Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Time to Review....

It's that time of year when I let you know how I did on my New Year's Resolutions for 2015...
and here is something that is very important for you to understand before we start that even if I do not totally achieve a specific Resolution, I do not in any way consider it a failure.

There is learning in the journey, not just in reaching the destination, and sometimes the errors and mistakes and missteps teach you more than the easy achievement.

I consider my life one that is always in progress.  I always want to learn, push myself and just keep trying.

Since I made these a year ago, here is a recap if you want to read it...  2015 Resolutions

#1.  Celebrate more...

       This started out good and well intentioned.  I joined an art group that I now can not imagine not being a part of.  I found my rowing club.  I attended things that I probably would not of attended, but then it sort of twisted on me...
       Sometimes you need to say no...  Saying yes when you are overbooked and overwhelmed is not a good thing.  This resolution reminded me once again that BALANCE is the key to life.  Saying yes to things that enrich and bring joy to your life is a very good thing, but don't say yes because you feel you should.

#2.  Exercise with the intention of Love, not Fear.

       I maintained my weight this year, and if you are reading this blog and are in my life, you know that there have been some major upheavals, grief, accident for another family member, and health issues this year.  I listened to my body and some activities that I used to do, I no longer do and some activities that I had never done before are now joys in my life.  I am not perfect with this, but I do feel there has been a MAJOR shift in my thinking.

#3.  Twice a month get my camera out.

      Total hit and miss with this.....  I did well some months and not so well others.  I did come up with plans of taking the pictures, but sometimes did not make it out to do it.  Need to keep going on this....

#4.  Do a Money Savings Challenge.

      I had to completely redo my plan on this one.  I laid it out here, and revamped it here, and in the end did not do a spectacular job on this one.  I had a lot of unexpected expenses this year, travel and medical, that made this VERY hard to do, but on the other hand I did not add to my debt in this year and paid some others off.  I have this set up to continue in 2016, so I believe I am on the right track.

#5.  Get the piano tuned and find a piano teacher.

       See above, but I have an appointment during January and have found a teacher.  My piano is in such bad shape that it is going to take more money than I initially planned.  I am now very excited to get this done, and play once again.

#6.  Do a Reading Challenge.

       LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this resolution!  I finished as documented in my 1st2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter book reports.  I will be doing another reading challenge in 2016.

#7.  Cross more items off my Bucket List.

       I didn't do the ones I thought, but still made progress.  I learned to row and still do it!  I visited a psychic (weird but cool).  I finished watching the top 100 movies, some of which I will never see again.  I did some personal ones that I never mentioned on here.  Life is a journey and this year's journey kept me close to home, but hopefully travel will come back in 2016.

#8.  Don't let things sit.

     I dealt with things I had no clue I was going to have to deal with and I did.  It wasn't easy, but it was easier than letting it build and explode.  This will always be a work in progress thing for me as I still seem to struggle when expressing myself when I am really emotional to get the right words out.

#9.  Journal consistently

    My journaling changed dramatically this year by introducing Art Journaling into the mix.  I could tell what was really going on emotionally by the type of art I was doing.  I still wrote periodically, both here and on paper, but art took the stage this year.  My one regret is that I let my Gratitude Journal get out of practice, but I am currently getting that back on track.

Here's to another year of trying new things and working on myself...
and yes, 2016 resolutions are on their way.

Melissa

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Change in Stitches

In October, an era ended for me....

I delivered my last batch of quilts to Primary Children's Hospital.

For the past 15 or so years, I have made at least 10 quilts a year, but normally 15,  and donated them.  It was a labor of love, but the time has come to change my focus.

So I thought in honor of the end of this era, I would do a post about my adventures in quilting....

my trusty sewing machine

I did a simple pattern found in a Woman's Day magazine many years ago.  You simply cut 7 inch squares, then sewed them into strips of 7 and then sewed nine strips together.  It ended up being about  a crib size quilt.

I did holiday themes, sports, animals and many others...

getting its batting on...
I loved searching out fun fabric to use...
Pirate Rubber Duckies, too cute!

They weren't always perfect and in alignments, but they were made with love...
A girly pink poodle quilt
They were a bit of work, but I enjoyed working on them...
Animals playing sports!

I decided to end the quilt donations due to one simple reason, the cost of making each one has SKY ROCKETED in the last two years..  :(  


Never fear, however, I still will be giving of my time, but just in a different form.. 

Instead of sewing with a machine, my stitches will be knitted.   I have been knittin' for kittens and have a few other knitting projects to donate in mind.

Still stitching....
Melissa







Monday, December 21, 2015

4th Quarter Book Report...

I am in the home stretch of this challenge and it is going to be interesting to see when I finish, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be done before the end of the year...

As the 4th quarter starts on October 1st, it seems appropriate that I start with:

#22.  A book that scares you.

         Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The monster in the book did not scare me....
The creator of the monster, however, did.

I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what this book was about due to the movies that have been named after it.  The book begins with a series of letters from a sea captain to his sister about his adventures and a man his crew rescues.  The man, Frankenstein, begins to tell his story to the captain and we are drawn into a story in which what scared me the most the idea of just because we can, does it mean we should....

#39.  A book with magic.

        The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I continued the October theme and finished another trilogy with this book with magic in it by reading 'The Book of Life'.  The series combines witches, vampires, daemons, oh my!, which means magic is a major plot line.  I enjoyed this series, but here's a bit of a tip, if you do take this trilogy on, read them back to back to back, as the third book brings back EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER ever mentioned...it got a bit confusing until I remember them and placed them in the context of the story.  

#23.  A book more than 100 years old.

         A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

On the surface, it is a light and funny read, but go a little deeper and you quickly realize this is a book written by a MASTER of satire and then it gets even better!  I love Mark Twain, but had never read this and now I am lamenting this fact.  A single line singes a entire problem as seen by Twain and it is perfection.


#33.  A book from your childhood.

          Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Sometimes you just need to read about a sweet, somewhat high strung, pig and a wise and kind spider, and if it takes you back to your childhood and the remembrance of your beginning of a lifelong love of reading, it's all the better.  I love this book!  I love this book!  Have I mentioned that I love this book.  Reread it if you have a chance and fall in love all over again....

#20.  A book at the bottom of your to-read list

         Middlemarch by George Eliot

You are dropped into Middlemarch, a quaint English countryside village, and I have to be honest for the first 100 or so pages, I wasn't sure I wanted to continue.  It dragged for me and I really did not like it, but then something happened, it flew!  I don't know if it was the colloquial english that threw me for a loop or the set up of the story, but I struggled in the beginning.  At its heart, this book is about change.. how we deal with unexpected change, how we deal with change we wanted but does not turn out how we thought, how we deal with technological changes, and any other possible type of change.  It is an interesting character study of people and yes even the town they inhabit.

#2.  A classic romance.

       Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Ok, I am officially questioning how this is a romance.... I actually double checked while reading, because as far as I can tell this book is not about romance.  I googled classic romances and it popped up on every list.  For me, this is not about a book about romance, in the true sense, but the superficial chase of it.  Madame Bovary marries a dull country doctor and is somewhat content until she attends a party and sees how others live and then embarks on two very immature affairs that leave not only her life in ruin, but her husband's and the most heart breaking of all, her daughter's.  It's an interesting book, because it never once condemns or condones the character's behaviors but simply states what they are, which was very controversial at the time the book was written.

#24.  A book based entirely on its cover.

        The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele

This is not a book to speed thru, but one to absorb into your life over time.  It is an excellent introduction and explanation of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  No it is not just about the physical practice, in fact, that is a very small part of what Yoga truly is.  This was very informative and personal for me.... multiple people that I love had told be about this book and as I read it, my connection to them was brought to the forefront for me.  I will be reading this book again, slowly and doing the work recommended in it in 2016.  If you are curious at all about yoga in its true state, please consider reading this book.

#45.  A book set during Christmas.

        Pelican Road by Howard Bahr

Two trains, one heading north and the other heading south, are on a collision course on Christmas Eve in Louisiana.  There are multiple characters, which at times got a little confusing, but in the end creates a rich, yet sad, story.  Howard Bahr has a gift of story telling and the selection of the right word to enrich the tapestry of the story.  It is not a happy, spirit of Christmas book, so do not read it if you are looking for happy happy joy joy....


With that, I conclude my reading challenge, officially on December 14th...
I loved this challenge and the books that it brought into my life.
I loved the suggestions that you gave me...
I loved the questions that came throughout the year as I was asked how the books were...

I will be doing another Reading Challenge in 2016 and will be revealing it soon...

Still with my nose in a book,
Melissa






Friday, December 18, 2015

Parliament Perspective....

I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now but just could not find the words or even process what I had been a part of....

Sometimes, events just need some time to sink in and for me, The Parliament of the World's Religions held here in Salt Lake City back in October needed some time.

I had heard about the Parliament way back in February when I saw an ad that the H.H.H. Dalai Lama was going to be attending and since hearing him speak is a life goal, I did some research and put my name on a list to volunteer.  My logic being that it was good 'karma' to volunteer to hear him speak.

Months went by, and I do mean months......

In July, a friend of mine called me and told me he had been hired by the Parliament and needed some help.  This phone call started an adventure that I could not of predicted, and I'm not sure now that if I had known what was to come if I would chose to do it again, but I know this, it was a life changing event.

Me, Geoff and Christine....last day of the Parliament
Geoff, Christine and I started calling from a database to fill over 3000 volunteer shifts over 7 days of the Parliament and set up and take down.  I made calls all over the country, emailed all over the world, and by the end more people had my cell phone number that I was really comfortable with.....Diane joined the motley crew and helped keep the spreadsheets sane.  We worked long hours, weekends, and had trouble shutting it down, because as the work really got going, the reason behind it got in our heads.  The Parliament had the potential of being amazing and we just wanted to see it happen.

By the time the dates of the Parliament rolled around in October, I had lost track of the hours I had put in and was quite frankly already exhausted, but on the morning of October 15th, I arrived at the Salt Palace Convention center at 4:30 am, yes am and the actual event started.

Thursday was insane.  Just INSANE!  The good news is that the attendees really did not see the chaos behind the scenes, but it was exhausting.  The Salt Palace is a LARGE facility and by the time I left, later that I intended, I had logged over 13 miles.  During the chaos, I was helping the Sikh community get Langar ready and I met an amazing man,  Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra..  He is an emeritus board member of the Parliament and was the main coordinator of Langar.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and he took my hands in his and just had me breathe for a moment and told me it was all going to work out.  I didn't get the opportunity to see him again until Sunday and could not miss the opportunity to take a picture with him...
He was the calm in the storm of Thursday

Friday, thank goodness, was sooooo much calmer and I had moments of seeing the benefits of all of the work.  I was able to sneak out of work for a few minutes and attend a Plenary session, which was a main session of the Parliament, and hear Marianne Williamson speak and a few others.  I was renewed, rejuenivated, and excited once again.  I still worked long hours but it was doable.

Saturday had a slightly later start time, 5 am, and we seemed to of hit our groove.  Most of the volunteers had already done a shift, so they knew what to do, Langar was running smoothly, and the attendees were understanding the layout of the facility.  We were still busy, but it was enjoyable....so by the time my shift was done, I went home and changed and went back to attend the evening Plenary session.  My reason was
Jane Goodall...the legend
I could not believe I was in the same room, not 15 feet away from her, hearing her speak.  It was a goal of mine to hear her speak, but here is the most amazing part of the Parliament, the other speakers  that also spoke that evening also blew me away.....It was more than I could of ever hoped.

There is not enough time or space for me to accurately describe, praise, or promote the others, so I am going to just list them and hope that a name might catch your eye and you find a book of theirs, search for them on google, or ask someone about them...
                    Karen Armstrong
                    Dr. Tariq Ramadan
                    Mairead Maguire
                    Robert Pape
                    Medea Benjamin

It was an incredible, yet very long evening, that I am so glad I went back and attended.....

Before I go any further, I guess I better explain Langar, since I have mentioned it a couple of times.  Langar is a free meal that is put on by the Sikh community.  It became the most popular event of the Parliament.  I don't know if I will be able to explain why, but the energy in the hall where it was held was AMAZING.  When you went in, you first took off your shoes, a scarf was placed on your head by members of the Sikh community (a very beautiful experience), and then the people you were with were led to your place.  You sat on the floor in a community style, not knowing who you would be next to and were served.  The food was delicious, but it fed you on a deeper level....a community belonging level.  Everything was donated, all help volunteered and I can not thank the generous Sikh community enough for doing it.
The beautiful women who put scarves on at Langar
Sunday was my day off during the Parliament and it did not go as I had planned.  When the Dalai Lama was announced to speak at the Parliament, they also announced that there would also be a talk at the University of Utah as a gift to the community.  I managed to get tickets to it and was very excited.  However, as many of you know, H.H.H. the Dalai Lama was advised in late September to cut back on his schedule and return home to Dharmsala to rest, which meant he would not be attending the Parliament or the speech on Sunday.  I never thought I would ever say this, but this is my truth...I am grateful that he did not make it.  It allowed me to attend the Parliament all day on Sunday as a participant, not in my volunteer shirt, and soak it in.

I enjoyed a leisurely Langar, I wandered thru exhibits, and attended a full Plenary session not in an exhausted state.  It was incredible!  While wandering an area, I saw a keynote speaker from Saturday night sitting on a couch and went over to tell him how much I appreciated how much I enjoyed his talk and ended up chatting with him for over 20 minutes.  Unexpected connections happened all over the event and added to the experience.
Tibetan Monks working on a Sand Mandala

an interactive exhibit where you wrote on a heart your wish or statement for the world

a gathering of angels....they walked in silent meditation, weird but cool


The Plenary session on Sunday had the focus of Climate Change and had amazing speakers once again....the list of speakers amazing and long, but I have to mention Chief Arvol Lookinghorse.  His passion and direct connection to the earth was heartbreaking and an immediate call to action.

Monday was a bittersweet day as we were glad the work was done, but sad that the energy and experience were coming to an end.  I can not tell you how many times people came up to me and the other volunteers to give their sincere Thanks for the work we had done.  I was brought to tears many times.  Throughout the 5 days, I had met people from 26 different countries, many many US states, and a multitude of different religions and we had gathered in peace, understanding and learning.

I just realized that I really never explained what the Parliament is and what it hopes to accomplish. I think the best way to do that is to give you a link to the Parliament of the World's Relgions...

                             http://www.parliamentofreligions.org

However, for me, this quote from the website sums what they are trying to accomplish..

The Parliament of the World's Religions seeks to promote interreligious harmony, rather than unity. The problem with seeking unity among religions is the risk of loss of the unique and precious character of each individual religious and spiritual tradition; this understanding is key to our framework.
Interreligious harmony, on the other hand, is an attainable and highly desirable goal. Such an approach respects, and is enriched by, the particularities of each tradition. Moreover, within each tradition are the resources (philosophical, theological and spiritual teachings and perspectives) that enable each to enter into respectful, appreciative and cooperative relationships with persons and communities of other traditions.

If you go on the website, you can also see more of the amazing speakers who were in Salt Lake City and the opportunities to get involved, no matter where you live or what you believe.  They are planning another Parliament in the next couple of years, and I plan on attending wherever it is....

Still absorbing an amazing, exhausting experience....
Melissa