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The weather outside is frightful . . . and has been so for quite a while now. Waking up to sub-zero (fahrenheit) temperatures is getting old. But today is the first of March and spring will arrive soon. And when that happens memories of cold winter mornings will quickly fade. For now however, I slip into my faux-fur lined leather slippers, prop my warm feet up, sip my coffee, and meditate on the winter scene outside my window. Yes, I am truly grateful for warm, comfy slippers on a cold winter morning!

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Despite the fact that the day was dampish cold and dreary,  the urge to go to the woods was overpowering. So even though I was still wearing a knee immobilizer and using a crutch (the result of a slip on the ice a couple of weeks ago), I packed up my camera and persuaded my husband to drive me out to a nearby nature reservation; my favorite retreat. I had no illusions. This was not a photography outing even though my camera hung by my side. I simply needed to connect with the natural world after being sequestered inside for weeks as I healed. But for me, the most healing places to be are in the woods. Here I walked slowly and softly. Listening. Breathing. Noticing. Soaking the experience intIMGP5014o every part of me that I could. Despite the terrible lighting and photographic conditions, I shot a few frames “just because.” Mostly, however, I simply chose to “be.” Even though physically unable to wander from the beaten path deep into the woods (something I am wont to do, much to Richard’s chagrin), just being in these wonderful woods fed my soul and renewed my spirit. I am grateful for this walk in the dreary woods. I am renewed.

 

When working toward a goal it is not uncommon to experience discouragement along the way. Even though we know that achieving our dreams will take hard work and tedious attention, when the trip grows long and laborious we begin to doubt our path, or grow weary of the journey. We may even consider abandoning the trek in favor of the path of least resistance. I have been in such a place for the past four or five months. I’ve grown weary of the endless papers, academic writing, dry, heady readings, and never-ending deadlines. When one quarter ends, another begins, again and again and again. I have doubted my abilities and wondered if I even want to persist to the end. All that changed however, when I spent the past week in Arlington, VA, at a required colloquia with hundreds of other aspiring mental health counselors. Divided into cohorts of 10 to 12 students each, we worked intensely in a classroom setting from morning till night honing our skills, critiquing our shortcomings, strategizing plans to improve what we do and move into our fieldwork settings. AND we affirmed each other. I was privileged to be in a group with nine other amazing, strong, capable, compassionate and dedicated women. Our instructors were phenomenal experienced counselors and teachers. During the week I repeatedly received affirmation that I was indeed in the right profession, and the journey was worth continuing. I came away from the experience awed by the beauty of each person there. We came with our flaws, our torn wings (see photo), our less than perfect personhood, but when the light of affirmation shown on each of us, just like that butterfly, the beauty was dazzling. Affirmation of a job well done, or for being the persons we were meant to be, revitalizes and beautifies. The path doesn’t look so treacherous anymore because we have light to illuminate our way. I am ever so grateful for the power of affirmation. Hugs to my cohort. You are truly beautiful women.

Every morning the first words out of my mouth are a blessing offering thanks for having lived through another night and awaking to a new day. Each day, whether I’m “feeling it” or not, offers possibilities for growth, understanding, forgiveness, creating, working, building, and on and on. I am grateful for that prayer of thanks, and its reminder that daily possibilities for healing, hope, abundance and love abound. I am grateful for possibilities!

This has been a grueling school quarter. The amount of work, coupled with the difficulty of the material covered, has made this one of the most un-enjoyable terms to date. On the bright side however, it is almost behind me. There are papers to finish but by Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, m”H, it will be done. And in truthfulness, I have learned a LOT! But I am also looking forward to enjoying my yard (the tiger lily pictured here grows along the side of our garage), spending quality time with Richard, seeing some family, and generally just taking it easy until the next quarter begins in July. But the toughest course of this program will be behind me. This morning as I sit here drinking my coffee and watching the birds and chipmunks enjoy the food and water I “serve” them everyday, I am filled with gratitude that another school quarter is drawing to a close.

 

What more can I say. Elijah arrived on March 2 @ 12:16pm. Mother and Father are proud, and all are happy. New life is thrilling, and this little boy is precious beyond words. We are blessed. I am grateful for Elijah and his wonderful, loving parents.

My old Pentax Spotmatic, a classic!

Richard knows how much I enjoy photography. He smiles (most of the time) when I unexpectedly blurt out “Pull over,” as we drive down the highway because he knows I see something that is photo-worthy in my eyes. Richard, the dear man that he is, accommodates my obsession. I don’t think many men would do that. Photography was a hobby of mine years ago when the kids were still “ankle biters.”  Back then I shot almost exclusively in black and white. “In the olden days,” as my grandchildren might say, cameras used film and film was expensive. I had a darkroom in the basement, but with the cost of chemicals and equipment, not to mention exorbitant amounts of time (it never failed that as soon as I was at some crucial point of the film development/printing process in the dark room, one of the kids had an emergency that only “Mom” [moi] could address), created a dilemma. I reached a point where I had to choose: Mary’s orthodontia, Mica’s running shoes and chiropractic visits, Tim’s art supplies, children’s school expenses, etc., or photographic expenses for my hobby? The choice was clear, so I put away my camera and in time forgot about artistic endeavors. The kids grew up and moved away. I met and married Richard. Then, when Richard and I were planning a trip, my twin brother from Colorado sent me a point-and-shoot camera ~ a loaner ~ so that I could record our trip. Once I held a camera in my hand, then shot that first frame, I was flooded with memories, and the “bug bit” once again. That was four or five years ago, and now in addition to that “loaner” (which Steve finally told me to keep) I have a DSLR and never leave home without one or both of the cameras.

The thing about this particular hobby is that I get to share the wonderful sights and happenings that I experience with anyone who is interested. The world is a marvelous place in many ways, despite the ugliness we see every day and are bombarded with through every medium imaginable. It is easy to forget the beauty in life. Through this hobby I not only see the beauty, I am privileged to share it. In fact, I feel compelled to share not only the beauty, but the emotions evoked by that beauty with all who care to see and to feel. Although I continue to consider photography an enjoyable hobby, it is also a piece of my life’s calling, or purpose if you prefer. I am preparing to become a psychotherapist, and art therapy  and photography will be a part of what I do from here on out. Each of us has something that inspires, motivates, brings satisfaction or joy, and can be shared with others. Our hobbies are often expressions of our inner strengths and creativity. I am grateful for the many wonderful hobbies each of us delves into, and how those hobbies express our joys and contentment, our creativity and giving spirit. 🙂

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