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

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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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Uncle Willie’s Farm – An Excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit about Heritage

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Today, on this brisk autumn day in the Midwest, I’d like to share a story from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits about my family heritage titled “Uncle Willie’s Farm”. The essay recounts memories of my first and only visit to the family farm. It’s by far, one of my favorites.

“Grateful for this experience with my family, I understand a little better this place called Uncle Willie’s farm. I can only envision the playground this farm provided for my mother when she was a young girl full of dreams.

I have come full circle with my heritage. As the noonday warms me from the inside out, an overwhelming feeling fills my body. My throat starts to close an tears well in my eyes. Generations have passed, yet I feel the spirits of those that came before me. I am walking on precious ground. Oh, how I wished I had been around during that era, even just for a day.”

“The ornament of a house, is the friends who frequent it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I welcome any comments below. I’ll be at Main Street Books on November 3 from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. signing copies, and doing a giveaway. If you liked this sneak peak, my book is available on Amazon, and your local bookstore Main Street Books.

Life on the Wall (Bloody Bay Wall) – Excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

Good morning everyone! I hope our neighbors due south are staying safe in preparation for hurricane Florence.

Today I’ll be sharing an excerpt from “Life on the Wall”, my diving adventure with friend Sheila and divemaster Zam, about the first time I cast a gaze on Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands.

Hope you enjoy!

“Keeping the wall as my visual landmark, I fin-kick and swim downward. Pressure builds in my ear canals. Pinching my nose with my thumb and forefinger, my cheeks puff as I force an exhale, clearing my ears.

I check my depth gauge, which now reads seventy-eight feet. Glancing to my right, I study the blue abyss. An immense Caribbean reef shark, sleek and gray, appears unexpectedly out of the chasm. I inhale deeply from my regulator, and hold my breath — an action forbidden in scuba diving. I quickly remember to exhale.”

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“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are truly adjusted to each other, who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of mankind.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

The Pillars of Hercules – Sneak Peak from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

This sneak peak below was taken from an essay I penned for Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits titled “The Pillars of Hercules” – a dive site off the craggy coast of Cayman Brac, teaming with tall pillar corals and magnificent macro life. Our divemaster and boat captain for our adventure was Craig Burhart – also unforgettable. He lead our group from Chesterfield Missouri (Y-Kiki Divers).

Here’s the excerpt from “The Pillars of Hercules”

“Donning my equipment over my sleek swimsuit, I jumped in giant-stride from the dive platform. The tepid water temperature felt invigorating on my skin. With only ten pounds in my weight belt, I dropped effortlessly to the sea floor. Russell followed close behind. The sun’s shadows danced on the rocky bluffs below the surface.

While drifting along the crushed seashell bottom, in the distance, I recognized the regal coral described by Craig. Tall butter cream pillar spires swayed softly and reminded me of bottle brushes, flourishing with banded butterflyfish and hogfish snappers. Close up, their bristles were actually polyp tips that opened and closed.”

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Well, I hope that little teaser peaked your interest enough to visit my blog next Tuesday for a sneak peak at another essay.

For more about Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets click here. The book releases on September 25, 2018.

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

Grasshoppers, Roses, and 12-point Bucks – Nature’s Good Luck Signs

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Since last Saturday, I’ve been encountering glimpses of nature…things I consider good luck, even God things. The first sign occurred a week ago on a Saturday night.

A lime green grasshopper with fat lips attached himself to the outside of our glass storm door. Peering in to get a view of our big, wide world inside, he covered one of his bulbous eyes with a front feeler, (sort of like a human hand) to block out the bright light emanating from our hallway. His caramel-hued mouth was stuck in a ‘pucker’ position – like he was ready for a kiss.

The cats were mesmerized by this creature, and watched his movements cautiously. Six spindly legs, about as wide as a toothpick, secured him nicely to the glass.

Grasshoppers are keen to sounds and vibrations around them. I wonder what he was thinking about the cats chatting, the tv blaring in the background, and me talking to him through the glass?

The other natural phenomenon occurred while speaking with my friend Pat on the phone. As I peered out the bay window, I noticed a pop of red on my pink knockout rosebush. Upon closer investigation, a bright red rose was blooming near the back of the rosebush. How could this have happened? I felt so lucky. And the same thing happened again later in the week — another red rose blooming on the same rosebush!

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The third good luck sign occurred while traveling a country road near my house with friend Abby. Just minutes before a glorious pastel tangerine and violet sunset, we glanced to our right to eye a majestic 12-point buck whose antlers were in full velvet (covered with brushy hair and a waxy coating) resting in a field of tall, grassy-green hued soy beans. I had never seen a buck of such a sizable stature. He appeared confident, and when we turned to observe him, cocked his head slightly to the right, locking a gaze on us, unstartled by our vehicle. I wonder how tall this creature would be if he stood up?

I didn’t snap a photo of the buck; the moment went by so fast. I chose to treasure the memory in my mind.

The deer, a symbol of Chinese good luck, also means success, longevity and prosperity.

These three brushes with nature, gave me the energy to look forward with hope of good things to come. Sometimes, if we take the time to slow down and experience the small treasures in life, it slows our heart rate, fills our souls, and helps us stay positive.

“Each moment of the year, has its own beauty.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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If you love nature reading about nature, oceans, and the beauty around us, my book Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets is due out in paperback September 25. It’s available on Kindle preorder here.

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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Feeding Yourself – Increasing Positive Energy; Decreasing Things that Suck Energy

Yesterday, I met a writer friend for coffee, tea and conversation at our favorite coffeehouse – Van Buskirk Chocolate Bar, Cottleville, Missouri. The conversation was easy, as it always is with this friend.

Serendipitously, another friend, who I hadn’t seen since in a couple of months, just happened to be hanging out, working on his laptop. I noticed him as I stepped inside the door.

We greeted each other with a hug and a smile. I asked how he was doing, and he spoke briefly about his new endeavor.

At one point, we invited him to pull up a chair and chat with us. I knew this man designed beautiful websites and inspirational videos. I asked for some marketing advice about our forthcoming picture book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, due out in September (Amphorae).

It was effortless listening to him speak, and before we knew it, three hours had flown by. We agreed to think about his ideas and get back to him.

I bid my writer friend goodbye with a hug, knowing we would see each other soon – connected by a project and similar interests.

I also hugged my male friend and bid goodbye. But the goodbye morphed into another conversation. A conversation about being fed – spiritually, emotionally, visually and creatively – and the energy that accompanies those specific points.

He often suggested to friends or clients to reflect on their own lives by making a list to identify which people, places and even actions, feed energy levels, or suck energy levels.

I began to think about his advice in terms of motivation, focus and goals in my own life.

I quickly realized that my fur babies, nature, song, dance, art, sunshine and exercise are a positive force in my life. At different times, my husband can be positive, neutral and even negative. (Sorry dear) Certain friends are always positive. Some friends fall in all three categories at one time or another.

So, what’s a person to do?

Spend more time with those people that give you positive vibes. Hang out where people are uplifting. Spent more time in nature, if that’s your thing. Needlepoint, paint, draw – whatever lifts your energy level.

The opposite is true for things that suck energy. Decrease those aspects.

For me lately, social media sucks energy. Often times, it’s so depressing. So, I’ve vowed to limit my social media time to a minimum per day.

As a writer, it’s hard to get away from social media, altogether. It’s an important aspect of networking, connecting with readers, and even selling yourself.

Since nature uplifts me, I spent more time with the pooches yesterday walking our property. Normally, I rush right through it, hoping they will do their business, get some exercise, so I get can back to writing.

Yesterday was more of a ‘meander’. Sure, it took longer, but we observed nature’s splendor and noticed the small things along our journey.

Things like –

The way the sun reflected on the slightly budding, yet naked trees and caramel-hued earth in my favorite part of the clearing.

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The carvings in the smooth telephone pole, and shiny metal inspection tags left by the lineman over the years.

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Twisted, tangled, fairy tale branches, leaning into another tree trunk for support.

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A hollow depression in a log carved by some creature exhibiting ragged edges, wedged horizontally against a knobby trunk.

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The way my blue-eyed Pretty Dog pondered life intently studying the landscape.

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The wet, pungent leaves underfoot, and how Red Dog stepped gingerly to avoid the sticky Missouri clay on his paws.

Their noses to the ground, Red Dog and Pretty Dog explored new growth in the clearing, and coyote scat laden with seeds.

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Yes, this was exactly what I need today.

I needed to be fed.

I’m curious to see how you increase positive energy and decrease things that take energy from your lives. Please feel free to comment.

Peace out,

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Need, When We Need it. Learning to Trust God

This morning, I awoke early, riddled with anxiety from a concern weighing heavy on my heart from last evening. I tried praying my favorite Bible verse, “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything,” over and over in my mind, but the more I prayed, the more restless I became. After thirty minutes of tossing and turning in bed, I glanced at the alarm clock which read 7:01. I sat up in bed, stretched my legs, slipped on my tan wool slippers, and greeted Red Dog who was by my side, with a pat on a head.

As I pulled the cord to open the vertical blinds in our bedroom, I gazed up at the moon, still high in the cornflower sky, with hints of waking from a cold Midwestern night. The sky delighted in a canvas of cornflower blue, and silhouettes of barren trees painted the serene landscape.

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As I purveyed the entrance to our clearing, a single deer appeared. I moved quickly through the house to locate my Nikon camera in the dining room. As I moved back through each room, I glanced out windows as I passed, and spotted two more deer, for a total of three. Two does and one fawn meandered gracefully west to east along the back yard of our property. At the boundary of our neighbor facing directly east, I snapped several photos. The creatures were bending, sniffing the ground, and looking up on alert. They traveled at a leisurely pace, repeating their routine. Parts of the ground were frozen and snow-laden, while oaky-hued ground laid the foundation.

As I pushed back the sheer curtains in the dining room’s bay windows, the dogs quietly whined when they noticed the deer, and Momma cat kept a tune with a low growl, her sleek body all the while brushing the windowsill.

I watched as the deer entered our neighbor’s yard directly across the cul de sac, and disappeared in the wooded area behind their home.

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I had hoped they would come full circle, and perambulate our yard a second time, enabling me to capture a few more snapshots. So much for wishful thinking.

I prepared my breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon, pumpkin bread, and English Breakfast tea. Rather than follow my routine and turn on the Today Show, I opted to sit and ponder my ‘wake up call’ by appreciating the wonders of nature outside my kitchen door.

The exquisiteness of the deer, the moon, the snow, and the trees, was just enough inspiration to take my mind off my troubles and anxieties. It forced me to slow down, and funnel my energy in a positive manner.

And although I received thirty minutes less sleep than yesterday, what I received in return was even more valuable and rewarding. My concerns are still near, but I soon realized I needed to replace my worry with trust.

God gives us what we need, when we need it. We just need to figure out how to use it.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Now go have a blessed day!

Peace out and Love,

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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