Tag Archives: love

DVD cover of the Italian film "Life is Beautiful"

Life IS Beautiful


Last night I re-watched the award-winning Italian film “Life is Beautiful.”

This time I didn’t weep uncontrollably.

Yes, it’s still sad, but whatever in me it triggered has moved on.

And this morning while reflecting on that tragic but powerful tale, it came to me:

Life can be like that.

We can choose HOW we focus on experiences.

As a victim.

Or as in a game.

With a playful attitude.

Or not.

The horror is still present,

but the change of focus

allows Grace to arrive.

God’s Grace.

A Grace which gives us a Strength




Wishing you ALL a Happy Thanksgiving as you too reflect on how Grace

has played a role in YOUR life.


✫ Mahalo Ke Akua 

Are You Self Conscious?

When a person is self-conscious, they’re anything BUT Self conscious, i.e. Self aware.

This just came to me while reading the introduction to Elliott Erwitt’s book of photography, “To The Dogs.”

He writes: “It’s not really that dogs are never self-conscious. In fact, a cruel person, or a photographer, can easily embarrass them. But they are usually unaffected because of something like innocence, or lack of worldly experience. Perhaps that’s why they seem to have such a natural bond with children. Maybe they still have some fundamental values that haven’t been corrupted by society.”

And maybe those dogs who ARE self-conscious (when being embarrassed by a cruel person) are actually being self aware, or at least aware of a human self who is unaware.

Wherever this musing leads, it’s dogs who are the real leaders for they continuously model how to love unconditionally.

Haven’t seen Erwitt’s book of photography? Ask a dog. Chances are she or he has a copy.


Every single person

is important.




That means


That means


That means

the person

who flipped you off.

That means

the person

who last gave you a hug.







How are YOU

going to show the next person you meet

how important he or she is?

How are YOU going to let them know you care?

I want to know.

I want to see.

I want to hear

how this call to open our eyes

and hearts ripples across the world.

Because each kind word,

each smile starts with


Be the light that you ARE in the world.

It’s time to shine so brightly

that darkness has no choice

but to disappear.

Our breath is the miracle.

Our BREATH is the Miracle

double nickles

On this day when I rise with double-nickles in my eyes . . .

I’ve felt so much already . . . and it’s not even 8 o’clock in the morn’.

Eyes wide awake at midnight, I smile.


It’s my birthday!


Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear Sj,

Happy Birthday to me.


Giggles in my warm bed.


Giggles of joy to be alive.


Happy Birthday me again, Sj!


And I do.

I sing yet again to myself.

I feel my Dad watching and laughing.

I hear my five year old self call out, “Happy Birthday me again, Daddy!”


And he did.


And again.

And again.

Until his last time seven years ago.



Quietly awake.

Peacefully awake.

And as I lay in my warm bed covered in quilts that my sister made for me,

I gave thanks

To be alive

To be alive

To be alive!


And then the pull of sleep called me to her breast,

until once again I awoke . . .


Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me,

Happy Birthday dear Sj, Happy Birthday to me.


And then fb called my name.

Yes, fb, lol.

I heeded the call.

Read the many loving messages.

Thank you.

Thank you.


I love YOU!

Happy face.

Hearts galore.

I love you.

I LOVE you.


Again I lay in silence,

Until once again, I awoke.


It’s my Birthday, my Birth



And as I rose, I saw another message.

One of concern

not for me

but for







and what called me instead was






All there is is love.


All there is is love.


On this day when I rise with double-nickles in my eyes . . .

I’ve felt so much already . . . and it’s not even 8 o’clock in the morn’.


. . .







And the greatest of these







lotus water pond

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

On this day, I marvel at how life has unfolded.

At the moment, I am alone.
Gratefully home alone in a clean cottage.
A home magically provided when needed.
So very grateful,
So very grateful,
I am.

And I give thanks for this time alone.
This time to simply BE.
For in simply being, I am shown all that life is.
The joy.
The sorrow.
The fear.
The love.
With love ever present.
The foundation.
The roof.
The contents.
Ever present even in the fear.
Or in the sadness
And joy.
LOVE is always there.

And on this day, I give thanks for YOU.
For the part we’ve played in each others’ lives.
For nothing is an accident.
Or coincidence.
But rather each bumping into
and seemingly chance smile,
is a nod from the Divine.
A reminder that we are
That we

And with this
I send
all the love
that I am

Fido Tomatoes

Life * Death * Life * Death * Life * Death * Life

Fido Remembered

Recently I experienced Ann Randolph’s performance of her most hilarious and inspiring one-woman play, LOVELAND. Afterwards, she invited the audience to stay and write. Ann is also a most dynamic teacher and encourager. She travels the country leading writing workshops. Improvisational acting and various movement activities are used to get everyone’s creative juices flowing. Another teaching technique of Ann’s is to give the participants a “prompt” which they are then to write about for 12 minutes. If you can’t think of what to write at any point during the 12 minutes, you’re to write “What to say, what to say, what to say” until something comes. The idea is to not edit yourself but rather to allow ideas to flow freely.

On this particular evening, after her most outstanding performance of LOVELAND (yup, hated it! Not. : ), she led a short meditation for those who chose to stay (around 15 to 20 people), asking us to think about a time of grief. I closed my eyes and focused on her guidance; nothing came, nothing came, nothing came.

Then she said, “Go.” And suddenly I knew what I was going to write about.

The prompt? A moment in time when we felt grief. And here’s what came (with some slight after-the-fact editing):

What I remember most about this moment is the grass under my feet, toes, and legs. It was damp and a bit sticky just having recently mowed. As I thought of him standing by my side, watching me, I wept.

Then I remembered him opening a coconut, leaving a trail of husks in his wake until he sat down chewing and slurping, coconut water running down his spotted tongue. I simply watched and laughed, enjoying his excitement, his pleasure at opening that coconut and watching me watch him — savoring the moment, the grass, the breeze, the smell. The smell of coconut all over his face running down his noes to his toes.

I remember. I remember. I remember.

And then I realized how I’d been waiting. How I’d been holding my breath waiting for him to turn. To change. To rise up and become a boy. My boy. My little boy. But it never happened. It never happened. And yet I loved him. Adored him. Cherished him as we sat together and watched the sunset. I placed his body on his bed and carried him to the rock wall just steps away from the van. Careful. Careful. Easy. Not to drop him. Not to slip. But to gently set him down so together we could watch the sun set — a fire-ball on the horizon laced with the gentle lap, lap, lap of the waves.


What to say? What to say?

This time with him as he was dying was a gift, and yet I didn’t realize then that he was also giving me a second gift. Cracking my heart wide open, so I could begin to see life for what it really was. Is. The gift it IS to be alive, to breath. The gift that it is now and forevermore. For life doesn’t end with death but simply transforms into another.

So, Fido, to you I give thanks. And always, I give my love, my appreciation that you chose me to be your *caretaker into death. To be there with you, for you, so that we could each cherish the moment as we sat together in silence and watched the tomatoes grow until their plump red bodies were juicy enough to bite into. Fido Tomatoes, I called them. Magical tomatoes born in grief and yet comforting all the same as the juice dripped down my chin, and the taste brought me back to that mid-summer day sitting together in the sun, dirt on my fingers, seeds in my hands, and you watching with complete focus, as these magical seeds spoke of hope and life continued.

Fido Tomatoes on the Vine

Fido Tomatoes on the Vine

*Fido’s Papa, Tony, was also his caretaker, but when writing this, I was thinking of the time Fido and I spent alone.

Susan and Dad at Daytona Beach, Florida 1960s


I just participated in a really inspiring writing workshop called Karma Free Writing.

For the closing, we were invited to post a video of us reading something we’d written (for the workshop or previously). What came to me instead, are the words to the five minute video shown below. The photos I selected from thousands of photos I’ve taken during my travels, as well as ones my husband and I have taken during our daily life.


Italian clock tower

Do it now.

Whatever it is.

Now is the time to do it.
But I don’t have the energy, the time, the funds.
Yes, you do. You just don’t realize it yet.
Do it.
Right now.
Call that friend who keeps popping in your head.
Hug your husband just because you want to.
Forgive yourself for whatever wrongs you may or may not have done.
It’s all we have.
That book you’ve wanted to write.
That song you’d like to sing.
Thoses flowers you’ve been meaning to plant.
Now’s the time to start.
Now’s the time to stand up, walk out the door, and jump off that huge metaphorical cliff that’s been waiting to show you there’s a pillow bed below.
It’s always been there.
Just out of sight.
There to catch you.
There to show you that you’re not alone.
You’re never alone.
No one’s ever alone.
Each and every one of us is surrounded by love.
Open you eyes.
You can see it.
It’s right there.
Yes, you see it now, don’t you?
And now,
feel it.
It’s there too,
in your heart.
It’s always been there.
It’s just up to us to show up,
to open our eyes and recognize
what’s always been there.
now’s the time.
You knew it already, didn’t you?
I’m just reminding you of the obvious.
Time to stand up, scoot over, reach out, down or up,
whatever’s right for you.
‘Cause only you know what’s right for you.
No one else can tell you.
They may try.
And you can smile and listen and take it.
Or you can smile
and walk away.
Walk in the direction of your heart.
Your heart knows the way.
It always has.
It’s just up to us to show up,
and feel.
Yes, now’s the time.
I look forward to meeting you.
I’m sure our paths will cross.
All who follow their heart will collide into a huge burst of Love, at some point.
Yes, I feel it;
it’s true.
So what are you waiting for?
you’ve already left.
: )
Bon voyage!
Peace be with you . . .

My last full day at FLO . . .

On Wednesday, August 25, 2010 I posted the following (and more, this is an excerpt) on my glob: susansbackwardsglob.com:

What I came here to do . . .
written 8/24/2010
I came here
to be
to live
to learn
to grow
to expand
to have fun
to laugh
to play
to rest
to love.
And more and more I wrote.
So, before I left for this 5-month trip to SE Asia, I meditated and asked, “Where? How long? What do do?” And I listened. Yes, I listened to my Divine Soul, or my gut, or my intuition; plug in any word that feels best to you. And slowly, it came to me. The school. Some travel time and time to rest. Two months to volunteer somewhere. And the final month to travel, rest, and reflect on all that I knew would surely happen.
Okay, I had the basic framework, the outline, if you will. I trusted that the particulars would arise in their own time. And they did.
The very first day at school in Bangkok, a new friend told me of FLO (Future Light Orphanage) a little outside of Phnom Penh.
Another friend of a friend told me to be careful; do my research, that a lot of orphanages in Cambodia are a scam; are fake; they bring in kids for the hour or two when sympathetic westerners come to look and most surely give donations. After, the kids go home, and the crooked people pocket the money intended to help the unfortunate.
“Okay, be careful, Susan Jane,” I thought, “Be sure it’s a legitimate organization.”
And, I realized that it was best to stay at one place for the entire 2-month period. It’s better for the kids, the organization, everyone. So in the midst of the intensive program to earn my CELTA certificate, I glanced once again at FLO’s website; it seemed legit. Okay, it really was just a glance; I was busy and preoccupied. I was mostly trusting that it came from a real recommendation from someone whose son had volunteered and BEEN there. I contacted the school; we had a dialogue back and forth; I told them I didn’t have a police record to send but that I could ask friends to be references. They willingly obliged; nothing more came of it. : ) (I suppose just that you say that you have references was the point . . . ) I set the dates; we made an agreement. Okay, 8-weeks volunteer teaching at FLO . . . focusing on speaking and writing . . .
And that was that. I put it out of my mind, went back to focusing on CELTA, made it through those laborious 4-weeks, passed, and sigh, took a rest, and when the moment was right, looked at the FLO site again. This time I really looked at it; I went through page after page. That’s when I discovered the Hawaii connection.
“Of course,” I thought, “Of course.”
I really wasn’t surprised. Hadn’t I asked my Divine Soul (gut, intuition, higher self, God to those who feel more comfortable with the norm . . . ) to guide me? Hadn’t I listened to what felt right?
Yes, I had. So of course there’d be a connection to Hawaii at FLO.
That first night when I arrived, I was nervous. “Why am I so nervous?” I wondered to myself. But I was; I was nervous.
So to arrive and see *HVB’s placard with Kamehameha in the silk shop (where I first stayed), made me smile.
And then, to enter the canteen where I was dining alone and see an ALOHA sign, made me smile again.
Relax Susan Jane! Don’t you know that you’re well loved! Don’t you know that all is WELL.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, “I do know. Thank you.”
And as you know, the next 8-weeks were magical. The students at FLO are such smart, funny, lively, wonderful people.
So, here it was Friday the 16th of September, my last day at FLO, and what should happen? I was invited to join FLO students who don’t have **family as they traveled to the neighborhood pagoda (temple/wat) because of this very special 15-day holiday to honor ancestors.
I was absolutely surrounded by love. Yes, surrounded. In the form of precious, wonderful, charming, and caring human beings. One little boy took my hand for the start of the walk. Another appeared for the next part. And another and another. And then, the first one came back again to be with me as we approached the pagoda.
Then, one-by-one two older students (a boy and a girl from my two classes) appeared to thoughtfully guide me through the ceremony, “Auntie, like this . . . Auntie, now come here. . .” And it was done with such love, such concern that I be included, that I understand what was going on. That I really participate in a ceremony that was so very important and sacred to them. And then, it was time to sit and be quiet, and yes, I meditated.
And it came to me, “Of course, of course my last day at FLO would be so very, very perfect, so very, very sacred. Of course. My Divine Soul who knows all, loves all, and only wishes good things for me and everyone somehow knew that this was the right day to end my stay at FLO.”
And as I sat with these most wonderful children, I gave thanks. I gave thanks for everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING: my life, all life, my health, my parents, my family, my husband, my friends, these children . . .”
What an absolutely perfect and wonderful way to end my 8-week stay at FLO. And it came to me, ask them to write their name in your analog iPhone (in both Khmer /kə maɪ/ and anglais). So I did. So when I see you next, ask me to show you my book. Ask me to show you their wonderful names and how they write. I’ll gladly share their gift to me with you. There’s plenty to go around for all.
Here’s another excerpt from that same entry to my glob susansbackwardsglob mentioned above:
And I thought of the people in my life who live in Light,
and I thought of the people I don’t yet know who received my text message back in April.
and I thought of how I’m going to meet them and others as one thing leads to another,
one heart leads to another.
Doors will be opened.
Introductions will be made.
And I will find my way around this planet
on the voyage
which will open up
to me.
Yes, of course it would all work out perfectly. Of course there would be bookends to mark this experience and that. Life is like that; it unfolds with the most amazing symmetry.
“What a coincidence,” we say to one another when some chance this or that happens. “What a coincidence that . . .” plug in the blank of your choice. A chance event? Or the beautiful orchestration of your soul and mine as they converse with one another in a plane that our human mind doesn’t see nor understand. Call it God’s hand, call it divine guidance, call it blind luck, call it what you will. Regardless of what you call it, I can guarantee that each and every one of you have had at least one something happen that you’re thinking of now. Admit it. You are! You’re human, and you’re having a human experience, so of course you have!!! It’s so very, very natural and common.
Alright, so there I was sitting on the floor of the pagoda surrounded by these most wonderful human beings.
“Stay and have lunch with us, Auntie!”
Of course I did.
It was soooo delicious.
“Who made this?” I asked.
“Many people, many, many people,” they replied.
“What did I eat?” you ask.
“***Fish. Curry with vegetables. Rice. Lots of rice. Noodles. Two different kinds of noodles. And bananas. Crisp, fresh bananas.”
Yes, I was stuffed. And they kept eating!!!!
“We eat a lot,” they giggled, as they continued to eat and eat.
“Are these children heavy?” you ask.
“No, they’re not.”
You’ve seen the pictures. They eat really healthily, hardly any processed foods. (The processed foods that they do have are candies or cakes that they buy with money given to them by their eFoster parents.)
“It’s time to clean up, Auntie. You sit; we clean up.”
“I can help,” I said. And I did. A little. Nothing in comparison to what they did.
“Are you ready to go outside, Auntie?”
“Are you?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“Kay, den, let’s go!”
And then they showed me some other things on the grounds of the wat  (pagoda, they said). We burned some more incense. We prayed, and then we just had good ‘ole plain fun looking at the beautiful murals inside another building. Then . . .
“Take photos of us, Auntie!”
I took photos.
“Now with YOU!!!!”
And more pictures were taken . . .
When it was time to walk back to FLO, that same little boy, who had first grabbed my hand when leaving FLO, magically appeared (he was in one of my Gogo Loves English 1 classes).
I smiled as I took his hand.

He still holds a very special place in my heart . . .

So . . . now for the photos of this most wonderful closing to a most amazing 8-weeks . . .
I love you ALL and hold you too in my ****heart.
*Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau
**Some of them do have family; they’re at FLO because they’re family is very poor and can’t provide them with an education.
***My beautiful young lady friend pulled out prime pieces of fish for me and dropped them in my bowl. : )
****My heart is very, very BIG.