Showing posts from 2014

The Christmas Rush

I've never been one of those people who get super-stressed during the holiday season. Maybe it's because I don't have kids. Maybe it's because I don't host parties. Maybe it's because my gift list is manageable and relatively short. Okay... it's probably all of the above and then some, but I've been thinking that there can be a different kind of Christmas rush: a new way to view the busy-ness of the season to see the underlying beauty.

For years (as in more than 20) our Christmas tradition had always included traveling cross-country to visit extended family. When I got married, this changed, and I was in Montana on December 25th for the first time since I was a toddler (when my mom was due to have my sister). However, the long-distance trips didn't stop after this, they were just put off into an alternating-year schedule. We had some local years, but there was always the next year's travel to plan for. This year is different. Things have change…

Braving the Beauty

As I came into the building, I was greeted by a woman who said, "And here's another courageous soul!" I had just come in from the bitter cold weather; at noon it was only two degrees, and it had been below zero (way below!) the previous night.

Don't think I wasn't tempted to stay home that day. In fact, that was one of the warmer days that week, and I had hunkered down and hid under my blankets more than my fair share. Sure, getting in the car and waiting for the heat was hard, however, once I was out of the house, the beauty of cold weather hit home. I realized that our cold, dry weather creates the only opportunity for the numerous trees on the nearby mountains to remain completely dusted in snow, as if some giant flour sifter was set loose over the landscape. And then to top it off, the sun shines brightly over it all, trying either to add its own special sparkle to the scene, or to melt its colorless nemesis in hopes of returning to fond summer memories.

And e…

Beauty Happens

Near the end of September, our family decided to make one last camping trip before the frost set in. We were headed on a drive that would take us at least two hours from home. We both had Friday off from work, so we left Thursday evening, about an hour after my mom and dad, who were planning to choose the campsite.

When we arrived at the turnoff from the highway, we were met almost immediately by Mom on her ATV. I figured she was ready to lead us to camp, but instead, she informed us that their motorhome had shut down in the middle of the road and it wouldn't start again. They were stuck.

This was the first of many opportunities that night that one, or all of us could have started yelling, kicking, cursing or crying out of despair and frustration. I'm not saying we weren't tempted (and maybe we gave in a little) but given the obstacles we faced, it would've been easy to throw up our hands. Here's how the night progressed:
My husband and I were pulling our RV traile…

A Rose in the Camper

Last month, my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Many women (arguably so) expect a big event on their anniversaries and put an equal amount of pressure on the man to plan and produce said event. They want to feel special and loved and appreciated.

That's not me. Well... I want those feelings (like any other human) but I don't pin all my hopes on one big day either, because my spouse will fail - miserably - at planning an all-out, Hollywood-style, "romantic" date... and I'm okay with that.

Instead, we've learned that feeling special and loved and appreciated can come in many different forms in many different settings and in any given minute of our relationship. I hope I don't sound high-minded or superior - in fact, we've learned these lessons the hard way by expecting the other to deliver something that is totally uncharacteristic of that person. My weakness has always been the movies - thinking my dear one will magically replica…

Mountain Lakes

We have many high-mountain lakes here in Montana, yet a large percentage are only accessible on foot. Luckily, I was able to ride right into this beauty and capture this great panoramic picture.

Not long ago, my family and I were camping at a large lake near our state's capitol. Canyon Ferry Lake is actually a reservoir on the Missouri River, which ultimately drains into the Mississippi. This lake covers over 35,000 acres and has 76 miles of shoreline. Naturally, it is a popular place for water recreation and fishing in this land-locked region.

My parents towed their personal watercraft and we were camping with others who had large boats, but since Canyon Ferry is in western Montana, and the mountains aren't ever very far, we brought our ATVs too. Doesn't everyone bring a four-wheeler for a weekend at the beach?

On the first day we were there, we decided to pack a lunch and head east on the trail -- well it was really a dirt road that only required a bit of ground clearan…

Delicious Friendships

It's been a while since my last post, but that doesn't mean that beauty has been absent. In fact, when I think back over the last couple weeks, one thing continues to make me smile... friendship.

I can't say I have a large circle of friends, or that I'm the life of the party when it comes to entertaining, but I am lucky (blessed, even) to have a few nice (I mean really nice) friends with whom I can enjoy a good meal and some encouraging conversation.

About this time of year, marketing departments and educators alike are in "back-to-school" mode, which in the past for me meant planning, supply shopping and mentally preparing for a new crop of students and classes. However, this year is different. I'm not doing all those things, because I'm not going back to teaching. My health condition has brought that chapter of my life to a close, but it has also brought renewed perspective on how important it is to cultivate and maintain friendships.

So rather tha…

A Beautiful Message

The 'L' in RL4B typically stands for looking, but in some cases (probably more than I think), it can represent listening -- as in Relentless Listening for Beauty. You only have to close your eyes to experience and focus on the sounds and messages that are important. I cannot claim that all sounds are always beautiful, but even the common noises that we try to tune out can become a thing of beauty.

I was at lunch today with my husband in a popular restaurant. As the noon hour progressed, so did the din of conversation. In fact, it became so loud that we were having difficulty hearing each other across the table.

After our burgers came, I was busy giving my pickles to my date when an older woman caught my attention amid the noise. (When I later asked, even my husband did not hear her.)

"Ma'am?" I am not used to being called ma'am, but I looked up anyway, unsure if she was truly talking to me.

I made eye contact and smiled as a way of acknowledging her, and she…

Where Are Your Tires?

This past weekend I found so much beauty that it can't be summed up in one picture, or even one post. Granted, we were camping in the mountains of Montana, so there wasn't anything relentless about seeing the beauty, but we were relentless in finding it.

When we head to the hills, we like to camp near the trail heads for riding our ATVs. Montana's National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have designated hundreds of miles of trails for motorized use (most were historically used for logging and mining endeavors). Though myriad entities have bought acreage in our state, many of these trails which cross private ground were maintained for public use (as long as you stick to the trail!). This is a beauty in itself, especially for a person like me who would otherwise not be able to access these places without a motor and some wheels.

On one particularly long and arduous trail, I rode with my dad in his side-by-side (picture a cross between a golf cart and a dune bugg…

First Fruit

There's a special beauty in eating a tomato fresh off the vine - especially when you've invested the time to cultivate that vine in your backyard.

In early June, I christened my new container garden with seeds and seedlings. The growing season here in Montana is short enough that you'd better start most vegetables indoors. That being said, I don't really care for most vegetables, so the indoor commitment required was minimal. However, the varieties I do like, I like with a passion. If I'm going to be patient enough to tend to these plants, they have to be my favorite. Those who know me best know that my thumb is far from green... more like a withered brown, so low maintenance is the key!

I began my garden at my local nursery (God bless nurseries!) They have much more patience than I and gorgeous green plants! I purchased two large tomatoes with little green fruit already on them (that's not cheating, it's just using resources wisely). Then I bought some p…

The Open Road

Let me begin by saying, for the record, I understand that taking pictures while driving is not the safest choice... but I couldn't help it. The beauty of an open road on a crisp, sunny morning was too much to resist!

This road could be going anywhere, and I'd happily drive all day under that sky! The clouds were perfectly wispy, the sun was bright but not overbearing, and the breeze was keeping it all flowing. Wow. However, I wasn't traveling far on this road... I happened to be on my way to my mom's house just a few miles away. She and I had planned an early morning of treasure hunting at some area yard sales, despite my aversion to rising before 10 am on a weekend. We had in mind what we were searching for and we set off.

We spent about three hours (and $45) laughing, sharing, bartering, and buying under the brilliant skies of a summer Saturday in Montana. It was beautiful in many ways and I wouldn't trade it for any amount of extra sleep! When I think of "…

Beautiful Fireworks: Looking deeper than the outer beauty

This time of year, fireworks are easy to buy, easy to watch, and easy to find annoying when you're trying to go to sleep. Yet they really are beautiful.

Of course there's the outside beauty, the brilliance of the colors and the crackling sounds, but the chemistry and timing behind the scenes reveals a beauty far deeper. The simple components of a fuse, a shell, and some explosives combine (almost magically) into a spectacular show that bonds friends, families, and our country together.

An article from points out that a Chinese monk was the first to create what we would call a firework - not for viewing pleasure - but to scare away ghosts. Can you imagine the insight and ingenuity (not to mention the courage bordering insanity) it took to develop a cardboard shell stuffed with powders of various explosive elements and then light it on fire? What a plan! It seems like quite the risk for such a short amount of entertainment... but then again, how much more meaningfu…

Voyage of Discovery: Having new eyes

As I flipped my calendar to July this morning, I knew that I had to post my inaugural entry today. The inspiring quote for this month (along with some cute giraffe picture) is today's RL4B experience, and it's quite infinite in it's meaning.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

The quote itself seems to be about Relentlessly Looking for Beauty, so by finding it's advice beautiful, I think it's quite like looking into one of those mirrors that reflect other mirrors, or dreaming that you're dreaming, or coming upon an unending loop in some computer code... which makes me think about spirals which are (nearly) always beautiful. A person could get caught in this web of thinking pretty quickly, so I'll jump out for now.

I am yet unsure of where my blogging adventure will lead. In the least capacity, I hope for it to serve as a creative outlet for my words and as a way for me to reflect on (an…