be farmable. All of it was breathtaking.

Growing along the roadways we saw grapes, pears, apples, plums, sugarcane. There was a valley we drove through were you could se many diverse crops all growing in close proximity to one another. Honey was often offered in roadside stands.

The homes changed from area to area. In the North we notices lots of cute balconies adorned with flowers. There were brightly colored flowers everywhere we went.

There was such charm in the homes, it was easy to believe that this is a very happy place to live.

Business and churches also had a lot of charm. Often as we were driving down the road I would squeal in glee seeing a church that was so cute. We would have never made it around the country if we stopped to take a picture of everything that caught my eye.

This country is truly a country of slender. It starts with the people and their big, kind, generous hearts. It moves on to a beautiful landscape that covers all of the country as it moths and changes from area to area, and charming, homes, business, and places of worship are not to be forgotten.

I will be writing future photo blogs about our trip to Croatia. There is just too much to share for one blog to possible be enough to show you all that I want to here today.

Zagreb and Dubrovnik: Two Very Different Cities

The Roman Theater at Pula, Croatia

The Most Beautiful Place I Have Ever Been; Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Thank you for reading my blog today. May your life be filled with journey to places of splendor, as if by magic.

** Thank you to SydneysByDesign for doing photo editing to featured image on the blog. Your work is breathtaking!

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Food As Medicine: How I Cook With the Intention of Good Health

I try to be intentional in what I eat and what I put into my body. I have chosen to be a pescatarian because I believe it is better for my health. Pescatarian just means I am a vegetarian who eats fish, dairy, and eggs.  I try and avoid processed sugar in my diet, whenever I can, because it causes me joint pain. I choose meals that are good for me and my family and the ingredients I use are chosen for their healthy properties, taste, and color. 

  • Eggs. They are good source of protein, contain vitamin B12 and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant which may protect against heart disease and boost immunity. 
  • Tofu. Because I do not eat meat, tofu is a great source of protein. Additionally soy has cardiovascular benefits and is a natural estrogen replacement. 
  • Colorful veggies. The more different colored vegetables you put in your dishes the more different antioxidants you add to your meals. I chose veggies I use by the colors of other veggies in the dish. For example; If there is already a lot of green in the dish I usually pick a different colored bell pepper instead of green. They also make the dish look pretty,  and as my grandmother would say, how it looks is as important as how it tastes.
  • Mushrooms. They are cancer fighting powerhouses which have the added benefit of a healthy dose of Vitamin D, the ‘happiness’ vitamin.
  • Honey. Honey is antibacterial and adds sweetness, naturally. 
  • Spicy peppers. These stoke your metabolism. You can adjust how much you add according to taste. My husband does not like his food too spicy, so I add a little, just to increase the savoriness of the dish. 
  • Basil. This herb has healing properties. It also reduces stress and is an immune booster. 
  • Garlic. Helps prevent and fight illness. This powerful bulb has multiple healthy properties that also include reducing the chance of tooth decay and dementia (and keeps away the vampires, per my husband).
  • Love. Setting an intention of love and happiness while cooking infuses these energies into the dish. Good intentions always taste so good. 

These are example of the things I like to put into the food I cook for my family, friends, and myself.  Below is a delicious recipe using these items.  Always consider what you are putting into your cooking and body. Our food really does affect us. 

Thai Basil Stir Fry

with fried egg on top

2 tablespoons olive oil

egg for each serving

For Stir Fry

1 pack ‘firm’ tofu – drained and pressed

5 Thai chili peppers

Olive oil for frying and sautéing

1-2 tablespoon minced garlic

1 package of white mushrooms

1/2 red bell pepper cut in stripes

2 cups fresh green beans, snapped in half with ends removed. 

Sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons water 

Add in at the end

1.5 Cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves.

Base

Cooked jasmine rice to serve as a base for the stir fry.

Putting it all together

Heat the oil. (you just need enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan). Cut up the Thai chillies and sauté in the oil. Once they are fully sautéed, remove and dispose. These give flavor to the oil and add a hint of heat without taking over the dish. More chillies can be used to increase the heat.

After the tofu has been drained, wrap it in paper towels and place on a plate with another plate and something, somewhat heavy, on top. This will press the extra liquid out of the tofu. Cut the tofu into chunks. Place in the hot oil. Cook over medium heat. No need to rush it. Let it take its time.  Occasionally ‘gently flip’ the tofu. You don’t want to break it up but have it stay in chunks. As this is cooking, add the garlic and continue to sauté. Next cut the mushrooms into quarters and add to the pan once the tofu has a light golden brown crust on it. Allow this to cook slowly while you mix the ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl. Add the red bell peppers to the pan and stir ‘gently’ again. Pour the sauce over everything.  Add the green beans and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are bright green and warm all the way through. Keep your thoughts positive through the process. Play some fun music if that helps. Keep loving thoughts in your mind for those you are cooking for. 

In a separate pan fry the eggs, soft cooked are delicious, but how hard you cook the yokes is up to your preference. 

Serve stir fry over rice with the egg on top. 

Enjoy! 

Thank you fro reading my blog today. May you find it easy to put healthy food into your body, as if by magic.

** Photo credit goes to my husband who enjoyed the food so much he snapped a picture of it.

 

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Give It Some Time – The Richness of Life Will Reward You

Last night I ate green curry for supper. It was very good but I couldn’t eat it all. This morning, I decided, why not eat the left overs for breakfast. I know, not your traditional breakfast food, but I am not a traditional girl. I came to some big realizations by eating this non-traditional breakfast. The first was that it tasted so much better today! Think about all the things in life we hurry along, but if we only had allowed them to simmer and get ready in their own time, perhaps they would be much better. We value youth but age (experience) has so much to teach us. We live in a world of instant gratification but, if we let things come around in their own time, they could be so much better. 

Let’s look at senior citizens. These amazing folks have lived through things that we have never experienced. We are unlikely to experience all the things they have. Look at the changes they have seen to civil rights, technology, travel, and the economy. The world today, is a very different place than the one they grew up in. They have lived through World Wars and the Great Depression; these are certainly things I hope to never experience but just imagine all they learned going through that. Look at the changes to Women’s Rights. In her day, my mother was fired from her job because (as a married woman) she got pregnant. That was completely normal and acceptable, not so very long ago. Growing up fast could not give us the knowledge and experience or form us into the people we are meant to be. Only time can work her magic in these situations. 

Let’s look at relationships. In the past I have rushed quickly into relationships. I did not give myself the time or freedom to date many people. I would meet someone and then make them my everything and eventual marry them. I did this twice. When I eventually decided I would like to try a romantic relationship again; I allowed myself to date many people. I did not rush anything. I allowed things to come about in their own time. I held enough respect for myself to walk away when it wasn’t right. This allowed me to find the man who would be my third and final husband. We are a nice match. We fit well together. If I had tried to rush one of the earlier relationships into being something it was not meant to be, I would never have gotten to this place, where I have a beautiful partnership with a man who is perfect to me. 

Another good example of taking time over instant gratification is books. Are you a reader? Do you like to read novels? Have you ever read a novel and then gone to see the movie they made of it? Were you disappointed? I have found that when I see a movie after I have read the book, that I am often disappointed, because so much of the meat of the story has to be left out. Sure it is a quicker way to experience the story. A couple hours verses a couple days or more to get through the book. Depending on how much time you have to read each day. I just feel frustrated by the changes they have to make in the story, for it fit into the movie’s allowed time. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still really enjoy movies, just as I really enjoyed the green curry last night. I love the life I have lived and do not wish it to be anything but what was. I am grateful for those brief and quick relationships and what they had to teach me. But sometimes, just sometimes, we need to realize the gift that giving something some more time, can be. No, time does not heal all things, but time can allow changes within ourselves to be able to face what we could not face before. Just like my mother’s lasagna, which was always better on the second day, time makes life more flavorful. 

 

I love you. Thank you for reading my blog today. May your life be full of the ‘flavor’ that time allows to permeate all things, as if by magic!

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My Grandmother’s Hands

I love this picture of my grandmother’s hands holding her new great great granddaughter. This was the last great great grandchild she would get to meet, for she passed later that same year. I love how this picture shows the legacy that her hands started so long ago. 

My grandmother’s hands scrubbed floors and took care of her siblings as a young girl. She grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota. She was the oldest child in a large Catholic family. As an adult, she worked hard to care for her own family and keep her house clean. She taught me to work hard.

My grandmother’s hands baked bread and cooked big meals. As a farmer’s wife, she fed the farm hands and neighbors who came to help with the harvest. She would take meals to the sick or sorrowful neighbors. She hosted large happy holiday events. She taught me to take care of others.

My grandmother’s hands raise two children. She would have liked to have more, but it wasn’t meant to be. She mourned the loss of two still-born children.  She was crazy proud of her son and daughter and the successful careers they would have. She taught me to be proud of your family.

My grandmother’s hands instructed 5 grandchildren. I was the oldest of those 5 grandchildren. She fostered in me, a love and respect of nature. She showed me how to experiment and express myself through cooking. She modeled for us the best way to accomplish many tasks. She taught me how to learn from others’ examples.

My grandmother’s hands held on to my grandfather’s while they danced. They loved to dance and did it often. They belonged to a round dancing club and had many friends and much fun doing it. She taught me how to embrace life and do what you love.

My grandmother’s hands painted. It was something she started as a hobby. Her beautiful landscapes and floral paintings decorated her home. She taught me the value of art and being artistic.

My grandmother’s hands held a passport. Her and my grandfather loved to travel and they did not wait until they were old. They went and explored the world. She gave me my adventurous spirit and she taught me that wanderlust is a wonderful thing.

My grandmother’s hands played. She loved to play cards, other games, and was not one to be left out of the odd squirt gun battle or ballgame. Throughout her 80s she played and kept up, never saying she was too old. She taught me to always embrace your inner child. 

My grandmother’s hands prayed the rosary. She was Catholic and her faith was important to her. I saw how God held her following my grandfathers death. She was open to learning about others spirituality, but for her faith, she made no apologies. She taught me that even though my beliefs were different from hers, it was safe to be who I am and have my own faith.

My grandmother’s hands tried new things. She rode jets skis and tubes behind the speed boat well into her 80s. She was the queen of the kayak. She even let me give her Reiki (healing touch) with my hands. My grandmother taught me that it is important to always try new things.

My grandmother’s hands read. She was hungry for knowledge and loved politics. She felt bad that she didn’t go to college but she still learned through reading, traveling, talking to people, and being open to it all. She taught me to never stop learning. 

My grandmother’s hands hugged 11 great grandchildren and 4 great great grandchildren. She never met a baby she didn’t love. Some of her great grandchildren lived further away then the others and she did not get as much time with them as she would have liked, but she loved each and everyone of them for their individuality. She taught me how to love.

My grandmother’s hands cheered people on and congratulated them. She was always happy for other’s accomplishments. She celebrated right along with them. My grandmother made a room brighter by just being in it. My grandmother taught me that a positive attitude will raise the spirits of others.

My grandmother’s hands held a telephone. She loved to chat on the phone. She was always ready to listen to what was going on in my life or something new I was learning. She talked to many people, every day. She truly loved people and sharing their lives with them. She taught me how to listen.

My grandmother’s hands held me when I was broken. When bad or sad things happened in life, I could always count on my grandmother to comfort me and help me see the silver lining. She taught me how to keep going.

I miss her everyday. I still often go to pick up the phone to call her. Her legacy will go on and on. The people who knew her will never forget her and those who carry her blood in their veins, will carry her bright light into the future. I love you grandmother and I was blessed to have your influence in my life. Thank you for all you taught me.

Thank you for reading my blog today. May you be an inspiration for others, as if by magic.

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Do You See Dead People?

With Halloween fast approaching, you hear more talk about ghosts and people more readily share their “experiences” and “stories” with one another. After all, it is that time of year when it is fun to have the hair on the back of your neck raised by a good tail of a haunting or strange occurrence. The veil thins and gives other worldly beings a chance to slip through and say hello. Sometime these can be comforting visits from loved ones who have passed or maybe occurrences that you just poo poo away as being your imagination. Other times, it’s creepy things happening that leave you nervous to be home alone.

As I am writing this blog, I am listening to music and the songs in my iTunes are randomly playing. Ghost by Halsey just came on. Is this manifestation, a coincidence, or is Casper trying to influence my writing?

I have always believed in ghosts. Adults around me would gaff at my stories of the ghost that lived in the school. Well, most adults. My 100% Irish grandmother would match me tit for tat in the ghost story department. She would share stories of loved ones who came to visit and the banshee. She never made me feel like my stories were made up. Do all families have tales of spooky happenings?

My favorites are told by those that so profess to ‘not believe’ in such things. For example, my Dad tells of one hot summer when he and my brother were on the deck at the lake. They were grilling food and chatting when all of a sudden it got very cold. So cold they could see their breath, he tells me.  He says it passed as quickly as it came. Did a spectral spirit walk across the deck? Was it some freaky weather occurrence? Or was it a little chill, from a passing cloud, that was exaggerated into quite the yarn? I guess we will never know, but I like to believe that a ghost was traveling through their space and it’s presence was made known by the change in temperature.

A lot of strange things would happen at the lake. Maybe this was because we had time to notice them or spent less time in front of the TV. I once bought a book of goofy ghost stories because I thought the kids would like to hear them around the campfire. We were taking turns reading the stories from the book. My Dad was playing it up big time and making faces and really acting scared. So much so I snapped a picture of him. It was so much fun even if the ghost stories were not great. When I got the film developed (Yup, film. It was several years ago) there was a giant orb just behind my Dad’s head. It seems we were not the only ones enjoying the goofy ghost stories that night.

As we grow closer to Halloween, you may be more likely to have a visitor from the other side. As I said earlier, I do believe in ghosts and I have had many experiences. I also believe that we are safe from these ghosts if we define our space and let them know they are not welcome in it. Then they may not enter. We get to say who can and cannot violate our space. So when you feel the goosebumps raising up on your arm, because something seemed to have moved across the room, remember that you can ask them to leave. Stay tuned for a future blog on ‘protecting yourself.’

Enjoy the spirit of the season! Enjoy your friends spooky yarns and tell a few of your own. Feel free to share your ghostly sagas in the comments. You never know who might be listening over your shoulder.

Thank you for reading my blog today. May you feel safe in all your experiences, as if by magic.

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Our Connections With Others

People are wonderful. They really are. I have met so many amazing people in my life time. Each interaction, changes me a little. I learn from them, I grow, and ultimately have a bigger (and better) understanding of the world around me. 

There is a group I facilitate once a month. We explore a number of topics and have rich discussions. We all learn from one another. Last night there were 13 of us in attendance. We have had bigger groups and we have had smaller groups. It is a very fluid collection of attendees. New members come and old members drop in from time to time. Some people come once and never return, while others join and become regulars. It is a group that welcomes everyone. The richness of the group is directly related to all the wonderful attendants. As I looked around at the people who were there last night, it made me think about the spider web of life. It made me reflect on how these various members had come to be present at our gatherings. There were those who were friends of mine, those who came because the were connected to the church where we hold the gathering, and still others who were friends of friends and had made their way to our little circle. It is a great representation of the wonderful diverse web of life. 

Because I have been gifted with a life of travel, I have friends in many different places. Some near and others very far away. I have learned from all of these people. As with my monthly gathering, these friends have come into my life from so many different sources. Connections from relatives, classes, and jobs. This is one of the reasons I feel social media is a blessing. It allows me to keep a connection with many of these people. Some I consider deep and intimate friends that I care very much for, but it would not be possible for me to keep up relationships with all of them, if not for social media. There are those that I get to have a meal with once or twice a year. Others, who are a random text message now and then. This doesn’t diminish the thoughts I have for them and the gratitude for their parts in my life, nor the blessings I wish for them. 

Someone told me once that people come into our life when we need them. When they have served their role in our life, the energies will change and they will slip away to a new part of their life. I like this concept. It makes me feel better to understand that those very dear friends, who are no longer active in my life, have moved on as is intended by Divine order. New people are coming into our lives all the time. Are you open to the messages and lessons they bring with them? 

Thank you for reading my blog today. I wish you a lifetime of dear friends, as if by magic. 

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