Friday, April 4, 2014

Soul Gems

The other day I had a profound dream—the kind that makes you feel as if your soul is trying to talk to you, but can't get your attention any other way. Okay, I'll admit I'm the type of person whose dreams are so vivid, I still remember one I had when I was five years old. And there were several that came to me when I was eleven that I felt were prophetic for the course of my life. Yeah, I'm woo-woo that way. I'm that spooky friend who calls you up & says, "You know, I had a really powerful dream about you last night & I think it's meant to tell you something about your future." Recently, I even dreamed a friend of mine was in a bookstore signing her debut novel with posters hanging everywhere of the beautiful cover. I hadn't chatted with her for about a year, but the dream was so vivid I simply had to email her to tell her success was around the corner. Her response? She had decided to quit writing that day!  The angels must have been tapping me on the shoulder with this message, because after I gave her that boost, she finished her debut novel in only a few weeks & sold it to a major publisher for six figures!
So yeah, I guess you could say I believe in listening to your dreams.
But sometimes my dreams bring messages for me. In my latest one, I had walked into a turquoise shop in the Southwest that sells heirloom pieces of jewelry & Native American artwork. A small group of Navajo artists & silversmiths were there having lunch. They greeted me kindly & offered me a meal, happy to chat about their wares and their day. The problem? I couldn't hear them.  
(Navajo silversmiths circa 1900 & the present)
In my dream, the shop was very humble, yet the walls were surrounded by high tech gadgets—computers, ipads, stereos & plasma TVs—blaring music, news & videos so loudly I couldn't catch a word the Navajo were trying to say, much less enjoy listening to them describe how they create their artistic works. Frustrated, I began running around the shop trying to find the off switches & wires to unplug all these confounded devices.  Finally, one of the men turned to me and said with a gentle voice, "Come back another day when your heart can hear."

I woke up slayed. To me, it was pretty obvious what my dream was trying to say. With all of the high tech devices & social media we have competing for our constant attention, it's so easy to get caught up in the electronic whirl & lose touch with the people we love & the whispers of our souls. And as I got out of bed that morning, I realized I was still wearing one of my very favorite turquoise bracelets.

Yes, I know it looks rather ordinary with its humble design & modest-sized stone, but it's by far one of the most valuable pieces I own. It was the first piece of jewelry given to me by my mother, who bought it directly from the Navajo on a reservation in the 1970s in Arizona. The stone at the center came from the renowned Kingman mine, which produces "Kingman blue"—an intensely blue strain of nuggets with a black matrix that often flashes silver, which comes from a rare vein in Ithaca Peak that has been exhausted since 1972. These stones are so vibrant & distinctive that I've had turquoise collectors stop me on the street & ask to buy it.
But no dice.
Kingman blue turquoise
Why? Because I consider this bracelet a "Soul Gem." A rare article in my possession that connects me not only to my mother but also to the spirits of those who created such artistry in the Navajo tradition. And yeah, call me woo-woo, but I believe these special items carry with them the positive energy from those who came before us, acting as conduits of their love, trust, guidance, and comfort. It doesn't matter if these items are made of stone, metal, paper or wood, or are considered worthless to other people. What makes a Soul Gem special is the place it occupies in our hearts—and its unique ability to quiet our spirits & help us listen to our souls once again. 

I have many other pieces of turquoise jewelry (I'm a bit of a hoarder, as you can see from this small sample above from my collection), but price never dictates value to me. True Soul Gems carry an energy of love & wisdom that far exceed their humble appearances. So for me, an army medal of my father's, an old perfume bottle that reminds me of my mother's scent, a poem written on a napkin by my twin sister when she was 14—these are the Soul Gems that I will treasure forever. One of my favorites is a threadbare copy of The Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats that's yellowed & torn, with dozens of underlines & dog-eared pages. It's the small book I've often taken backpacking with me to read at night by flash light. Why is this volume so dear? Because the famous poet took it upon himself to canvas the Irish countryside in the 1920s to record the rural people's stories of their experiences with fairy lore & magic before their stories died out, and then translated them from Gaelic to English to preserve for posterity. The stories are so beautiful & raw that they always touch my heart. And for me, even the act of holding this book in my hands is something sacred that invites centuries of enchantment & wisdom to penetrate my soul. I feel such a book helps me step away from the distractions of daily life & encourages my heart to "hear" better, just like the Navajo man mentioned in my dream.

Do you have a Soul Gem in your possession? A photograph, a lock of hair, a cherished piece of jewelry or heirloom tool that means the world to you? I'd love to hear your story, if you have the time! And I've also recently started the Soul Gems Book Club on Goodreads (& on my website) so we can share those beautiful & wise books that have shaped our lives or touched our souls. Whether a book club appeals to you, or you're more the type to refresh your spirit by gardening, visiting old friends, or taking a country stroll, I encourage you to spend time with your Soul Gems & engage in activities that help you get in touch with you again. And maybe, you'll hear those quiet whispers of the heart that can lead you to your dreams <3 

If you're interested in the Soul Gems Book Club,
click on the tab with that title on my website or visit
(Photo credit note: All images on my website are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sparkling Heart

Spring comes in March, so of course I'm out there jogging my butt off in preparation for the warmer weather! Who doesn't like to wear more body-flattering clothing than a turtleneck sweater & winter parka all the time? Like the maiden in the above picture with the narrow waist, perfect ball gown and bouncy hair, I like to greet the magic of spring with a sense of excitement & adventure without having to worry about my midriff bulge. But with the lighter layers & cute, clingy spring fashions comes the (gulp!) need for a more serious fitness plan. Since I live in Colorado, my favorite butt-busting hill is a nearby ridge at 9,000 feet where I like to run that has a 500-foot elevation gain. Why? Because the road is made of nice, soft dirt and has a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains. So while I'm out there huffing & puffing (and ready to blow the nearest house down), if I can just take my eyes off my tired feet for an instant, I can let the scenic view set my thoughts a little higher than the usual "Lord have mercy—am I really going to survive this?"

But today, it all of sudden hit me that my fitness journey isn't about survival at all. Or about beating myself up over whether I did this number of miles in that amount of time. As I stared at my feet trudging across the soft, granite-laden dirt, I suddenly realized how beautiful this moment is. This pudgy, tortoise-jogging-pace moment—regardless of my ultimate goal to finally shed those winter pounds or top my achievement from yesterday. Because it's my heart that gives this moment meaning—my brave, yearning, tenacious, (and dare I say it?) heroic heart. Ultimately, no one really cares how streamlined I look in a slinky dress or pair of skinny jeans with high heels. But what's truly beautiful is that gallant heart who gets out there & tries to ascend that mountain, day after day after day . . .

And for the first time, I just took a deep breath and appreciated my heart and all its beautiful dreams & ambitions, no matter how silly or serious they may seem at times. That wonderful ability of the human heart to lift its sights and TRY . . .


Could it be that the very act of wishing, and then believing in that wish strongly enough to set feet in relentless motion, is more beautiful than any ball gown or castle in the air my mind might conjure? Because when I'm at the bottom, and not the "perfection" that I aspire to, my soul is perhaps the most noble of all. I find out what I'm made of—one foot after the other, focused on vision & hope. And as I looked at the footprints I'd made in in the mountain dirt, I thought to myself that their image is as lovely as any lofty dream. This is the evidence of a spirit who never gives up—on her life or on her goals. And even if I never find the path towards my version of happily ever after, those footprints made in faith are perhaps the most rewarding of all.

Castles crumble, kingdoms fall, dreams can die, and ball gowns can certainly fade or fall out of fashion. But the joy of spring for me is the chance to step outside & enjoy the journey. And perhaps to relish in the crystalline quality of my soul most of all . . .

I hope as the warmer breezes come & flowers begin to spring up, that you will honor the one who does the seeing, the smelling & the feeling & the believing along your way. And that you will treasure each moment you get to spend with the stirrings of your own sparkling heart.

(Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Friday, February 14, 2014

Angels in Disguise

Nothing prepares you in life for seeing a policeman step out of his cruiser with an assault rifle as big as Texas when you park in front of an elementary school to pick up your child. Believe it or not, you will tell yourself the most absurd things. The first thought that went through my mind was, "Oh, it must be law enforcement Show & Share day, and he's going to let the kids see his unloaded firearm." But when I went up to the school building and peered through the window and saw not a single child in sight, I knew. 

This was a lockdown.

And it troubles me how difficult it was for me to convince other parents of that fact.

An emergency lockdown simply didn't factor into their plans that afternoon. Like most of us, their minds were caught up in what errands they had to run, when to pick up their other children from daycare, and what appointments they didn't want to be late for. A few parents were annoyed by the inconvenient "delay" while others were still trying to tell themselves everything was normal by saying that the kids must be "late coming home from a field trip."

Excuse me—every child from kindergarten to 5th grade, including all of the office staff, just happen to be gone?

"No—they're hiding," I had to inform them. "And this is the time to pray with everything you've got."

And pray we did. I grabbed several parents hands and began to pray right then and there. This is the nightmare situation that every parent dreads, and it was really happening . . .

Of course, when the sirens started to wail & the SWAT teams arrived, it got a little bit easier to convince other parents that this was, in fact, no ordinary day. And it was not going to get better any time soon.

Still, several parents complained that they should have gotten a "text" informing them of the problem. Really—so while the principal is hustling to call police and hide all the children from apparent danger, she ought to take time out to compose a message to you?  Not even the four gunshots I heard outside on the other side of the building seemed to alarm anyone around me that this was for real. But when police announced that everyone had to clear the area & return to their cars & wait until further notice because this was, indeed, an emergency situation with an intruder at the school, most of the parents finally fell into shock and ceased grumbling about the disruption to their day.

And then we waited. And waited. And waited . . . 

And this was by far the most excruciating part. Apparently, a middle-aged man with a suspicious backpack had been spotted lurking on school grounds the week before and had been kicked off the property by school officials. But when he was spotted lurking on the school grounds AGAIN with his same suspicious backpack, our principal took no chances and called police.

What happened next astounded me. It was only ten minutes before school was supposed to let out. The school crossing guards had already stepped out of the building to help guide traffic. Parents were already lined up to pick up their kids. Many school officials might have blown the thing off, thinking it's so late in the day—just let the kids go and have the police deal with this guy later. But not our principal. With extraordinary swiftness, she locked down that building and had her teachers hide the children so fast you would have that the school had been utterly abandoned. Police and SWAT teams arrived within mere minutes. The bushes, trees, and every shadow of the building were crawling with law enforcement personnel—and you could only spot them if you looked close. I don't blame parents for not quite acknowledging the severity of the situation—these guys were GOOD. Unless you were really scanning, you might not have noticed they were there at all.

But they were. In a sleepy mountain town in the Rockies of Colorado, these law enforcement personnel were our Angels in Disguise that day, along with the extraordinarily well-trained and effective teachers who took hundreds of cranky, tired school children late in the afternoon and expertly hid them while making sure that not a single one made a sound. Honest to god, I still don't know how they quite achieved that with so many squirrelly kids, other than they must have had magic wands.

Or perhaps angel wings . . .

Our story had a happy ending. The suspicious guy was apprehended, the grounds were cleared of any potentially hazardous materials, and the children were released, one by one under heavy police protection, two hours later. We were all very rattled—some children vomited or developed stress rashes from the frightening experience—but every child went home safe that day.

And though this might seem like an unusual Valentine's Day post, today my heartfelt Valentine goes out to all of those Angels in Disguise—the principals, teachers, secretaries, school nurses, janitors, and law enforcement personnel who make it their business, day after day, to care about the well being of our children and overall community. My heart was touched beyond belief this week by their professionalism, efficiency, and valor.  You probably won't hear much about this incident in the media because creepy people hanging around schools is hardly anything new, and happy endings don't often make splashy headlines. But in my book, these individuals are the real heroes in our lives.

Even if you can't quite see their wings . . .

May your Valentine's Day be filled with warmth, chocolate, and all good things <3
A week later, a first-grade boy went missing in our town. Over 75 high school students took it upon themselves to canvas a 2-mile radius until they FOUND him! Then they phoned police and stayed with the boy until an officer arrived. Turns out the child got confused & decided to "walk" home (a several mile trip). Forget after-school programs & sports—these teens dropped everything until the little boy was safe in his mother's arms. The recent lockdown had really rattled them, and all they wanted to do was be a force of good in the world. Then they stood in line to give the mother a hug with tears in their eyes—teen boys & girls alike. If you ask me, I'd say today's youth are shaping up to be one terrific generation <3

(Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why I Believe in Once Upon a Time

(Note: To read my exclusive interview with Adam Horowitz & Eddy Kitsis, the creators & writers of the hit TV show #OnceUponATime, click here: following is an essay on why I watch the show : )

Occasionally people ask why I enjoy the fairy tale show Once Upon a Time so much, especially as a working mom with 2 kids who barely has enough time to watch TV, let alone keep up with a multi-year series. And that's just the thing—I'm not in it for some adolescent wish fulfillment (I've already found my Prince Charming) or because I need a weekly dose of escapist fantasy (as a writer, I chat way too much with my imaginary friends, so I've pretty much got that covered ; ). Believe it or not, Once Upon a Time provides solace for me because it echoes my reality . . . 

If you've ever had the chance to read my post "Our Season of Miracles" (you can view it here: ), you'll understand a little bit more about my childhood and why the term "magical" was a daily reality in the household where I grew up. But what I've never discussed before is why, in particular, the character of Emma Swan resonates so strongly with me, especially in the Season 3 episode of "Going Home."

We all know Emma Swan is one tough cookie. She grew up in the foster care system, only to discover as an adult that she's supposed to be the fabled "savior" for a bunch of people who come from a fairy tale world that she doesn't even believe in. The Emma we first meet in the show is cynical & hardened by life, and it's no wonder—she's seen her share of abandonment & harsh reality. But slowly, the fairy tale characters get under her skin, and nothing demonstrates this fact more fully than Jefferson's beautiful speech to her in the "Hat Trick" episode from Season 1. Jefferson, who's the Mad Hatter, just wants to find his beloved daughter again, and he needs Emma to help him repair his magical hat to cross worlds. Emma naturally thinks he's insane & remarks that these are just fanciful "stories", to which Jefferson replies:

"You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution to their problems and everyone refuses to believe in magic...How arrogant are you to think this is the only real world? There are infinite more. You have to open your mind and touch one another, pressing up in a long line of lands, each one just as real as the last. All have their own rules. Some have magic, some don't. And some need magic—like this one. And that's where you come in."

Jefferson is exactly right—that is where YOU come in. Not only Emma in the show, but you in your own life. I firmly believe that unless you open your mind to the possibilities of love & joy & well being & freedom, they can never manifest as your reality. Because this is the weird & creative & serendipitous thing about life that the wisdom of legends, fairy tales & fables have tapped into for centuries: You are actually the author of your own reality. And life has a downright eerie way of matching the story that you internally tell yourself.

I don't say this just because I'm a writer—I say this because I've seen firsthand the miracles that happen when you dare to believe. And don't kid yourself—belief is risky. You can get disappointed. You can feel like an idiot. You can use all kinds of facts & figures to convince yourself that nothing good will ever happen—and you'll be right. Because very few positive events can ever occur unless you first make room for them in your heart. Especially love! If you don't actually believe in the possibility of love (a very imaginal phenomenon, full of fantasy ramifications from the get go), you'll never dare to flirt, exchange in small talk, or encourage that other person with a smile to sit down for a spell and enjoy your heart for a while.
And yet people do it all the time. Even though it's crazy. 
Because they've first imagined themselves as being with that significant other one day—they pictured it in their heads. So they keep acting in the so-called "real" world as if it's possible. And where does that imagination come from? From YOU. The media is full of negative bullshit about finding love. Look around—fat people, short people, disabled people, damaged people, geeky-nerdy-weird & wonderful people fall in love all the time—not just the body types that the media serves up to us for advertising dollars. Why? Because they believed in love's MAGIC that knows no boundaries. Or as Mary Margaret/Snow White said to Henry in the Season 3 episode of "Going Home," "Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing."
But her character also said in that episode, "Your happy ending may not be what you expect—that is what will make it so special."
And this is something I know a little bit about.
Because like Emma, I once had a baby in difficult circumstances—and harsh reality did everything in its power to destroy our bond. But harsh reality was no match for the miracle-making power of the human heart, because I am the daughter of a woman who believed in miracles, just like Emma's is the daughter of her brave & strong mother Snow White.
So when, in the 32nd week of my first pregnancy, my placenta ruptured, nearly killing me and my child, all the doctors & scientists involved in the situation told me that we were doomed. I'll never forget my  husband's eyes, as large as saucers, haunted by the verdict of impending death. I could feel the sick fear all around us, permeating every nook and cranny of our hospital room. And my heart ached for my husband who was facing that dark tunnel of losing the loves of his life in a big city where we had no friends, no family, or any relatives near us. We were completely alone, feeling like orphans in this bleak situation, and we had no one to turn to. In fact, the priest had already come to the hospital room to administer last rites to our child. And I will never forget the moment that tested every ounce of courage I had to the limit. Before the priest spoke a word, I grabbed my husband's hand and said through gritted teeth: "I don't care what anyone says. My mother walked & talked miracles every day of her life, and I saw with my own eyes the power that brought into this world, and it is not my baby's time to go yet. Neither one of us are dying today."
And something happened.
Both my husband & I felt it. It was as though something supernatural had lifted the "curse" of fear that had overtaken the room.
So I asked the priest to simply pray with us for healing over our baby, rather than deliver last rites. To focus on hope instead of death. And he did.
And my little Georgie lived.
She not only lived, she grew strong enough to take breast milk, smile at me, listen to Winnie the Pooh stories, and giggle & play little games with us.
No one could believe it—and I grew healthier by the day, too. But as Mary Margaret/Snow said in Once Upon a Time, "Your happy ending my not be what you expect—that is what will make it so special," in a very surpising twist of fate, just as Georgie was about to be discharged from the hospital and allowed to go home, she left this earth.
The doctors were stunned—how could this child who'd survived all the odds and who appeared so healthy, suddenly slip from our hands? Yet though this may seem hard to believe, it all made sense to me.
I am no stranger to life turning out differently than I expected. Because my own mother lived longer than her prognosis, and filled our lives with abundant laughter & light, I knew that Georgie's  five weeks on this earth had been a pure gift to me, too. Of course I wanted Georgie to live longer, and of course I miss her—but I will never let that stain the sheer beauty of each moment that I got to spend with her that is inscribed on my heart for all time. And it was all a joy! Never for a second was it shrouded in fear—because her recovery had been so miraculous that we all thought she was going home. Our every minute together had been one of happiness.
And that is not the end of the story, either. Two years later, I went on to have 2 more children—bouncy, happy twin boys—who've never had a health problem a day in their lives. And who, when they were only three years old, started telling me about dreams they had of playing with their "other family." "What other family is that?" I'd ask, thinking they meant their stuffed animals or characters they'd heard about in books. But at different times, each of my boys told me about playing with their "Heaven family" and a little girl who was 2 years older than they are named "Gigi."
My husband & I had never spoken a word in our home about Georgie, who we sometimes nicknamed "Gigi" & who would have been 2 years older than the boys. As parents, we thought the idea of a deceased sister might be too hard for our children to grasp until they were older, so we didn't have pictures of her around either, and we lived far away from relatives who might have discussed her.
Could it be that Jefferson's ideas of alternate realities, which he spoke of in the "Hat Trick" episode of Once Upon a Time, are true? And perhaps Georgie does play with the boys at night and makes new & happy memories with them?
I don't know.
All I know is that what should have been a dark & tragic time in my life was filled with joy because I believed. And just like Emma in the "Going Home" episode of Once Upon a Time, I'm choosing to embrace the power of my positive version of the events that've helped to create my happily ever after—because that's what makes it all the more special, even if it's different than what I expected. I find that the more I trust myself to flow with what fate has in store, even when things get rocky, the more receptive I become to ending up exactly where I need to be. And similarly, regardless of the twists & turns of fate, Emma finally has her bond with Henry in episode 11 of Season 3—and she doesn't have to overthink it anymore. All she has to do is let it be—and believe . . .   
Because it's never too late to find your happy ending

(Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Get Your Shine On!


I know what you've been through over the last year: Heartbreak. Betrayal. Illness. Separation. Unemployment. Death of loved ones. It's called the human experience & the Wheel of Fate leaves none of us unscarred—sometimes so deeply we don't know how we can ever prevail. But I also know something else—something beautiful—about the human spirit: after a period of grieving & bestowing tender care upon ourselves & others, the capacity of the human heart to regenerate is truly miraculous. I like to think it's our gift from what many of us call God. Each of us is a piece of that brilliant sun, the Source of life, that keeps giving us the grace & love & energy to reanimate our souls to reflect more of that radiant light. So it's not only our birthright, it's our duty to shine.

You weren't set upon this earth to cower under a rock or to be anyone's victim. But the trouble is that's exactly what some people will try to make you believe if you dare to use your gifts and (God help them) dare to live out loud with an attitude of abundance & blessing, no matter what your circumstances look like. Such faith & bravery & pure love of life is called "unrealistic", "impractical", "uppity", or even "arrogant" (yep, I've heard it all). But you know what? The other people who've been trying to drum up the courage to live life to its fullest, despite all the odds, will turn their hearts towards you like daisies to the sun. If you listen carefully enough, you'll hear the music of their spirits cheering you on—championing you—applauding every big & brave step that you take. Why? Because way down deep, I think ALL of us know that every time one of us dares to shine, the whole world becomes that much brighter.

I believe every bold act of living abundantly & from the heart sends a ripple through the world that says "go for it" to all those whose lives have been crimped by forces beyond their control. And I think that power is magnetic—that when you dare to shine, you become an earth angel who can help others shine, too. Sometimes directly, by the way you actively seek to assist people to overcome physical obstacles, but also by increasing the light to help them find spiritual doors that can be a catalyst to reach a whole new level of freedom & victory.

So as the calendar gives us a new start this month and turns to the fresh hopes of 2014, I'm going to think about the ways I want to shine this year. And of course, I'd be delighted to hear about your journey, too (because don't forget, your bright light bolsters my courage to make 2014 a banner year as well!).

While making my list of ways to "shine" in 2014, I also remind myself that no act of authentic radiance is too small (in my humble opinion). Even the loftiest goals, like a hundred-pound weight loss or seeking a total career change, have to begin with the first small steps. And I never underestimate the psychological power of ANYTHING that makes you feel truly good about being YOU. Even if that comes from simply indulging in a soulful book or a sparkly new pair of shoes (preferably both! : ).

As for me, I'll be listening to Florida Georgia Line's sassy country tune "Get Your Shine On" while jogging out in nature to replenish my soul. And with every step I take, I'll be imagining the joy of new growth & new accomplishments in my life—no matter how crazy my dreams might seem to others—and all those bright angels who'll be waiting to give me a big hug at the finish line. Some of those angels are the people who've been my generous supporters, even when I was really down, and others are the radiant souls who've gone before me who hold spiritual lanterns to guide my way. But one thing you can count on—as I progress on my journey, I'm going to make sure that I hold spiritual lanterns high enough so that others can see how brightly they shine, too.  And in doing so, our horizon is guaranteed to fill up with a most glorious & inspiring light . . .

(Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Monday, December 2, 2013

Stars in the Backyard


I love the anticipation & wonder of December. Will it snow soon? Will the sun peek out today? And if it does, will it gently illuminate snowflakes & make them sparkle as they fall silently to meet the earth? Each new day brings another facet of Winter's quiet beauty & strength. Yet in spite of her cold & frost, her night stars always seem to twinkle brightest.

And as the holidays press upon us, I like to take time out to count my blessings as well as look around me to see who's been a blessing to me & the community in return. One way that I can demonstrate my gratitude is to "Buy Local" for the holiday season. It's my way of thanking my hardworking & artistic neighbors—the "stars in the backyard", if you will—who endeavor to make my community more colorful, vibrant & creative each and every day.

Luckily, in my small mountain village in Colorado, the local cultural center & various vendors hold art & craft fairs during the holiday season so townspeople can do just that—buy local. Not only is it a chance for me to peruse handmade gifts crafted by exceptional artisans, it's also a time where I can chat with my neighbors, catch up on local gossip, and be stunned by how many talented people actually reside in my area!

One such talent is Megan DeSmidt, who creates artistically-designed fabric purses, satchels & backpacks for her own company, St. Clair Designs. Interestingly enough, St. Clair happens to be Megan's maiden name & is also the name of the patron saint of embroidery—so it seems destined that Megan would apply her artistry to creative sewing! You can see more of her fabulous designs at

Megan DeSmidt—fabric purse designer

I'll admit it it—I'm a sucker for the fabric arts (particularly creations that feature the interplay of different textures & patterns), so I couldn't help buying one of Megan DeSmidt's charming purses as a gift for a favorite relative for Christmas.

The "Dena Bag" by St. Clair Designs

Then there's Tina Rodholm, who takes breathtaking & evocative regional photographs of mountainscapes, vintage western scenes & brooding Colorado sunsets. You can check out more of her stunning work at

Tina Rodholm—photographer

Another artisan who inspired my awe is Helen Cahill with her "Wreaths of Hope." Similar to dream catchers, her lovely weavings made from pine needles are designed to "prompt a treasuring of nature." She says her hope is that "love, laughter, friendship and kindness will be as free flowing as air through the openings of her weavings" in the homes of all who purchase her unique gifts. You can reach Helen Cahill at

Helen Cahill—"Wreath of Hope" weaver
And speaking of weavings, the southwestern flair of Douglas Narigon was on full, vibrant display, hearkening back to the Native American heritage of our Colorado mountain region. For orders, he can be reached at 719-424-2036.
Douglas Narigon—weaver
And for the nature enthusiast, the delicately beautiful wood sculptures of Stan Dewey, who specializes in birds of prey, fish & wildfowl, were extraordinary to behold. He can be contacted at 719-439-8318.
Stan Dewey—wood sculptor
Not to be outdone, however, is Stan Dewey's wife Sandy, who is also a wood & gourd artist. She created the following charming & whimsical holiday pieces.
Sandy Dewey—gourd & wood artist
Just in case you're tempted to believe this gallery of artisans features work for the mere "common folk", bear in mind that Kenneth W. Shanika's original oil painting titled "Christmas Eve" sold at an art show within the first five minutes for a whopping $900 (and 2 others sold for that price as well). Gasp—it's gorgeous, but I'm afraid I could only afford his holiday card reproductions for $15! ; ). If you admire Kenneth's fine artistry, you can view more of his paintings at or visit Colorado Expressions Gallery at 122 East Kiowa Street in Colorado Springs.
"Christmas Eve" by Kenneth W. Shanika

Kenneth W. Shanika—oil painter
All this creativity & color made me want to break out some brushes & paint a few things of my own! If you have any free time at all this holiday season, perhaps the greatest gift you can indulge yourself in is the opportunity for creative free play. Paint, whittle, sculpt, draw, stencil, bake, write—it might even be fun to invite your relatives or guests to do the same! Below is a woodburning I created one season while I was hopelessly bored during a heavy storm that snowed me in. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and because I was low on funds that year & worried about how I could afford holiday gifts, these nifty keepsake boxes turned out to be heartfelt & homemade treasures for my loved ones <3
"Fox Box"—original woodburning by Diane J. Reed
And who knows—with enough creativity & effort, you may discover that the star ready to twinkle in your backyard might turn out to be YOU. Here's to a joyful & imaginative holiday season that sparkles deep within your soul & brings light to everyone you touch...

 (Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )