Ghost Words

A trashcan at a food court in Salt Lake City, Utah

A trashcan at a food court in Salt Lake City, Utah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more I think about our kind, I see the complexity of our being.  This morning for example, I went for my early walk, and saw this complexity unfolding.  I am a hello, good morning person, so when I am walking and happen to see another of my species, I usually say the words.  Many times, I get some kind of response – a smile, a gesture of a head tilted sideways with a subtle up movement, a hello or a good morning.  Other times, I get nothing, a stern look, or a head down, avoiding eye contact.  This has puzzled me for so long – why do people do this?  Even animals, acknowledge other species, and theirs.  This morning, I said Good Morning to a woman who was cutting some flowers, and who politely answered with a short and quick good morning, the kind with the absence of a smile.  Later on, I said good morning to a man who had come out of his home and was ready to collect his garbage cans.  He looked at me, as if I had just insulted him, and said nothing.  As I walked further, I spotted a crossing guard who was walking to reach her morning post.  I smiled, but instead met with the quick head down to avoid eye contact.  Later on, I encountered two neighbors driving to their destination flashing smiles and waving. Thank God I’d just reached home and that was the last image I had on my mind – my happy neighbors – because I was beginning to feel a bit uninspired and yes, puzzled, about why people behave that way so early in the morning. I understand when people have had a rotten day, but so early?

It is true that we are living in a fast technologically “challenged?” society, and that we seem to “need more hours” to keep up the pace. However, we seem to have forgotten good manners while we spend the 24 hours we have. It seems to me that two very important words/phrases are almost nonexistent these days – GOOD MORNING (or Hello) and THANK YOU.

It may be my perception, but I seem to hear them less these days. It was very important to say Thank You or Good Morning, not too long ago, although it may seem another century, or as if these words have been relegated to retail pleasantries status. It puzzles me when a door is held or opened for someone, something is given, or someone takes the time or effort to do something for someone, even for a stranger, and these words are never said. As if the person at the other end was a ghost.

What has happened to us? Why are these words less important today than a few decades ago? I am not sure if the speed we live our lives has to do anything with it, or is it that our values have changed, and good manners are not important any more? Sometimes I get more thank you’s from automated systems/services or machinery than from human beings. It is not that I want to be thanked all the time, but more of a concern about “where is our kind headed.” A world where everything is taken for granted? One without gratitude? One where machines seem to have better manners than humans? Or are we there?

We all have our slip-offs and moments of “zombie awareness,” but when our hurried steps/lives become more significant than the generous acts of others (who happen to have the same 24 hours that we have), maybe it is time to stop the purposeless frenzy and think about how long  has it been since we said the Ghost Words.  By the way, Thank You for reading this.

 

Watercolors Friday – Celebrating Nature from Indoors

Every time I see the miracle of Nature, I can help but feel happy, and humbled by the perfection that surrounds us – Us, imperfect humans … are we?  We are part of Nature.  Today, I want to celebrate Nature, birds to be exact.  I enjoy bird watching (and that is the extent of it; I don’t know many of the names), and I am blessed, living in an area where birds are abundant, even that I am not in the country, but surrounded by wetlands, and the shore – Cliffwood Beach, New Jersey (USA).  Birds are beautiful and delicate, sweet and predictable, predatory at times, but also interesting to watch.  For the past couple of months I have observed and photographed birds every time I spotted one near my house.  I have enjoyed and watch with awe, the many birds that are around the area. I have learned to recognize a few everyday guests, many with their significant-bird.  Amanzingly, they do the same things or follow a routine, as we do many times.  Now that the trees are covered with leaves, it is hard to spot them, so I am happy that I took a few weeks to watch, as they came back for spring.

All the pictures have been taken from inside my home on purpose – I wanted to feel Nature’s blessing without stepping outside – a way of celebrating the wonders of Nature, knowing that it can trespass walls, if we are willing to be receptive.  Call it an experiment. I had fun with it and found a new depth to my surroundings. Here are a few of my favorite shots.

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

 

I hope that you enjoyed these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.  For those wondering what type of camera I used, it is a Canon PowerShot SX500IS 30x optical zoom.  I know nothing about photography, so please forgive any mistakes, as I only admire, point, and shoot. Just for the joy of it 🙂

HAPPY WATERCOLORS FRIDAY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Productivity Recipe and Boredom Blast

When inspiration runs dry and you get a case of the blues, whether writer’s block is operating on the background or frustration knocks at your door, productivity suffers and boredom settles in – life’s loses its luster, gray days abound, and opaque hours seem to stop time.  This may happen to anyone, at any time; I have been there.  I want to share with you a simple system I came up with that will help you fight those blues and keep you from becoming bored or uninspired.  I assure you that you will always have something to dream about, something to be grateful for, and something to do.  That in itself can jumpstart your inspiration.  I call this system my Inspirational Jars, and that is just what it is.  I use three empty glass jars and I label each one – Love Notes, Pick a Chore, and Promise Jar.  Each Jar has a purpose; each jar gives me something to do.

  • PICK A CHORE – I fill this jar with all kinds of single chores written in small cards (make them colorful for fun and visual impact).  I write as many things that come to mind that I have to do, whether soon or in a near future.
  • LOVE NOTES – In this jar, I write the things that I would like to do for others (in small cards so they fit in the jar), whether it is to make a gift, visit someone, call someone, invite someone to dine, wash my husband’s truck … It is all about giving and Love.
  • PROMISE JAR – This jar is very important to me because it contains many dreams and things that I want or love to do.  Things that are in a distant future or things that I can do right away.  It doesn’t matter how big the dream is; it goes inside that jar.

The idea is to sit down and write as many small cards you can and fill those bottles, and if one day you think of something else, just write it and deposit it in the bottle.  If you ever feel bored, uninspired, and not knowing what to do, pick one card from one of the bottles and do/dream/plan/execute whatever you wrote on that card.  If it is something you cannot do now, you can always put it back and pick a card from another bottle or from the same jar, or you can sit down and dream/plan how to work towards that dream or goal.  You will never ran out of things to do if you keep filling those inspirational jars.  Make them pretty, colorful and enticing.  Have fun creating this system.  Create your own system depending on what you want to do.  For example, a jar for blogging topics, a jar for writing scenes or character names … Mine are just what I use to keep productivity and inspiration alive.  Here is what my Inspirational Jars look like.

 

Inspirational Jars

I hope that you enjoyed this tip.

Great Local Blog

Map of Aberdeen Township in Monmouth County. I...

Map of Aberdeen Township in Monmouth County. Inset: Location of Monmouth County highlighted in the State of New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was very happy to see Inkspeare featured on Aberdeen NJ Life, a local blog that is full of information, historic facts, entertaining posts, lively images, and much more.  This blog is a great resource if you want to know more about the Aberdeen, NJ area.  It offers freshly pressed posts of current news/events as well as a more broad view of the area and interesting historical tidbits, many times accompanied by great pictures from the archives.  You will also find interesting posts of what is happening on the area at a local level, from neighborly events to recent happenings.  Aberdeen NJ Life gives you a broad view and many times, detailed as well, of the interesting way of living in Aberdeen, NJ.  Reading the blog’s posts for the past  year, I realized how quickly the year went, and how much has happened in our area.  It was grounding as well as lovely and entertaining.  I also learned many facts about the history of the area.

If you are planning to move or are interested in getting to know more about this area, this blog does a great job at presenting it, and it does it in an interesting, fun, and historical way as well.  I want to thank the author for including Inkspeare on this awesome and informative blog.  This blog is now on my Favorites, for sure.

Yesteryear Craftsmanship – From Screwdrivers to Writing

I love old tools.  I guess it comes from growing up with my grandfather who had the coolest tools and from watching him use them with pride.  He even let me handle a few, with much care of course.  There is something about vintage tools that you cannot find in the new ones; it is that attention to detail, that craftsmanship that seems to have been lost over the years.  It is that history embeded in them that is not present in the new ones – from the paint chip that tells you that someone was trying to open an old paint can long time ago with the screwdriver, to the markings on the top that tells you that someone attempted to use it as a hammer once.  You cannot read this in a new tool – it has no story to tell, at least not yet.  New technology offers great designs and materials, but somehow, it misses the soul into the piece.  I don’t know if you can understand me, but that is how I see it, when I look at those pieces and compare them to the new ones.

A few years ago, I came across an old wooden toolbox and kept it on the side, with the intention of using it one day.  As my life has taken a turn, and I am headed to a different lifestyle, I decided to continue to build my old tool collection.  Recently, I was lucky to get a set of vintage screwdrivers at a steal.  I say a steal, because for some reason, vintage tools are starting to get popular with collectors, and you cannot get your hands in a good lot.  Well, I guess my grandfather was looking after me and I was able to find and win this set.  It even has the approval of Gadget Man (my husband) who loves new tools and all kinds of crazy designs.  He is starting to appreciate them now, and he even told me that he was going to build me an old fashion tool box to accommodate my growing collection.  This is why I love him so much – he gets me, and I get him.

As writers, we can look and study old literature, but also, appreciate the new works that many talented writers are sharing these days.  It can all  blend beautifully and cohabit in peace.  There is “Soul” in writing, in the classic works as well as the new works that are born of inspiration, are well crafted, and proudly presented to the reader, not because the writer wants to run after the market to make a quick buck, but because He/she has fallen in love with the piece and wants to share it with the world.

Here are some pictures of my latest tool bounty, which I proudly share with you.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Following Your Bliss

An emoticon with a smile. For more emoticons i...

Image via Wikipedia

What is bliss?  It is defined as:  supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment.  I define it as finding your balance, your equilibrium.  Each individual’s bliss is different.  And everyone operates at a different level.  Sometimes, we burn ourselves running after what we think will make us happier:  more money, another step on the corporate ladder, a bigger paycheck, or many other ideals.  In our search and journey we realize that something is missing, even when the prize has been obtained.  In the intense focus and chase of our goal, we fell out of balance – we lost our bliss.

Somehow, our prize is not as shiny as we thought it was.  And soon, we set our eyes on another goal, and the race starts all over again.  Setting goals, and planning is great, but we also have to find the balance while achieving them, otherwise we lose appreciation and become empty vessels looking for fulfillment.  So, how do we follow our bliss without ending up tired and disappointed?

Because everyone is unique, there is no recipe or mold.  The answer is within us, and all we have to do is look inside and figure out what makes us, not only happy, but whole.  When we realize what it is, slow and steady steps will take us there, while enjoying the process on the way.  Each day will bring its own rewards, but its challenges, too.

We live on an instant fast-paced society.  Everything was due yesterday.  We are conditioned to react and think fast.  If we want to follow our bliss, we will have to slow down the speed of life, or at least our perception of it (our attention).  When we live mindfully we are slowing down the speed and opening our minds and hearts to what makes us whole and happy.  Some of us, will make radical changes, others, small adjustments.  For some, the climb is steep, for others a small turn in the road.  But the rewards are living a happy and balanced life in harmony with one’s self and the world around us.  What could be better than that?

 

Monarch Butterflies 3 – The Mystery is Solved

This morning, I noticed more Monarch butterfly wings on the ground below the butterfly bush.  This only means that they died overnight.  I picked them up and decided to look at the tree to see if I could explain why this is happening.  It wasn’t until I was checking out the butterfly tree for a second time around that I noticed a green leaf move slowly.  I checked it out and there it was – the culprit, a Preying Mantis.  Although Monarchs are supposed to be poisonous, this little guy seems to have found a way around that.

I decided to  check this out and it seems that Preying Mantis have adapted to eat Monarchs.  I found this video in YouTube, which tells the story and it certainly happens at a blue butterfly bush.  Check out the link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfsJMKOMcis&feature=player_embedded

Here is a picture of my little guest (not so little) who is having a huge food fest.

It is a bit tricky to see the Mantis because she is perfectly camouflage.  Focus on the center of the picture and there it is, in a vertical position heads down.

So the mystery is solved, and although I still feel sad about the fate of the butterflies, at least I am glad that the Mantis is surviving – it is the natural course of things, the cycle of life.

Monarch Butterflies 2

I don’t know what is happening with my blog but this is the second time I have to cut a post in two parts because when I publish the original it only shows half of it and the rest of the post is lost.  So back to the Monarch butterflies.  Here is the other half of the post.  Please refer to the previous post so you know what’s going on with these Monarch wings.

Monarch female wing – no black dot.

More male wings; there is one that looks as if it had been picked thru by a predator.  This is unlikely as Monarchs are poisonous to birds, insects, and mammals as they have milkweed in their system, from when the larvae nourished itself with milkweed.

I don’t know what I will do with these beautiful wings, maybe I will frame them, but they are too beautiful to discard.  They remind me of the fragile beauty of this Universe and of how blessed I am to be able to admire it.  It is a priviledge that I don’t want to take for granted.

Pairing Down to Discover Yourself

The Queen of Hearts, from a 1901 edition of Mo...

Image via Wikipedia

It started with a desire to de-clutter my surroundings and get rid of everything – this is when I knew that I was headed towards simplifying my life and spiritual transformation.  A friend once called me  “the queen of everything” since I loved everything charming and cozy and my home was resembling “The Brass Lantern” – a local store that is filled with the most precious trinkets and magical things, a favorite of both.

The desire for simplifying started in my closet, and moved on to the entire house, luckily coinciding with our decision to move to Virginia, to a simpler life, which made it easier to get rid of much stuff.  The result was – being able to pack everything we own in a medium size hauler, the kind you use for transporting one car, I think an 8×16 or so.  I was happy with that, but during the de-cluttering, I found myself longing for true purpose and undergoing a spiritual search – I’m still working on that.

During the process, I found a few things about the stuff I owned and its relation to the person I was becoming.  First, I was amazed at the amount of stuff I had, although my home has always been very organized and neat.  I learned  that you can have tons of clutter neatly organized.  Eddie has always been a minimalist, and I guess his love for me tolerated my insanity.  However, he discovered that he was getting attached to stuff, and had some issues with letting go of some of it.  My insanity silently had made its way to the minimalist I married over 24 years ago.

Second, I learned that much of that stuff was not me anymore, but I kept it throughout the years.  In a way, I had outgrown my possessions, and the stuff did not suit the persona anymore.

Third, knowing what I knew now, and the evolution I was undergoing – from Queen of everything to Princess of Bare to Basics – made it easier to get rid of much of my stuff – a ton of it.  Understanding that it was better to live surrounded by the things that I truly loved made it easier as well.  I only kept what I loved and had meaning and let the rest go.

If you find yourself on this path, it makes it easier when you approach the path to a simple life from the point of view of the new you and the relation of that persona to the things you own – this will lead you to keep the things that you truly love and are meaningful and get rid of the rest.

There is one organization that is in need of donations and you can schedule a pick up online – The United War Veterans Council (UWVC).  Their website to schedule a pick up is http://www.uwvcpickup.org/  and you can also call this number 1-888-821-UWVC(8982).   In that way, your pairing down serves a purpose as well.

What is a Tamarind? Oh, Sweet Tamarind!

It had to be more than twenty plus years since I ate a tamarind.  Last weekend I was presented with a sweet surprise.  My sister in law brought me a box of sweet tamarinds.  Now, these are hard to come by, so I knew this was a most precious gift.  If you are not familiar with tamarinds this post will help you appreciate them. 

Tamarinds grow on a tree mostly in tropical climates.  I have memories of eating tamarinds as a kid and climbing on tamarind trees, and just hanging out and eating them atop a tree.  When they are not ripen the shell is hard and kind of greenish, once they are ready to eat the shell turns brownish and is easy to crack, similar to the way you would crack an egg shell.  Most tamarinds that are ready will fall to the floor, as the shell dries.  Here are some pictures,to give you an idea.

Box of Tamarinds
Nutritional value – not much, but they are delicious! Mostly carbs, sugar, and fiber.  They are also high in calories as you can see in the box.
I like the fact that they are harvested in a way that is environmentally friendly and the box is recyclable.
Here is what a tamarind looks like
The shape varies and so does the size.
To eat it, just crack it open with your hands.
This is what you will find inside the shell.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking … but I assure you, it does not taste like that.
Close-up of the shell
Each section of the tamarind will contain a large seed.  To eat it, you separate a section and suck on it until you just have the seed.  The pulp is sweet and you must chew on it as well.  The seeds are very hard.
Here’s the whole thing.  The fibers hold the pieces of tamarind together.
Once you eat the whole tamarind you have an empty frame.  For the sake of this post I had to eat one.  Oh, the sacrifices we make for blogging!
Here’s a close shot of the empty frame.
And there you have it; this is how you it a tamarind.  Hope you enjoy this post, I did.