A new way

The November sky was a winter sky – painted every shade of gray with the wind’s brushstrokes leaving interesting patterns. The huge white stones in the pasture looked like sheep resting in field,  a scene from Ballykissangel. Three dogs pulled at their leashes, happily bouncing along the pasture trail.  But I was missing so much of it because I kept glancing at my Garmin.  My pace was too slow. I was frustrated as the dogs kept stopping  to sniff…or to pee…or listen for rabbits…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe struggle to control the run was overwhelming…and was just a reflection of how I try to control every aspect of my life.  This is what drowning might feel like. Fighting the current never helps. You have to let go and just float. I’ve never been a fan of floating – always afraid of that loss of control.  But the old ways aren’t working any longer so I need to find a new way.  I’m going float more and race less.

My knee is giving me problems again so my running is suffering. Instead of getting angry with my body, I’m allowing myself to run slowly or not run at all.  I’m allowing myself to walk when I need to.  And I’m leaving my Garmin watch at home. I’m not tracking pace or mileage. I’m just moving.  I’m not posting miles on MapMyRun and I don’t know if I’ll ever enter another race.

Shifting away from all these measures, scales, watches and clocks, I have to a chance to float freely…no guides, no maps, no public input. Just me.  I eat when I’m hungry. I run when I want to run.  I smile when I feel like smiling…and cry when I feel like crying. Floating along in my simple river…

This is my river…my beautiful, mossy, messy river.

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Honesty

This morning, img_3303 I went running.  Running under the wide open sky, there is no filter.  Religion in my opinion is a filter between my Divine Beloved and me.  I want a direct connection.  This morning there was only that honesty…my sweat, my pain, Spirit’s beauty all around me.

Sometimes Spirit is brutally honest  – the dead fawn decaying and its horrible stench, the turkey buzzard misunderstood, cleaning up this mess made by a speeding car, the rattlesnake poised, watching me warily, ready to strike.  Sometimes my body is also brutally honest – the stink of my sweat, the pain in my knee, the truth of my body growing older.

And other times, Spirit and my Body agree to rejoice.  My sweat is just enough to cool me under Spirit’s gentle breeze, the ground feels softer and my knees feel stronger. Spirit sings to me as cicada song and rustling leaves.  Spirit gifts me with the smell of bee brush before a rain.

There is too much ugliness in this world lately. Too much hate and racism and anger. My soul cries every night.  Some days I can barely climb out of bed.

But when I run across the hot Vulcan sand, smell cow shit, wake up to dog slobber, I feel whole.  I need these solid truths.

I’m going to stick to worshipping my Divine Beloved in the sunshine, under the stars, in the creek bed, and ALONE  or with kinder souls- unfiltered, honest.

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It’s all in your head

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I haven’t been running. I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been doing much of anything. I injured my knee somewhere along the line and  gave up.  I could have stayed positive and rode my bike or rowed or …something…but no, I sat on my butt, mind filled with negativity, believing all was lost… and gained 20 lbs.

But even though I sound like the original Negative Nelly (no offense to Nellies everywhere) I believe that something positive can be gleaned from any experience and this knee thing is no exception.  I just finished six weeks of physical therapy and that was quite the learning experience.

Further along in the PT process we started working on balance. The first day of balance work, I was frustrated. I could not stand on that darn leg. So per the therapist’s instructions, I turned so I could hold onto the table if necessary. Well, suddenly I found perfect balance. I never had to touch the table. Just knowing it was there was enough for me.

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So we control our bodies…..

Tossing and turning, unable to sleep, .I decided there was absolutely no reason my mind couldn’t make my body sleep. My mind controlled the most sophisticated bodily functions. Why couldn’t it just put me to sleep for a few hours? And boom…I was asleep. This doesn’t ALWAYS work, mind you, but I no longer take Benadryl nightly.

Then this weekend while running, I realized that I focused my right knee and it’s lack of function during these run/walk training sessions. So I focused on my left knee and it’s ability. I moved on to noticing the birds, the flowers, Cupcake’s wagging tail. And I ended up running the whole three miles without any walking  – longest and fastest solid run since surgery. And best of all, completely pain-free!

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Sparky just hanging out.

It’s all in my head…

I believed I would fall, until I believed I was safe. I believed I would feel pain, until I just shut up about it.

So I’m going to focus on happy endings and possibilities and I’ll strap Negative Nelly to the railroad tracks.

 

 

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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Because Ordinary is Extra-ordinary

ellenDogs recognize the exceptional in everybody because they take the time to sniff them out.  Dogs don’t worry about your social standing, where you live or work, what kind of clothes you wear. They’re more concerned with who you REALLY ARE (or if you have treats in your pockets). Because I’ve been taking the time to sniff out the people around me, I’ve been blessed to meet some extra-ordinary folks

Today I’m going to introduce you to Ellen, a friend I met through running.  I wasn’t sure how to write this so I conducted an email interview. Her words are in bold, mine in italics.

Ellen is a runner, fitness fanatic, mother, wife, ex-cop…and what else…(as if that isn’t enough).  

So where to start on this interview. Of course, looking at your Facebook page, two things really jump out – your love for your children and your love of running.
I’m sure everybody reading will want to know “How does she do it?” But I think the answer is obvious “With love”
So let’s get started with you…

You were a law enforcement officer. Is that what started you on your fitness journey? What motivated you to join the force.

I guess I secretly wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a kid.  I loved the show Dragnet and then moved on to Hawaii Five-O because they always got the bad guy.  I was pretty focused, even as a young kid on trying to make the world a better place even if it was one bad guy at a time.  Of course, as I got older, the line between “bad guy and good guy” got blurrier and more obscure.  It was then that I learned of a thing called “situational ethics” (would you steal to feed your starving child?) and police work became more about social work based on personal morals.  I liked that well enough, but laws and personal perspectives sometimes clash.

Over the past…how many years…you’ve lost quite a bit of weight and gained quite a bit of fitness…
Tell me a little bit about that.

Well, the long and short of it is that I was always a jock in high school.  I was always a bit more athletic than most girls and competed mostly with boys.  I did medical missions for years through a non profit I started.  We brought 250 kids from 16 different third worlds countries to the USA for live-saving FREE medical care.  That is a tale all its own.  But while I was doing that, and traveling, I got lost somewhere and woke up with a whole lot of weight, which in turn, depressed me, which in turn, exacerbated into more weight gain and that cycle was born.  When I realized that I had 2 kids, both age 5 who needed me I decided I needed to get my health back.  Sooooo, 86 pounds later and a whole lot more healthier, here I am.  I am trying to learn to be a runner because running is the total package for me.

You’re a foster mother to quite a few children with special needs. That takes a special person. What made and your husband decide to dedicate yourselves to these children? (I did learn Ellen is not a “foster” but read on…)

I am a Mom to 2 bio adult boys, both with children (3 grand daughters between them) of their own. As they were growing up, I did foster care for “the system” for a while, but again, got quite dismayed with the real purpose behind foster care (it is a numbers game) and how little “services” were actually provided.  The pendulum swings from “you are a bad mother, let’s take your kids away because you feed them poor food” all the way to “ let’s put your 6 month old baby in a foster home for the 18th time and give you a break—oh and stop using drugs”.  In other words..you can half kill your kids and still not lose them or you can be poor and be penalized for it.  The system is broken.

Our ELEVEN adopted children are not foster children.  They know the joy of permanency.  I need to emphasize that because of our 11 children, SIX of them were adopted by other families who were unable to parent them.  They ALL came from third world nations where they knew poverty, abuse neglect and lived a constant state of never knowing what was next.  Permanency is a HUGE need for them. They are not foster children; they are all children who have a family and belong.

When people adopt children, there are challenges that not many talk about.  International kids can be a challenge not only for the obvious reasons (they don’t speak the language, they are accustomed to the food, smells, even skin color of their new family.  But they also can be a challenge because they had no say in the deal.  There they were…in an orphanage which is the only home they ever knew and suddenly they are a million mile away, in a new culture with strangers who expect the child to immediately love them.  These kids can be full of rage, sorrow and confusion.  It really can throw a family for a loop.  And usually, the mother is the target of that rage.  Running helps nullify some of that agony from watching your child grieve. 

I have 11 special needs kids.  I love, adore and am smitten with them.  They taught me more than any books, lectures or even ideas I have ever encountered.  But not everyone feels that way about my kids.  For school systems, they are a financial burden and we have struggled and fought with schools for services.  Advocacy is not always a popular position.  Educational advocacy can pit school against parent and I have to tell you, of all the tough things I have done in life, this is one of the toughest.  I know my kids need me to fight for what they rightfully deserve, but there is a certain vindictiveness that happens when you force big entities to do their job.  We have fallen victim to that vicious retaliation more than once.  Running helps me clear my head and turn my anger around.

So, if I were to tell you that I run to keep the weight off, that would be true.  But more so, I run to keep my head and heart balanced. The reason I hated running so much was that I KNEW I was fit, but I could not find that balance.  I could not defeat that inner voice of anger and contempt.  The real challenge of running for me, was learning how to be ok with not being my best or with feeling tired and waiting to quit and being ok knowing that some days are just like that. When I could give myself permission to just run and let my run be just that..a time to just “be”, I started liking running and now, it is the best medicine.  It took great friends and real support for me to get there and I am still shaky with it all. Always a work in progress but it teaches me the value of friendship, too!

My first race was a 10K.  I am proud of that but truthfully, I should have done a 5K.  I did a 10K because I wanted to prove that I could do more.  In a way, that is good.  But in a way, that was the EXACT barricade that I was facing with my running.  Needing to be the best without fail.  The 10K taught me that I could prevail, but it also taught me a bit about arrogance.  That is the dichotomy of running…it teaches you about your strengths, but it also flashes your weaknesses and lights them in bold marquee lights. Mostly, it teaches me about balance.  We all need balance.

Another thing I love about running is the “brotherhood”.  When I read yet one more story about how someone, without care and concern, stopped their own personal marathon to help a stranger meet their goal it lights my heart on fire with hope.  When I read stories about kids who can’t even walk, hoisting themselves over a finish line named courage and determination, what does THAT tell you about the human spirit?  When I read about a woman with stage 4 brain cancer, not only running her final marathon, but running it to make others aware of a cause, what does that sayleaf about self-sacrifice?  I have found the camaraderie of runners is unique, inspiring and universal. I love belonging to such a cohesive  community of hope  in times of worldly division and degradation.

Everybody!

Yesterday I was srobino blessed to be able to attend the Texas Conference for Women with a dear friend.  The caliber of speakers was impressive. The final keynotes were Patricia Arquette and Robin Roberts.  I even got to shake hands with Robin and have my photo taken. (I want to point out that, YES, she’s taller in the photo BUT I’m wearing flats and she was wearing heels- and some amazing heels they were!).

Robin shared the title of book “Everybody’s Got Something” was a “momma-ism.” When Robin would complain about some misfortune, pain or seeming affliction, her mother would tell her “Everybody’s got something.”  Her mother was a jewel box of pearls of wisdom.

How true!!!!!!! EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING…and EVERYBODY has OVERCOME SOMETHING….and EVERYBODY is SOMETHING.

Meeting new women, I see that each woman has an amazing story to tell.  I started thinking of the women in my life and how each one has lived a life worthy of a novel. These stories deserve to be celebrated and shared. Most importantly, we can learn from each other and find inspiration.

SO……I’ve already talked to one friend and plan on talking to more. I want to do a something different with this blog…I want to share these stories of inspiration and achievement.

Don’t despair! It’s in keeping with my theme  – when I grow up, I want to be a dog.  Dogs meet new people and sniff then all over. They want to know every secret odor. Dogs dance with joy each time they see someone they love.  They understand how to celebrate each individual.

So I plan on sniffing my friends and sharing their unique scents.  I plan on celebrating each one with a Snoopy Dance of Joy and a blog post.

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And I still don’t get it . . .

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Five miles in 102 degrees

Yep, I still haven’t learned. Remember all those blogs about learning to relax and not obsessing on goals. Remember how I was going to learn to love my own imperfection. Well, we’re still working on all that stuff.

I think I’m going to hold off on the whole 50K adventure this year. The training schedule has taken all the joy out of running.

This spring I ran a 10K trail run with a couple of friends. We just ran for the fun of it. We played in the water, stopped for snacks at the aid station and laughed so hard people thought we were delirious.  We were in no particular hurry and yet all three of us medaled in our age groups. Crazy, huh?

But goes to show that mellow is the way to flow.UPANDAWAY

I forget that…the part about flowing gently. I push myself too hard. I expect too much out of myself. And I end up exhausted and pissed off.

BUT I’m learning something…well, I’m learning a bunch of somethings…but primarily: life is already enough of a challenge without adding more obstacles.

As a matter of fact, there’s not a damn thing wrong with having no goals…and just FLOWING.

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Virtual 5K with Cupcake…that’s the way to run. No RACE.

I like trotting along the trails, preferably with a dog. That’s what makes me happy and makes me feel complete. So no races for a while.   As a matter of fact, this week I’ve only logged 14 miles. But they were fun, easy miles. And I feel renewed and relaxed.

AND I feel optimistic. There’s something really good not just right around the corner but in this moment.  But that’s another blog.

In other news, since my last blog I was asked to be a foster mommy for a puppy on death row. I learned the hard way that I’m a horrible foster. After two days I put in for adoption. So meet the latest family member: Winnie.

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Slow is the only way to go

downthetunnelWisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.  ~ William Shakespeare

 I was  born three weeks late and I’ve been in a hurry ever since.   I eat fast, talk fast, take short fast showers….and when I started running, I thought I had to run fast.

But running fast wasn’t just about my innate impatience. It also had a lot to do with a competitive spirit. (We’ve talked about that before)

Then I ran my second marathon at a nice, easy pace (because it was the only way I could) and I realized that slow was the way to go. Running is so much more enjoyable when you’re not breaking your neck and checking your watch.

I’ve been running with Cupcake Annie a lot more lately.  We’re not setting any PR’s.  But we get out to see the beauty of the morning. I carry my phone and snap photos along they way. We stop and sniff and investigate the world. Runs are adventures.

There is no real reason to hurry.

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I will never go to the Olympics. I’ll never win a marathon. I’ll never break a 7 minute mile.  But if I run slow and do my thing, I’ll keep running for many more years…running long trails and taking photos.

 

 

“Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.” ~ Jimmy Buffett

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I just wanna sit on the porch!

I’ve shared so much supposed “wisdom” on this blog.   I claimed to follow the Universe’s lead and listen to my Soul.  But here I am again: Overwhelmed and overwrought without enough time to make a phone call or post a blog.  How does this keep happening?

Today as I write this, I feel so out of balance. Sadness seems to have consumed me and I’m fighting it. Two years ago yesterday my nephew died. And next week it will be two years since my brother died. I’m thinking about death a lot. I’m afraid of losing  people I really love. I believe there is more after this life but I don’t “KNOW.”  I want to KNOW for SURE without any doubts. But I guess none of us have that.  Some folks claim to believe/know but that’s generally BS. Most of us (ALL?) faced with death will still be afraid.

Life is short. Too damn short. I want to squeeze so much into it…and squeeze so much out of it. I’m wringing the hell out life!  But it’s too much. . . . I’m trying too hard. Days are cluttered and I can’t really focus on the things that matter.

What really matters?   What are those shiny moments? What makes me happy?

When I think of HAPPY…

I think of my dogs… and cats…family…friends…running…laughing…food…

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Life is too short to be anything but happy. Love deeply, forgive quickly, take chances, give everything with no regrets and forget the past with exception of what you have learned and remember everything happens for a reason. (anonymous)

 

And do what YOU want to do…not what you think you SHOULD do or what you think others expect you to do. Say NO to those things that steal your energy. Say YES to the things that make your heart happy.

For now, I just want to sit on my porch and watch hummingbirds.anotherone

 

 

Rain, Sleet and Joy

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“How can you tell somebody has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll TELL YOU!”  

On March 1st, I did it.  I finished my second marathon and beat my previous time by more than 30 minutes.  A few days before the race the National Weather Service predicted a start temperature of 40 and a daily high of 55. Sounded like perfect running weather. As the race neared, the predictions grew gloomier. At 6:30 a.m. the morning of the race, the current conditions were freezing rain, 30 degrees and a wind chill of 23. Now for some people this isn’t a big deal, but I’m a true Texan. I love sunshine and prefer sweat to chill bumps any day of the year. As sleet pelted the windshield, I honestly considered leaving – – – nobody would blame me, right? But I knew I’d regret it the rest of my life, so I stepped out, shivering and muttering obscenities under my breath.

I shuffled off into the sleet, determined to make my goal time and prove to myself I could do better than I did in October.

PACING

One of the problems I had with my first marathon was pacing. I was so concerned with the finish line, that I didn’t run a steady, slow pace.  During a recent yoga class, my instructor explained that one of the problems beginners have with yoga is trying to hurry into the final pose.  Instead of concentrating on creating a strong base for a headstand, they start kicking their feet into the air,wanting to get UP…NOW.  It doesn’t work out well.  So I focused on my base…I concentrated on my steady pace.

COURAGE

Around mile 6 I saw a sign on the back of a man’s shirt so I ran a little faster to catch up and read it.  The sign read “Running off the chemo one mile at a time:  26.2” I ask him about the chemo. Last year he ran the Army Marathon. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed and had been receiving chemo all year. And there he was  – out in the icy rain – running.  His courage took away every excuse I had for not finishing. In Harker Heights the sidewalks were crowded with Harker Heights firefighters cheering him on. I remarked that he had quite the fan club and he told me he was a firefighter.  What a motivation!!!

SELF-CARE

I trotted along, still at my pace (give or take).  I rewarded myself at certain points by eating gels and drinking sports drinks. I had failed to take adequate nutrition at the first marathon. The lesson here is that self-care is vital! We can try to be brave and tough and unselfish but the bottom line is unless we feed our bodies and souls, we’ll end up pretty useless to everybody around us (and we’ll post a terrible performance).

MINDFULNESS

I also focused on running one mile at a time. I didn’t think about how far I had to go or how far I’d gone. I tried to concentrate on that single mile under my feet. Step…step…step…focus on the step. Live in the moment. I reminded myself I can’t go back and run the last mile any differently and I can’t be at the finish until I’m at the finish. I tried to be mindful, living the race foot by foot, mile by mile.

ATTITUDE

Smiling…I smiled as much as possible. I thanked volunteers along the way. I made a game out of trying not to miss a single volunteer. Of course, when there were 15 folks at a water stop, I had to yell out a general THANK YOU.  But I wanted my heart filled with gratitude and joy on this run.  As I remarked to some of the law enforcement officers, I chose to be out there running in the ice. I’d actually even paid money to participate.  But these men and women were there out of duty. I felt gratitude and compassion.

I was affected by the positive attitude of those around me too. Somewhere between mile 18 and 20, I ran with a wonderful woman from Killeen. She was so full of energy that I felt revived talking to her. We laughed and shared for several miles.  I thought about how such exuberant energy is contagious…what a gift to the universe!

PURPOSE and REAL HEROES

Then I hit my wall…it started on the dam when the cold wind picked up and slapped me in the face. By mile 22 I was doing a lot of walking. Then I remembered why I was running . . .

When I signed up for the marathon, I was given the option of setting up a fundraiser page for one of several designated charities. After reading and studying, I chose Team Red White and Blue.  Team RWB works with veterans to reintegrate them into the civilian world. From the website:  “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”

Every day 22 veterans commit suicide…that’s one human life lost every 65 minutes.  Involvement in sports and physical activities has been shown to alleviate the despair in which these veterans find themselves hopelessly lost.

(A good article to read:  http://teamrwb.org/in-the-media/two-teams-unite-to-better-veteran-community)

As I ran, I started thinking about how so many of our veterans are living in darkness – in sadness, grief and despair so thick I can’t even imagine.  I was just running 26.2 miles. I was smiling and happy.  I felt some pain but it would be over in a few hours.  These men and women can’t see an end to their pain so they opt for the most radical of solutions.

I could endure for them…I only raised $1,420 on my fundraising page, but just maybe that would change the life of even one veteran somewhere. Just maybe he or she would wear the Eagle (the Team RWB logo) and find hope.

Thinking of these heroes, I finished my race….I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry so I did both.

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I was laughing and crying simultaneously.

And just as the Army Marathon promises, I did run with heroes…and I ran for heroes.  May God bless them ALL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wabi-Sabi

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.    ~Marilyn  Monroe

Last week in yoga, preparing for the one pose I can do perfectly, Savasana (Corpse Pose), I leaned back on my mat and looked up.  I was intrigued. The ceiling in the old building is beautiful – antique tin tiles, paint peeling – imperfectly beautiful.  It reminded me of a phrase I’d heard a few times:  Wabi-Sabi (not wasabi which is also something I do well…or at least eat well). I realize I could get into the entire concept a lot more deeply but I’m just going to dance on the surface of Wabi-Sabi in this blog.

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       Wabi-sabi

 Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, the other two being suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. (FROM FREEBASE.COM)

A smile is ALWAYS beautiful.

A smile is ALWAYS beautiful.

I love getting out with my fancy camera and taking photos of critters and nature. People often ask me to take their photo but I nearly always decline. Most folks, me included,  will inevitably be unhappy with photos of themselves. We pick out each flaw and focus on it. Animals don’t care.

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OH NO! You can see my pores.

Is it my vanity that has convinced me I look like a super-model but the camera can’t quite pick it up?  Why can’t I love my deep smile lines and uneven eyes? Asymmetry is one of the characteristics listed in the Wabi-Sabi definition.  Looking around in nature, there is nothing but “imperfection.” Flowers missing petals, trees with broken limbs, irregular shaped clouds…but it’s all still perfect. We are so captivated by the beauty of a sunrise that we don’t notice the landscape isn’t following the 3/4 rule.

One of the things I love about our yoga class is that it’s ok to need  a block or a strap and bend my knees during forward bends.  Oddly enough, being unable to do things “textbook” perfectly  isn’t even deemed as imperfection or as a weakness. We’re told to honor ourselves – accept ourselves and our own limitations. According to our teacher, nearly all yoga teachers have poses that are difficult for them.

And with this new appreciation of Wabi-Sabi comes forgiveness.  When I accept my own “imperfection”, I’m more likely to accept the imperfection of others. My screw-ups are beautiful because they are a part of my charm. And maybe your screw-ups are part of yours.

But this morning on Facebook a friend posted something that really struck me….and I’ll end with this thought:  Maybe everything IS perfect.