Qi Thought of the Day…

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It is through lessons learned, sometime those that challenge the heart,  that we come to find trust is a gift that is earned over time.

It is not expected, nor is it taken for granted… it is through honesty, love and respect that trust grows into something valued beyond words.

To be able to share the deepest parts of your mind and soul left to bestow to only those that are truly deserving… a treasure never to be devalued.

Through all the souls that touch our lives it is but a few that are gifted this unseen bounty.

 

Day 93: It is in giving, that we receive…

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

Who knew that friendship could affect people around the world and back again?  “How?”… By giving the gift that truly keeps on giving.

It was my Birthday not long ago, and a good friend of mine who knows the Quest I am on,  gave me a gift so valuable that I was in awe when I received it.  No, it wasn’t a watch, a designer purse, or some other fancy new gadget.  No, it was a loan….  A monetary donation to be made to a person(s) somewhere on this great planet through Kiva.org.  It is the exact gift that someone much less fortunate than I would need to thrive, to live, to succeed.  This is where this shy girl met four people who are all on a mission of self improvement.  We connected through their gracious and humble act of simply asking for the help they need to better themselves.

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I remember when I received this gift; I could hardly believe my eyes.  I thought how unique it was to give to someone who only wants to improve themselves!   I was incredibly intrigued to realize I would be able to hear their story and watch their progress, in an effort to have their lives be better with only a wish in their pocket, the strength to reach out into the universe and request help from their brothers/sisters wherever they might be.  My friend is just this way, always thinking of others.  Charity really should be her middle name.  She has taught me so much about giving blindly… that it should always be done from a place of love and kindness and for no other reason.   I have been blessed to have a friend with such a spirit in my life.

The organization is Kiva.org.  They provide loans to people in need all across this great planet.  The loans are used for various reasons from improving their business to helping to improve their lives, to helping to pay for tuition for themselves or their children.  The stories are countless and touching.  To think that a $1,000 loan to buy cattle or seed to improve their business is so important to these very humble people.  By most standards, this seems like hardly much at all.  Here in the U.S. there are so many that wouldn’t even blink to drop $500 on a new iPhone or $1,500 on the newest laptop.  These people at Kiva.org aren’t asking for material things. They are seeking help to realize their hopes and dreams to improve themselves.

I sat in my chair and tried to put myself in their place, a mother trying to take care of her children and her business.  To receive a loan to pay for a new cow to produce more milk, to help increase my salary so that I can afford to send my children to school or pay for medical expenses or simply to put food on the table.  To not have that ability, seemed unconscionable… to have to tell my children that they will have to go hungry because there isn’t enough food to be eaten… I sat for a moment shaking my head; this shouldn’t be the case in today’s world.

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These people were not asking for a hand-out.  They were graciously asking for a loan, a monetary donation that they would return.  I knew in my heart that once I lent that money, I would quickly forget I even had it.  And if I did have it, perhaps it would not be invested as wisely.  So, the choice of what to do was obvious.

Here is a short video about their mission:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSN2WdqXwfc&feature=player_embedded

So, I decided to head to the website and see where my gift could make a difference.

In making a loan to an individual, the possibilities were endless.  I could choose which country, what demographic, what sector was the emphasis, and the dollar amount.  Most loan donations begin at $25 and go up for your choosing.  The loans requested would be considered modest by U.S. standards, that is anywhere from $500 up to around $5,000.  The loan progress is shown in current time, that is, the percentage of the loan that has been acquired thus far.  The story of why the loan is needed and a little background information is also shared as well as a picture.  The pictures alone were touching.  These were simple people asking for help to acquire or achieve simple things.

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I found my heart had begun to leap as I felt an excitement to read the stories and find recipients.  I decided to match my friend’s donation.  The stories were all touching but in the end, I decided to pick four people to start… and these were the recipients:

  1. Edith Carmita- Ecquador http://www.kiva.org/lend/807031
  2. Edna- Israel http://www.kiva.org/lend/812394
  3. Florence’s Group-Kenya http://www.kiva.org/lend/805277
  4. Poniyah – Indonesia http://www.kiva.org/lend/808453

These were four women who spoke to my heart with their stories, their challenges, their goals and their spirits.  Their percentage of loan acquirements vary, from 5% funded to 90% funded and everywhere in between.  There were so many hopeful and inspiring stories on this site, it was difficult to choose.  The beauty of the program is that after the loan is repaid, you can withdraw your money if you so choose, or re-loan it again and again and again!

These individuals certainly do not have easy lives, but they have happiness.  They have learned to be content with very little.  Not reliant on a gadget to provide instant gratification.  No, their fulfillment comes from providing food for their families, going to school to better themselves and increase opportunity for success and most importantly enjoying the very simple pleasures in life.  They are people who know the true secrets to a content and happy life.  Less is more….  To give is to receive… Strength comes from within…  and to never give up dreaming and trying to achieve success!

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After gifting these people a portion of their loan, I felt euphoric.  I was excited to watch their progress and see where the road will lead them.  Yes, people I had never met.  People, who lived a world away.  People, who have very little and to them, the loan is the key to their dreams.   The amount I helped them with is only a small portion, but if everyone gave just a little, the dreams that could be gifted would be nothing short of sensational!!!

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It was a very giving friend who introduced me to Kiva.org, but more importantly she gave me another loving gift to give to those that truly are in need.  Today, this shy girl lent an amount she had been gifted in the hope of making a big difference.  She matched the amount in the birthday account to gift people she had never met across the planet with a simple loan that could change a life and better a future.  Feeling happy, a sense of exhilaration and faith that the gift will bring prosperity to those who have the courage to stand by their dreams and see them come true!

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Thank you my good friend, for your birthday gift.  It will touch people we have never met but I know will do their best to follow through with their goals.  I am fortunate to have learned the gift of charity through your acts of love and kindness.  Please know this world is a better place because you are in it!!!

My heart is joyful… proving without a shadow of a doubt, that it is in giving that we receive.

Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

*An additional note to be gladly made, I logged onto the different recipients prior to publishing this post, and 2 of the 3 loan requests were fully funded… Does it get better than that?!?!? *

Day 92: Nothing a car ride can’t cure…

“A million feathers falling down.   A million stars that touch the ground.  So many secrets to be found, amid the falling snow.” -Unknown

Snow…. We have all uttered the thought that driving down snowy roads can be treacherous and slippery.  Most would prefer to stay home snug in their safe sanctuaries from the potential danger.   Fighting a cold had me thinking this might be the better decision to make.  Except on this particular day, and despite a cold that ravaged me, I had thought that the delicate white snow crystals that were predicted to fall were the invitation I needed to face my Mt. Rose winter fear.  I decided to drive up the wintry wonderland to get to the other side… and this is exactly what this once shy and sheltered girl chose to do, with the help of her 4WD friend, Cherie…

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It was clear as I looked out to the West  that the snow had begun to fall on Mt. Rose, and like a whisper in the wind I could hear it beckon me to come visit and see the beauty it had gifted.    It was still a couple of hours from sunset and my heart responded to the calling, eager to see what those crisp and clean white views would bestow.  I felt a child-like excitement  wondering  what those views from above might be like.  I knew that driving up the mountain when it snowed would be hazardous and I didn’t have chains, yet no chain requirements were called for at this time.  I predicted that I had just enough time to take on the driving challenge, see the view from Tahoe and return just before the ice would form on the roads.    So, I quickly donned my warmest clothes, grabbed my camera, and out the door I went in a flash!  Cherie was ready for the challenge, with a new set of tires and brakes, I had no concerns she would handle the very twisty road just fine.  As we began our drive and came closer to the mountain, the sky looked grayer than what I saw in the valley, but with no fear along for the ride, I turned on some good music and onward we drove!

 

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One hairpin turn after another, I made sure to keep my speed in check.  As we neared the summit, the light rain had turned to snow and I could feel several slick spots we traversed.  Oh that heart racing hormone, how it awakens the very core of our body involuntarily.  Carefully, slowly, and with my eyes as big as silver dollars, Cherie and I continued up the mountain.  The snowflakes became heavier and they were sticking to the road.  I saw a turn-off or two and decided to take a break and enjoy the wintry view.

 

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As I stepped out of the car into the slushy snowy mix I could feel the gentle snowflakes fall on my face… so innocent and hardly intrusive, I thought.  The sun in the distance was a radiant glow as if the blanket of grey clouds were being placed over her brilliance in an effort to tuck her in for the night.  The trees with new fallen snow were ever prominent, every needle, twig and branch highlighted by the powder that had fallen from above.  A cold breeze blew through as if to greet me with a wintry hug; I dared not refuse such a gesture.  My nose was cold, my cheeks were rosy, my cold reminded me that I should be snug in bed, but the views negated all the ice-cold thoughts and after some time of just relishing the site before me, I knew I had to move on before the evening arrived.

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I returned to my car and slowly made my way down the steep grade of the mountain to the shores of Lake Tahoe.  As I drove, I tried to concentrate on the road before me, but thoughts had entered my mind similar to the winter cold that permeated my body.  I had lived here for some years and I had never driven up the mountain in snow….” I was too afraid”, I thought.  “Afraid of what?…  Death?  No,… Injury?  Perhaps…  How sad”, I reminded myself… All this time, so many winters that had passed, millions of snowflakes missed, because of fear.  I shook my head in disappointment with myself.  “Oh the things I still have yet to do…”, I thought.   The list that I had created at the beginning of the quest had come to mind.  I thought about just a couple… skydiving… camping in the desert by myself under a sea of stars…  taking a train ride across the States… swimming in the ocean… making chocolate filled croissants…  getting wet under a waterfall…  teaching someone illiterate how to read…  And the list goes on….  How many things I should be fearful of and driving up a snowy mountain had me scared!  Heavy sigh… I decided that moving forward, I will not miss a single opportunity.  If someone, anyone, were to suggest to me something exciting and courageous to accomplish, albeit, not too risky, I will take the opportunity.  If this were to be my last year on this earth, I whispered a promise to anyone that might listening, that I will not leave a single thing behind.

With that resolution established, I continued down to Incline Village where I decided that a warm and invigorating beverage was very much-needed after the harrowing drive.    With a skinny peppermint mocha in hand and a soft chocolate chip cookie that begged to be purchased, I made my way to the shores of Lake Tahoe.

The snow had ceased over the lake as the temperature was too warm for the white precip to fall.  I arrived and sat for a moment finishing my delightful sweet treat.  I looked around and not another soul could be found.  The shore and the view were mine to be had.  The winds were gusting and the water reflected that emotion.  Wave after angry wave, the water came ashore.  The sun was still ever brilliant as she readied herself for the long Goodbye.

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I stood… with hands in a firm hug around my coffee cup, and not even the frigid wind could scare me to retreat.  I set my cup aside and placed my camera in hand as if it were a glove that fit perfectly in place.  Through the lens my eyes could see the rays of heaven as they reflected off the churning water of the lake.  The gold light was rich with hope and speculation of what was to come.  It was hard to imagine that just a little higher and over the mountain the snow was falling in those freezing cold temps and yet there I stood fixated on taking a hundred pics of the magic of Tahoe.

Winter was arriving and her visit was welcome.   In a strange sort of way, my soul felt nourished, energized at peace.  I could reconcile all issues with a view such as this, even a betrayal would be a distant memory.  As I looked around, I had the thought that if I lived in this fortunate location, I would have to be enticed every day to return home.  I don’t recollect a place that I felt quite as attached to as this.  The ocean is vast and can be dangerous, but the lake has a touchable appeal, less dangerous and the mountains that guard her shores are nothing short of awe-inspiring.   I knew “that time” was approaching… so, in a reluctant fashion I bid the blue adieu, turned and walked to my parked car.

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As I did so, there in a puddle near the shore stood a mighty tree and his strength and resilience was confirmed by the reflection demonstrated in the puddle at his trunk’s base.  The storms he has weathered were quietly lent by the girth seen in his perfect reflection of the heart of his soul.  His branches were stretched as if arms extended to signal to the lake a sign of love and peace… if only we could be reflective of such non-judgemental and loving outreach.  It was that last thought that made leaving the shore feel as if I had gained some insight that made the trip worth every cough and sniffle… almost as if I had begun to feel better.

Unfortunately, my timing was off as my stay at the shore took longer than anticipated.  In an effort to stay safe and not take on an icy summit, I made an executive decision to take an easier and less invasive way home.  As I drove into the north end of Tahoe to get to the highway, in a split second I looked over and had a feeling that I had to act on….  I just knew this was the place to take in the last moments of what I had a feeling was going to be a mystical sunset.

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I pulled over, walked just a little way down the beach.  The grey clouds suddenly turned a fiery pink/orange despite the cold winds that tried to dampen the magic.  There again, in a groove of standing lake water, the authenticity of heaven’s glory was reflected in the water as if to make the site even more magnificent.  It was as if a most gifted artist were to take his brush and create a work of art that no one could replicate… only a reflection could mimic such grandeur.  It lasted for but a minute and I felt honored to be witness to such majesty.  As the glory faded many people arrived to see if they could capture the site…  I turned to walk away feeling even more appreciative as if heaven had lent just a glimpse of how good it can be to only me.

As I walked to the car to start my trek home, I kept looking back as if my heart longed to stay at the shore.  I was able to take on my fear of driving in the wintry conditions up a mountain with hairpin turns and steep grades.   The wisdom I saw was not acquired from the act of driving… not from the slick spots that raised my heart rate and released the adrenaline… no, it was from the views that lent thoughts of love and acceptance.  These were gifts granted to me that on a day I didn’t feel much like doing anything but remaining a lazybug in bed… but on the contrary, I decided to challenge my spirit and go for a drive… Sometimes we never know what sits on the other side of a scary mountain drive, but taking on that mountain is the only way we may ever know.

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Feeling healed by the views of heaven and the love of the characters of this great earth and their tolerance, love and acceptance of all parts that are different in their own right… the reflection perfection was the message that reminded this once shy girl, that the statuesque tree showed no fear in his image, his beauty was unquestionable, and his flaws were non-existent… the sunset was yet another reminder that when we go on an adventure to find courage, sometimes we are gifted with a glimpse of heaven that reminds us there is nothing to fear but fear itself.  Cough, what cough?  Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

 

Day 91: A Birthday with many priceless and unexpected presents…

 

 

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I gave myself a present and slept in just a bit the morning of my official birthday, November 26th.  I had traveled up to the shores of Lake Tahoe to the Hyatt resort to spend my Birthday in the place that my heart longed to be.  As I laid, warm as could be, in my perfect little nest under a plush down comforter and the view of the forest to my side, I thought about all that I wanted to accomplish on this day. It was the first Birthday in my life that I had decided to truly accept and celebrate for myself.  As I had stated in the earlier post, I don’t remember a time that I genuinely “celebrated” the birth date that I shared with my beloved Grandmother.  Today would be that day… and the things I had planned to do to celebrate were motivating me to leave my warm cocoon and indulge in whatever the day would bring!

Before slipping out of the perfect nest that kept this bare body warm, I looked over at my phone and saw it blink with messages.  I picked up the phone and there before me were a constant stream of Birthday messages in my email inbox.  I looked at it in disbelief…. Who are these people who would take the time to send me such a wish?  I was confounded as I rarely had many people venture to even mention my birthday as I did not disclose the day or even acknowledge it.  I couldn’t help but smile… and yet, I had never awoken on a birthday smiling… EVER!!!!  Still in disbelief, I peeled myself out of my slumber and slid into my soft grey robe.  I made a quick cup of coffee and walked to the balcony and opened the door.  The scent of pine quickly drifted my way as if to plant an alpine kiss on my sweet left cheek… I closed my eyes and breathed deeply to make the moment last as long as it could.  I stepped out on the balcony and sat in one of the rocking chairs and thought about the day ahead.  Yes, I would start the day with a run, followed by a walk on the beach, then back to my room to get ready for my first full body deep tissue massage.  I wanted to write some thank you notes to my friends to let them know how much I appreciate them.  I then wanted to take just a little bit of time to indulge in my passion of photography and writing… just me, my camera, my thoughts and my little laptop.  The day would finish with a delicious dinner at my favorite restaurant, some vino and perhaps a simple pleasure of the sweet kind… And that was the birthday plan.

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I donned my running gear and put my comfy runners on these feet and with my favorite music, the run began.  It was harder to breathe at 6,400 feet, 2,000 ft higher than I was accustomed to, but my pace wasn’t reflecting the laborious breathing that was taking place.  It was at the ½ mile mark that my breathing regulated and I relaxed and simply took in the alpine views with a peek of Lake Tahoe to be enjoyed every now and again.  Before I could completely relax, I came across a good sized hill… I fretted for just a minute as I wasn’t sure how the knee would handle it. But it was the breathing that was the real concern.  Alas, the hill had been conquered and as I enjoyed the downhill run I could see another hill begin as soon as the first had ended… My eyes seem to bulge at the hurdle ahead.  It was then that I decided, if there is a way to celebrate this birthday, there would nothing more apropos than for this runner girl to take on a physical challenge and WIN!  I could feel the burning in the quads and every muscle cell was firing and with a slight downshift in speed;  I clawed my way to the top and what a feeling that was to be looking down at the last downhill slope…. I wanted to raise my hands as if to show a sign of celebratory excitement and triumph!  Down the hill, I tried to savor every step while regulating my breathing. My body was grateful for gravity’s pull as the effort to run was like a gift presented with a bow.  And before I could calculate the miles traversed, my run had ended.

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I made my way to the beach.  I quickly realized, as I took several sandy steps toward the water, that I was the only one there on such a beautiful and crisp Fall morning.  There in front of me were two Adirondack chairs that were perfectly placed for others to find rest and seize a brilliant sunrise.  Yes, I decided to allow myself this indulgence on my Birthday…

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As I sat, I couldn’t help but think of all the lost days of celebration, all the years that had passed without so much as an internal acknowledgement of the day I arrived in this lifetime.  I looked up at the sky and it was hard not to notice the thin wispy clouds above.  I wondered what the weather was like the day I arrived.  I wondered what would have happened had I not made it through the newborn surgery I had undergone.  I wondered why I was so different from my siblings.   I wondered if I was meant to be born on my Grandmother’s Birthday, perhaps for this very reason I sat here today… To completely understand what the bare feeling of celebrating a birthday is about.  I continued to wonder that perhaps some moments in life are out of our control but destined to be.  It was that thought that had the right side of my cheek form a sideways smile as if to say, “Of course…” After some time and many questions posed without a possibility of an answer, I decided to head back to my room and ready myself for that rejuvenating massage.

I was given the recommendation of a spa by a close friend.  My friend had recommended that one of the owners should be the one I should see.  When I called to make the reservation, there were only two appointments available and so my choice of therapist would not me mine to make.  It didn’t matter much to me as the strong recommendation for the spa was good enough.  When I arrived, I was introduced to the lady who would be giving me my full body deep tissue massage.  I immediately felt a sense of calm as her greeting was serene and not at all in a hurry, even though I was a couple of minutes late to the appointment.

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She left the room and I remember feeling the urge to ask her one question that for some reason, seemed important to discuss.  I couldn’t shake that feeling as I disrobed and slid under the warm blanket that lay on the massage table.  I was covered up and she returned to the room.

She seemed sweet and we started some small talk.  I could sense she may not have wanted to talk as the massage required a good deal of strength… but there in the back of my mind was the need to ask her a burning question… I wasn’t sure why I felt so compelled, but I just had a feeling and so I tried to share some things about myself in order to gain her trust.  Before I knew it, our conversation began to flow and I knew now would be the time…  So, with determination and a sense of genuine interest, I asked her… “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  I could tell she was taken aback a little.  “Well,” she said, “I would like to be married.”  She went on to disclose some private aspects of her life and kept referring to her desire to get married and settle down.  She had been in relationships but none were “The one”.  She was pretty, intelligent and I could detect a strong amount of common sense.

I began to wonder why she wasn’t married.  And then I had the feeling that the direction of the conversation should not be on her marital status, but rather on her career.  I asked her where she saw herself in 5 years as far as her career was concerned.  She began to reveal her passion for writing and in great description, how she has been told she can write well and she is confident of this.  I said, “Then why not write?”  She responded with many excuses…she was uncertain about a topic, where to begin, how to begin… I responded that it begins in your mind and the thoughts and ideas will flow from there.  She acknowledged my comments, but began again and I could detect a hesitancy that seemed to stem from uncertainty and her preoccupation with being married.  I stopped her and in a very serious tone, said, “Let me share something with you…”  With a crackled voice and doing my best to fight back tears, I began to explain that it was my Birthday and for the very first time, I have chosen to celebrate it… I could see a sad surprise form on her face at the confession I had made and then a soft sigh.  I went on to explain all the Birthdays that I chose not to celebrate… I explained to her that I didn’t feel there was anything to celebrate.  But here I am having made the choice that the days in this life go far too quickly not to embrace such a gift…if not to celebrate myself than to appreciate those I love in this life of mine.  There are always excuses, but if you live your life as if every day were the last, and you place a very near deadline on your hopes and dreams, all the things you want to do will be accomplished if you choose for them to be.  I assured her that she will marry in some years to come, but right now she shouldn’t miss opportunities that she has control over… “Don’t let them pass you by.”

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I went on to say that I wish that all she hopes for happens soon and she replied she wished the same for me…. and I closed my eyes in a feeble attempt to stop the tears from streaming and she recognizing the profound moment had slowly returned to massaging my legs.  When we were done, we were a bit speechless. Two spirits had an equal sharing of enlightenment and renewal.  We had gone way past the hour limit and it didn’t matter to either of us.  What we truly garnered from each other was worth more than the minutes elapsed.

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As I stepped out of the spa, my muscles felt as relaxed as did I.  Before heading back to the hotel, I decided to go for a walk to relish the moment of clarity that had just occurred.

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There in front of me was a long pier that beckoned me to come visit.   As I stepped onto the pier I slipped off my shoes, set my camera and began to walk…  The blue of the sky met Lake Tahoe in such a way that a boundary did not exist in the horizontal space that allowed the two to meet.  I stood for just a moment to be grateful for the view, the appreciation of knowing that there is no doubt that today I was meant to savor the moment and all the moments that have led up to this point.  In my mind I thought about the woman at the spa that I had just met… With all my strength I let go a silent prayer that she find happiness in her life, and that she finds the strength to be content and the gift to be loved by someone she can call her own.  I released that into the Tahoe Blue and with hope in my heart, I felt this all was meant to be.

When I returned to my hotel room I had decided to sit down and thank all my Facebook friends for their kind Birthday wishes.  As I sat to read the comments, I was a bit overcome with emotion… who were these people to take the time to wish me well?  Why? The wishes were thoughtful, genuine, gracious and some overwhelming to think about.  I couldn’t remember a time on this planet when so many had sent me Birthday wishes to this extent. I began to respond one after another… My responses came from a place of complete appreciation and love.  I could very well have easily just hit the “like” button, but I wanted them all to know how very important the words they crafted were to me… priceless indeed.

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rbd9Having returned some 70 messages, I decided to ready myself for dinner.  I made my way on the moonlit path to the Lone Eagle Grill on the shores of Tahoe. As the lake allowed my mind to drift, I indulged in a most delicious dinner with a glass of vino and a dessert that had my palate yearning for more, but my mind knowing I was better to resist.  I sat and reflected upon my Dad and how he fought to save me as a baby. Many years ago, he begged physicians to save my life with a surgery they were most certain would not be successful.  By the grace of all that is good, I survived to share a Birthday with my Grandmother who acted like the light in a lighthouse over a stormy sea… she taught me how to live, love, listen and persevere.  And even though her passing caused me to stop acknowledging my birthday, the years in between then and now have made me appreciate completely what it means to celebrate my arrival.  No, I have not done anything outstanding to warrant what could be considered a self-indulgent celebration… but today, that is hardly the meaning.  I was able to share a private story with a stranger to help motivate her to do and write great things… to believe in herself even though she longs for someone to share the adventure with.  In return, I was reminded that life is a choice, including the things we say, do, share, live and love…

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Yes, at the end of the day, my Birthday… I am ever grateful for all of the challenges life has gifted me, for the friends that I have had the distinct honor and pleasure to have met along the way, for perfect strangers who have something to teach me and perhaps I have something to share with them. I am grateful for simple pleasures of the edible kind, that I am healthy enough to celebrate a life I am convinced I will not live in vain. I am finally celebrating the learning, growing and sharing that will give me the strength and courage to make a difference so that this life–from my definition alone–is considered meaningful and memorable.… Wondering what tomorrow will bring…