Perspective

Welcome To My Morning:) by Roni Delmonico

One of the best things I did in our new home was to create a coffee station upstairs in the sitting area of our bedroom. Every morning, I wake up, turn on the coffee machine and throw open the curtains to a brand new day. There always seems to be some new delight, a rainbow, a shaft of light hitting the colorful trees just right in the fall, a mama deer and her fawn, and once in awhile… a gorgeous pair of bald eagles. It feels like a hug good morning, from the God of my heart. Such a lovely way to start the day. I don’t often stray far from that window until after my coffee but on this beautiful Saturday morning I could not resist. I threw on my sweatshirt and my boots and made my way down to the river’s edge, trying my best not to disturb the pair. It’s a real treat when I find them together. They didn’t stay long… but long enough for me to feel grateful and to count my many blessings. Our home is at the top of that list. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is good to really feel that. Thankful.

Do you think much about the routines and rituals you build your life around? Are they good ones that edify and lift you up? Fill you with light? Or do they instead, fill your head with darkness and fear? Do you know peace and breathe deep when you are in your surroundings? If not… maybe it’s time for a change. Sometimes the scariest leap of faith, is the most rewarding one.

But remember this. Sometimes a break from your normal routine, is exactly what you need. Out there in the dark and cold; in those scary and sometimes lonely places outside of your comfort zone… that is where the magic can happen. Don’t ask me how I know. ;-)

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled by Roni Delmonico

One day at a time… sometimes, even one breath at a time. How often have I heard those words, or spoken them to another? They apply to all kinds of situations, but in my own life, never more so than this past year. Both my father and my father in law have been diagnosed with illnesses that simply won’t get better with time. And most recently, my little dog visited the vet with a cough and left with a congestive heart failure diagnosis that likely means we have no more than 6 months to a year left with her. I am learning on a different scale these days… what it truly means to live one day at a time. And to let tomorrow take care of itself. The autumn days of our lives hold a different kind of beauty. A slower, softer, more deliberate kind of beauty. The kind that sits close to the heart, and wrings every last bit of joy and life out of what remains.

I know there are those of you in my life who are living one breath at a time, just as I am. And this one… this one breath, filled with life… is still beautiful in all its melancholy.

Love deeply. Tomorrow is never promised.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:33-34

Still by Roni Delmonico

What your house looks like on the outside will never matter at all, if the ones living inside it don’t fill it with love. When I married him thirty years ago, we didn’t have any idea how much work that would take or the cliffs we’d both scale and fall off of. I’m amazed every day….

This photograph is in the very first set I ever took with my little Canon XSi. The way he looked at me turned my heart inside out. It’s a precious thing to me, having captured that moment in time.

The foundation of any home is love. Build on that… and it will be beautiful, no matter the scars, the cracks, the things forgotten, the broken promises, the scratches, the tearing at the seams, the taking away and the adding on and the inevitable passage of time.

I’ve never met a thing he can’t fix. Not even me.

Practicing Presence And Expecting Rewards by Roni Delmonico

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Growing vegetables, flowers and herbs has taught me so many wonderful lessons, not the least of which is developing habits of presence.  It's amazing to watch something as tiny as a seed, become a plant just bursting with abundance that feeds my family.  But that bounty that comes from a small seed requires diligence and care.  It means you have to know the difference between a weed and a young plant.  It means you need to water and give fertilizer even when it's hot outside and you're especially tired (in fact it's even more important then).  It means you have to get dirty and sweaty sometimes, and you have to watch out for things that might harm or even kill the fruits of your labor.  

It means you have to notice the needs of something outside yourself.

And it helps to pay attention to the needs inside yourself too.

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I Just Know by Roni Delmonico

I often wish we could go back to simpler times.  Back before the internet was a thing.  Back before social media changed the fabric of society.  Back when the best part of my day was sitting quietly with my little boy in the sandbox for a lazy hour of pouring, molding, sifting... with nothing but songbirds and frogs and Canadian pines making noise.  That was inevitably followed by falling asleep together in the hammock without a care in the world.

I watched a movie last night called The Circle.  It's been on my mind a lot today.  No one ever saw us doing these things.  There's no picture of it and no video... and I don't have a hundred comments telling me that it's adorable and awesome and some of the best moments of my life.

I just knew.

I really don't always think we're ok down here.

Set Free by Roni Delmonico

Remembering...

And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
— John 8:32
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Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
— Oscar Wilde

He stood at the door to her cell quietly, willing her to look at him.  It was cold in the room and she was shivering, the blanket beside her still folded neatly on the bed, untouched.  The thin mattress was covered in plastic and it rustled slightly as she shifted her weight.  His heart went out to her but he hadn't been invited in, so he remained outside.

She looked up at the small square window above her head and he could see the tracks of her tears glistening in the single ray of sunlight illuminating her face.  Her hands were clasped in her lap and her lips moved in silent prayer.  Her shame was palpable.  But to him... she was beautiful and precious beyond measure.  He would stay as long as he needed to. Until she was free.

He sat down against the far wall, his back against the cold concrete and remembered the day she was born.  All the plans he had for her, the gifts he had bestowed upon her, the times he had whispered to her in the dark and held her when she was afraid came back to him, each one a part of who she was, who he was.  She would grow up and forget... but he... he would always remember.  That's what love does.  It remembers the song long after the song is forgotten.

Days turned to weeks, and then weeks into years.  Seasons changed from winter to spring and then started all over again. He visited her every single day, often leaving a gift behind, some small token of his affection for her.  She eventually found her rhythm and she did the work expected of her; no more, no less.  Once in awhile, she would stare up at the stars through the window in her room and wonder if she'd ever be free.

As she drifted off to sleep, the lights on the cell block winked off one by one and he knelt beside her bed, praying for her. It was midnight and she opened her eyes.  Sitting up, she saw the door to her cell was open and in confusion, she stood in the space and peered down the corridor. Every one of the doors on the block was open, as far down the hallway as she could see.  He was standing in the light at the end, holding his hand out to her, a genuine smile on his face.  

She ran to him then, shouting for joy.  It had been so long!  Her cries woke many others, who found that their doors were open as well.  When she reached him, she threw herself into his arms and said, "Where were you?  Why didn't you come when I called?"

He gathered her close and said softly to all of them, "You are free to go.  All you ever needed to do... was believe it and walk out."  

Several called him crazy and said they'd only be caught and returned to the prison.  They turned away from him sadly and went back to their cells, closing the door behind them, and listening as the locks clicked shut.  But she held tight to his hand, and made the choice to follow him out.  

The next evening she returned and stood outside her old prison cell.  It was occupied even though the door to the cell was still open.  She sat down against the far wall, her back against the cold concrete and remembered the day he was born.  All the plans she had for him, the gifts she had bestowed upon him, the times she had whispered to him in the dark and held him when he was afraid came back to her, each one a part of who he was, who she was.  He would grow up and forget... but she... she would always remember.  That's what love does.  It remembers the song long after the song is forgotten. 

She would stay as long as she needed to.  Until he was free.

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When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
— Luke 7:36-50

Exhaling by Roni Delmonico

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The Biblical story of the creation of humanity has the Creator making man from clay and then breathing His own life into him, and it's said of man that we were made in the image of the Creator.  I find that symbolism striking and relevant.  If our work is to be human, it's our task as its creator to breath life into it.  Inspiration (literally "to inhale") is everything we do to draw our deepest breath from the world around us - all that we love and admire, all that we care about and want to protect: everything that lights our fire.  But it's the act of exhaling into our work that makes it ours, that gives life and spark to what we make.  Your authentic and best work will be made in your image.  It will reflect you to both the world and yourself.   -- David duChemin 

A Little Bird Told Me by Roni Delmonico

I have heard it said, that if you want to take great pictures, then you should stand in front of great things. I certainly feel like I do a good amount of that. But for some reason... my own heart always returns to the little, ordinary moments of my life again and again and as a result, so does my camera. I have seen some extraordinary things; the magic of skyscrapers, the swell of an ocean, the magnificence of a pride of lions, the spray of a whale and her baby, the vast expanse of a desert, the stimulating nightlife of Las Vegas, the grandest of canyons, the birth of babies and the mind numbing beauty of a Hawaiian sunset.

But do you know what still moves me the most? The feather details of a small bird, the swirls of a single flower about to give up its last breath, the way dew looks like a rainbow of diamonds first thing in the morning, the shadows cast by something standing in the light, the way wet rocks shine, the way a robin somehow instinctively knows that if it shoves its beak into some healthy wet grass, it will inevitably find some breakfast, without too much effort.

The truth is, I really don't think there is anything on earth that couldn't be classified as a "great and extraordinary thing." And these in between moments ... what I sometimes think of as "valley moments" are where I often find true greatness shines. That is a very good place to spend prepping for what I perceive as peaks. And I often wonder if we have it backward; if our valleys are really our peaks.

"Remember the little things, for one day you may wake up and find that they were the big things." - Robert Brault
 

On Roots and Wings by Roni Delmonico

He's my firstborn and he taught me all that I need to know about motherhood... 
- Everything will be alright if you just love me where I'm at. I promise.

- I will forgive you every mistake in the end because I know that you do, in the deepest part of me. You're my mom.

- I will stretch your patience, your knowledge, your ability to exist on little to no sleep... but your heart will be bigger for it.

- I will teach you to be unselfish most of the time, and to be sad when you choose selfishness.

- I will make you laugh when you want to cry and cry tears of joy.

-I will show you how to let go, many times through the years but I'll do it as gently as I can.

- I will forget you sometimes and hurt your heart with words and you will do the same. So I will teach you to forgive, 70 x 7, always.

- I will show you how to step out of your protective shell of perfection and be the mom with the messy house and the messy hair once in awhile and be perfectly comfortable with that.

- I will bring you more kids to love and fill your home with people, just like you always wanted and I will do it again and again, because I see how happy it makes you.

- I will teach you, just as my grandfather has... the meaning of unconditional love and acceptance.

- I will make you an even better mother to my brothers because of all we have learned together first.

- I will teach you that it's a good idea to quit forgetting where you put your phone.;-)

- I will help you step out of your own comfort zone.

and most of all...
- I will teach you how God feels about you... mom. Because that kind of love comes straight from His heart to yours.

Born of a Story by Roni Delmonico

It was a beautiful night and the stadium was completely full.  The smell of popcorn, french fries, pizza and hot dogs mingled on the night air and the chanting of the cheerleading squads led both sides in some good natured ribbing.  The game between arch rivals promised to be a challenging one and everyone felt nervous and excited. Friday night lights were already glowing and the homecoming court would be introduced at half time on floats the student body had worked on tirelessly right up until the very last minute.  There were decorations everywhere.

In a little room to the side of the field, a young girl stood feeling somewhat out of place, wearing a dress that made her feel beautiful, even as it made her feel strange.  Pulse fluttering, she could smell the fresh roses in her hair and reached a hand up to run her fingers over the tiny buds tenderly... hoping to find some sense of calm in the gesture. Her hands were shaking.  She hated being the center of attention for any reason... her usual place in the game was on the sidelines with a clipboard in her hands, marking stats and keeping score.  Older sister to many brothers, she felt entirely at home surrounded by this group of guys who made up the high school football team.  Not quite sixteen, she had already learned to put on a brave face, while inwardly battling her emotions.  Placid and cool on the outside, scared and shy on the inside. Looking around at the other girls, she felt way way way out of her league.

When it came time to walk out onto the field and up onto the float, her friend and classmate, and quarterback on the football team held his arm out to her and smiled reassuringly.  She took it and found it steady and comforting.  The band began to play and they ascended, halfway up the ramp.  

And then... everything shifted.  

The ramp gave way beneath them and she fell to the ground first.  It knocked the flowers from her hair and she held her breath, bracing for the impact of the 6' 2, 200 pound football player about to land directly on top of her, hard.  Somewhere in her heart, she registered that the entire stadium had gone completely silent, collectively holding their breath as he came down on top of her, crushing her flowers, as he rolled sideways and did his best to avoid crushing her.  To a fifteen year old girl... it felt like an eternity.  I'm sure it did to him, too.

Somehow that girl mustered every ounce of dignity she could find within her that night, picked up her pride and the smashed flowers off the fifty yard line, and gently placed them back in her hair.  To her great relief, her escort brushed her off first and then himself, and they both turned to the crowd, who had still not made a single sound... and smiled.  She never forgot the ensuing roar, but she barely remembers the rest of that hour.

How I would love to go back and hug her on that night... tell her that it was only the first of many times she'd fall down and that she would always somehow find her way back up again, just as she did in that moment. That someday, her mother would find this photograph in a box, and give it to her and tell her that those silent moments were an eternity for her too. That when she was 48, she would pull out the photograph taken of her shortly before she fell... and decide to tell her story. That she wasn't fat, or a failure, or clumsy or any of the number of negative things she told herself in the years following... only human. That she wasn't the only one who struggled with those thoughts or felt out of place and that she could save herself a lot of heartache if she'd simply believe me. That eventually she'd look back on it all with a wisdom that can only come from years of experience and finally, finally love that little girl for how brave she was.. for how brave she is and for all the times she fought through hard things, instead of laying down on the playing field and giving up.

And then buy her a vase filled with perfect tiny pink roses.... and set her free.

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves...
— Cheryl Strayed

All these years I've wanted to say so many things to her.  This morning, I realized she's been singing to me all along and I didn't need to talk to her... I needed to listen to her.

I Promise by Roni Delmonico

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb my peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person I meet.

To make all my friends feel
that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything
and make my optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature I meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of myself that I have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but great deeds. To live in faith that the whole world is on my side so long as I am true to the best that is in me.

- Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them

It's My Son by Roni Delmonico

About two weeks ago, my youngest son and I had a day together alone, which rarely happens. So I asked him out on a date and he said yes!:)  How lucky am I?  I took him to see the movie, When The Game Stands Tall, which turned out to have quite a few more life lessons in it than I ever expected and stirred both of our hearts to really think about the ways that football is more than just a game for him. I knew little about the film, other than that it was a movie about an undefeated football team and the extraordinary coach who led them.  Turns out it was about a whole lot more... faith, love, heart, emotions, brotherhood, what it means to be part of a team, dependability, sacrifice, leadership both on the field and off, sorrow, joy, and ultimately... what it means to grow up and  be a man who is able to feel and to love, in life.. as well as he is able to love the game.

I've watched my Eric grow by leaps and bounds in the past three years.  He is a freshman in high school and it is his third year playing football.  This year, the coach made him a wide receiver which is something new for him, and something he takes pride in.  I think we'll be spending a lot of time tossing a football with him in our backyard, this fall.  I found his playbook on the kitchen counter, open as if he had just been studying it and it drove home to me again... how these boys are growing up into lives apart from me... full of experiences that are uniquely their own and not mine.  I'm trying so hard not to blink but it's blinking by anyway. 

I have such a mixture of feelings when I look at this child.  When he smiles, he has a dimple that is so endearing and he has no idea of its effect on people. It adds a special warmth to a gentle smile. He is already so very good... at loving.  I wrote a post about his journey last year titled, Making The Most of the Daylight Hours.  Still applies today... maybe even more so. When I look at that photo of him from just last year, it tugs at my heart.  They change a lot from 13 - 15... passing from boyhood into something deeper. He's come such a long way in three short years and in my eyes, it isn't so much the game that stands tall... it's my son.  

Children of the Day by Roni Delmonico

I still remember the night I stood here watching the sun paint all those glorious colors into the sky.  It was breathtaking and I felt such peace.  I was holding my flip flops and my sweater in my hand, digging my toes into the soft, cold sand.  It was one of those perfect moments of just being, where there was no need for talk. Such a little oasis in the center of a crazy busy place, where entertainment can be found around every corner, in every nook and cranny, and long past daylight.  And yet it was here.. where I wanted to be. In this quiet place full of waning light and color. That is so representative of my being.  Of who I am at the core.  I find solace in solitude. I need it, in order to function in any kind of healthy fashion.  But I am coming to understand that there is a very fine line between seeking solitude in order to recharge and reconnect more meaningfully, and self imposed isolation whose only design is to separate. One is full of light and peace.  The other is wretchedly dark and dismal.

I received two letters this week from women I have come to deeply respect and admire.  It's ironic you know.. After a very frustrating couple of months, in my anger, I had just finished telling someone that Christians (myself included) are some of the most self absorbed, miserable people I know.  How incredibly self centered (and totally wrong) that was.  Those letters were proof and they were a balm to my heart.  I'm quoting the last words of one here, not only out of respect for the woman who spoke it, but so that I will remember them, later this year, when I will undoubtedly need them again.  

Religion will fail you, people will fail you, but God won’t. There have been plenty of times I have thought that He has forgotten me only to lift me up higher than I thought I could go. I get tired and want to give up but then I think of that story of the Footsteps and know He is carrying me when I can’t do it myself. ...please don’t let.. this world dim that wonderful free spirit of yours. ..I do hope you know that you are not alone.
— Elizabeth Smith

You know what?  I do know that.  Because there are a few of you out there, who continue to remind me that there is kindness and goodness yet in the world, if I will only take my eyes off myself and turn them outward and upward.  I guess this is just my way of retracting some hastily spoken, selfish words and replacing them with something more beautiful.  And it is my way of saying thank you to every one of you (and you know who you are) who have reached out to me in friendship this past year and said in your own precious ways... "We're not letting go." You've taught me more about unconditional love and faithfulness than I could ever.. have imagined.

The Joy of Eating and BEING Whole by Roni Delmonico

Last Friday I took my two youngest sons in for their annual physicals.  Now that they are in their teens, I wait out in the waiting room for them so they can have some privacy and speak candidly with their doctor without mom putting in her two cents.  (It's hard... I usually have about 25 cents.;-))  On this particular visit, their doctor actually came out to the waiting room and said, "Mrs. Delmonico, may I have a word with you in back please?"  Uh oh...

He led me into an exam room and I wish you could have seen the look on his face (and probably on mine as well).  He said, "Your son Eric tells me that you have been eating more healthy in your household and I just need to verify that's actually true?"  I burst out laughing.  I couldn't help it... it was such a relief. I walked in there thinking something was really wrong and realized quickly that we were about to have an interesting conversation about my latest views on the psychology of eating.  

After assuring him that indeed, Eric was being truthful, I explained to him how at the beginning of summer, I had made the decision that I would no longer bring processed foods full of additives and chemicals I cannot pronounce into our home.  I told him that I was focusing on feeding them primarily whole foods, with little or no ingredients lists, and that I made a deal with my children that I would make sure they had three square meals a day and some good quality snacks and that if they wanted junk after that, I wouldn't harp on them about it but they would have to buy it with their own money and convince their older brother to drive them wherever they needed to go to get it.  

In the beginning, it wasn't easy.  For the first three weeks, they experienced a lot of the same withdrawal symptoms I had when I was in my "Kill all the things" phase.  They were going to the store up the street every other day for ice cream and potato chips.  I tried to keep my frustration in check and just kept putting healthy meals in front of them, giving them choices, hoping for change and did my best to model good behaviors myself.  I had a learning curve too and what finally worked in the end was this.  I started focusing on taste. How we have forgotten this beautiful gift we've been given.  Taste is such an amazing, wonderful, joyful, exceptional gift!  We are designed to linger over and savor our food.  And I am working hard on finding and creating meals that actually make the people I love best in all the world, really want to do that.  Taste.  Linger.  Savor.

So what was the very unexpected result of all this effort?  My youngest son lost 6 pounds of body fat in just under 4 months and is leaner and more muscular going into this football season, than he has ever been.  My middle son, maintained his weight for the entire year and has clearer skin than he did last year at this time. Both are in perfect health.  Their doctor said, "I need you to understand... I called you back here because this never happens.  Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!"  Teenage boys losing weight is often a sign for alarm. But teenage boys losing body fat and gaining muscle due to a healthy diet void of processed, empty calories is not something he sees every day.  That was a huge eye opener for both of us and is incredibly motivating for me to keep at it with my boys.  I left there on Friday wanting to dance.  It's working!

Every night, we sit down together as a family and share a meal.  We've always done that because it is something that has been important to both my husband and myself for their whole lives.  We connect so well as a family during this time.  We laugh, tell stories, talk about our day and the latest news, and share concerns... feeding our spirits and nurturing our connection to each other, while nourishing our bodies.  Without a doubt it is my favorite time of the day.  It's even better these days.  Whole food tastes so good

A few fun things about our table:  (*No affiliate links here, just sharing some favorite things). First, the recipe for the meatballs and sauce. This one is paleo friendly and came from Cindy's Table. It's been a summer favorite in our house.  SO so so delicious!  The beef came from Abbott Farms, right here in Baldwinsville; the pork, from WW Longhorn Ranch. The zucchini was fresh picked from my son's garden an hour before dinner and we used a spiralizer to make noodles out of them. Really fun, and a tasty way to use excess zucchini in the garden.  It doesn't replace good quality pasta in our house - I serve it in addition to.  I am married to an Italian after all.;-) More often than not, the boys will choose both pasta and zucchini!  There are two different kinds of bread, fresh from our local Farmer's Market: a Manakish za'atar and a round European Peasant loaf that each have ingredients easily pronounced and recognizable. I made the salad dressing in less than a minute using a stick blender (This is one tool I avoided for the longest time thinking I had no need of one - silly me!)  Start with a cup of olive oil, throw in some thyme, a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard, a dash of salt and pepper and some strawberry or raspberry vinegar to taste and whiz with a stick blender.  Super simple, super yummy. (One note, use a light tasting olive oil.  If you make your salad dressing with full bodied olive oil, your kids will likely turn up their noses. Don't ask me how I know.:))The salad base is a really wonderful mild red Boston Bibb I've fallen in love with this summer, tossed with grapes, apples, bits of raw cheddar cheese and some absolutely wonderful spiced almonds I just discovered from the folks at Our Daily Eats, based right here in upstate New York! And as always... we use a freshly grated parmesan.  (My mother in law taught me that and I've never looked back!)  

Food photography is challenging in my house because food gets eaten faster than I can photograph it. It is consistently disappearing before I can adequately work with it, but you know, I think I'm ok with that.:)  Bon appetit, my beautiful family.  I am so happy to feed you well!

Are You Glad You Have A Body? by Roni Delmonico

Osprey are among my favorite birds to photograph.  They're graceful, athletic birds that regularly practice hunting maneuvers in the sky and it's fascinating to watch them.  They are skilled fishers, and watching them pluck a large one out of the water with such precision can be really thrilling.  Often, they will carry their meal back up into the trees to settle in and enjoy their catch while still keeping a wary eye out for what's going on around them.  If you look closely, this one has a small fish clutched in his talons against the tree branch.  

I'm beginning to put together the images I want for the art show this year and I keep turning to photos of wildlife and flowers.  It has been such a joy to be out in nature, enjoying all she has to offer.  Hard to believe we are more than half way through the summer already, with football season and college move in days less than a month away.  I continue to marvel at the beauty around me and feel such a sense of gratitude.  I heard the best ever motivation for exercise the other day.  It basically said, Quit knocking yourself out at the gym and just move in a way that makes you glad you have a body.  Isn't that an awesome way of looking at exercise? Photographing nature makes that so easy for me.  I'm thinking about all the animals around me that move daily with such ease.  They aren't running on treadmills or lifting weights... they're stretching their wings and flying, practicing Osprey zumba in the sky, running, hopping, climbing trees, playing.  It wouldn't hurt us to do a little of that too. (Let me know when you practice sky zumba.. I want to photograph that!)

What makes you glad today... that you have a body? (ahem... keep it G rated here but sure, you can appreciate that too!;-)) 

Your Very Flesh Shall Be A Great Poem by Roni Delmonico

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
— Walt Whitman

Writers don't often talk about how much we like when you interact on our posts... fearing it will seem too needy and vulnerable, I suppose.  But isn't that the point of sharing? To reach out to the universe and say... Here I am, I have something to say.  Please hear me and respond? Otherwise, I could be simply writing in my journal, closing it up, putting it in my nightstand and calling it a day.  I value your comments and interaction so much. Those of you who take the time, are a treasure to me as a public writer.  Some of you have taken to sending private messages rather than commenting publicly and that's ok too.  You know how deeply I understand that, after the events of the past year and a half of my life. (For those of you new to my website, for a large part of 2013, we dealt with the aftermath of an online hacker who disrupted our personal and financial lives and my emotional life for the better part of a year).  I can't tell you how many times I have sat right here at my computer where I do the bulk of my work, smiling at your humor, leaning into your tenderness, listening to your incredibly intelligent thoughts, accepting your best advice, looking at your beautiful photographs, reading your encouraging notes, and sometimes...depending on your massively strong shoulders.  There are some of you who have journeyed with me more than five years now.  I have laughed, cried and bled with you and that emotional support is beyond priceless to me.  

Opening up my heart and mind, along with my art out into the cyber world opens the door to some measure of risk and criticism too. But it is a risk I am still willing to take, albeit these days on a much smaller and quieter scale that works best for me.  (I read this week somewhere that it is best to put your own oxygen mask on first before attempting to help others with theirs. Truth!)  I believe we change each other just by bumping up against each other and you can't really do that unless you put yourself out there, right? I am constantly amazed by the shades of beauty I see in all of you.. whether you are communicating with me publicly or choosing to reach out through more private channels. So often I sit here at this computer and listen to your hearts that spill out through your pictures and words and think wow.. I never really thought of it that way...  It doesn't really matter if you're an artist who has 25,000 followers or one who has 50.  You share bits and pieces of your own lives with me that make me smile, shed tears, and feel connected, whether you have a big online presence or a small one.  That is such a beautiful, beautiful thing for which I will never find adequate words of appreciation.  I benefit so much from recognizing the value in our different perspectives.  

Most of you know by now that I am a photographer and writer who loves all things artistic. Those pursuits require long hours of shooting with repetitive motion using heavy camera equipment and then even longer hours editing at the computer.  Toward the end of 2012, I began to struggle with some deeper health issues after decades of crappy eating habits (arthritis and the pre stages of type 2 diabetes).  All of that crashed down on me in early 2013, manifesting as chronic pain, weight gain, and pretty serious depression I had trouble admitting even to myself. Cap that off with surgery and a long hard winter and my body, mind and spirit were at an all time low, yet I was still trying to operate my online life as if everything was fine and it was business as usual. After a particularly painful falling out with a friend and potential business partner, I withdrew from nearly everything and everyone that had previously given me joy and closed in on myself for quite awhile.  I didn't recognize it at the time, but it was probably my "rock bottom."  At some point I realized that I had two choices... drown... or swim like hell for all I was worth.  It didn't happen overnight, by any means, but I started small.. treading water until I finally made up my mind to swim.  

Though we are all so different from each other ... deliciously different, I think we can find comfort and commonality simply by walking with each other for awhile and listening.  We can't always do that in person but we can surely do that via whatever channels work best for us.  This little corner, is mine for now... and I am so grateful for those of you who regularly tune in and interact with me.  That has come to mean a whole lot to me.   I've felt the sting of both judgement and criticism in the past, but I learned that so often, the things that bother me most in others... are the areas where I most need work myself.

So often I think we feel change isn't real change unless it is massive and moves mountains. But I loved this quote so much and it has been my mantra for many months now.  "Commit to the daily pressure that compels infinitesimal progress over time."  When you're 20, you feel invincible.  When you're approaching 50 and beyond, you begin to recognize that your physical, mental and spiritual health require long term commitment and is something to be protected and nurtured, if you want to continue to live an active, loving, purpose driven, abundantly joy filled life.  My health is bound pretty tightly to my creativity and I am making infinitesimal progress over time.  Thank you, for spending some of your valuable time here with me.

It has definitely been a year of re-examination and of challenging everything I've ever been taught in school, in church and in books and in dismissing what insults my soul. And it continues to be my prayer that beyond my words, the silent lines are the ones that speak the loudest.