At Martha’s Vineyard it was the Lighthouses that Beckoned Us!

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We kicked off our summer vacation with our very first visit to the New England coast and the lovely island of Martha’s Vineyard. We managed to time our visit right at the beginning of the summer season which officially begins around mid June although the tourist scene begins to awaken from its winter slumber during the week following the Memorial weekend holiday. Thus, we were greeted with curiosity by the local shop owners and restauranteurs who wondered why we were here so early. “Yeah, we just opened,” they kept telling us, apologizing for not quite being fully operational.

But, limited store hours and minimal island offerings notwithstanding, we eeked out a Vineyard vacation just the same! The weather was even working against us this week. The forecast had promised sun and 60s which we got a peek of here and there, but the clouds and rain persisted as did the cool–okay, cold–but we would not be deterred!  This place is lovely, rain or shine! The cottage-style homes, the quaint bed & breakfasts, the cozy holes just welcome you.

Our accomodations were perfect, on location in Edgartown, near little shops and boutiques and facing the ocean (although next time I’ll get a room one floor up so I don’t have to stand on my tiptoes to see the “oceanview” we were promised!). We also found some GREAT eating places–Sharky’s for fattening Tex-Mex, Biscuits for yummy breakfast (two words: French toast, I’m through!) and the Copper Wok for the best sesame tofu and fried rice you’ve ever tasted, bar none!

But, I must say, my favorite thing was the lighthouses! I think they are so beautiful and inspiring. Each one has a history and a story.  The lighthouses also gave us a perfect reason to tour the island. Since the weather didn’t permit bike riding or beach time, we instead crisscrossed several towns–TisburyOak BluffsAcquinna and Vinyard Haven in search of the historic lighthouse sites and stumbled upon a few other interesting places along the way (which I will talk about in future blogs).

The Gayhead

The Martha’s Vineyard online magazine calls the lighthouses “working monuments” of history, an appropriate moniker, I think, considering their sole purpose is to provide a beacon for travelers who either lose their way or are unaware of lurking dangers. Such was the case with The Gayhead lighthouse erected in November 1799. So many lives were lost because of an “underwater ledge running from cliffs westward” that mariners referred to it as the “Devil’s Bridge,” but Gayhead’s bright beams outshined that menace and has spared many over the years.

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East Chop

Meanwhile, the East Chop lighthouse was the lighthouse the government didn’t want! They thought the West Chop lighthouse was enough! But, the relentless Captain Dagget raised the funds himself to build it in 1869. Through valiant effort he proved it’s worth and it’s still praiseworthy today!

 

Edgartown

We only made it to 3 of the 5 lighthouses this trip, but the Edgartown lighthouse was just walking distance from our hotel, so on May 31st we trudged through the rain and settled for this shot of the stately edifice in the hazy distance:

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Then we awoke on June 1st to a bright sun beaming through our windows! What is it about the month of June in Martha’s Vineyard? So, of course, we trekked back and got a better and brighter pic, woohoo!

What a difference a day makes!

According to island lore, this lighthouse was built on a manmade island in 1828 and the path that leads to it was dubbed “The Bridge of Sighs as couples drew out their goodbyes on the walk to the lighthouse before being separated for weeks, months, or forever by whaling voyages.” Such a sad story to be associated with such a pretty place! And it is an absolutely gorgeous spot, surrounded by sand with a port and sailing boats on one side and a beach and the open ocean on the other.

Despite the beauty of the place the lighthouses are reminders that life is fragile and fleeting. They stand as beacons that beckon weary travelers to safety. For those, like us, who arrive they are symbolic of a safe haven while also a memorial for those who never return.

During our visit to Martha’s these bright structures beckoned us. They invited us to stay awhile, to listen to their stories and understand their purpose–how they came to be and what they’ve come to mean to the people who have relied on them for their very lives.

While here we have also made memories and established our own history! On the last day, as we zipped into town to catch our ferry, we managed to squeeze in a quick bike ride! In our final moments on the island, we pedaled along the quiet north side, behind tree-lined neighborhoods, past well-kept lawns admiring, again, the beauty…

By the time we pushed off from the dock and watched the coastline fade into the distance,  we were nostalgic, but also determined that we must return, because there is still more to see and do. After all, our stories and discoveries have really only begun!

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Monday Mayhem: Wonder Woman!

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved Wonder Woman!

Correction: when I was a little girl, I believed I was Wonder Woman!

I would dress up in my favorite little jumpsuit, spin around so I could transform from my human self to my superhuman self and I’d grab my jump rope, er, my lasso and I’d run around the back yard singing my “Wonder Woman” theme song and chasing imaginary bad guys.

I was fearless.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. MaryAnne Williamson

So you can imagine my excitement when the new Wonder Woman movie came out. My whole childhood came flooding back–all of the giddiness and nostalgia for that shero who kicks butt like no other woman in history! I saw the new movie and it was great. Gal Gadot is amazing as Wonder Woman. She’s everything a little girl’s hero is supposed to be!

Fearless.

But, over the years when I have read the MaryAnne Williamson quote above I have struggled with the notion that I am powerful. Williamson’s words encourage, but also challenge me. They are comforting but also galvanizing. In the same breath that she says “don’t worry” she also says “get up!” She will not tolerate belly-aching.

In Wonder Woman there is a scene on the battle field when the men try to persuade Diana that although her desire to help the people in one village along the front devastated by the war were merely necessary casualties not worth saving, she refuses to move on towards her ultimate destination without doing something to help.  But her companions insist that her efforts will be useless.

How often do I convince myself that my efforts will be useless?

There are always reasons why I can’t—I can’t get time off from work, can’t get the extra funds, can’t muster the courage. Williamson says we ask “who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous,” but I’ve never once asked myself these questions! I have taken it for granted that I am none of these!

Yet she says who am I not to be?

Williamson, like Wonder Woman, asks why not?

With this statement she challenges my existentialism.

In the politics of popular opinion, she demands  a recount:  Who am I “not” to be implies that I have made myself exceptional by denying what is.  I have actually stepped outside of truth in search of a lie! ‘Who am I “not” to be suggests that I have taken up my bed, walked out of my house and into a foreign land in search of home.

As I ponder how foolish this sounds, I am left with no response to her question. And neither did those men who watched, dumbfounded, as Diana strutted onto the battlefield as if it were a New York runway. With sheer confidence and not a shred of fear Wonder Woman handled her business!

So, what are we waiting for? My younger self would have done the same! I would have donned my superhero costume and claimed my superhero title without any hesitation. So, what happened with age and the suppposed acceptance of reality? The loss of gumption. The inability to stake claim to the possibilities.

What Wonder Woman and Williamson have reminded me is that “we are all meant to shine [because] we are born to make manifest the glory of God who is within us.”

So, get out there and fulfill your destiny. Do the impossible!

Happy Monday!

Let’s start by doing the Jumprope

 

A Case for Second Place

Anyone who knows me will be surprised by the title of this essay. Second place? Am I actually suggesting that good enough is, well, good enough?

No.

Well, yes.

Let me explain.

I believe in striving for excellence. And I will never stop pushing myself, my children, my students and anyone else who crosses my sphere of influence to be the very best that they can be and to, of course, strive for FIRST PLACE!

But, suppose our very best efforts don’t earn us the coveted award and honors for which we’re competing? The reality is only one student gets “Student of the Year.” Only a handful get to be in the top ten.  Only a fraction will be in the highest percentile. So what about the rest of us? Are we failures?

As I listen to parents and grandparents brag about their prodigies who’ve snagged the precious few scholarships set aside for the deserving few and smugly imply that “those other poor kids who didn’t make it will have to just fend for themselves,” I can’t help but think about all those “other poor kids” who fall within that broad spectrum called “second place.” Now, mind you, I’m not talking about the barely-getting-by C students, the I-don’t-really-want-to-be-in-college-anyway company. I’m talking about the better-than-average assembly. The hard As-maybe-an-occasional-B bunch. The, no-it-doesn’t-come-easy-but-I’m-disciplined-focused-and-hard-working crew. Or the no-it-doesn’t-come-easy-but-I-study-cause-mom-and-dad-are-always-on-my-case cadre! What do these groups get? A pat on the back and a handshake? A “nice job, but sorry you’re not good enough”? Do you only deserve accolades if you’re brilliant beyond words? Are you only worthy of note if your GPA is off the charts and your standardized test scores are record-breaking? Does it count for anything if you’re articulate, personable, make friends easily and not too bad at solving equations?

I certainly don’t have anything against the brilliant and beautiful minds, I just think we’ve spent so much time trying to make our kids into the crème de la crème that we haven’t given them any credit for being a hearty cup of milk! But, according to the dairy industry “milk does a body good!” My point is, why not give the better-than-average second place a little more credit–even praise!? How about an “A” for their effort? Why should we praise the kid who can do algorithims in his sleep and not praise the kid who puts in extra work, maybe even hires a tutor and practices tirelessly to get it right? But rather than acknowledge the hard work that went into the B+ we only honor the easy A.

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Well, I’m here to make a case for second place. I’m here to vouch for the hard-earned B, to give a shout-out to all those who have other gifts–the gift of gab, the gift of personality, the gift of diligence, consistency and hard work.  These gifts are not measured by SATs or GREs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value, and you can be sure that not everyone has these gifts.  Did you know that some of the most “brilliant” people are not so fun to be around? Often they are quite the opposite, but no one wants to talk about that. We hail them for their brilliance and ignore the fact that they are socially-awkward or devoid of basic personal skills. I’m not throwing shade, I’m making a point. My point is, let’s stop with the hierarchies–acting as if the brilliant ones are better than the rest of us, or even as if we are better than them! How about they have their strengths and we have ours?

Let’s stop putting pressure on our kids to be what they’re not. Let them be who they are. Let them be the best that they are.

And stop bragging about how your kid made the highest score on the SAT. Whoopee! He’s a great test-taker! My kid knows how to make people feel good about themselves and they like to be around her. Whoopee! She’s a great people-person! Which one should be in first place?

I’m making a case for second place.

Books & Coffee CityScape!

So, just a reminder to those of you who are interested in the Cityscape Challenge, join us! I’m thrilled that some of my new friends have shared some amazing scenes from their home towns like Safira who’s displayed the giant trees and crystal pools of Indonesia and my diy friend who’s snagged a lovely little gazebo in her hometown where she likes to sip coffee and read books! That’s my kind of spot! Or how about a stroll through the pergolas of a London park? You’ll find it here!

So, what does your spot look like and what does it mean to you? How does it feed your soul? Leave a comment and put a link to your blog or social media in the comments so we can see it too! Also, don’t forget to check out my friends’ pages, they’re pretty awesome!

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Mayhem Monday: Why the Source of your Problems isn’t Who You Think!

I want to speak on something that may not win me any popularity contests, but it’s truth: quite simply, too many of us are focused on the wrong thing. We think our problems are the result of who when in actuality they have more to do with how! We think that it’s people who cause us grief when in reality it’s how we respond to them that determines that grief.

In addition, we’re unwilling to own our stuff and as long as we don’t own it, we will continue to be plagued by it.

What do I mean?  I’m talking about our focus:

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  • Rather than focus on your child’s misbehavior or academic deficiencies, you focus on everything that’s wrong with the school, the teachers or the administration…
  • Rather than focus on your insecurities or low self-esteem, you focus on how everybody’s doing you wrong, treating you badly and not giving you your due…
  • Rather than focus on your academic short-comings, you focus on your professors’ unwillingness to grade on the curve…
  • Rather than focus on your poor work ethic, you focus on your boss’ unwillingness to promote you…
  • Rather than focus on your bad habits, you focus on your friends’ unwillingness to be around you!

At what point do you turn the lens onto yourself? At what point does it become less about them and more about YOU?  When does it become your responsibility to improve the situation?

When is it time to own your stuff?

Maybe it’s  all the CNN and Fox News headlines that are starting to get to me. Maybe it’s the social media I’ve been seeing lately, but this blame game is ridiculous! Who’s at fault? Who cares? Pointing fingers is getting us NOWHERE!

Who do you blame for the problems that you’re dealing with? Is it all on the other guys? Are you sure about that?  Rarely are issues one-sided, but it’s so easy to project our shortcomings onto others.  How easy is it, though, to face criticism that is directed at us when it’s true?

Maybe, just maybe,  it’s time to look in the mirror. Nobody’s perfect, so why not figure out how to work through the imperfections rather than being so quick to attack? Why not try extending grace to others so that they may be willing to extend grace to us when (not if) we need it?  To solve our conflicts or fix our problems, why not try something different?

Why not change our focus?

Focus What will that look like for you, this focus on solutions? That’s a question you’ll have to answer, but I can tell you what it won’t look like. It won’t look like blaming or  pointing fingers. It won’t be about other people at all. It will begin with you.

What do you need to improve in yourself? In your children? In your habits? In your work ethic? Before you look outward, look inward.

Happy Monday!

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Don’t forget our Cityscape Challenge! Share pics of your favorite spots in the city or town where you live. Also, why not kickstart your day with my Green Tea Smoothie and a Tabata?

 

Books & Coffee Cityscape Challenge!

Do you love your city? Are there special places where you always hang out, take a stroll or take in some incredible views?

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Are you like me? Don’t really love where you live–kind of got stuck here because of school or circumstance? Well, you’re here now, might as well make the best of it, right?

Spring and summer are my favorite time of year.  It’s the weather. The warmth of the sun beckons me to believe that anything is possible! And now that summer is (almost) here I have more time to focus on writing, that always makes me happy!  So, I’ve decided to kick off the summer with a Books & Coffee photo challenge!  And, as we already learned with our ekphrastic poetry, images conjure words and ideas that can inspire limitless creations, so why not take advantage of the blooms and balmy vistas all around us during this season?

Grab your iPhone or Canon and trek over to your favorite place, or if you don’t have a favorite place, try looking around with fresh eyes. Find a forgotten corner of town and let it inspire you to see it in a new way. Take a photo–of a landmark, an odd-shaped stone, or a four-leaf clover, whatever catches your eye!–then tell us what makes this place special or significant in some way. Some spaces may be significant because of their history–whether personal or political. Some may be significant because of their impact–either personal or political.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of the southern town where I live, but I do love being outside, and I particularly love my backyard! One of my favorite places to be on warm days is on my back porch looking out at the trees and up at the sky, listening to the birds and the wind.

BackyardIt just puts me at ease and clears my mind of the clutter. When I’m in this space it’s like I’m not in Alabama. In fact, where I am doesn’t matter because here I can just be. Nature has a way of being boundless like that, doesn’t it? When you’re surrounded by it, the artificial borders of property and ownership melt away. The wide expanse invites freedom and that’s what this space offers me: freedom.

So, what about you? Where’s your happy space? Where’s your space that inspires?  If you don’t already have one, maybe it’s time to go in search of one! My backyard was an easy find. I think I’ll venture a little further from home and share another inspiring place or space this week…stay tuned!

P.S. Leave a comment about your favorite place and put a link to your blog or social media so we can see what it looks like! I’m anxious to see your inspiring places! I know my fellow blogger, Chandra Lynn, will have something to share! What about you?

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Mayhem Monday: Dreams & Determination!

My niece and nephew graduated this weekend and, of course, I’m super proud of them! They each chose a different path, but both tore through the academic wilderness and emerged unscathed–well, they survived anyway. After all, what’s a war without a few batttle scars?

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

(Sean Hampton, actor)

They were priveleged with great parents who prepared them for their successes, who equipped them with all of the necessary tools–private schools, summer camps, extra curriculars–as well as the intangibles like love and security.  Yet, Tyler and Greg had to find their own way in college. Mom and Dad couldn’t study for them or finish their assignments. Once the foundation was laid, the building was up to them.

The “Different World” can be a scary place when you’re facing it all alone…

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Funny thing is, a different world is where Greg and Tyler are NOW!

Kids often think that preparation is the time at home.  To an extent that’s true, but what my niece and nephew are about to discover is that they’ve actually been in a safe haven all this time. College is just an extention of home. It’s still a place of preparation as professors and administrators dictate courses and curfews (especially when you attend, as they did, a parochial school affiliated with a highly conservative religious organization.)

Oh yes, the real world is still waiting…

But I’m proud of them, nonetheless.  I know they’ll make it.

We’ve done all we can to prepare them–we, the parents, the aunties, the professors, the surrogates.  Now we’ll watch as they spread their wings, and we’ll hope that the determination that brought them this far will carry them the rest of the way!

And for all the other Tylers and Gregs out there, setting out on your own, just know that life is full of surprises. Your future may or may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but you can be sure that success is possible if you stay open to the many ways it may be manifested. For our Mayhem Monday motiviation, check out Laura Berman Fortgang’s TED Talk on “Finding Your Dream Without Looking at Your Resume!” And I wish you all Godspeed!

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