The Spirit of Aloha

My husband planned a surprise trip for our anniversary, and presented me with the itinerary at my birthday dinner. We’d be traveling to Hawaii – three nights on Oahu, eight nights on Maui.

Maui garnered a spot on my bucket list for quite some time, and I was truly excited to visit the land of breathtaking landscapes and exotic flora. Along our journey, everyone we met greeted us with a warm Aloha – a Hawaiian expression of love, hello, and goodbye.

Here are some examples of Aloha I experienced while visiting the islands.

  • The Arizona Memorial – 1,177 men lost their lives on December 7, 1941. The somberness and quiet solitude touched me as I observed the oil still spilling to the surface of the water from the ship. Some say it’s the souls of the lost sailors. I’ll always remember the feeling that overcame me – one of emotion, one of loss – an Aloha goodbye.20170428_092710 oil copyr
  • Al Rodrigues, the 97 year old Pearl Harbor Survivor, we met outside the Arizona Memorial gift shop signing his book. He hugged us so tight when I told him my dad was on the USS Vestal that was moored next to the Arizona.
  • The wild, windy southern shoreline of Black Sand Beach and Makena Beach was a welcome ‘hello’ as we strolled the seashore for shells and photo opportunities.
  • A warm Aloha evident in the latte art in a cup of espresso from Bella Surf Café.
  • The exotic coastline, mixed with the cool evening air at Surf’s Up, a hidden gem and lookout point on a mountaintop. It’s so peaceful there, you can hear your voice echo. The sunsets on the west side of the island are phenomenal.

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  • Rachel and Anthony, a young couple we met at sunset at Surf’s Up. They were loving life traveling this great land, spreading the spirit of Aloha.
  • The white, friendly dog and smiling lady at Julia’s Banana Bread roadside stand along a dangerously, curvy mountainside street.

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  • The brackish cliffs near the Nakele Blowhole, and the untamed ocean.
  • The road to Hana with 617 turns (some hairpin curves) and infinite drop-offs.
  • The hike to the pristine pools beneath Twin Falls, and the way my body felt when I stepped gingerly into the midnight-hued cold water. The rushing sound of the falls was delightful.
  • The tangy taste of a Lilikoi tart at Kula Bistro.
  • The refreshing dessert, named ‘Coconut’ at the Mill House Restaurant. A mix of white cake, chilled coconut sorbet, and coconut meringue mirrored the look of a mini Baked Alaska, and tasted like a cool slice of heaven.

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  • Our farm to table anniversary dinner at Pacific O Restaurant while gazing at the sunset.
  • The fragrant aroma of eight varieties of lavender at Ali’I Lavender Farm high in the Kula Mountains.

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  • The foggy mist on the side of the mountain near the lavender farm.
  • The King Protea in bloom.

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  • The paragliders floating along the mountaintop in Kula.
  • The wind in my hair, and the sun on my face aboard the Trilogy catamaran.

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  • Ladies with plumeria, gardenia, and pikake tucked behind their ear lobes.
  • The romantic sounds of the Hawaiian language and their meanings conveyed through song.

These things and more, I find to be the spirit of Aloha for me – a lingering and everlasting feeling of love, hello, and even goodbye.

For Hawaiians, the Spirit of Aloha is a way of life – spreading kindness, compassion, and grace. Their values – ‘to care for, and do what’s right’. Sustainability to all natural resources is key in Hawaiian life – evident in the vegetation, the flora, the food, the people, the farms, the animals, and the waterfalls. I felt refreshed by the universal beauty around me, and invigorated by the friendliness of the Hawaiian people.

And isn’t that what life’s about — embracing our aloha, giving back to community, to the environment, and each other?

Peace out and Aloha,

Sheree

Lighthouses, Beaches and Waterfalls – Oh My!

Last year I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, not once, but twice!

I was invited on a press trip by the Pure Michigan group (puremichigan.org) to visit the Keewenaw Peninsula with a group of journalists at the beginning of summer. At the end of August, I visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond, with my hubster and two canine kids. Many of my adventures included lighthouses, beaches, waterfalls, and great food.

Here’s my 5-page feature story with photographs published in May/June AAA Midwest Traveler. It’s also online, as well.

Hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did!

Peace out,

Sheree

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The Drifter – A poem from Folly Beach Dances

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Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem I penned for my 2015 Da Vinci Award Winning book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES – THE INFINITE RHYTHMS OF A SOUTH CAROLINA SEASHORE, inspired by the sea’s rhythm and my lymphoma journey, and endorsed by Karen White, NYT bestselling author.

It’s titled “The Drifter”, on page 5 of this ‘healing’ coffee table book of lyrical poetry and gorgeous photography, with reflections by 5 award-winning women authors, and my husband.

“The Drifter”

Not far in the distance I notice an old tree,

now driftwood,

with branches reaching out to a cornflower blue sky and white-streaked cotton clouds.

The image of a beach bungalow appears in my head,

with sounds of laughter,

lazy days in the sun,

peaceful ocean breezes,

smoky barbeques at dusk

and a warm crackling fire at night.

Except from Return to Folly Beach, Sheree K. Nielsen

Folly Beach Dances, copyright May 2014

Peace out and love,

Sheree

The Happiness Factor – Get your Hygge On!

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My silly husband

Not only is today the first day of spring, it is recognized as Happiness Day around the world. What makes you happy?

For me, it’s

  • Long time friendships
  • Walks on the beach
  • Scubadiving, and chance dolphin encounters
  • Smiles, cuddles and purrs from my fur babies
  • The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans
  • The taste of dark chocolate, so smooth and luscious
  • A waterfall rushing over my skin
  • The day I married outside my husband on the grounds of a beautiful mansion, the sunset, and the smells of a spring day.

This past weekend, CBS Sunday Morning televised a segment on the world’s happiest countries.

Apparently, Denmark has topped the charts for years. Their happiness factor stems from a state of mind called ‘hygge’ (pronounced hooga). Hygge, according to the Huffington Post is “drama-free togetherness time”. Danes believe that hygge is “we time, not me time”.

Some look at hygge as a barrier from the outside world – no conversations about politics, family issues, no complaining, no negativity, and no bragging. It’s a light-hearted interaction where people enjoy each other’s company over a meal or time together. It’s often considered shelter from the outside world.

But what would happen if we shut out social media for one day? We could compare our experience to being on a desolate island or a cabin in the woods, with no contact to the outside world.

My ‘hygge’ is evident in the list I shared above.

Here are five rules for hygge, taken from the Jessica Alexander’s, Huffington Post article “The Secret to Danish Happiness”.

  1. Come as you are.
  2. Forget the controversy.
  3. Think of yourself as a team member.
  4. See hygge as a shelter from the outside.
  5. Remember it is time limited.

Hygge is “a moment in time where everyone takes off their masks and leaves difficulties at the door, in order to appreciate the power of presence with others”.

My ‘hygge’ this weekend was spent with my husband strolling the halls of the Edgar Degas exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum in quiet solitude, savoring A butterscotch and hot fudge sundae at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, eating Mexican food, and sipping a Kaldi’s mocha cappuccino.

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And with my pooches, meandering our three acres, discovering the sights, the sounds, and the smells of nature.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you do, and what you say, are in harmony.”

~ Mahatma Gandi

Now go have a good day and spread the love!

Peace out,

Sheree

Love Letter to My Husband

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As I sauntered into the kitchen this morning in my pink robe and Chocolate Labrador themed slippers, I noticed a single piece of paper placed on the kitchen table were I normally sit for breakfast. My attention was drawn to the big red font on the signature line that read, Happy Valentine’s Day, from Russell.

Taking a seat at the table, I lifted the paper and read the words my husband penned. Countless emotions filled me – joy, happiness, thankfulness, gratefulness, love, forgiveness, and understanding.

Still sobbing, I walked the hallway to the bedroom and stroked the white-gray hair of my friend, lover, and partner for life.

I whispered in his ear, “That was the sweetest thing…that was the sweetest thing.”

Tears still flowing, I showered him with kisses. He smiled.

While I won’t divulge the contents of the letter, he expressed more than once, I was the only one for him.

Do you know how mellifluous that sounds?

You’re the only one for me.

You’re the only one for me.

Despite my many medical issues and lymphoma diagnosis, our difficult years of marriage, the passing of our animal children, and Mom’s dementia, he stayed. Even if it meant cleaning up Mom while incontinent during a dental appointment. I couldn’t do it. But he did.

Through life’s adventures, over land and sea – diving with black tip sharks, our first helicopter ride, visiting countless coffeehouses in this great nation, walking on a disappearing sand bar in the Caribbean, horseback riding, picnicking on the lawn of a home in Eleuthera with Cotton Bay in the distance, collecting seashells, writing an award-winning coffee table book – we experienced these mile markers together.

I’ve never had to want for anything, always feeling secure with Russell. And I’ve never felt lonely, like I did in my first marriage.

People, hold your loved ones tight and close.

Don’t be afraid to show affection – whether it’s a homemade card or love letter, a heart-shaped waffle, a phone call to a family member, a candlelit dinner, or a meaningful look.

Words and actions

can often mend hearts,

touch hearts,

bring hearts together.

Russell, I love you.

You are the only one for me.

You are the only one for me.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Now go celebrate your special day!

Peace out,

Sheree

What you Think you Heard (What I Really Said)

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Have you ever been in a situation or a conversation with a coworker, friend, family member, or loved one where no matter how great, wonderful, and positive your day is going, someone misconstrues what you said, words become heated, bringing your happiness to an all-time low?

Some people are quick to anger, or have a critical spirit. How do you react to ‘words that were put in your mouth’?

In your head, you’re thinking, “I never said that” or “What are you talking about?” or “What just happened?” although many times you remain quiet, and say nothing, lest you incite an argument.

We’ve all probably been the recipient (and accuser) different times in our lives.

No matter how hard you try to decipher misinterpreted words, often, it’s not possible. There’s got to be an underlying reason. Right? Maybe there’s something else on their minds, maybe they had a bad day….

Sometimes, situations escalate. You may not talk to that person for days, months, or even years.

Life happens. And in the scheme of life, Sh** happens.

The above phrase reminds me of my first girlfriend’s trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. On a strict daily budget, the four of us visited the local McDonald’s. After receiving our food, we garnered seats at a table, partially protected by a roof overhang in an open-air atmosphere. Deb and Cheryl sat under the roofed area; Jo Ellen and I sat outside.

As I began to nibble on my Filet-O-Fish and fries, I noticed several pigeons inching closer to our table.

“Don’t feed the pigeons, they’ll poop on you,” Jo Ellen advised.

I didn’t want to hear what she said. I just figured those pigeons must be hungry.

Soon, I felt a ‘plop’ directly on top of my head. A warm, white liquid began trickling down my bangs, onto my stylish sunglasses, and landing onto my Filet-O-Fish sandwich. Quickly, the tarter sauce and the ‘white liquid’ became one.

The feeling of misinterpreted words mentioned earlier, felt eerily similar to the pigeon pooping on my head.

So what can you and I do to remedy these situations?

With the pigeon poop dilemma, I located the nearest restroom, put my head under the faucet, and washed out the unpleasantry with clean water. I proceeded to enjoy the limitless beauty of the tropical island.

Sometimes, it’s not that easy with relationships.

The Bible tells us to stay calm.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.”

I especially like this quote from James 1:19-20 —

“Understand this my brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

Wow. What a powerful verse. Especially, the last sentence.

Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires.

Try to talk about what just happened with each other, in a calm, respectful manner.

Then pray.

The Feels Like Home blog suggests to pray for yourself, pray for the other person, and pray for the situation. People can’t change people. Only God can change people.

And above all, love one another.

Ephesians 4:1-32

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”

Peace out, and love

Sheree

The Grateful Jar 2016 – What are you grateful for?

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The last evening of 2016, I spent with long time friends, Tina and Mike, and my husband Russell. After a savory dinner and some music, we headed to our favorite coffeehouse in Cottleville, Van Buskirk’s Chocolate Bar for some conversation and drinks.

The mood was festive, with millenials and hipsters hanging out at the bar. Silver ribbons and star decorations hung from the rafters. Familiar music from bands of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s played in the background. Lisa, the cute bartender, ever so stylish in her yarn hat, handed out sparkling glasses of champagne to the fifteen of us gathered that night to ring in the New Year.

I’m sure the four of us were the oldest people there. No worries. Tina and I had fun dancing and singing; the guys had fun laughing at our antics.

As Mike and Russell conversed, Tina and I shared how 2016 was like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. I mentioned to her, how I’d just love to have a day of solitude.

I planned on opening the Grateful Jar after I returned home, a tradition I’d started last year on January 1, after seeing a facebook or twitter post, but for some reason, it wasn’t the right time.

I saved the Grateful Jar for today. A day where the sun was brilliant in the powder blue sky, and snow was packed hard in the  driveway. A lazy Saturday morning — kittens talking to birds outside, and the dogs sacked out in the living room with the hubster.

The Grateful Jar’s purpose – write down good things that happen to you on paper and place them in the jar. They could be surprise gifts, accomplished goals, the beauty of nature, LOL moments or even daily blessings. Then on December 31, open the jar at midnight and read all the amazing things that happened that year.

I opened the new and improved “Count Your Blessings” jar purchased at a home decor store.

– January 4 – Grateful for my husband and three beautiful fur babies.

– Grateful for my long time friend, Tina, who reminds me of the sister I never had.

– Sleeping in my own bed.

– Thankful for long winter walks in the snow with the dogs, and mornings of discovery in January.

– January 27 – Thankful God takes away my anxiety just by reading his Word.

– January – Thankful for my fur baby wake-up crew – a black cat diva, a neurotic Australian Shepherd, and big ole goofy red dog.

– January 3 – Grateful to have a roof over my head.

– Thankful for a wonderful birthday weekend.

-February 2 – Caramel cappuccinos at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse

-February 3 – Extra Dark Cacao Chocolate with sea salt at Kakao Chocolate in Maplewood.

-February 4 – Grateful for cotton candy pink clouds in the shapes of horses and dragons.

-February 4 – Grateful for sacked out naps with dogs, hubby and kitty in the comfort of my sofa on cold winter days.

-Beautiful landscapes of fields, farms, and barns.

-February 3 – Grateful for the shooting star I witnessed in the magnificent night sky at 12:22 a.m., and the incredible night sky blanketed by stars!

-March 3 – Glorious day of a purple sky sunset against silhouetted trees!

-March 14 – Thankful Adeline, the manx cat, showed up on our deck. Thankful we didn’t leave a pregnant momma out in the cold to fend for herself.

-Grateful for Adeline and the delivery of six healthy kitten babies on April 11. Praying for her health and well being.

-Grateful God listens to my prayers – April 12.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens Patric, Dora, Sweet Tea, Elvis, Ireland and Skye make me laugh every day biting my legs, jumping on my back, crawling up my nightgown, and jumping in Russell’s underwear. (six weeks old)

-Thankful for a house full of love – kitties and kittens.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens have gone to friends and church family.

-Russell snuck this one in – Grateful for Sheree’s need to be productive.

-Some days I’m just grateful for everything! (March 28) Smiley face

-Grateful my lymphoma is in check.

-Iced cappucinnos and cake pops from Starbucks.

-Grateful for outdoor showers at beach houses in Sunset Beach and the way the cool air feels on my nubile skin.

-May 24 – Grateful for the beautiful orchid I’ve kept alive for more than 1.5 years.

-Dogs riding in cars with their heads hanging out the windows, and ears flapping in the wind.

-My husband gently washing my back in the shower.

-The hummingbird on the purple helicopter plant (Cleome) on the back deck.

-The sound of the 12:30 a.m. train whistling through my open bedroom window.

-My big red dog, Bordeaux, inquisitively memorizing our car trip to the beach.

-Conversations with strangers on planes that last for 2 hours. (Strangers no more)

-When Ireland, our kitten, carries that big yellow artificial Gerber Daisy in her mouth. My inability to catch her.

-My friend Abby snuck these in. Love you Abby!

I am grateful for Sheree and Russ sharing their fur babies with me. Love, Abby

I am grateful for Midnight, Adeline, Elvis and Ireland wait for me to come in at the door. (Three hearts)

I am grateful for my very good friends Sheree and Russell !! xoxo, (smiley face with exclamation eyes) Abby

-Toes dug in chilly Michigan sand, and warm up jackets.

-God’s grace. (heart)

-Backyard bonfires with friends and s’mores with dark chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

My husband snuck this one in.

-“My wife’s big boobs.”

-Grateful to console friends that need to talk.

-Grateful for Katie Eichhorn’s ‘wedding of the century’ held at Bissinger Chocolate Factory, with all the cousins.

-Grateful for five vacations this year.

-Blessed that Wildlife Rescue Center released 12 baby squirrels on our property.

-Grateful the pain in my breast was nothing.

-Grateful to ring in the New Year with friends, Mike and Tina, and the hubster, Russell.

Alot of people on facebook said that 2016 was a bad year. Well, it wasn’t for me. Sure there were some low periods. Even unproductive times. With all the things that bring a smile to my face, make me laugh, and gave me warm fuzzies, I think it was a pretty good year.

And Lord knows, I love all that chocolate and coffee stimulating my brain!

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Feeling, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, talking, loving, building relationships…

However your 2016 played out, remember there’s always this year to change things up.

Hope 2017 is a good one for you.

Peace Out and Love,

Sheree

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