000

This is how I’m starting the new year, at 000. It is a gift just to be here, and I want to start anew, fresh, without any preconceptions. I want to live 2014 as if it was my last year here. 2013 left its mark, and I am grateful for it all. I receive this year at 000. It is a new opportunity, a new beginning, a new purpose, a new living, a new second, millisecond … . I want to make the most of it, not in traveling or great accomplishments, bucket lists, or to-do lists, but in being present every second of my life, in seeing the awe in the minuscule, the humble in the majestic, the new in the old, and the old in the new, the love in everything, and the one in all. I don’t want to take anything for granted. I want to wake up everyday at 000, the second I open my eyes. I invite you to do the same. Happy New Year! 

000 

Thanksgiving – In Poverty and Abundance

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Whether you live in abundance or in poverty, one thing is for sure – you will be thinking about “giving thanks.” The mere act of thinking about this day that we celebrate makes us ponder about the “state of our lives.” Whether you are thankful or not for your current situation has nothing to do with the level of satisfaction you derive from it.  Whether you live in abundance or poverty, your mind will reach for the file that reads “I am thankful for …” There must be something you are thankful for, just one thing.

I am thankful for many things in my life now, as well for many in the past. The future is not here yet but I aim to be grateful for it as well. When I asked myself, “What are you most grateful for and why?” I came to a halt. I could name many things I am thankful for, but I could not settle on naming just one – “the one.” Then, the answer became clear. The thing that I am most thankful for is the present second, the now. Why? Because without it, without the awareness of it, all the other things disappear from mind. It is in that second that I am alive, processing thought, that I can think of my wonderful husband, my cats, my family, friends, and all the good things around me. It is in that second, in the now, that I can experience life through my senses and brain. The scent of a traditional thanksgiving dinner, the sounds of holiday music, the pine cone candle aroma … so much to take in.

On the other side of things – the misery side – your senses and brain are probably processing different information. Maybe hunger, or pain, or heartache … so much to take in. The same milliseconds of Now, in misery and abundance become “the one thing to be grateful for” when we become one with life, with the miracle it is, beyond physical barriers. It is then that we become so grateful for the experience … just the experience.

To all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I wish you a wonderful and happy day, and to the rest of you, I wish a wonderful and happy NOW!

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.