The Spirit of Aloha – The Lei Tree of Maui

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Last April, my husband surprised me with an anniversary trip to Hawaii. The second leg of our trip we spent eight glorious days on the island of Maui. Honua Kai Resort, on Kaanapali Beach’s north coast, served as our home base.

Each day, we’d venture out and explore a different part of the island. One of my favorite drives was to the breezy south coast. I adored the winding curves, the scenic overlooks, the wild surf, effervescent beaches, and aquamarine sea. Every so often, hubby and I would stumble upon a beach where driftwood washed ashore. Majestic trees, barren and seasoned by the radiant island sun, told their stories.

One such tree, I fondly named the “Lei Tree” , spotted near Ukehame Beach Park. Reposed on the western shoreline, her resilient, sinewy neck lay adorned with colorful leis – each represented a victory she’d won, a battle she’d conquered. She was a true, Hawaiian warrior princess.

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I often reminisce about that statuesque lady. Her memory makes me smile.

She represents the true ‘Spirit of Aloha’ – arms open, ready to love…ready to give.

According to the Hawaiian people, Aloha also means love, compassion, kindness and grace. Its literal Hawaiian definition is “The presence of (Divine) breath.”  Taken from Alo = presence, front, or face and Hâ = breath. …

In Hawaiian culture, the spirit of aloha goes well beyond a simple greeting.

It is a way of life.

At this time of year (and maybe even every day), let’s try and spread the Spirit of Aloha to those around us. Every one we meet on the street, in stores, our friends, our family…

Maybe our lives would be that much fuller, if we accepted people for who they are…..

Aloha, and Merry Christmas !

Peace, Love and Sand dollars,

Sheree

_______________________

Sheree is the author of three books – Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, and Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances.

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

 

 

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Staying in with Sheree K. Nielsen – An interview with Linda’s Book Bag

So honored to be featured on Linda’s Book Blog today in “Staying In with Sheree K. Nielsen” with my inspirational essay collection, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits. Read the entire essay on Linda’s site.

Linda's Book Bag

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As we are now in that frantic run up to Christmas when time seems short and we can all begin to feel slightly stressed, it feels the perfect moment to be staying in with Sheree K. Nielsen for the evening to chat about one of her books.

Staying in with Sheree K.Nielsen

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Sheree. Thank you for staying in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

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Linda, I have brought along Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits– An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It is the most recently published of my three books, and shows how tender and positive adventures and experiences can be in life, if we just keep our eyes open to our surroundings.

(I think we all need a book likeOcean Rhythms Kindred…

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In Search of My Kindred Spirit – An excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit

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Today my thoughts are with those affected by the hurricane. My friends in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, seemed to have fare a little better than the other coastal towns like Wilmington. So in honor of them, here’s an excerpt from my book, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, to be released Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Hope you enjoy it.

The essay is titled, Finding My Kindred Spirit, and it talks about finding a perfectly inspirational place some search for all their lives. I was lucky to find this place of calm about 7 years ago. So drawn to this spot, I return year after year…

“Two days later, on a radiant Carolina morning, with canteens and cameras in-tow, hubby, the dog and I, made our journey down the beach to the Kindred Spirit Bench from the 40th Street beach access. Along the way, we took time to soak in the sights and sounds – seagulls soaring overhead, driftwood wash ashore, and children building sandcastles.

Arriving at our destination, my carefree animal child with the ice-blue eyes hopped up on one of the two weathered benches aside her Earth Mother. We cast a gaze onto the flat hard sand watching passersby carefully select seashells from the shallow tide pools.”

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak. The quote below precedes the essay in the book.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Take Time to Breathe – It’s Time to Slow Down

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I read a message on author/illustrator’s Sandy Gingras’  Facebook page who I’ve recently become acquainted. She mentioned how people are missing the point of beach life – simplicity.

A beach girl at heart, trapped in the Midwest, I can identify with her. All I’ve ever wished for is a little cottage by the sea. I’d be happy with a one room home to call my own – as long as I could spend my time outside with nature, the waves, the sand, and the sea.

But for now, I’m limited to beachy vacations to the South and Great Lakes regions.

As a writer, I get caught up in trying to check things off my daily ‘to do’ list, and often miss the little things in life happening right before my eyes – like the white-bellied plump squirrel munching on organic banana chips I’ve scattered for her on the deck rails. Or the black banded pennant dragonfly fluttering above scores of pastel lavender and eggplant-hued Cleomes in my garden.

When I take time to slow down, I notice the small things in life.

Yesterday, I eyed a Momma bunny in our backyard foraging bits of dried grass, meticulously moving the straw-like material from an old nest to a fresh one, in preparation for a blessed event! She allowed me within a foot of her presence. Nesting grass was tightly gripped in her mouth. I was overwhelmed by her beauty.

Inside the house, Miss Adeline, our Manx cat, was leaping windowsill to windowsill, vocalizing about her bunny friend, and dreaming about a future bunny buffet!

It’s these times when I slow down, my ideas and creative juices flow.

With that said, for those of you who love to travel, revel at nature, and spend time with family and pets – you might just like my upcoming book – Ocean Rhythms, Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It’s due to be published this summer by Ocean Spirit Photography. To accompany the essays, photographs will be at the end of each story. Cover reveal coming soon!

Have I started marketing yet? Not really. This is the first mention of the book.

Am I worried about marketing? Maybe. (Ha – who am I kidding – Yes!)

In the big scheme of things, I think it will all work out.

But for June 21, the beginning of Summer Solstice, I need to soak in the playfulness of the squirrels and the cardinals prancing about the deck rails, and listen to the words of Sandy Gingras —

“Take time to breathe”

Peace out, and love,

Sheree

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Yoga with Baby Goats & a Coastal Irish Pub – my newest publications

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Copyright Shenanigoats Yoga 2018

Good Morning Everyone,

Normally, I don’t post freelance publications on my blog. My blog is mainly inspirational posts and content. But…I’m just so excited on how these two assignments turned out, I wanted to share with you.

The first is a story on Shenanigoats Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee titled “Got Goats” (published in Long Weekends Spring Summer 2018) and how much fun goat yoga can be!

The second is a three-page spread on Fibber McGee’s, Sunset Beach, North Carolina’s only Irish Pub with a coastal flair, titled “Luck of the Irish” (published in South Brunswick Magazine Spring 2018). Sunset Beach is my favorite place to vacation, and Fibber’s is amazing!

So here you go! Enjoy the stories, and feel free to leave comments below.

Happy Monday! It snowed here in the Midwest last night, so I’m loving it!

Peace out,

xoxoxo

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Oysters and Pearls

Recently, I’ve been listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Encore 2 CD set of hits while taking the canine kids for drives around town, running errands, or heading to appointments. I’ve played this CD so many times, it has deep groves in the vinyl.

As I was singing along to “Oysters and Pearls” one afternoon, the chorus was stuck in my head.

(Chorus)

Some people love to lead
And some refuse to dance.
Some play it safely, other take a chance.
Still it’s all a mystery
This place we call the world
Where most live as oysters
While some become pearls.

(Chorus)

Some never fade away, some crash and burn
Some make the world go round, other watch it turn.
Still it’s all a mystery
This place we call the world.
Most are fine as oysters
While some become pearls

Hmm…Oysters and Pearls…

Haven’t some of us been both, at one point in our lives?

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When I won the Da Vinci Eye Award for my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances, in 2015, published by Ocean Spirit Photography, I felt like a pearl – so proud, so confident, to have collaborated with five talented Missouri women authors, my husband, and a wonderful designer, to ultimately publish this inspirational book of poetry and photography.

When I realized I wouldn’t be able to bear children, I felt like an oyster, even a failure. A deep chasm was left in my heart.

But quickly, I felt like a pearl again, when I was able to mentor a select group of youth at O’Fallon Christian Church for three years. And what awesome adults these kids have grown up to be – Riliegh, Sidney, Tyler, and Ben.

Some say the key to life is moderation. “You need to crack open the oyster to find the pearl.” (author unknown)

I like that a lot.

So maybe, in our own way, we’re oysters on the outside?

We don’t realize our own potential until we go out on a limb, take a risk, learn how to scuba dive, ride a horse, walk across a ranging stream to reach that waterfall, or whatever it is we crave to get excited about life….and you!

My little kitten, Ireland (aka Tater Tot), sure knows how to live life. She is pure joy! All I have to do is look at her, and the corners of my mouth upturn in a grin. Everything is an adventure for this fur baby. She loves chasing foil balls, talking to cardinals through the French doors, watching squirrels on the deck, stalking her brother from behind the footstool, trying new treats, and snoozing on my lap in the cool of the evening.

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But me…I’ve been playing it safe, except for vacation, when anything is possible.

Why is it for most of us, we hide in our bubble after arrive home from a vacation adventure?

Today, I’m going to make a promise to you, that I’ll try to take more risks in life.

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I’m not sure where this adventure will lead, but I’m going to finish those writing projects that have been collecting dust, explore my local area, dance more, laugh more and be the tree hugger nerd that I truly am.

Hopefully, I’ll feel more like a pearl than an oyster…every day.

Care to join me?

Peace out and love,

xoxo

Sheree

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

Sheree’s Happy Phone Pics – Or Things That Make Me Smile

With all the negative stuff happening in the world right now, I’ve decided to post phone pics. Sometimes the picture quality wasn’t great, but everything I snapped pics of made me happy. It’s interesting to see just how many photos are merely simply pleasures in life, or of friends and family.

Well here you go! I hope my happy crappy phone pics make you smile, too!

Let me know which photos you like the best by leaving a comment below!

Peace and Love,

Sheree

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These two – I love them so!

 

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A secondhand store and its treasures

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Standing in front of Galliot Cay Sand Bar, Exuma Cays – a bucket list adventure

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The St. Louis Art Museum’s interesting masterpieces

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A Caribbean Island

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A visit to Tenth Life Cat Rescue and snuggling a kitten

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The corn field behind our house

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The cancer survivor tiles at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis

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The view directly in front of me

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The smell of a freshly groomed fur baby at Sebastian’s Pet Salon

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A 100 year old barn in winter

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My favorite comic strip by Hilary Price. Even better when it’s focused on English.

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Cousins

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The hubster being silly.

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An amazing book – Folly Beach Dances – photos by me and hubster; poetry by 6 women friends

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Corn Mazes involving Missouri teams

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Cappuccino at a favorite coffeehouse

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Sleepy cats

 

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Booksignings with friends

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Surprises from my honey

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Stolen moments

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Long time friends listening to a jazz concert

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A swinging bridge in Missouri

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Students that turn into friends

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These three

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Acceptance into a juried art show

 

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The aroma of a good peanut butter and cutout cookie, right out of the oven.

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Fun Hats

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Preparing a savory pork loin

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The smooth sounds of Cris Botti at the St. Louis Symphony

Dear Kindred Spirit…..How I’ve Missed You

DSC_1691 Ks mailbox copyri Dear Kindred Spirit, This is the fifth time in three years that I’ve visited your peaceful respite. The mailbox and the bench formed the basis for newfound friends – Nancy and Jazzy from Virginia, Jacqueline and Sandy – your keepers, and Colin and Dan from LA. It’s piqued the interest of friends back home, Lisa and Mark.

It’s with deep sadness since last I wrote in your journal, my Aunt Georgia succumbed to emphysema, and my sweet three-legged cat, Tripoli passed on. Though they’re gone, they shared a common thread. Both were both Kindred Spirits – bringing joy and happiness to all those around them.

And just last year, on the sandy shoreline, near the Kindred Spirit Bench, our dogs Sabrina and Bordeaux frolicked with Dan, the Italian greyhound, now running free on Rainbow Bridge. DSC_1702 dunes copyr

Oh Kindred Spirit, how I love your inspiration! From your weathered post, to the ocean’s depths,DSC_1697 flag copyright to your rolling dunes, to the red, white, and blue waving in the breeze!

A gracious ‘thank you’ to the couple who planted a foundation so many years, and started a movement of love…a way to share innermost thoughts and feelings in journals safely protected by a mailbox at sea’s door.

I come here today with my fur babies, and my husband – my best friend.

May your legacy live on! Xoxoxo Sheree Nielsen Wentzville, MO http://www.beachdances.com

There is No Such Thing as a Little Moment….

DSC_0114Walking through the house this week, I was reminded of a saying on a picture frame, “There is no such thing as a little moment.”

The moment in time, protected by pewter and glass, was captured at the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse jetty, early on in my marriage. It was a windy day, the sun was shining, and hubby and I were smiling ear to ear.

Each day, I am reminded that there are no such things as ‘little moments’.

When the dog does something silly like get wrapped up under the blankets, rendering it impossible to make the bed…20150325_094841 Sabrina copyr

When you walk among 4,000 Blue Morpho butterflies in flight at the Sophie Sachs Butterfly House, in Chesterfield, Missouri…

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When you witness the sky change colors from orange, to blood red, to blue-gray while strolling the shoreline in Sunset Beach, North Carolina…

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They’re really big moments, aren’t they?

So here’s to those moments, those fleeting bits of time, that lift us up wherever we are.

Those moments…knowing God is in our presence.

Happy Thursday and God Bless!

Xoxoxo
Sheree