Friday, May 20, 2011

God Links + Chowda = Happiness

Have you ever had a series of events happen, and you look back on them and you're amazed at how things lined up so perfectly?

Like, you met someone who introduced you to someone else, who invited you to lunch, then touched your life in a special way?

Someone I know once referred to those series of events as "God links." As in, God links the right people together at the right time.

God has linked so many wonderful people to me in the past few years. My "circle of influence" has grown.

Steven Covey, the famed author of  "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" says that your life doesn't just "happen." Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. He says the choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.

I agree with Covey to a certain extent, but I also believe that God has carefully laid plans for all of us. When you put your faith in God, it is now His job to take full and complete care of you in every detail of your life. There is not an area or detail in your life that God will not be willing to help you out with – no matter how small or trivial you think it may be.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
                 --Jeremiah 29:11

Well, there it is. That was one of our "cling to" Bible verses when Nicole was in the hospital, and one I've meditated on frequently when trying to decide what to do with my life. The plans are laid, and God wants good for us--we simply have to live it!

Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language--I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language--I can't, I have to, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do--they have no choice.

The people I've been linked to in recent years have been positive, creative, enthusiastic, giving, motivated and *happy.* I think that God has linked me with people who have the traits I most want/need at this time in my life.

I read an interview today with New York Times bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin, who wrote a book called "The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun."

Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love," Rubin didn't have the luxury of taking off for an extended trip to Italy, India and Bali. She has a husband, two young children and life to deal with. And while she was a generally happy person, she had an epiphony where she realized that people feel happy, but they want to appreciate it more, live up to it and not take it for granted. "It’s so easy in every day life to focus on the little annoyances instead of thinking about what a happy life you have."

Rubin started out by challenging herself to do things in her ordinary routine to make herself happier. One of the first things she realized is that she needed to get to know herself better. "I realized that I didn’t always know myself or live my life according to my own nature. The more I thought, ‘How could I become Gretchen?,’ the happier my life became. It began to reflect my interest, values, temperament much more closely."

Because I'm 53, and my children are adults now and my husband is very supportive, I do have the luxury of going away for a month. And being in an inspiring environment, away from everyday obligations, affords me the opportunity to think, reflect, get to know myself better.

Some people may think it's a selfish thing for me to do. And that happiness, period, is a selfish aspiration. I side with Rubin when she said happy people make people happy!

"What people don’t know is that a lot of people are troubled by the feeling that it’s selfish to want to be happy. They worry that if they have the elements of a happy life and they want to be happier, that they’re spoiled and preoccupied with themselves in a way that’s not laudable. Or they think that in a world that’s so full of suffering, it’s not morally appropriate to be happy.

Rubin's reasearch shows that happy people are more likely to volunteer; they give away money; they’re better leaders; they have better relationships with their friends and family; they’re healthier; they’re more connected to other people and people are more attracted to them. "I don’t think it’s selfish to be happier, because it’s by being happier that you give yourself the emotional wherewithal to turn outward."

I'm grateful for the God links in my life--the people, the events, the experiences and the opportunities that have one-by-one been linked together to bring me to where I am today.

You may be wondering what brought on this unusually serious post. Well, one God link led to another to another, and Jonni and I ended up having lunch with a wonderful new friend-of-a-friend in Camden, Maine yesterday. Because I respect her privacy, I'm not saying much more about it, but I will say that we all enjoyed the most spectacular cup of clam "chowda" at an iconic Maine restaurant named Cappy's. The lunch was so delicious and the conversation so riveting, that I forgot all about taking a peek at Alexander, the 150+-year-old stuffed seagull. I know....I'm just sick about it. Just so you'll know what you're missing, this is how they present a cup of chowder at Cappy's:

Blessings to all who read this!

P.S. Here's the series of God links that led to my wonderful lunch yesterday:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wonderful, Wacky Maine

The South has in no way cornered the market on crazy, kitchy attractions. Maine is simply chocked full of them.

One of my favorites so far is Perry's Nut House, in Belfast. You can't miss it...just look for the gi-normous squirrel holding the colossal peanut out front.

Inside, Perry's sells all kinds of nuts, as one would imagine, as well as about 30 flavors of homemade fudge. They'll give you free samples of the fudge, and if you're not careful, you'll be on a serious sugar high in no time.

It's kind of like a Stuckey's on steroids. Toys and wacky gift items, bumper stickers, postcards and magnets. But there's some really weird stuff as well.

Like Jay.
Jay is a real mummy.

Now here's the really crazy thing. The back-story of Jay, the Forgotten Mummy is that he was taken from Egypt as a souvenir by aristocrats, which was a common practice back in the 20's and 30's, so that they could throw fashionable Mummy Parties. They'd unwrap the mummies to see what loot they were buried with, then throw the bones in the fire. Becoming an unwanted family heirloom, the last owner of the Jay the Mummy decided it would be better suited as a display at Perry's Nut House.

You can't make this stuff up.

Perry's Nut House was founded in 1927, as was Moody's Diner, where we ate breakfast this morning. In 1927, it looked as though Waldoboro, Maine might be getting some automobile traffic from folks headed north up US Route 1. The Moody's thought it seemed like a good idea to build a couple of cabins to see if they could find any weary travelers looking for a clean, inexpensive place to stay the night. Travelers would stop in for a five cent cup of coffee or a ten cent sandwich, and Mrs. Moody would "up sell" them a $1-night cabin.

We ate breakfast at Moody's this morning. Browine and Jane are flying out of Portland today, so we decided to go have a farewell breakfast. It's a typical diner, complete with sassy waitresses who just snap their fingers and tell you where to sit.

The cabins are still there, but they charge a bit more than a dollar a night. At least they have wireless internet access.

In a little while, Jonni and I are driving up to Camden to have lunch with a special new friend at Cappy's. We're going for their famous "chowda," but I'm also hoping to see Alexander the seagull. Mounted in an ornate frame in a restaurant, Alexander had been dead for 150 years before he ran afoul of an obscure federal law that almost had him banished -- but the town rallied to save him. That should be almost as good as Jay the mummy.

I'm keeping my eyes peeled for more wacky attractions. And you can bet that if it's crazy enough, I'll share it with you. There are some things in this world you can't keep to yourself.

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Challenge Yourself!

Sometimes, it's easy to just be...and that's OK. But other times, it's good to challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. Try something that you will almost surely fail at a few times before you finally get it.

While I've been enjoying my time in Maine, without the normal concerns of my daily life, I have been "stepping out there" a bit, trying new things. Like writing a book--something I've never done before. And hula hooping.

Jonni did some research on Rockland before we ever left home, and she found a community center that offered yoga and other exercise classes. Since we do yoga twice a week at her house (we miss you JC!), we thought we'd continue that while in Maine. But then Jonni found a hula hooping class on Monday nights, and we mutually decided it would be lots of fun. We were right!

Our teacher, Maria, is a "Mainer" who lived in Wisconsin for several years then returned. She discovered hooping and took to it like a duck to water, losing 25 pounds without even trying. That was enough information for us to really get on board in a hurry!

Maria, like most hoop fanatics, makes her own hula hoops. We learned that the bigger the hoop, the less you have to work. If you use a smaller hoop, you have to work harder to keep it going. It's a great cardio workout, plus it strengthens your body's core. It's good for digestion, too, as it is like a little mini massage on your belly.

The first Monday night, it was just Jonni and I in the class. We got to know Maria and just had fun getting the hang of hooping after so many years. The first challenge was to hoop in the opposite direction of our dominant direction. It's like being right handed and trying to write a whole term paper with your left hand. There's nothing natural about it.

Jonni bought a hoop, and we took it home, with the intent of hooping every day until the next class. I did it a few times, as did she, but not nearly as much as we had both intended to. But I managed to practice hooping in my non-domniant direction, and it really did get easier for me over time.

The next week, Brownie was in town, so we took her to class with us. She showed us both up. It's like she has been hooping all her life!

And last night, we added a fourth person to the mix: Jonni's college roommate, Jane, who came to spend a few days with us this week. Jane just started hooping and never stopped the entire class!

Maria will teach us little tricks and techniques, then put some great music on and let us "freestyle," putting our little tricks together into a cohesive routine. The more we all did it, the better we became. I'd start out trying to do something over and over and over, with my hoop flying across the gym or crashing to the floor around my feet. But suddenly, I'd get it. And I'd try it again, and get it again! I felt such a sense of accomplishment! She's a great teacher, and has made our introduction to hooping so much fun. Check out her "Hoop ME" website.

Hooping has become really popular with the alternative music crowd. You see it at concerts alot, and alot of times the musicians will hoop as part of their act. Hooping has actually become a big part of music festivals.

What I like about it is that you need one piece of equipment: the hula hoop. You can wear just about anything, so no special attire is required. Although, alot of hoopers do like to wear flashy outfits, and that just makes me happy!

After getting a good bit of writing done last week, I took the weekend off to play and enjoy Maine. Yes, we have been eating WELL, but healthy. So many of the restaurants here serve organic foods, and most are locally grown. Also, gluten-free foods are easier to find here, and since I'm attempting to do a gluten-free diet this month, that's good news for me. Since I tend to post photos of my food on facebook frequently, Nicole asked if I was actually writing a cookbook while I'm here! Others have asked if I'm really writing a book at all, because all I tend to put on FB is about thing things we're doing and what we're eating. There's just not alot to say or show about writing, other than this is where I sat and wrote one day last week:

So, I don't write 24 hours a day. I've got to stop and eat. And when I do, I make sure it's something good! Jonni had been telling me about the famous Owl's Head burgers, so last week we drove to the Owl's Head General Store for one of their famous hamburgers...
I ate mine without the bun and honestly, didn't feel like I missed out on a thing because the burger was just that good!

Jonni's birthday was Saturday, and we spent the day going to Portland to pick up her college roommate, Jane, from the airport. I got up early and put up decorations around our little cottage to surprise Jonni when she woke up.

Brownie and I prepared a breakfast of quiche, orange juice and coffee. Jonni had her own special cup that I found at the Goodwill in Rockland.
Saturday night, we ate a wonderful meal at Suzuki Japanese restaurant in Rockland with Brownie's husband's cousin, Scott, his wife, Heidi and their son, Martin.
We ate lunch Sunday at a restaurant on the waterfront (called The Waterfront!) in Camden. I ate a wonderful warm spinach salad with smoked duck while overlooking the most beautiful harbor. (The photo below was taken Thursday evening before the rain rolled in on Friday.)

After lunch, we enjoyed a ride up to Lincolnville for a wine pairing at Cellardoor Wineries, located in an refurbished old barn that is simply breathtaking.

We ended the day with a birthday gift Jonni gave to US--a concert at the Strand Theatre in Rockland by Shemekia Copeland. Jonni made a great video at the concert that's worth watching:

I have been able to slow down a good bit here, and really take in the beauty of this season in Maine. The forsythia is blooming everywhere and looks like yellow fire brushing across the landscape.
I've never seen as many tulips in one area in my life, and they are blooming everywhere.
It's easy to find beautiful things to look at, enjoy and savor by simply taking a walk around the yard of our little cottage.

My challenge to all of you who read this blog is to challenge yourself to do something out of your comfort zone...and to stop and see the beauty that's just under your nose. May you find joy in both!

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Food for the Soul

Visiting a different place is one of the best ways to gain perspective. Anyone who travels alot will tell you this. When I've been away from home for awhile, I think about how I have been doing things and how I may want to do them differently when I get home. For me, that thing is how I eat.

I've been much more aware of the food I put into my mouth after taking a detox class taught by Jaclyn Ramsier last year. I took the class again this spring and everything really connected for me. I work hard to stay away from processed foods at all costs, and I focus on eating healthier, fresher foods whenever possible.

Here, in Maine, that's very easy to do.

I love that the restaurants here proudly list the local suppliers they use. From organic farms to grass fed beef, the bulk of what they consume is grown/produced very close to home. That means fewer trucks on the road, hauling things in from other places, which cuts down on fuel consumption and pollution.

One of the local foods we have been hearing about here is fiddleheads. The little sprouts from the ostrich fern can be found on creek and river banks in the northeastern U.S. for about three weeks each May. Lucky for us, it's fiddlehead season in Maine! We tried them a few days ago in a quiche, which was really a round-about way of eating the little delicacies. Last night, we took a plunge and ordered a fiddlehead salad at a Japanese restaurant in Rockland.

I can't help but post food photos on facebook....especially when the food is so good, and so different from what I eat at home. Fiddleheads just aren't something you can find at Kroger!

When I told friends I was going to spend a month in Maine, almost everyone said "eat a lobster for me!"  It's no lie that lobster is as common here as hamburgers. You can just about get a lobster roll anywhere you go. Plus, lobster stew, lobster bisque, and lobster cakes. I ate my first whole lobster ever last Saturday, and we're going again to Youngs Lobster Pound today. (I wrote about it a few posts ago).

One of the most frequent comments I've gotten on facebook has been "aren't you supposed to be writing?" And the answer to that is, of course, I'm supposed to be writing. But I can only write about two hours at a time. For one thing, I get tired of constant typing. And the other surprising thing to me is that writing this story is very taxing, emotionally.

I handled Nicole's accident very well at the time. I held it together and went into "take care of business" mode from the very beginning. But going back and reliving it again for the book has meant facing fears and realizing the enormity of it all. Back then, I couldn't look beyond the very moment we found ourselves in. I had no idea what kind of road we'd be on or for how long. I guess because now I know, it is all so much more amazing to me.

So, I write, then I enjoy all this marvelous place has to offer when I'm not writing. It's food for the soul.

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rock On.

Up until now, when I thought of the beach, I thought of warm, tropical breezes, crystal blue water and white sand that you can sink your toes into.

The beach where we are staying in Maine is a far cry from warm, tropical and there is certainly a lack of white sand. But it is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen.

Our little slice of heaven, otherwise known as Crockett's Beach, is a rock-strewn stretch.

It is difficult to navigate the rocks, as some are wedged in really tight, and others teeter at the slightest hint of weight. Sensible shoes are a must when navigating the rocks, as I learned the day I hit the beach in a pair of Birkenstock garden clogs. I ended up sitting on a picnic table and watching the waves instead of walking.

As a child, one of my favorite activities was to sit atop a pile of rocks and look for agates and other treasures. Every rock is different, and some are just exquisite. It's hard not to stuff your pockets with a load of special rocks.

I'm transported back in time when I sit on the beach here, eyeing all the magnificent rocks the waves have forced to the shore. Already, the windowsills in our beach bungalow are lined with special rocks we've found. There are literally millions of rocks covering the beach, but the ones in our windows have "made the cut." They were deemed special enough to haul home and put on display.

There's a legend here that if you find a "lucky rock," you will return to that beach some day. I've been on a concentrated quest to find rocks with a circle that goes all the way around it--that's what determines if it's a lucky rock. They are pretty rare, but Jonni and I have been finding some.

Even more rare is sea glass. It's just broken glass that is tumbled and smoothed by the sea then spit out on the shore. Our third roomie, Brownie, has been collecting sea glass on her visits to Maine for years. She keeps them in little glasses on her kitchen windowsill as a reminder of her days here. I am happy that I have been able to contribute to her collection. Finding a piece of seaglass is like finding a nugget of gold!

In the late afternoons, for about an hour, the tide goes out, and we can actually walk on sand. It's wet, gray sand, but much easier to walk on than the rocks. The one who loves it the very most is Cole, Jonni's dog. Amazingly, Cole can run on the rocks with great ease--we think he may be part mountain goat. But when he hits the sand, he's really off and running!
No matter what time of day, tide in or tide out, the beach is always a good place to sit, relax and That's something that's hard to do in our everyday lives. When at home, there's always the pull to do something--put in a load of clothes, straighten up the house, pay some bills. But when you're on a beach, simply listening to the rhythmic breaking of the waves and hearing the ocassional sea gull squawk overhead, everything else is forgotten, and it's just so much easier to relax and be in the moment.

Looking out at sea, with the horizon that seems forever away, it's easier to contemplate the vastness of the universe that God created. It also makes me realize that I'm just a very small part of it all. In other words, I am reminded that it's not all about me, which in turn makes my problems seem suddenly much smaller and insignificant.

I want to be like the rocks on the beach. Sturdy and strong, yet beautiful and unique among the millions of rocks out there. I want to be like a lucky rock to those I love, so that they'll want to come back to me time and time again.

So, today is a rainy, blustery day in Maine. Wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Brownie says it's like a mini-nor'easter. For me, that means a great day to cozy up by the fireplace and write.

Rock on!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Mother of a Weekend

At the risk of this sounding like a glorified travel log, I can't help but share what a great weekend I had here in Maine.

But first, Happy (late) Mother's Day!!!! To all you mothers reading this, I hope your day was special and filled with love.

If you've been on facebook at all in the past couple of days, you may have seen a link to an article that was on the front page of Sunday's Clarion-Ledger. Billy Watkins wrote a very flattering piece on me, Nicole and our family for Mother's Day. Jonni was the "official" Maine photographer, shooting the photos of me outside of our beach bungalow. You can read the article here. Thanks for all the kind commennts!

It's been a wonderful weekend in Maine. Jonni's business partner (and our friend), Brownie Shott, arrived on Friday from Katy, Texas. We went into town and had a relaxing dinner and did some catching up.

Saturday was a perfect weather day. We eased slowly into the day, hanging out, drinking coffee and eating some of these:

They were delivered to our door late Saturday morning! It was a Mother's Day gift from my sweet hubby and chirren! After eating a few just to make sure they were good (they were!!!!) we got ready and drove up to Belfast to Young's Lobster Pound.

It's a warehouse kind of place where you go in downstairs and choose your lobster from a huge holding tank.

We all ordered a pound and a half lobster each, corn on the cob and Jonni got an order of steamers (clams).  We went upstairs and sat at one of the many long picnic tables with a beautiful view overlooking the harbor.

Next we went to the Nut House...Perry's nut house where they had the most amazing fudge, nuts and all kinds of crazy curiosities. My favorite thing there, however, was Buzzy, the giant squirrel, standing out front.

Sunday we woke up to a glorious Maine day and spent some time on the beach, looking for sea glass and lucky rocks (more on that in a future post). We lounged around for the better part of the morning, all hanging out with our laptops, "tex-mexin' the the spacebook," comparing notes on news from home and just enjoying being in this beautiful cottage overlooking the sea.

We finally got ready for the day and headed out to Cellardoor Wineries, where they were hosting a special Mother's Day chocolate and wine paring. We tasted some of the most incredible hand-made chocolates from Sweet Marguerite's Artisinal Chocolates, each paired with a different wine. The winery itself was spectacular, overlooking huge vineyards and mountains.
From there we took a hour-long winding drive through rural Maine to the town of New Harbor, to the home of Scott and Joy Shott, Brownie's husband's uncle and aunt (keep up!). There, we met up with their son, Scott, Jr. and his wife, Heidi and their two sons. We all drove to Round Pond to a wonderful restaurant, the Anchor Inn, where they treated us to a delicious Mother's Day dinner. It was a special way to spend a special day.

Back home, Larry said they served over 875 people at the country club for Mother's Day. That's alot of vittles!!! Joe squeezed in a trip to the beach, and Nicole had a few speaking engagements, the most notable of which was her appearance/speech at the launch party of MS Legends magazine in Meridian last Thursday where Morgan Freeman was the guest of honor. I'm sooooooo grateful to Suzi Altman for sharing photos she took of Nicole and shared with me.

Today, it was get-down-to-business day. Jonni and Brownie took off to sell ads for the map they are doing while they are here. I spent some time doing ALS Association work, and going over writing notes for my book. Tomorrow, I'll be holed up in my little cottage right on the beach, writing the story that's in my head and heart.

Right now, it's off to hula hoop class!

Blessings to all who read this!