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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.

DSCN1601 Sheree at helm

  • 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 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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The Fuss About Persimmons

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In Our State this month, there was an article about wild persimmons, and how they’re the fruit of the Gods.

Frankly, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Every persimmon I’ve ever tasted made my face pucker and lips curl.

The article goes on to say you should never pick a persimmon from the tree…wait until it drops on the ground…that’s how you know they’ll be ripe and edible.

So I decided to give this theory a chance, since there are wild persimmon trees on our property.

Today, I pulled on my Sahalie shorts, Life is Good t-shirt, and donned my grey warm-up jacket. After lacing up my tennis shoes, the dogs and I sprinted down the deck steps to the first clearing where the persimmons lay strewn about the ground.

I collected as many could fit into a Kleenex, and stuffed the makeshift carryall in my jacket pocket. I laughed and realized ‘how silly of me’, because I knew I’d be back for more fruit.

My mini Aussie Shepherd and I raced up the deck steps. Gently, I removed the Kleenex filled with persimmons, and set the ripe cargo on our patio table. As I glanced back at our property, I noticed Red Dog, with his nose to the ground. As he raised his head, I caught him munching on those peachy treasures, savoring every bite.

Racing back down the steps, I collected more persimmons underfoot, and plucked two from the tree. Once inside the house, I selected one of the specimens I’d picked from the tree. I was eager to prove Sheri Castle, the article’s author, wrong about her theory.

As I bit into the tough skin, my face shrunk up like a prune. I spit it back out.

Next I selected a peachy-purple specimen, almost bruised-looking, and carefully bit into the fruit. Surprised, it tasted like guava, peach, apricot and even a touch of cinnamon. As I chewed, I noticed the skin was thin, with the pulp soft and fibrous – eager to shed its seeds. Yes, this persimmon was on the ground.

It’s probably too late this year, but next year I’ll be ready for those sweet persimmons as they drop like sugarplums onto one of Grandma’s quilts, at the suggestion of Our State (blanketing the ground to catch the fruit).

But for now, I’ll savor those tiny little ‘deer candies’ until they’re gone, and concede that I’ve figured out ‘the fuss about persimmons.’

 

 

The People We Meet – And their stories

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A little over 4 years ago I visited Tybee Island, Georgia.

One of my favorite spots to hang out with hubby was Backwater Beach, a little known secret where the locals often went to relax, and view sunsets of Little Tybee Island in the distance. The quiet calm of the area was serene; perfect for people watching.

Strolling down to Backwater Beach one afternoon from our B&B, I met Marsha Henson of Sea Kayak Paddleboard (above right) who was instructing a young woman’s developmental course on stand-up paddling. We struck up a casual conversation about her passion – the paddleboard and training. She mentioned how the discipline of the paddling and the training helped some of the girls deal with issues in their own life.

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Her Southern strength and hospitality stuck with me. Marsha had a mission and a purpose. I was glad I met this woman; able to hear her story.

At my Lifegroup meeting this week, some of us talked about our stories.

How did your life begin? What happened in your life that made it broken? How were you rescued? And what is happening in your life right now?

Since my lymphoma diagnosis in 2012, I just feel like whatever is thrown in my path, I can handle it. Bring it on!

I am often reminded of a Kelly Clarkson song, “What Doesn’t Kill us Makes Us Stronger”.

So the next time you’re at a coffeehouse, the gym, or walking the dog at the park, and you come across someone that wants to strike up a conversation for whatever reason – take the time to listen to their story. There’s a reason God placed you there at that moment in time.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll want to hear your story.

Isaiah 40:29-31

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A Walk in the Woods….

Yesterday, the morning air was crisp, and my senses were awake to the sights of October in all its fall regalia. Took a walk with the canine kids on our three acres and found some amazing feats of nature.

They reminded of a song by Chris Tomlin – “Indescribable” — the first part goes like this:

“From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God”
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Please enjoy my photo journey that I’ll do my best to describe…

20151013_085236 fuzzy seedpod copyrA white fuzzy seedpod…

20151013_085130 knarled tree trunk crop copryA knarled tee trunk reminding me of a scene from a fairy tale…

20151013_085315 berries crop copyrberries that looked like miniature tomatoes…

20151013_085210 leaf crop copyra tree changing colors, and the affects of pests, but still beautiful…

20151013_085737 yellow wildflower crop copyra yellow wildflower…

20151013_085409 dried queen anne's lace copy crop copyrA dried flower that mimics tiny stars…

20151013_085442 deer like trunk crop copyra fallen branch that looks likes a doe’s face…

20151013_085614 corn copy copyrcorn stripped clean from the husk….

20151013_085533 leaf crop copyra sunset in a leaf…

And finally, when our walk was finished, I snapped this pic of the dogs. You can sense the happiness they are feeling (well, at least one of them!)

20151013_090117 dogs revised cropTake time to notice the universal beauty in nature and everything around us, and you’ll soon realize we’re all connected….