Fear: friend or foe?

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All my life I’ve comfortably considered fear to be a trusty companion; noble protector and in many ways a true friend. After all, fear is what kept me from taking too many risks, chances, and leaps into the unknown. Fear had a way of playing out the what if scenarios in my mind in with such cinematic clarity that my common sense had no choice but to accept them as reality. That was until recently when I realized I’ve been dooped.  Last night  I was thinking about how much time I’ve given into fear driven reality and I realized that fear is nothing more than Futile Emotion Ambushing Reality. Isn’t it interesting how we can find ourselves fearing something with such aversion and we put so much energy into that aversion, that we find ourselves not even living or experience our lives to the fullest. Then when we  actually find ourselves facing something really challenging, it’s not fear that surfaces,

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it’s faith, courage, compassion, and wisdom. All of the sudden we find ourselves doing the Rocky Balboa bounce, saying;

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Recently I attended a dear friends 5 year anniversary of being cancer free post treatment. This was a wonderful celebration, not only of her remission and healing but of her life. Later that evening she shared with me some challenges she’s facing with an aging parent. She began to say,

“I’m going out to see him for the first time since he’s fallen and I  just don’t think I’ll be able to handle this, He’s now  requiring care with his hygiene there’s just no way i’ll be able to do this. I’ve never been so scared of anything in my life.”

I looked at her in the eyes with a half a smile (because I knew how strong and incredible she was!)  and said;

” 6 years ago, before you knew you had breast cancer, would you have thought you could handle that? When you were first diagnosed, did you think you would be able to handle radiation and chemo? ”

She chuckled and replied;

“Heavens no!”

I told her that I knew her and that I knew how much she loved her father and that once she gets to be with him, she will find there isn’t anything she wouldn’t want to do to take care of him. She also needs to remember she is never alone in this process and that she is entitled to ask for help from family members, friends, fellow parishioners,  or from medical professionals. She will find a way to provide for the needs of her father. She is stronger than she thinks she is and I know it, and I know that she knows it! She is an amazing scrap booker, and I can imagine that she will find a way to document her time with her father that will be a treasure and a legacy for all posterity as well.

Ever since then I have found myself thinking about how much of my time and energy was wasted watching the “what if” scenarios of fear. I recognize now that fear was not my friend. A true friend doesn’t hold you back, but encourages you to grow and would show you the possibilities of what could be, of what you could offer, and what impact and difference you can make for the good in the world. Now I choose Joy instead of fear;  Just Open Yourself to the possibilities. So anytime I start to feel fear, I now recognize that as static to my true self, and I try to dismiss it as quickly as possible. Fear literally strips me of my power to move forward and to have influence and to fulfill my purpose. I will dismiss fear; for it is not my friend, and instead live my life with JOY!

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Road of Gratitude

Recently I celebrated my 50th birthday. 4:45 was an early start but I was heading from Vacaville to Monterey for a whale watch trip and wanted to get there early to capture some shots in the harbor at first light. I was pleasantly surprised to find a gift left by my sister-in-law; two CDs of inspirational music. They provided the perfect background for my drive. Perhaps it was the music that lead me to thinking deeper than usual about my life in particular. As I was approaching my first interchange, I passed the miniature golf center where I worked during high school. It seems to never change, but it was clearly apparent as I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror that I had.  As the road turned to lead me south, I found my thoughts also shifted. It was natural for a smile to reach my face as I approached one of my many “home” towns; Benicia. I’ve said many times that I still feel the same as I did when I turned 18. This is where I lived at that time. I marveled at how even then, I felt there was still a part of me living there. There were so many profound experiences that truly shaped my life. The hardest was loosing my brother Mike in a hunting accident.  Before that day, I never the knew the hurt of losing someone.

He was living in Idaho at the time of the accident, but was buried in Utah. I can still remember the first day returning back to school when I still felt numb and awkward as I walked the halls. Racing through my head faster than my legs could ever take me was this constant question;

“How could life just go and everyone be so unaware of how my life had changed?”
Then Kenny Winfield walked up to me and handed me a folder of cut out newspaper articles needed for drivers ed. He simply said to me:

“I didn’t know what else to do, but I thought I could at least gather these for you while you were gone”

The assignment was for us to cut out an article about a car accident every day for one week. He knew this would be tough to make up, so he did it for me. I have often reflected on this selfless act and have shared this story when teaching the youth at church about how he didn’t ask me the trite question:” What can I do? ” He just did what he knew he could. His kindness has echoed in my memories a thousand times over the years.
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It was here that I also started my first business. I designed a line of t-shirts, my friends helped me make a press. One of them had brothers who were welders. Funny how it wasn’t until this day that I realized just how remarkable that was. My Dad also first taught me here about market research. Standing in front of Safeway asking the customers as they came out a few quick questions regarding my designs gave me just the information I needed to choose the top 4 designs to take to print. This little enterprise was the foundation of my job as a screen printer at Brigham Young University and the seedling to a company I later started with my husband first as a hobby, but then turned it into a booming business when my husband was burned in an industrial accident and couldn’t work. We had just bought a new house and car, and gratefully I was able to find a way to not only provide, but also stay home with my young children and husband as he healed.

I began to consider how much of who I am today was because of what I experienced while living there. I found myself reflecting on the great friends I had, wondering about many of them that I haven’t stayed in contact with, at the same time experiencing a wave of gratitude wash over me for the ones I have. It was then that my first set of birthday tears began to fall. These were not tears of regret, or even sadness, but of true gratitude.

My thoughts turned to my parents and how they always provided us with the best environments while growing up. I now know that those things don’t happen by accident but were always my parents first priority. Even though my Dad worked all the way in San Francisco, they chose that beautiful little town because they knew it would be a great place to raise a family! As I crossed the Benicia/Martinez bridge, I found the feeling of appreciation for my parents almost overwhelming. looking to the side, seeing the spectacular view, I quickly found myself back in the car crossing that bridge for the first time from the opposite direction. I was 13 and to say I was sad to leave my friends behind when we moved from Brea was a huge understatement, but it was when I crossed this bridge that I felt my first tinge of hope that maybe this will be an okay place to live after all.  The lyrics to the song playing in the background of the movie I played out in my mind only added to my emotion and quickly brought me back ;

” I can only imagine what my eyes will see”

Another wave of gratitude, sheer appreciation washed over me as I began to consider how blessed I was to now be living the life I am. I had just spent two days working at the Marine Mammal Center at the Marine Headlands, and was now on my way to Monterey to go whale watching and assist Marine Life Studies with their work. A year ago I was legally blind, and now here I am driving myself to one of my favorite places on earth to photograph and observe nature in all its splendid glory. I am part of whale watch research team, and work at on the largest marine mammal hospitals as a volunteer. I LOVE MY LIFE! To think this isn’t even the best part of it!

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I am the mother of 7 of the most amazing people in the universe! My oldest daughter Stephanie is a singer songwriter musical genius extraordinaire! Her music is being featured on MTV, and other film projects. ( She is google-able: Stephanie Mabey) in addition she is the mother of a brilliant 6-year-old little girl who is the love of my life. I am excited to see what her creative energy creates! My second oldest daughter is on the road to becoming a doctor. She works at an ER full-time while finishing up pre-med.  She is a remarkable singer song writer as well, but her passion is a healing art. There is no doubt in my mind that she will become a highly respected and sought after specialist in whatever field she chooses.SONY DSC

My oldest son Austin is a computer software designer and is making his way at present designing game mods for minecraft.  He is very successful, but what impresses me  even more is his fun-loving and kind nature. You can’t help but have a good time when you are in his presence!  ( He too is google-able; Lazertester shot bow network.) My son Taylor is a creative and mechanical genius. His passion is firearms. He is not a hunter, but a true appreciator of the art and craftsmanship of guns. He customizes grips, triggers and even assists with graphic enhancements. In addition he is an amazing poet. He currently works as an assistant manager at a local pizza restaurant. With his brilliance there is no limit to what he can do and be, and he is really funny.

Lacey is my youngest daughter. She graduated with her bachelors degree in Psychology at 20, She plays about 9 instruments and she also sings. She works at an at risk center for girls in Southern Utah as an assistant to a therapist specializing in Equine assisted therapy.  She not only works hard, but plays hard as well!  I’ll never forget the year she decided in college that she wanted to go out for competitive softball. At tryouts they each got to introduce themselves and share their experience and desired positions. She had never played before, so she got up and asked everyone if they remembered the character on “Remember the Titan” Who in his introduction explained he wasn’t the most experienced player, but he loved the game and he will give all of his effort to learning and playing his best. That year she won the spirit award for the whole university for her sportsmanship and efforts on the team. She lifts everyone around her without even trying. She is born leader with a genuine heart, and to top it off, she is a remarkable horse trainer.

Joshua is a chemistry major at Brigham Young University Idaho. He, like his brother Taylor is hilarious. His humor is much more understated but equally as effective. He is a poet, and quiet observer of life. He has known since early in high school that he wants to become a pharmacist. His logic was brilliant. It’s an occupation always needed, It’s a job that provides well for a family, but also affords the family time together. When a pharmacist goes home for the day, his work is done. He like all of my children have watched their father sacrifice that time in order to provide for our large family. I was amazed at how quickly he realized his dream job and how quickly he began to work towards it. He was voted “Future Leader of America” at his high school.

My youngest son, Scott, is graduated high school this year at 17. He skipped a grade early on, he is young, but ready. He plays clarinet. He was awarded the John Phillips Souza award for his High School. The night before he received that award, my husband and I sat in Abravenal Hall in Salt Lake City and watched him perform with the Utah symphony. His passion for music, hard work and God given talent has landed him a full scholarship to UVU this fall. Not only is he a remarkable musician, he is simply a remarkable person! Kind to all, and a natural leader.

My husband and I married young. I was just 18 ( soon to be 19 though) He was 22  I always knew I wanted a big family and married a wonderful man who has provided well for us. We have always strived to provide our children with the resources they needed to excel in their purpose. Once  while dropping my oldest daughter off to a California Teens conference in San Jose, he snuck away while I was getting her settled in and bought a grand piano. Mind you we didn’t even have, what most people would consider to be, basic furniture in our house, but he knew with Stephanie’s talents that she needed all of the right tools to “do her work”. Just this morning I got to hear her play another song in the making on those ivory keys. My husband has always worked hard to provide for us and at times even sold his most prized possessions to make sure each family member had what was needed. He is their strongest advocate and loudest cheerleader. I don’t think there is anything he wouldn’t do on their behalf so long as it was for their true benefit. He purposed to me in Benicia, and we lived there briefly after we got married. It may be a little town, but living there has had a huge impact on my life.

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The song “You Lift Me Up” Was the background music as I took this personal mental inventory of the people who bless my life. The list goes on adding my remarkable parents, talented daughter in law, amazing siblings, nieces, nephews, brother and sister in-laws. I truly love my family and recognize they are what I am truly most grateful for. My tears flowed as freely as my thoughts.

It was at about this when the brilliance of the sun was making its way over the horizon and much to my surprise as the road turned I noticed I was facing a bright giant moon that had yet to set. As though on cue for the moment the Nicole C. Mullens song “Redeemer” began to play.

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning
Who told the ocean you an only come this far?
Who showed the moon where to hide ’til evening
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

(song continues)

My eyes once again filled with tears, and simultaneously I began to laugh. Perhaps to keep more tears from falling. My gratitude shifted to my creator. I began to offer a silent prayer thanking him for everything! My family, my life, the beautiful amazing remarkable world that we live in and all the incredible creatures that go along with it. I looked down on the seat of the car and saw my phone there and realized how much things really have changed since I was that young girl learning about love and life in Benicia. My eyes were pulled to the gas gauge and I realized that in all of my reflecting that morning I had forgotten to gas up. I began to wonder where I could find the cheapest gas, and the thought came to me;

I’m sure there’s an app for that! ” which only added to my laughter.

I began to consider all of the additional things I was grateful for, including my amazing camera equipment; adding to it my new lens; a Sigma 50-500mm that my family gave me for my birthday.  The freedom we enjoy in this country and the men and women who have fought to defend it. Also the access we have to digital and technology advancements. My cell phone, laptop, the software I use to edit my photo’s and social media that allows me to communicate freely with others. I was filled to the tip of my existence with pure gratitude.

As I pulled into the harbor, the light was perfect. Two brown pelicans were posed perfectly in sync as I pulled my camera out to take the first shot of the day. But I paused for a moment and offered another silent prayer expressing once again my gratitude to the medical technology and skilled doctors that restored and stabilized my vision. I took a deep breath wiped the last tear from my eye for the day and began to shoot. What a beautiful way to start my 50th birthday; on a journey down memory lane on beautiful road of gratitude.SONY DSC

Spring Emerges

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I recently started teaching photography to the daughter of a good friend. On our first venture out for practical application experience, she noticed this tiny bird perched on these beautiful red branches. As I returned home and began to review my photos I was reminded what a blessing it is to not only be able to share what we have learned but also allow our own perspective and understanding be broadened by those we teach. In the end we all teach each other. I could have easily missed seeing this little beauty had it not been for her keen eye. I look forward to our next outing and am already wondering; what will she show me next?

A True Legacy

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Recently I had the honor of photographing my sisters colt “Starsilks Legacy”. As I watched the pictures take shape it was humbling to see how strong his resemblance was to his sire.

Starsilk was the most remarkable stallion. It wasn’t just his incredible beauty, or disposition that impressed me, but the incomparable bond I witnessed between him and his owner; my sister Lindy. In spite of his champion Russian Arabian bloodline, he was given to her as a gift. He wasn’t her first horse, but it’s fair to say he was her favorite. I watched from the sidelines as she carefully tried to find a place for the two of them in the show ring. Ultimately her love for him what to great to risk what she might lose by making it the priority. Perhaps her selfless kindness was her greatest gift to him.
There is an Arabian Proverb that says;
The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.”
He was a big part of her heaven on earth and she his. I can still picture him in the back pasture and the way he’d come running when he would see her approach the fence. No one else would warrant such attention. (except her boys on occasion. I surmised they inherited her connection by birthright.)  It was always impressive to watch his big eyes follow her as she lunged him. As the pace began to quicken, you could see the fire awaken in his spirit. His posture took a commanding demeanor, his distinguished conformation and strength became clear as he was worked, but his eyes remained gentle as they rested on my sister, his trainer. He was eager to please as he’d watch for her next subtle cue. When she indicated the session was over, his shoulders would soften as he’d calmly turn and walk to meet her in the center of the ring.

Who knows what compelled my sister to breed Starsilk last summer to her wonderful mare Belle. Perhaps she could see in his eyes that he was growing tired. After all they had spent more years together than a part. She was wondering if he would be too old, but when the time came he quickly put that concern to rest and was a perfect gentleman as he wooed his mare.

It was just weeks later that his health began to turn. When I heard that Starsilk was gone, the ache I felt for my sister was as deep as any I had experienced for anyone losing a family member. Even now tears fall easily from my stubborn eyes as I remember trying to figure out how to help relieve her suffering. I knew that only time could heal this wound. Time and a precious gift that would arrive in spring; “Starsilks Legacy”.

Watching this long legged beauty nuzzle up to my sister was a bitter sweet experience. I was elated for her to have this magnificent colt especially because of who he is; but it was also a brief reminder of what was lost. He turned and leaned into her as she began to scratch his back. I found myself thinking out loud as I said,
“He is just like his daddy”.
His behavior reminded me how much Starsilk loved to lean into Lindy’s shoulder to scratch his forelock.

I thought of Starsilk and his remarkable Legacy as I read; “Ah, steeds, steeds, what steeds! Has the whirlwind a home in your manes? Is there a sensitive ear, alert as a flame, in your every fiber? Hearing the familiar song from above, all in one accord you strain your bronze chests and, hooves barely touching the ground, turn into straight lines cleaving the air, and all inspired by God it rushes on! ~Nikolai V. Gogol 1842, translated from RussianDSC06438

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It is easy to become consumed in our passions. For me, eating and sleeping is often cast aside as I find myself reviewing the photos taken from my last expedition. Even the process of considering my next journey, or weighing the myriad of options can leave me in an abyss where time simply disappears. So it was last night, and the night before. The vision of the sun rising before you have fallen asleep is not the kind of sunrise I look forward to viewing. Come to think of it, the last few weeks have been filled with sleep deprivation and today the effects are at their pinnacle.

My day started with a startling realization that the sea lions were expecting me to meet them at the harbor at ten. I rolled back over in bed and thought to myself, I just don’t think I have it in me to be on the water today, I really need some sleep. Then their faces began project on my subconscious. Guilt began to drip, making it impossible to sleep. Finally I resolved and thought to myself , ” I really need to fulfill my commitment.”  It was then that it all began to crumble.

“Hey wait a minute”… “I’m home in Utah, there are no Sea Lions waiting for me at a harbor in Utah. Then I began to laugh at the fact that I hadn’t caught on sooner. It was all a dream.

Perhaps it was editing this photo from last weeks trip that made me align my day with such a colorful commitment. Or maybe knowing  there’s an army of amazing volunteers working almost around the clock at the worlds largest marine mammal hospital; The Marine Mammal Center.  Peak season is here.  Between pupping seasons, weather issues, ocean trash entanglements, and disease from toxicity they have a huge infux of patients last I heard 210.  I just finished my training to be a part of that team.  The first thing I did when I got out of bed was book my flights for my next few months trips so I can indeed fulfill my commitment to my sea lions, and all of their friends that need special care.  I am starting out as an educational docent and shadowing the animal care.

I decided today that this picture will be perfect  for my bedroom wall. It will serve as a gentle reminder to be in tune with my loving creator as I seek to live a life of passion but with balance; filled with loving kindness,compassion, and sympathetic joy.

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I Was Blind But Now I See

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Reading the unrestrained thoughts of others has always fascinated me. The art of blogging has given an entirely new dimension to human expression. Each of us have moments of clarity where our life experiences or observations teach us something or impact us in a way that we can’t help but want to share it with others.

Last year I had a personal shift that’s compelled me to live a life of passion. Losing my vision for several months due to bilateral retinal detachment was devastating. What was even more alarming was to discover I was stuck in a perception of perpetual blindness even after my vision was stabilized. That became my personal wake up call. I discovered in a personal training program; ” The Power of Choice”, that one of the dominant beliefs in my life was that I was broken. Yet as I looked deeper, I was amazed to discovered my capacity.

This was December 2013. Since that time I set a 90 day goal and lead a photo expedition to Monterey bay. I actually started my personal blog as the beginning to that process as a way of recording my reflections as I progressed. My 90 day goal was completed on March 8th, 2014. when I and 29 others boarded a 60 foot yacht and took our first whale watch trip in the ocean as a celebration of the restoration of my vision. One interesting thing to note, when I wrote my initial goal I stated;

“ I want the connections I make on the whale watch trip to lead me to greater opportunities than I can even comprehend at this time”.

As a direct result of my initial goal, I have taken 4 additional trips on the whale watch boat. On one of them I met a research director for Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies. I was invited to work with them and last Tuesday I drove the research boat for the first time as we photo identified Whales, Risso’s and Bottle nose dolphins. I have completed the training to be an educational docent at the worlds largest marine mammal hospital after finding a stranded sea-lion on the beach and have since discovered 3 additional stranded or entangled animals.. This is just in the last 30 days. To say this is well beyond any expectation I could have had is an understatement. At times I want to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that I live in Utah and this year I will be celebrating my 50th birthday.

Pollyanna has always been my go to movie; especially the part where she explains to the preacher about the joy texts in the Bible. There are so many people feeling overwhelmed by the challenges in their lives, or in the world, but if we choose to really look and see, this world is a remarkable place and there are wonderful opportunities for each of us to do something that not only fills our cup, but also overflows and fills the cups of others. As I share my photographs and simple moments of clarity, I hope to illuminate the joy I find in this journey. I am creative by design, living the life I was born to love.

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Favorite Place to Ponder

SONY DSCMoss Landing Harbor has always been a special place for me. Every time I get to go, I am amazed at the beauty, the vast  array of life abounding in the current ever changing with the tide. I knew this trip was bringing me at pupping season for the harbor seals.  It wasn’t difficult to find the little darlings basking on the beach. The dock across the harbor provided the perfect vantage point for me to observe them as the evening light began to dance it’s dance.