December 30, 2009

The "Good"-doers


Do you ever come across an item lying in the street...such as a windblown trash can, a runaway truck bed object, or a mangled traffic cone? For some reason I seem to run into these items quite often. Yesterday I watched in horror as a large handful of cars maneuvered (or attempted to maneuver) around a couple of rogue bundles of firewood in the middle of the road.

Ok...maybe not horror, but there was a certain amount of shock at the number of drivers who simply swerved and went on their merry way or worse - ran over them.

As always...(pardon me while I toot my own horn for a bit)...I pulled over, turned on my hazzards and when it was safe to step into the street I cleared the bundles off the road and out of harms way. My own little good deed for the day. Last week I rescued a stranded trash can and a month or so ago I resuscitated a flattened traffic cone left behind by construction workers.

Being thoughtful for strangers makes me happy. It cheers me up to do something good for the next driver coming down the line, but every time I wonder how many drivers were here before me and chose to swerve instead of stop? I'm sure they have their reasons...too cold to get out of the car...to many busy things to do...and the elusive yet honest excuse of laziness...all good reasons...but there's something to be said for those who stop. The "Good"-doers. We're nice people...thoughtful people.

Today, I encourage you to join the band of merry "good"-doers and keep your eye out for items in the middle of the road, doors that can be opened for others, dropped items to be retrieved and returned, and other good deed opportunities. If you see another "good"-doer completing a good deed, tell them what a nice person they are. "Good"-doers don't do it for the recognition but it's always nice to know that thoughtfulness is appreciated. And if you see someone approaching a potential good-deed-moment and they pass it by...act fast and swoop in to save the day...you superhero, you.

"Good"-doers Unite!

December 29, 2009

A little bit of honesty...

Hello dear friends...

I have to admit that I have been avoiding this little joyful blog for a while. I have had a rough go of it for the past few months with lots of little setbacks and a jam packed schedule that has left little room for inspiration. In fact, I have been pretty down lately and I've been chalking it up to a little bit of exhaustion and lots of frustration. It's been a bit overwhelming.

The New Year is fast approaching and I am crossing my fingers for a little bit of luck, asking the Universe for a little bit of give, and frantically tossing salt over my shoulder in hopes that superstition will save me. Maybe I need to travel back in time to my 31st birthday and clamp my mouth shut from saying "This is going to be the best year ever!" If I only had a time machine...maybe I wouldn't feel so jinxed.

I know...I'm awfulizing. I know I have it so much better than so many people. I know that. But today, I am allowing myself 2 more days of bad juju and then it's on to a brighter day. New Years will bring a new beginning - a fresh start and a new attitude for yours truly. Hopefully that means I will be back here soon and trading this old bitterness for a brand new pair of happy pants.

Happy New Juju Day to everyone! I hope it is shiny and fabulous!

December 4, 2009

*Warning: Joy-Jerker Enclosed*

Thinking of those who have less than us or who are different than us.
We exist here together. When you cross paths...at the least...pass on a smile.


Mankind Is No Island

December 1, 2009

For the love of blogs...

Hi Guys!

If you love blogs and you find it hard to keep them all straight, or you wish that you could see all of them in one place, you'll love this! www.bloglovin.com

You can Follow my blog with bloglovin and if you click "See All" on the bloglovin widget located in the side bar, you can see all of the blogs that I am currently following.

Thanks for stopping by!

November 25, 2009

What are you joyful for?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. (Not that you didn't already know that.) I'm sitting here daydreaming of the extended weekend and crisp autumn weather, of vibrant orange and red leaves, and of cozy homes with family and friends gathered around while savory aromas fill the air. I hope that everyone has found a warm, safe, lovely space to spend the holiday and reflect on what they are thankful for.

This year, as every year, I am thankful for my family, friends, roof over my head, and all that I have been blessed with. That will never change. I will be thankful every day of every year for those things. So instead I am going to tell you what I am joyful for today...

* My career. I love my job. No matter how trying and frustrating it may be, it's a challenge and I love that. It connects me with wonderful and impressive people all year long and I have learned so much in the 4 years that I have been with the company. I am thankful that my career brought me back to Seattle.

* Creativity. I have a little bit of a problem with follow through, but I love to start projects and try new things. I also love to see my friends be creative. They inspire me every day.

* Blogs. Oh how I love blogs. This world is relatively new to me as I have only been blogging since earlier this year, but it's an online world that feeds my soul. So many inspiring ideas and stories. People I have never met lift my spirit and touch my heart every day. Pay a few of my latest favorites a visit...here...here...and here. Oh...and here...here...and here. (As always you can find my every day faves on the sidebar.)

* Grande, Soy, Vanilla Chai. My saving grace these days during night classes. It's that little bit of cozyness that I get to carry with me and it keeps me just awake enough through Econ, but not too awake to go to sleep when I get home at 10:45. It's always been my perfect drink, but that just makes it that much better.

* Dreams. While I am thankful for both the nighttime adventures and the glipses of the ideal future, today I am thankful for dreams of the future. Someday I will be done with school. Someday I will have the perfect job. Someday I will have my house (rented or owned) with a backyard view of the sea. Someday I will adopt a sweet little child that needs a warm, safe, lovely home to spend every day not just the holidays. Someday I will be thankful for those.

* Music. I love, love, love music. I love how you can listen to a song that mimics your emotions and feel like everything is connected. It's strange how something external is an act of internal expression. Without music I feel a little lost. For the past few months I have been driving a car that didn't have a functional radio. (Thanks to my magic mechanic the code has been found and the music is flowing as of yesterday.) It's been tough. I found myself thinking a lot, which is good and bad, and sometimes humming the same line of a song over and over again until I arrived at school 45 minutes later. It has been trying. But today, I am thankful for my mechanic and his thoughtfulness. He always saves the day. (See my current bookmarked songs on the sidebar.

Today I am joyful for many things. I am joyful for the past, present and the future. It's been a trying few months, but every day I try to remind myself of what I have to be happy about.

To all of you that are in my life...thank you.

And to all of you that are on your way into my life...thank you.

So, what are you joyful for?

November 19, 2009

Hello World!

Today, a woman from my building joined me on my ride in the elevator. (It's pretty rare that I ever have to share an elevator with someone.) I had never met her before, or even seen her around the building. As soon as the doors close she says to me "I need a nap!" Well, maybe it wasn't to me. Maybe it was just a declaration, but she said it outloud with no hesitation in the same way I may announce something like this to someone I personally know. A friend, classmate, familymember...who I already had an open dialogue with. I'm not sure I would ever say it outloud to a perfect stranger.

We ended up having a short conversation before she exited at floor 2...mostly about the weather making us sleepy and how the workday is only half way complete. As I rode the elevator up to my stop at the 8th floor, her openness got me thinking. If I have such a hard time finding a way to talk to strangers and being outgoing enough to make eye contact and say "Hello" (How Tough Is Your Shell?) why not just take the opening statement out of it? Why not just announce how I am feeling like this woman did? Why not jump right into the conversation like I would with a friend?

How about..."I'm feeling quite tired today. How are you?" or even "I have this craving for a peanut butter and jeally sandwich. What did you have for lunch?"

Look out world, you all have unknowingly become my friend. Let's have a random conversation!

October 29, 2009

Joyful Punkin...

Wow! 2 posts in 2 days!?!?!

I'm feeling a bit dizzy from all of the excitement!

I just had to share this cute little video about pumpkins. Yes...it's cheesy, but if you have kids they may like it. I just really enjoyed the animation. It perked me right up on this rainy Seattle day.

That's How A Pumpkin Grows from fashionbuddha on Vimeo.

October 28, 2009

The (Joy)Full Plate...


Oh my goodness. I can't believe how long it has been since I posted!

Hello, everyone! I have missed you.

Honestly, I have missed ME!

Since my college classes started at the end of September, I feel like my life has been stolen from me. Somehow I got thrown onto this neverending treadmill and I have been running and running and running, praying that I don't trip and fall down. All of that running consists of what is actually lots and lots of textbook reading, homework assignments, group project meetings and research, about 2 hours of commuting twice a week, and about 10 hours a week of lectures. Did I mention that I have started clenching my teeth again?

Yesterday I was driving home from work, preparing to spend about 5 hours studying for an exam...feeling exhausted, missing my friends, dreaming about organizing my house (YES! I was actually day dreaming about cleaning!)and I realized that I can't spend the next 3 years finishing my college education just trying to survive like this. Like I have been the last 4 weeks. (Has it only been 4 weeks!?!?!) While I have been struggling to stay ahead in my education life, I have been severely neglecting my personal life. Now I know that my social life is bound to take some serious hits over the next 3 years, but when it comes to my personal life, by that I mean ME, sacrifices are not an option. It's a question of my sanity.

I decided yesterday that each week I will take a ME day. Well, a ME "night" actually. I need a chance to decompress...to stop clenching my teeth...to breathe. Of course this schedule will be depend on homework and how much of my weekend I am willing to sacrifice to make up the difference, but it must be done. I need a time out. Starting tomorrow...the day after my second exam...I will breathe. The plan is to bake cookies, light some candles, kick up my feet, watch my favorite Thursday tv, cuddle up with my cat in slippers and pjs, and drink a glass of wine. To take time to check in on this blog. To not think about school, or work, or group projects, or my lacking social life. To recharge and reconnect.

The plan so far has been to do homework during the week and spend the weekends relaxing, but that hasn't been working so well. I have been go-go-go during the week and when the weekend comes I sleep too long and end up doing homework that my tired eyes couldn't focus on during the week. I've been trying to keep promises to friends, but I have been severly failing. I feel like the Queen of Cancelling right now. I am hoping that recharging for a few hours during the week will give me more energy for the weekends and the ability to keep my promises. The ability to be a better friend. To be a better ME.

So, when life takes over...how do YOU balance everything? I could really use the input. (Click "comments" below this post to leave a note.)

October 1, 2009

The Universe Loves You

I am here to present you with a very special reminder and a new daily inspiration tool.

First, the reminder...

Thoughts become things...choose the good ones.

Remember that movie Hook? Think happy thoughts!

"Just one happy thought and it will make you fly."

Happy thoughts make you fly. And it's true! Maybe not literally, but never the less, they make you fly. When you think good thoughts, joyful thoughts, extraordinary thoughts, you call those wonderful things into your life. So today, put a positive spin on everything you can, improve your 'tude, decide how you want today to be, and most of all...believe in yourself.

Believe...In...Yourself.

This simple phrase...this simple reminder that we build our own destinies...brings us to my new found friend...The Universe.

The Universe sends me love notes.


I know you think I am crazy. You think I must be hearing voices. After all, what makes me so special to get the whole Universe's attention. Well...it's simple...I asked.

I asked the Universe to give me a pep talk every day. Honest! I did!

But, wait! Before you write me off as completely nuts and start calling the funny farm with a referral...guess what?!?!?

You're special too!

The Universe wants to talk to you too!

All you have to do is visit the Universe's website at http://www.tut.com/resources/notes/ and sign up for the daily emails. It's a lot of fun and the Universe has a great sense of humor.
The other day I received this note from the Universe...just when I needed it the most...

"You don't take 'baby steps' for the distance they cover, Mara, but to put yourself within reach of life's magic. Just like you don't hoist your sails to move the boat, but you put yourself within reach of the wind.

Hoist, baby, hoist, baby, 1, 2, 3, 4 -
The Universe"

And there's always a little bonus note at the bottom of the email. For this one..."Just like you don't sing in the car to be heard, Mara...why do you do that?"

How did the Universe know?!?!? I always sing in the car. Loudly. Sometimes, I worry that there's a hidden camera that someone snuck into my car and out there somewhere someone is laughing hysterically. (Remember that show on MTV?) Well, that awful fear has come true. I guess the Universe HAS been watching!

So, what if the Universe were to send you frequent reminders of the power you have over your life? All I can say, from experience, is that good feelings happen...and those good feelings lead to good thoughts...and those good thoughts inevitably lead to good things. It's a win/win situation.

September 18, 2009

joyful day...


Tomorrow is my birthday.

My 31st birthday...

31...years...(i will not say "old")

Today, I will say "Bon Voyage!" to one of the best years of my life. I say "ONE" of the best because I know there are many many more wonderful years to come.

I have a feeling that 31 is going to be...

Spectacular!

Magical!

Abundant!

Joyful!

Until then, I want to take a moment to tell you all how special you are to me...what lovely friends you are...and to thank you for making the past year of my life more amazing than ever. You have all been extra supportive of every step, change, and new idea that this crazy little mind of mine has thought up. So..."Thank you!"

Cheers to all of you!

Sincerely,
Joyful Mara

August 28, 2009

Objection! Overjoyed.

Hey everyone! Where have you been? It's been weeks since I have seen you around. What happened?

Oh, that's right. I deserted my post. Bad Mara.

First let me say...oh, how I have missed you so. I am sorry it took me so long to come back.

So...where did we leave off? Ah, yes. Jury duty.

I have to be honest it took me a little while to process my feelings on this. I am definitely glad I had the experience and didn't try to get out of it. If I had, it would have been a lie because I didn't have a hardship to claim. I am glad I accepted the responsibility instead of running away just because other people have said they didn't like it.

I will say that jury duty can be mentally and sometimes emotionally exhausting. At times it can also be a bit boring because you are asked to wait, and wait, and wait while the administrative items are dealt with or when a side bar discussion takes place. However, sometimes those breaks were what I needed the most; To readjust in my chair so my foot didn't fall asleep, daydream about what I would rather be doing in the sunshine streaming through our beautiful courtroom windows, get a drink of water so I could take full advantage of the 15 minute potty break. Overall, it was a good experience that made me feel strong and intelligent...grown up even.

So what did I learn from the case? I'm not going to go into the details because it's a long and confusing story, but if you would like to know more about the outcome you can read up on that here. Basically I learned that sometimes we can change our mind...alot. All throughout the case I was rooting for a different player. The lawyers were very good at painting the pictures and pulling at our heart strings. Every day I changed my mind at least once about the case. It made me realize that we can see one issue in multiple ways when we change our perspective even the slightest amount. During an argument, or even a discussion, it is important for us to stop and try to step into each person's shoes before we act or react.

During the closing arguments, jury duty was related to a game of chess. The jury sits and watches all of the players make their moves, but they haven't been told the rules. At the end of the day we were finally told what the law had to say about all of the evidence we had witnessed. This was our best tool. We also had exhibits that had been admitted and our personal notes from each testimony. But the law...the guidelines...the instructions...gave us our direction. We entered our tiny little jury room and sat at the big table for 12 ready to start the discussion. It was our first discussion regarding the case in 2 weeks, since we are not allowed to talk to family or friends about the details...not even our fellow jurors.

Finally!

A chance to vent.

We started our discussions talking about how the case made us feel and what our emotions and guts were telling us to do. Then, we re-read the "rules" and knew that we had to throw out all of that and look at only the facts. We sorted through the emotional muck and found that the law had spelled it out pretty clearly for us. We could only take this so far. We all wanted to root for the underdog and do the right thing for the "victim," but we had to put all of that aside. It was hard, but it was necessary. We didn't have enough cold hard facts, enough straight evidence to get there. In the end, we did what we could and both parties received a little bit of satisfaction, I think.

Now that it is over, it has left me with something to contemplate. When it comes to life's decisions, do you listen to your heart or your mind? We had to choose the law (mind) even though our feelings (heart) felt differently. In cases like this where they contradict, which one is right?

We trust a jury of our peers (our thoughts, our conscience and our passions) to help us make the right decision...sometimes without knowing the "rules" of the game of life. So who should win? Is the mind really more rational than the heart? I know many people who have followed their mind to do what is best and now have regrets and many others who have taken a leap of faith with their heart and have all they have ever wanted.

I am starting to believe that no matter what our decisions, we can analyze and weight the options, but we can't truly control the final outcome. There is never a right or wrong choice. There is simply just a choice.

August 18, 2009

All rise for the joy...


Courtroom One Gavel, originally uploaded by Joe Gratz.

Just checking in to let you all know that I may be a little distant over the next few weeks. I will try to keep up regular posts, but it may be hard to find inspiration. Well, at least inspiration that I can talk about.

Today, I was selected for jury duty.

I am not allowed to talk about the case until it is over.

All I can tell you is that I am in Judge Erlich's court room on the 10th floor. We will be in session from now until next Thursday. And...Oh! We have windows. (The Judge told me to say that...they are mighty proud of their windows, since many courtrooms in this courthouse don't have them.)

So far, it has been an interesting experience.

I know many of you have never been called for jury duty and others that have been have found a reason to get out of it. I may be singing a different tune at the end of this, but today I encourage anyone who is ever selected for this process to participate if you are able to. I am thankful that I have a salary job that is slow this time of year and can take the time off.

It could be considered inconvenient, but my thought today is that I am there for a reason and I will learn something about the judicial system, my community, or myself through this process. To be a juror, you have to remain impartial. I am impartial to the case and impartial to the reason that I am there. How exciting it will be to reflect on this later...to see what I have learned.

I'll be back as soon as I can!

Sincerely,

Juror #14

August 14, 2009

"Welcome to the Joy Rebellion."


Today I became a Joy Rebel.

"What's that?" you ask...Or..."I thought you already were one." you say...

This role was brought to my attention today from a blog I stumbled upon... (through one of the other many blogs I follow... Joy Rebel by Brandi Reynolds.

A Joy Rebel is someone who revels in the art of being authentically themselves.

Today, she reminded me of what I am here to do...

Be ME.

I am here to be authentically myself. To share with you the joys of my every day life.

And now...I have a name for it!

"Joy Rebel"

I don't believe that I have lost this focus at any point on this blog, but I have found it harder some days to offer the inspiration that I would love to bring to everyone who visits this space I call The Joyful Life. Thanks to Brandi, I have joined the Joy Rebellion and will now embark on multiple joyful missions with the joy rebel army.

Hopefully, this weekly joy bootcamp will be just what I need to keep focus on bringing the joy.

Now...let's talk a little about "focus." (This discussion also inspired by a post on Joy Rebel.)

I am the queen of starting projects that I don't finish. I have a hard time choosing one thing to work on and running with it, so I often start multiple projects at once. When a muse sings, it's often a harmony of more than one and I end up scattered and trying too hard to create. Let's call it Creative Multiple Personality Disorder. (Now that my BADD has been treated and is in remission.)

I have found that sometimes it just takes a little bit of clarity and patience with myself to focus and allow the ideas to start flowing. This blog is an example of that struggle.

Many days I am dying to write something to you all, but nothing comes. Other days, I find myself overly inspired and I have multiple things to say. Either way, this blog is the longest running project that I have had so far. Once I found my voice, I have had a hard time shutting her up.

"Mara, Honey. Mommy's ears are tired."
- said by my Mom to little me.

So, this is where we meet the inspiring post on Joy Rebel. She shared this quote:

"What we focus on expands."

This is so completely true.

For the good. And the bad.

Opportunites arise when we focus. What we focus on grows because we water it with attention. Our thoughts become things. Our dreams come true. The one to be careful of...our worries become real.

Today, I would like to remind you to focus on the good. To meditate on what you desire. If you find yourself worrying about something, remember that you may be asking for that 'bad thing' to come into your life. Instead of worrying about it...flip it over...change your perspective...ask the Universe for the opposite and focus on the joy that 'good thing' would bring.

Viva la JOYFUL revolucion!

August 13, 2009

Just Face It...


Faces, originally uploaded by MaraRayanne.

This face.

Made of so many parts.

Some I have always loved and some I have learned to love over the past year. While taking these pictures for an Unraveling eCourse assignment I found that it was much easier to embrace each part when I broke them all down into the Good:Bad.

Ok....here goes...

(In order from left to right...skipping the middle me.)

My eyes -
Good: Golden Hazel is so pretty, especially in the sun.
Bad: They are starting to lose their strength.

My smile -
Good: It's like my dad's. I love the shape, the dimples and its multiple personalities.
Bad: My teeth are yellowing and a little crooked.

My cowlicks -
Good: They are curly and the baby hairs are growing!
Bad: Extra Extra bad bang days

My eyelashes -
Good: Long and lovely.
Bad: Grow in crazy directions.

My ears -
Good: They are teeny tiny (less than 2 inches)
Bad: This one has 2 holes from having them repierced and the piercing girl missed the original hole.

My laugh lines -
Good: They come from lots of laughing.
Bad: They are technically wrinkles.

My eye vein -
Good: It's a pop of color!
Bad: It's sometimes scary in pics.

My nose -
Good: It's little and like my mom's.
Bad: 2 words...nose hair.

My lips/mouth -
Good: Nice shape and color. Lip gloss does the trick.
Bad: Has a tendency to eat foot.

My eyebrows -
Good: Naturally shaped well.
Bad: Who likes to pluck, really?

My lip scar -
Good: Reminds me of that camping trip when I was about 5 or 6 and my big sis and I were playing cowboys and indians.
Bad: Reminds me of the little front tooth that turned grey after going through my lip. Ouch!

My brow -
Good: Shows skepticism well.
Bad: I feel like I could lose change in there! Anyone seen my keys?

My nose wrinkles -
Good: Bunny impressions are convincing and it's a little cute.
Bad: They too ARE wrinkles.

My mad brow wrinkles -
Good: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Bad: I find them sort of manly.

So that's the...well...long of it. My face...perfect in every way that is ME. Dimples, freckles, big pores, acne scars, blemishes and all.

What do you see when you look at the parts of your face? Do you like what you see? Do you cringe at the thought of looking a little closer?

If so, I encourage you to embrace your face. Find the beauty in each part. It's ok to see the bad, but for every negative try to find a positive and see what happens. Put it all together into the 'big picture' of you and love love love what you see.

August 7, 2009

I Heart Friday

I heart Fridays. I heart the Weekend. And I heart all of You!

Happy Friday Everyone! Have a wonderful weekend!


August 4, 2009

spread the joy...


This post by Karen Maezen Miller at Cheerio Road brought me JOY today...
I have even cooked up my own joyful experiment inspired by her thoughts. I will post more details later, but I don't want to spoil the surprise or skew the research data. I will wait a good week or two after the process begins to tell you the joyful details.
What brought you JOY on this beautiful Tuesday?

August 3, 2009

Sunday Adventure

Photobucket


Everyone remember that motorcycle I bought a few months back? The one that I jumped at the chance to buy and haven't mentioned since? The one that has been held captive and remained non-ridden?

Vaguely?

Well...I'm here to announce that she is officially in my hands. She is officially on my daily radar. She has officially been ridden.

To demonstrate the triumph of this moment, not just the excitement that it is finally done, I will tell you a little story about this little motorcycle's journey.

About a week ago "A" and I set out on an the adventure of moving my motorcycle from its temporary storage space (his parent's house)in the city to its cozy little space in the suburbs where it is safe to ride.

We arrived at his parent's house and uncovered my lovely new friend. I pulled her out (engine off) into the sun and set her up on the street. "A" started her up, with very little complaint from her...thank goodness, and we pumped up the tires for the ride. After she was warmed up, we made our way to the gas station and then to the freeway.

About an hour later, we had made it safely to the storage facility and went down to unlock the unit and make sure she really fit through the narrow door. When I signed up for the unit the door stuck a bit and I had to pull hard to get it open, but it was nothing much to worry about. I undid the locks and pulled as hard as I could...

No budge.

So I pulled again.

No budge.

"A" encouraged me to pull as hard as I can.

"I am!" I said and try it again.

No budge.

Shortly after we realized that not only was the door stuck, they had all been freshly painted and now it was painted shut!

Of course it was after 5pm and all of the underpaid, semi-bright storage employees had gone home. So I reached in my bag for the after hours number...the number I was told to call if I ever needed anything and the manager would be right over...the number that I called and received no answer...the number that I left an angry message on asking for a refund for the month knowing that I wouldn't hear back from anyone until Monday.

So there we were, standing in the heat on a Saturday evening trying to pry open a storage locker door with the handle to my car jack. After much of the new paint had been chipped off the door and the latches had been bent, we decided to surrender. That door would never budge. Luckily, "A" has a unit at the same facility and there was barely enough room to store my little friend inside. Phew!

So a week goes by and she was still held captive and still non-ridden. The storage facility calls to tell me that I can move to another unit, but I have to come in during business hours to sign a new lease, which translates into..."Come in on your day off since we are only open during the day to sign paperwork that could be as easily faxed." Joy.

This brings us to yesterday...lovely Sunday.

I wake up late (after a grueling week I needed some rest) and head to their office for a quick little signature and then be on my way to enjoy the sun. I arrive to find out that they cannot print the paperwork because I would end up getting charged some sort of enrollment fee again...it's complicated, but it comes down to a mistake by the district manager in the computer system. So, finally, after some firm discussion on my part, I end up selecting a different unit to put my things in until they can get this all sorted out. An hour later, I am happy with my new space and I call "A" to tell him that I will be moving the bike. He hops in his car and heads over.

So...some of you may not know that I have been a little hesitant to ride. It's been a few months since the class and I am nervous to go out on the road until I am comfortable with downshifting, signalling, quick stopping, etc. "A" has been a great coach so far, but he has also been doing almost everything for me up to this point. Before he arrives, I decide I am going to take the reins for this one.

I open up his storage unit, slowly back my baby out, find some level ground for the kick stand and fire her up. Of course she starts right up and I am well on my way to my first ride. I quickly change into my jeans and boots and wait while she warms up. I walk to the end of the row and look at my path of travel.

Uh Oh.

I forgot about the hill that goes from his unit to mine. Not a hill! I've only ever been on flat ground. The anxiety creeps up again. Not so brave afterall. Shortly after "A" arrives.

In the end, "A" rode it down the hill to my new unit and I drove down to meet up. While he ran back up the hill to move his car, I stood there staring at my shiny new friend. Once again inspiration hit, I hopped on, started her up, and I was off!

I did it!

I finally rode my motorcycle!

Finally!

After a few turns around the storage facility, a little practice downshifting, and some rallying at 18mph, I pulled her safely into the unit and locked her up. Now she is there whenever I need her...whenever the spark hits me...whenever I need an adventure.

So, I started Adventuresome August off with a bang. A little bang, but a bang none the less. I cast aside my my fears and took a little joyride. My adventure only took me around the parking lot a few times, but it was a fabulous "in the moment" adventure on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Sometimes that's all we need (especially in the face of adversity)...a moment to be powerful. To be spontaneous. To surprise ourselves. To act like a kid again. To take control of the moment and run with it.

Here's to adventure! (...and learning how to downshift properly)

August 1, 2009

Adventuresome August


reflection in the tide, originally uploaded by MaraRayanne.
Happy 1st day of Adventuresome August! Go out and have an adventure today...then come back here and tell me all about it!

July 27, 2009

Hi. My Name is Mara...

I think I am going to become addicted to getting the chills during my Unravelling ecourse.

Every day, I read such wonderful words from all of my Unravelling friends and I get the chills.

Good chills.

Chills that tell me that my heart just got bigger, my soul just got fuller, and joy just pulsed out of my body and into the universe.

By the end of this 8 week course (which already makes me feel sadness and we have so much time left!) I think I will be craving ways to give myself the "good" chills every day.

The chills come from feeling empowered, from understanding the struggles of others, from walking briefly in another person's shoes, and from realizing that we are all very similar. I identify with so many of them and we have never met. It really is a powerful connection.

Could I become addicted to unravelling?

"Hi. My name is Mara. And I am an Unraveller."

July 19, 2009

Poor little bird...

Shrinky Dink necklace made by joyful.marasoaring, originally uploaded by MaraRayanne.
So Thursday morning when I left for work there was a little dead bird on my front stoop.
I stopped, sorrowfully admired it's coloring for a bit, and thought...should I deal with this?

The last time this happened (only once) someone in the building took care of it before I came home from work. In the interest of not being late to the office, along with not being sure how to deal with it, I decided to head on to work and allow someone else to put the poor little bird to rest.

On my way down the street I started to wonder about the symbolism of crossing the path of a dead bird. I decided to look it up at work and there doesn't seem to be any historical bad omens (unless you know the specific type of bird) and only people's personal superstitions. Either way, Cass is bringing over some sage to burn in my apartment, in the foyer, and on the steps. Cass is very spiritual and I think it will be good for me to do this and that it will help us both to cleanse this space.

When I arrived home from work that evening, the poor little bird was still there. Laying awkward, yet peaceful, on my stoop. I went upstairs to put down my stuff and grabbed a spoon as my trusty shovel and a baggie as my transport and went down to the front porch.

I gently scooped up the bird and walked to a nearby bush to find him a suitable resting place. As I was digging the hole, trying to find solid earth (it all seemed to be loose and dry) I said soft prayers in my mind blessing mother nature's beautiful creature and said that I was sorry. I am not sure if it flew into my window, or if one of the neighbor cats left it as a present for our building, either way, I was sad for such a frail and gentle creature. I placed the bird in the hole and slowly covered it with one handful of dirt at a time until it was gone. Then I placed all of the small stones I had found while digging on top. Rest in peace poor little bird.

Today, I sit and think about things that we notice and don't take responsibility for. We assume someone else will handle it. Whether it's a piece of trash on the sidewalk, a mess to clean up, or even someone abusing a loved one. We tend to turn our head and tell ourselves that we didn't see it so that we don't have to take responsibility for it, whatever it may be.

I had passed the bird by. I even stopped to look at it for a few minutes. It's feathers were beautiful and I contemplated taking a picture. Then, in the interest of time and not assuming responsibility, I left it behind. Later in the day, the responsibility was offered to me again. For some reason, it was meant for me. This time, I embraced it and learned a valuable lesson. My eyes and heart show me what I am supposed to see in life. I cannot ignore the gifts that they give me. From now on, I will take responsibility for what is laid out before me whether it was my mistake or if I caused it to happen. I am one person who CAN make a difference.

July 17, 2009

It's a sprinkle kind of joy...


DSC_0156, originally uploaded by MaraRayanne.

Today...the gift of donuts dropped into my office.

With such sugary goodness I decided to have just ONE.

I opened the box and stared at the options with wide eyes and licked my lips.

"Which one will I choose?"

Such a difficult decision when the outcome quite possibly offers some insight into your personality.

"Who do I want to be today?"

Today...is a 'sprinkle' kind of day...

Fun. Colorful. Delicious. Joyful.

Happy Friday!

July 16, 2009

The Stepping-Stones of My Joyful Life

Photo: "Stuck between a rock and a "heart" place" taken by Mara

We all have turning points. We all have a road map of where we have been in our life. The roads twist and turn and when we look back at different moments we find that the map is constantly evolving. The list below tells about some of my life changing moments. Some are small. Some are big. But all of them are the bread crumbs left behind that help me to find my way back to who I am.

1. I was born. September 19, 1978 to two beautiful parents who loved me very much. I was looking through my baby book the other day (I still think I looked like Oscar the Grouch as a newborn) and I could feel the excitement of all of my loving relatives and our family's friends bouncing off the pages. It's good to know I was welcomed and embraced with such joy.

2. My parents divorced and my father moved out. (Age 5) Divorce is definitely a big thing in any child's life, but I have to say that for my parents it was never negative or angry. They shielded my sister and I from that pain. Even now as my sister and I are all grown up, they have continued to keep a healthy friendship. I am not sure I have ever thanked them for that. So...Mom, Dad...Thank you. I love you too.

3. I moved to Idaho with my Mom, Step-Dad and sister. (Just before my 12th birthday) I am still not sure how to quantify this experience, though I know it was a big turning point. I said goodbye to friends, family, and role models and bravely started a whole new life in a much smaller town. I wouldn't trade any of the experiences I had there or the friends I have made for anything, but some days (as I now live back in Seattle) I wonder about what my life would be like now had we stayed in Seattle. I hope that I would be at least a shadow of the person I am now, but in my heart I know that I would be so much less without the wonderful friends I have made in both of my hometowns. I think I have spent the right years in both places and for that, and for all of them, I am grateful. (To give you a timeline...1-11 Seattle, 12-21 Post Falls, 22-25 Seattle, 26-27 Post Falls, 27-NOW Seattle)

4. Broke up with a controlling, jealous, and emotionally abusive boyfriend. (Age 26) I definitely don't want to go into the details, but this was a defining moment for me. Yesterday, I wrote an email to a friend about how much I hope that adults will continue to educate young girls (and boys for that matter) that your life can be anything that you want it to be. You don't have to fit the mold and get married, have babies, and work the same job for 30 years. (Not that it's wrong, but it's definitely the default setting.) You don't have to wait for prince charming to come along to start your life. You should be independent and strong in order to be anything for anyone, including ourselves. In this relationship I was not. I was broken. It took my Mom crying for me to realize how my choice to just wait it out and see if it got better was affecting the people who loved me most. The next day, I broke it off, moved into my Mom's house, and started the rest of my new life. On that day, I stood up for myself and took the first step to becoming the strong, independent, happy single woman that I am today.

6. Taking my first solo vacation. (Age 30) Last year, many of you know, I set a goal (along with many others) to travel more and I have been on the go ever since. A few months ago I went on my first solo adventure and proved to myself just how strong I am. For those of you who know how shy and reserved I can be until I get to know someone (then I talk your ear off) this was a major step for me and for the boundaries of my comfort zone. The best part about the experience was realizing that the person I was on my trip was exactly who I was at home. I AM strong. I AM independent. I didn't have to go somewhere else to prove anything. I just had to open my eyes and accept who I really am. She is here to stay.

7. Learning to become a strong and independent woman. (Age 30) You know, ever since I turned 30, something in me has switched. A bright, beautiful light went on. I knew this would be the best year of my life. Though birthdays aren't really turning points exactly, they are still milestones. This one woke me up and challenged me to be better. From that day on I have accomplished more in one year than I feel I have in my lifetime. Goals have been accomplished, new beginnings have begun, my inner and outer styles are progressing, I am proclaiming a love for myself and others from the mountaintop that is this blog, and I am evolving every day right before my own eyes. Now that 31 is approaching I have to be honest that I feel the momentum slowing down, but in my heart I know it's only adjusting to a strong and constant speed. This is only the beginning.

So, that is my inventory of the roads of my life so far. I have many other stepping-stones laying about, but these were the ones that stood out strongest to me. This is a very honest post, and I hope that many of you are encouraged to make your own list, and that I didn't share too much of my soul. This sort of reflection can be hard to swallow sometimes, but for everything I listed above, I have only the deepest love, pride and appreciation because these moments have brought me to where I am now...this place is simply joyful.

July 12, 2009

Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self


Finally! It's here! My first Unravelling ecourse is just about to start and I can't wait to start this next big adventure.

Welcome fellow Unravellers! Thank you for checking out my blog. I can't wait to meet all of you.

For those of you that know me already, I will update you on this fascinating new addition to my life. There will be pictures, and stories and lots for me to share with you. To learn more about the unravelling course and our inspiring instructor visit www.inkonmyfingers.typepad.com.

en-joy!

June 23, 2009

A penny saved is a memory earned...

Lately I have been having a lot of fun out on the town, going to movies, eating out, shopping for new work and play clothes, and running around enjoying all of the summer events. The trouble is...it's starting to have quite the impact on my expenses, which got me thinking about how to cut some costs. Shortly after I had begun devising a plan for sack lunches and revamping my wardrobe with accessories, I found a great little blurb in Self magazine about our economic times and how often "the key factors to life satisfaction have little to do with money and everything to do with your relationships, following your passions and having a purpose." Hmmm...maybe I am looking in the wrong place for cost savings?

Here are my top five favorite things to do and their cost:

1. Chatting with Friends and Family....$0
2. Listening to my favorite music....$0
3. Hiking or Trail Running at Discovery Park....$0
4. Wandering Farmers Markets....$0
5. Taking Pictures of #1, #3, and #4...#2 if I could!....$0

Inner Voice: "Don't do it! Don't do it, Mara. Be strong."
Silly Sense of Humor: "I can't help it! It's just too fun! I can't resist!"

6. Living a happy joyful life....priceless.

I know. I know. Sorry.

Now back to business...

Other great things to do for free in Seattle:

1. Free First Thursday at several Seattle museums (Arts, History and Industry...Oh My!)
2. Free movies On Demand or on Netflix (So many oldies but goodies it's hard to pick just one!)
3. Hiking or People Watching in local parks (I can't get enough of our beautiful, creative, quirky Seattlites)
4. I Heart Rummage craft fair at the Crocodile Cafe (1st Sunday - And they have a DJ - Crafts and Music? My kind of show!)
5. Chateau St. Michelle free Columbia Valley Tour & Wine Tasting (Wine + Free = A Happy Me)
6. Redhook Brewery Tour and Beer Sampling (It's $1, but that's practically free!)
7. Vital Tea Leaf (Pike Place) tea tastings (Yummy!)
8. Wooden O modern shakespeare theatre outdoors around Seattle (Starts in July - Who wants to go?)

There's so much to do!

So, Instead of stressing out about money and pinching my little pennies, I am opting to be frugal and still savor the exciting things that my city has to offer. There's no need to hide away in my little apartment to avoid spending my hard earned cash too fast. Instead, I will spend my time and invest in my own inspiration, happiness, and enrichment by enjoying the simple things. All I have to do is be a little bit creative! I already have a list of five wonderful things that bring me joy and cost me nothing. Why not add a few more? Any suggestions?

June 22, 2009

daily reminder...

My friend Rebecca sent me an email today that touched my heart and reminded me to improve my temper and strive every day to be a better person. Since the story tied to the message is hard to read and not become angry yourself, I decided just to post the message, which is the most important part.

"Anger and Love have no limits;
choose the latter to have a beautiful, lovely life...

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits they become character;
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."

June 17, 2009

joyful inspiration

My friend Cass sent this to me today and I had to share it with all of you. This is truly how I feel right now. Remember that radiating joy I spoke about in my yoga post? This is it. This is its purpose.

"Your soul's purpose right now is to trust your creativity and elevate your confidence.... Be the beacon that eliminates your darkness and ignites the sleepy imaginations of those around you - not to show off or be the centre of attention, but as the leader who keeps others from losing heart and spirit. So shine on and spread your wings."

Thank you, Cass. Thank you.

June 16, 2009

Got a case of BADD...

Today...I am putting myself in time out.

I've been a bad girl and have neglected something very important to me...


ME.

This neglect hasn't been in a bad way. Actually, it hasn't really been neglect at all. I have been more or less distracted by the excitement of my social life. The city is buzzing right now with things to do...new movies to see, great places to eat, outdoor markets to be shopped, sailboats to sail, and sunny streets to be strolled. I have been consumed by it all and the needed distraction that it brings.

A few days ago I was reviewing blog posts past and wondered why I haven't been as inspired to write lately? The truth is, it's not a lack of inspiration from my incredibly active and wonderfully interesting friends, the lack of blogging has been caused by an inability to focus. There has been so much going on around me that I have found it hard to keep on one train of thought for more than 5 minutes before something else has caught my attention. It's a sort of summertime induced Busy ADD. We'll call it BADD, for short.

So, here I am...spinning my wheels with a big bad case of BADD.

I'm having a great time...don't get me wrong...but every so often I snap out of the distractions and think, "Now what was I up to again?" I start thinking about how focused I was on my goals and how the joy was unstoppable as it radiated through my fingers on the keyboard and onto my blog. Then I wonder what happened?

Don't worry...I am still working on my goals, in between social events, and the joy is still flowing, but now it's swirling around inside of me unable to find the proper outlet. It's a chaotic and frustrating feeling. Sort of like when you go from one room in your house to another with a mission of something to get and/or do and when you get there you think "Now why did I come in here again?" Sometimes it takes just a moment to remember and others a bit longer. Either way you are bound to get back on track.

With that in mind, and the fact that it is Rejuvenation June, I have taken a break, put myself in time out, and I am allowing myself to recharge. I am convinced that cozy pajamas, a mud mask, a glass of wine, my favorite music, and a little bit of candle light in my cozy apartment is just what I need to put it all back in order.

What do you do to put yourself right again?

June 2, 2009

Rejuvenation June

Over the last few months, Fearless April and Confident May, I have plunged myself into all of the goals that I have long dreamed of completing. In the process I hope that I have inspired a few of you to jump start your life lists and have a little fun of your own.

It has been a fabulous few months leading up to the excitement of summer. I took my first guitar class, applied to transfer to (and was accepted at) a four year university to complete my Bachelors Degree, bought a motorcycle which is close to being ridden (helmet and jacket have arrived and now insurance is in order), taken my first solo vacation which included dining at a table for one, begun the process of starting my own business, picked up trail running and hiking as my new favorite hobbies, created a blog to tell the world who I am, and many more things that I accomplished since last summer. As I look back onto all of these experiences and start to wonder what I will tackle next, I realize that I must take time to truly feel the joy and excitement of new beginnings.

While I am searching for my passions and checking goals off my list, if I am in too much of a hurry I will lose all that I have gained. It is time to slow down, take inventory, stop to smell the roses, savor every bite, and breathe it all in. Letting my soul soak in it for a bit will hopefully cause the seeds of new life, joy, and inspiration to grow brighter and fuller than ever. I hardly want all of this to fall by the wayside in a heap of tossed out dreams and recycled moments.

There are so many experiences in my life that have helped shape who I am: Rock climbing, road tripping, roller skating, listening to live music, and camping to name a few. Some of them have been filed away in the "experiences of my youth" file (roller skating for sure...unless I get gutsy and try out for roller derby) and others continue to burn softly inside of me waiting to be needed again. Today I realize that I miss a few of these pieces of me. Good thing it's Rejuvenation June. I have no excuses but to renew all of these hobbies and past-times that brought me joy.

So...if anyone is up for rock climbing, road tripping (I am planning several trips to the peninsula this summer), live music, camping, or even roller skating...just let me know. I am most definitely in for the experience.

Are their any hobbies or past-times that you once enjoyed but now miss being a regular part of? I encourage you to reflect on them, resurrect them, rejuvenate them, and share them with us. You never know who may be willing to join you.

May 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I am writing this post about home for two reasons. Today, I visited a place where I would someday love to live. It was high up in the mountains on a trail that those who live there hike almost every day to school. The hike lasts about 2 hours and it ends at Pomme's House nestled in the tops of the mountains.


The views are spectacular and they have the most amazing garden I have ever seen. We were given a tour of the grounds and saw pineapple plants, cabbage, tons of herbs, sweet potato plants, sugar cane (I was given a foot long piece to suck on and it was delicious), pepper bushes, and marijuana plants scattered about. One was growing right next to the basil.


We saw cocoa bean trees, jack fruit trees, and we tasted the fruit from one tree that they call apricot, as it tastes, but it is the size of a cantalope.
Someday, I would like a life that is as simple as this. You eat what you can grow on your own land and sell the rest at the local market. You walk to everywhere you need to go, hitching rides with locals when necessary. I asked them if I could come live with them and the woman said "No Problem." I almost waved goodbye to my group and said "Come see us again!"


On the trail, Moses stopped many times to pick us some oranges, cut us open a dried coconut, pick us some wild raspberries, and even showed us how to taste coffee bean fruit. You peel off the rind, and suck on the seeds inside. Usually, they roast the beans to make coffee, but these had a lightly flavored jelly like substance around them that you could eat.

Upon our return to Jungle Bay, Sam the owner asked me to help him cut down a bunch of bananas that were ripe. He handed me the machete and we walked a few hundred feet to a tree on the side of the road. Just below the tree was a ravine about 30 feet down to a creek. Sam says, "Well, there is your bunch."


He explained to me how banana trees grow and that they only flower once, so you have to cut down the big tree so that it doesn't starve the little trees growing from the same roots below. I thought...cut down the tree?...I thought I was just cutting down a banana bunch?...what have I gotten myself into now? So, Sam told me to take the machete and hack through the trunk just below where the bunch stemmed from. I took a big swing and the machete went about 1/2 way through.


I could feel the weight of the banana bunch start to pull the top of the tree down. So I reached up and touched the bottom of the bunch. Just then, CRASH...the bunch came toppling down and I lunged to catch it. I slid a few feet down the hill, still with machete in hand, and caught the bunch just as it touched the ground.


I think in weighed about as much as me and had about 50 green bananas that will be ripe in a few days. I set down the machete and pulled the bunch higher up the hill so it wouldn't fall into the ravine below. Then, Sam told me to cut the trunk of the tree lower down so that it would not try to grow again. I took a big swing and cut again 1/2 way through the trunk. Sam told me I wasn't being agressive enough, so I took another big swing and it cut most of the way through. After I was done, he showed me how they chop it into pieces and that later he would place those pieces around the base of the smaller trees to help provide them water. Sam helped me carry the bunch back to the main building and told me that I could bring a bunch home with me. Apparently it is ok to travel home with bananas from here, but no other fruit. So...if you see me in the next few days, I will share with you my banana farming loot.


I leave this beautiful place tomorrow and return to my real home in Seattle. I can't wait to see all of you and share with you my pictures and stories from this amazing journey. I have truly learned what I am made of here on this island...sweat, machete swings, sore muscles and all...and I will forever consider this a place that is like home. Now...sit down, have a banana, and know what hard work goes into its harvest.

May 25, 2009

Boiling Lake = Bay Oil Therapy

I did it! I finished the hardest hike in all of Dominica! Well...at least the hardest that I know of. The Boiling Lake is a lake near the top of one of the island's mountains that has volcanic vents that heat it to boiling temperatures from the bottom. You can see the bubbles coming up and the steam is so thick that sometimes you cannot see the lake.



This hike is one of the reasons I chose Dominica and Jungle Bay Resort and I am so happy I didn't chicken out after some of the other easier hikes we did gave me a cardio run for my money. They do this hike twice a week for the guests at Jungle Bay Resort. However, on Saturday they offered it to 11 guests that were leaving on Sunday morning and I was concerned that they would not provide it on Sunday. I signed up at dinner and prepared myself to leave at 7:30 the next morning. After a quick breakfast, I walked up to the main building and found that I would be the only one going on the hike. I was getting my own private tour!

Moses, my guide, and I hopped in the truck and off we went on an hour and a half drive to the trailhead. When we arrived, I used the "ladies" room...a bush...and we walked past a hydropower plant to the first stop on the sightseeing tour. It was the cavern and waterfall where they filmed part of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.



After a few pictures, we began the easiest part of the trail that is about 1/4 of the trip. It was through the jungle and consisted of ALOT of mud from the past few rainy days and ALOT of stairs made of fern trunks and various types of wood.



A quarter of the way in, we began our descent down into a valley to cross a small river and then, of course, we would head back up. If I had known what I was getting into I would have counted stairs. There must have been a million! Just when you thought the bend ahead meant you were at the top, you would turn and there would be more and more stairs! "It never ends..." I said and Moses laughed.



The hike overall takes 6 hours...3 hours in and 3 hours back. Some do it in less and some in more. However, imagine being on the stairmaster for 6 hours straight...then add some mud, some running water, some boiling sulfur puddles...but then add some amazing views from the some of the highest peaks on the island, and a nice relaxing bath in a hot spring below a waterfall. Sounds like a mix of Heaven and Hell, right? Yeah. That about sums it up.



Since it was Sunday, all of the locals were at church and the cruise ships had gone for the week. This meant we were the only two people on the trail! Typically there are multiple groups of 10-30 people along the way. Sometimes the trail is so narrow that I can't imagine trying to pass someone while walking on muddy, slippery, wooden steps. There had been a few mud slides in the past week and we had to follow a makeshift trail to the bottom of Desolation Valley and then another to the top where we found the boiling lake. Though it's hard to say that some of it was even a trail...it really felt like I was just walking through the jungle, willingly following a man with dreads named Moses.



Today, I am very, very sore. I've been aiding my aching muscles with a mix of lotion and bay oil. Bay oil is the local Tiger Balm or Icy Hot. You cannot put it directly on your skin because it will cause a burn, but mixed with coconut oil or lotion it is great for relaxing sore, tense muscles. My calves are hard as rocks. I think I may need a bucket of bay oil to get me through the rest of today.

So, I will be home in a few days and I have been journaling the prior day's adventures each evening. That has given me time to digest everything and hopefully write humorous stories to go back and read later. I plan to put the stories up online when I return, so I promise you will hear more about my solo adventure. For now, I hope you all enjoyed your weekend and make it safely through the rest of Monday. If you struggled with it...go home, relax and find your inner paradise. If you didn't...maybe you should do the same. Paradise is ire for everyone.

May 23, 2009

Paradise Found

I have only been in Dominica a few days and I am already dreading having to leave. While I can't wait to get home and tell you all about this beautiful island that has already found a special place in my heart, it is going to be very hard to say goodbye to paradise.

On my first night here I settled into my cottage, greeted the resident lizards that help control the bugs (you wouldn't believe how many types of lizards they have here), and relaxed in my hammock for a bit. I swayed, closed my eyes, and listened to the sounds. The birds chirping, the rustling of creatures in the fallen leaves below, and the waves crashing. I have a cottage with a breathtaking view of the Atlantic, even on a cloudy day.



Shortly before the restaurant opened for dinner, I left my room to get aquainted with the grounds of my new home for the week. Everywhere you go here at the resort is connected by one mossy stone road that leads from the main building to the cottages that rest high up on the hill. (Luckily, my cottage is close to everything.)



I wandered around until I was ready to eat and I headed to the open air pavillion for dinner. I found a table for one with a view and to make myself feel more at home I ordered a cuba libre made with local rum from the neighboring town (more like a village) from the bar. It was my first time dining alone and I have to say it is an experience that should not be missed by any single woman, or married for that matter. It's not quite as liberating as skinny dipping, but it feels nice to just relax and let your mind and meal take you where it wants. It helps that I am in paradise, but find a restaurant with a view and kick up your feet, read a book, or just meditate on the view. I did fine and it was just me, my journal, my drink, and the ocean.

The staff came by to greet me and find out my name and where I was from. Now, they are happy to greet me by name at every lunch and dinner and at the spa. Wouldn't you like to get away? Where everybody knows your name...and their always glad you came? (Sorry...just a little lyrics montage...I couldn't resist.)

After my meal, I returned to my room to read and relax on my mosquito net adorned bed. After a long few days of flying and airport sitting, I listened for a while to the frog choir outside that harmonized with the crashing waves and drifted off to sleep and dream about the next days activities...

May 19, 2009

Bon Joyage!

My plants are watered. My apartment is clean. My bags are packed.

I am leaving tomorrow on my first solo trip. What an experience this will be. A true test to my confidence, independence and emotional strength.

Many people have asked me why I would want to travel alone. To which I replied "Why wouldn't I?" (I think I'm pretty good company.) I thought it was a strange question until I realized that many people don't ever get the chance to do something like this. Either that, or they don't realize it is something that they would want to do until they see someone else do it. Honestly, a year ago I would never have dreamed of taking a trip alone. It hadn't even crossed my mind.

Last fall I told the universe that I wanted to travel more. Shortly after I found myself invited on all sorts of trips. It seems that if you tell the universe what you want, you shall receive. (Sorry...that was a very "The Secret" moment...but it's true.) I had been invited on trips before but never had the means to get myself through it. This time, I had funds and vacation time and nothing was standing in my way but ME. I vowed to myself at that moment that I would not pass up any opportunity to travel. I mean, it's a good thing no one has invited me to the Bermuda Triangle or I'd have mysteriously vanished by now.

So...here I go...on vacation again. I know, I know. "Didn't you just get back from somewhere?" I have been hearing that a lot lately. To which I happily reply "Why, Yes! I did!" Don't be jealous. Use that energy to make your own personal commitment.

What is it that you have always wanted to do but never did? Whatever the obstacle may be, trust me, the only thing standing in your way is YOU. Pack your "bags." You can make it happen.

May 12, 2009

Confidently Uninspired

So...here we are...sliding our way through Confident May.

I have to be honest.

I AM feeling confident.

I own leather chaps that SCREAM confidence.

I bought a Honda REBEL...sort of on a whim.

I am traveling SOLO to a foreign country soon...a warm, jungley, islandy country.

And yet, with all of this excitement in my life...

I

HAVE

WRITERS

BLOCK.

Oh, joy.

I want so badly to write to you. To inspire you. To share with you the joy that I have about where I am in my life. I sit here at my computer with fingers on the keys, but nothing comes.

Maybe I am just awestruck, or overwhelmed, or dumbfounded by all that I am taking on? I have a strong feeling that Dominica holds the cure to this mental clog. How could it not? Good thing I am leaving in a week! I need some inspiration!

For now, I will put this question out there...maybe you can inspire me instead...

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired...restless...bored? Go for a walk? Spin around in circles? Make faces in the mirror? Whatever it is...please share...I'll do anything!

(Click "comments" below this post to add your thoughts and inspiration.)

April 28, 2009

It is here where she must begin to tell her story...

I am a huge fan of these great new workbooks by Compendium. I bought two of them over the weekend at Fireworks. I have said that I won't have one of those blogs where I just show you pictures of things I love, but I can't resist these. Don't worry...I will tie it into something.

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This one says..."'Once you get over the fear, then it's a cinch,' she said. And then she leaped into a mountainous and unexplored region of her heart." This statement reminded me of my commitment to this month...to Fearless April.

April has always been a time of rebirth for me. I have had a lot of new beginnings and jump starts to my life in this springtime month. So what about the other months? Well, I have decided that change, evolution, and progress should not be reserved for one month out of the year. I have created nicknames for each of the months in my calendar year to help remind me and inspire me to always strive for more. I will keep track of each monthly goal in the workbook above. My journal keeps my hopes and dreams, but this workbook will keep score and the proof that fear will not hold me back and that joy will push me forward.

Make Every Day Count:
New Beginnings January
It's All Possible February
Bold & Brave March
Fearless April
Confident May
Rejuvenation June
Joyful July
Adventuresome August
Daring September
Outgoing October
Never Say Never November
Delightful December

I encourage you to find what inspires you...to set your goals for the present and future...to set the foundation and plant what motivates you. Be authentic. Be joyful. Be you.

April 23, 2009

Fearless April

Something that many of you may not know about me...
I played Cello in grade school and I...was...awful.

Well, maybe not awful

I was as good as you can be playing songs like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on an instrument that sounds like a sad goose. It really is quite a depressing sound. Unless you can play so well that the fury in your fingers surpasses the limits of this instrument and something beautiful comes out of it. I unfortunately did not hold that power.

So...what does this have to do with my joyful life?

Well, yesterday I attended my first guitar lesson.

That's right...the guitar I have had for 5 years is finally seeing some action!

I was reminded of my brief stint with cello playing so long ago and how my lack of practicing led to my demise. Today, I solemnly swear to practice my little heart out. I may end up being terrible at it, but atleast then I will know that the guitar can find a better home. A home where it is not a sculpture in the living room.

So far I have learned to warm up my hands...that I need to cut my finger nails...to read a little sheet music...and play one more chord than I knew a couple of years ago. I can play G now! Next thing you know I'll have a hit song on the top of the charts!

For so long I was afraid to learn the guitar, no matter how bad I wanted to. What if I failed? I have always believed that I was bad at music, that the musical talent in my family went all to my mom's amazing accordion skills! I can't believe how she can pick up the accordian after years of not playing and still bust out a tune. I can't even remember how to play the recorder. (Remember the plastic flute type instrument that most people learned in 1st and 2nd grade music class?) Even then, I was lucky if I could make it all the way through Hot Cross Buns without breaking a sweat.

This month I have dubbed Fearless April. I am taking the first steps towards everything that I have always been afraid to do. Well, the things I have WANTED to do anyway. You won't see me wrapping a python around my shoulders or kissing a scorpion anytime soon.

(Or maybe I will...Isn't he cute!?!?!?)

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I have started guitar lessons, signed up to refresh my skills on a motorcycle so I can finally buy a Harley, started prepping my home and mind for starting a business, started trail running...yes, running, and soon I will write the first page in my journal (That's a scary one, huh?), and next month I will be on my first solo trip to another country.

So from now on...with my fingers callused and bugs in my teeth...I will tackle the world with no fear and no regrets. I have waited a long time to have the butterflies in my stomach settle before taking the first step and I realize now that I had it in the wrong order.

Go forth! Conquer your fears! It is Fearless April afterall.

April 20, 2009

One feeling...one word...

Last year I was asked what one feeling is that I would like to feel for the rest of my life...if I only had one to choose from.

One feeling? One emotion? But we are built with so much more!

I thought about it every day for a week. I asked my friends and family...even perfect strangers.

I went back and forth between a few words...successful...happy...fulfilled. All good words, but they didn't quite sum it up.

I kept a list of words in my planner to keep going back to, but only one stuck out.



Joyful.



Many of you may be wondering where the title joyful.life came from. Besides the obvious that it stemmed from this page being a place to share my life, the question above is where it all started. This word has also become a mantra for me. I remind myself every day what it means to be authentic and to live and breathe joy into my life and others.

So, what is your one feeling? If you had to pick. Make a comment using this link below this journal entry to share it with me. Even if you can't pick just one...I would love to hear them all!

Be joyful. Live joyful. Share joy.

April 17, 2009

Welcoming Life...

Last night at the end of yoga I was asked to welcome the feeling of joy into my body...to fill the room with that joy...then, to push it beyond the walls of the studio and fill the universe with the feeling of joy.

A year ago, and even a few months ago I would have been stuck searching for inspiration to grasp that feeling. But now, thanks to my wonderful family, friends and my creative spirit. That joy was already burning inside of me and it swelled to the point that my eyes began to water from how immense it was. That's a lot of joy!

I just wanted to take a moment to say "Thank You" to all of you who have touched my life and encourage me through both difficult times and creative journeys. I hope that I can provide all of you with the same wonderful support when it is needed.

Remember to create joy and allow yourself to feel it. You are worth every drop.

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April 10, 2009

joyful life

What are you happy for today? What brings you joy?

As inspired by a post on quaint.handmade, which was inspired by the HSJ blog...here is a list of 5 things that make me happy today...

* TGIF. Good Friday! I know I just got back from vacation, but this change of pace has simply worn me out.
* My family and friends. You are all so very special to me. Happy Easter to you all!
* My creative juices. They're flowing more than ever & I am so excited to see what I do!
* Travel. I just can't get enough! The possibilities are endless. Come along for the ride!
* Chai Tea Lattes! I have been craving one all day...and soon I will have a hot little cup of my favorite drink in my cold little hands. I just love how such a simple thing can calm me so much.

Share your joyful list by commenting below. It warms my heart to read what makes you happy. Don't be shy.

Much love and have a joyful Easter!

April 6, 2009

How Tough Is Your Shell?

seashell photo taken by joyful.mara
I made it home safe and sound from Costa Rica, and I can't wait to see all of your lovely faces. On a trip with so many different personalities, we had our share of rocky moments, but overall it really made me appreciate the differences among my friends...the differences among us all. We all share a common ground, but each of us has something that sets us apart, which is something wonderful about human nature. We all have the ability to shake things up, to see things from another point of view, and to run the show our own way. It's time to embrace those differences instead of using them to build walls between us.

I have my fair share of walls. Typically they stem from being shy and insecure. I know many of you don't see that in me, but when I meet someone new I am often quiet and reserved and just trying to get my footing so the butterflies in my stomach can emerge and spread their wings. I wish I could be that beautiful butterfly all of the time, but it's been easier said than done. Why do I have this tough shell that makes it so hard to soar? Why do I put up walls between me and the world around me? It's a question that has so many answers, but what it really needs is a solution.

Yesterday on my flights home I sat next to two very friendly and secure people and it made me wonder why I am not so outgoing? It came down to one or two split second decisions that we all make several times a day. When you pass someone, do you make eye contact or not? When you make eye contact, do you say "hi", smile, or just keep on moving? More often than not, I fail at the first decision and fear making eye contact. How different would my life be if I just made the opposite decision, no matter how awkward it may be?

(Side note: How weird is the word awkward anyway. I can never remember how to spell it!)

So...what if I made eye contact and said "hello" to everyone I came in contact with? It may or may not go any farther than that, but that's ok too. Either way, today, I am pushing myself out of my shell, breaking down the wall, and choosing to make eye contact with my life. If a 30 year old autistic man and a 6 year old girl (the two people I sat next to on two separate flights) can survive out of their shells, so can I!

I encourage you all to analyze your own shells today. How hard are they? How colorful are they? How comfortably do they fit? Add a comment below this post and tell me your stories about coming out of your shells. We can all learn a little from eachother and our differences.