Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Please Save Pull Tabs

Well, isn't this special. I was tagged in a little bit of online fun by Curious Girl. It goes like this:

1. Open your first photo folder.
2. Scroll down to your 10th photo.
3. Post the photo and the story behind it.
4. Tag 5 people to play along.

Okay, first of all, this is picture 11. I cheated already. But the 10th picture was way out of focus. So, we've got nuns asking for pull-tabs instead. God, bless Sister Marie Attea and her cohorts for trying to save the world, one can of soda pop (couldn't be beer!) at a time.

The folder on my computer this Sister was plucked from is loaded to the brim with church architecture. Here in Buffalo, NY, we have mind-blowing examples of intricate architecture from the 1800's into the early 1900's. It's just that no one outside of Buffalo knows about it. So, I am known to traipse around the city with friends and cameras, soaking the glory in through my lens. The pull tab receptacle, outside a church, was a bonus I couldn't pass up.

I tag:
and YOU!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spread The Love

I want you to know we are waiting. For you. Yes, you and your unsung talents and offerings, your incredible ways and your heart of gold. We are waiting for you to gain enough confidence and realize what you have is what we have been waiting for. By denying your gifts, your specialized verve, you are denying us something we vitally need.

What we need is genuine love and enthusiasm. About life. You hold one of the keys. Without your input, without your energy in the mix, we all have just a little bit less of the glory of life. This life. Our life. The one we're in together. The one so finely and sweetly dependent on sharing amongst ourselves. What you know, what you can do, can and will make the difference to one of us, lots of us, in raising the quality of this life.

Stop thinking that what you have and who you are is insignificant. It does not matter if what you offer is being offered by another. Your version of that offering is what is missing from this life. Your version is what one of us, lots of us, are parched for.

Dare, dare to expose your gifts to the light of day. Start small and stay small, or start small and go big. Size matters not. It is only the love, the intention that matters. Stop denying your value and the key you hold. Rise up, expose your gifts, and spread the love. To yourself. To us. To life.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Love In Cream And Blue

Good news, the boys are doing well. Creamsicle and Sebastian Blue have been together since the girls were adopted one week ago. The wonderful Susan at Niagara Feline Friends caught Creamsicle rubbing up to and snuggling on big ole' Blue while he slept with his chin on the litter pan. She said Creamsicle purrs like a motor boat. Both are allowing Susan to pet them, but Sebastian Blue is more comfortable with human contact than the love bug is. Both seem quite content.

The girls, meanwhile, have been quite the handful in their transition to house pets. But all will be well. They are gluttons for petting and brushing and taking over the newly dubbed "princess sofa". For pictures and the update, go visit Kasia Blue.

{Pictures from the wonderful Susan.}

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

These Are Not Glamorous Times

Really, I've tried to come up with something good and profound to say, but I've got nothin'. What I've got is an itchy, pale yellow sweater that is bugging the bejesus out of me and I can't get it off. This sweater is coated with slippery words from false people, temperatures that won't budge above freezing, chipped paint, blooming rust, money sucked down drains and eye-bulging fear of uncertainties. I don't look good in yellow.

These are not glamorous times. The lingering winter, the ready-to-move-on-with-no-where-to-go, bag after bag of glossy chocolate bits adding bulk to my butt, gallons of tea gulped down in hopes of finding comfort, but instead the gulping brings constant flushing and reminders of the sweater I can't pry off. If only I could sleep 'til spring.

Of course, of course, there is so much good going on all around. So damn much to be grateful for. Forgive me, but I'm too busy scratching and flailing around, scanning the dark corners for blue cotton t-shirts, to see all that goodness and weep with gratitude. I'm definitely having a moment.

But, hang in there, I tell myself. One lunatic-fringe flash will come and voila, that sweater will be dead on the floor. And things can get back to being glamorous.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stray Cat Valentine, part 1

Bella, wide-eyed and scared at the adoption fair.
Ginny-Puff hiding as best she could.
Puff crawled right on top of Bella. So scared!
Kasia Blue soothes her new fur-daughters.
So, so glad they're going home together!

It was a privilege today, to witness 2 of the winter strays meet their new adoptive family. Not just any family, but the family of my dear Kasia Blue. Bella (formerly known as Coco) and Ginny-Puff were so afraid in their adoption fair cage. Puff walked right on top of Bella, out of fear or protection, when too many faces began peering in. They melted all our hearts.

Adoption papers were signed, fees were paid and suddenly the fur girls were officially Valentines, on their way home to be fawned over and loved for the rest of their lives. Kasia and me did our best not to cry. But how could we not? We have gifted each other in meaningful ways, all in the name of love and cats.

For now, Creamsicle will bunk with Sebastian Blue. Both boys are in need of more love and work to quell their fears and make them adoption ready. The wonderful Susan of Niagara Feline Friends is fully convinced they'll get there.

So, on to the next chapter in this story of stray cats and love. Kasia will take it from here with the girls (I'll keep you posted when she has an update), and me, I've got plans in the works to keep answering the call to help cats. I'll be sure to fill you in.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Stray Cat Valentine, part 2

The wise one.
The cuddle bug.
Front and center, just like at the stray cat garage.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Valentine

I've spent all week working to make Valentine's Day special for other people. Tomorrow, when every last rose and every pink carnation has found its way into the hearts and homes of local women, I will put my floral knife away. I will sweep up the petals and left over leaves and I will go home. Alone and guaranteed, exhausted.

But cupid will not have forgotten me. My phone will ring and a voice, 6,000 miles away, will make me laugh and swoon. And we'll make plans across those miles. Plans to buy chocolates and roses and walk by the sea. We'll be Valentines in Spring, the Gypsy King and me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Heart Rumi

When the Invisible has become your food,
you've won Eternal Life and death has fled.

When the agony of love has begun to expand your life,
roses and lilacs take over the garden of your soul.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Sensual Valentine

Today, I dispense with the standard G rating on my blog. Today, the rating is PG14. In your mind it might very well be R. Beyond that I don't want to know. But I feel we all need a little lift in this blustery month of love. So, today I give you the hamam, the private version of the Turkish bath. Plan your Valentine's day accordingly.

If you need or desire a boost in your level of intimacy with a certain significant other, this is the road to subtle nirvana. Begin by turning the golden spigots and filling the large marble bowl with deliciously hot water.

Get naked.

Ask your partner to sit on the low, marble disc. (Yes, it's the seat.) Remove the etched brass bowl from behind the faucet and dip it in the hot water. Slowly, gently pour the water from the brass bowl over the head of your partner. Dip again and pour the water down their back. Again, down their front.

Replace the brass bowl behind the faucet and reach for the special occasion shampoo. Slowly, thoroughly with gentle fingertips, wash their hair. Dip the brass bowl back in the water and pour until the suds are gone.

Reach for the fabulously scented soap and lather up. With as much attention and deliberation as you have ever put forth, wash your partner from head to toe. Linger with lather where ever your instinct suggests. Top the marble bowl up with fresh hot water. Dip the brass one in and slowly, slowly rinse your partner clean.

Trade places. Repeat. Slowwwwwly.

Use your fluffiest towels to dry each other off. Wrap yourselves immediately in fresh, plump robes.

Or not.

I wish for you a most sensual Valentine's day. Or a most sensual February 17th. Or March 12th. Or whatever day feels right for a wet and wonderful boost.

{p.s. No golden spigots? No marble bowls? Improvise, improvise, improvise!}

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

For Sarah and Erin

Guess what? Your new girls love toys! I'm not so sure if that handsome fellow has the same fascination, but regardless, start saving your pennies for balls trapped in plastic. It'll be fun to find out if they like catnip, as well.

Start counting the days (and hours!) until your furry Valentines arrive.

~I do believe Mr. Sebastian Blue is doing a bit better. The wonderful Susan has sat with him in his apartment and talked to him. He actually let her pet him for 8 half strokes down his back! She has moved his bed away from the very back and has spied him sitting at the front door of his abode.

Pheeewwww. I feel somewhat better. I've been so worried for Blue and have felt a sense of responsibility towards him that is woefully unsated. I will ask for some more kind thoughts from you on his behalf. Thank you!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Continuous Love

When I am nourished and rested, the guiding light of the Universe is easy to follow. I am most fond of the light that shines on Sunday mornings. No matter the weather or time of year, Sunday before 10am is quiet and radiant and resplendent with beautiful suggestions. I meet the Universe on the living room floor, steaming mug of black tea and instrumental music turned low. I am usually rested and ready for guidance. Today's light shown clearly on a thread of continuous love.

After years of obscurity on a shelf, I noticed, this morning, a picture journal. I had started the journal in 1997. I worked on it sporadically until mid 2001, cutting and pasting images that spoke to my heart. What the Universe wanted me to see today and confirm today was the dominance of birds and flowers stuck to the pages. They filled the middle. They were first and last. They are my present and my past.

I have loved flowers for most of my life. As a floral designer they are with me daily. Not all of those days have been pleasant, despite the collective notion that it simply must be the most wonderful job in the world to work with flowers. It is more difficult on many days than I can possibly convey. Despite that, I still swoon at the smell of a hyacinth and I cannot, cannot get my fill of roses.

This, then, is the guiding light of the Universe regarding me and my long-standing affair with flowers: Go deeper. Take my love for flowers to the deepest reaches of my imagination and then dare to go deeper still. Forget how much I think I know about flowers. There is more to know. Go find that more. Realize these gems of the natural world are a component of my soul's purpose. Use them in new ways to lift my soul to depths and heights I did not think possible even just last year. What has been right in front of me, right in front of me, I am now ready to see as the doorway to so much of what I crave. Dream of. Love. Choose.

I am working on it. I am finding what more there is for me to know. The internal lift is palpable and I am changing in ways that take my breath.

So, let me ask you this: what is it that you love and think you know so much about? What talent, hidden or not, is front and center in your life? Have you even dismissed it as unimportant? Can you see how you are not taking full advantage of this love, this talent and what it could offer you? Get nourished, get rested and open your mind to a bit of guiding light. I am quite certain you have something right in front of you that, if flushed out and shape-shifted, will change your inner and outer world and take your breath away.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

More Love Needed

Oh, sweet Sebastian Blue...we're sending love to you.
The frowsy, inseparable trio...a well-loved life awaits you all.

{Photos from the wonderful Susan}

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Question Of Love

The question is not whether he loves me enough. The question is whether I am prepared to love him the way he deserves to be loved. The question is also whether I have poured enough love into my own heart, my own being to be filled to overflowing. It is the overflow, the more-than-I-can-possibly-use-for-myself that will create the lake of love for him to swim in.

The question is not whether she loves you enough. The question is whether you have done everything you possibly can to deserve her love. Her love is a gift. Her love is a grail. Her love is the jeweled chalice that receives the purified elixir of the heart in touch with itself. The heart that knows love starts at its own center and ripples outward. The heart that honors itself first, knowing from experience how best to honor another heart with love.

The question is never whether the love without is enough. It is always whether the love within is enough. If it is, if there is love to spare and share and fill the lake, there is no question.

{Written 2 years ago. Worth repeating in this, the month of love.}

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Love Times 3

"My God", you're thinking, "can she really still be going on and on about cats?" Yes. Yes, she can. Because, guess what? There's news, people. Ready?

Coco, Puff and Creamsicle are staying together! Could ya just cry?! My darling friend, Kasia Blue has decided to take not only the 2 girls, but that handsome devil in orange and white. Maybe, just maybe, her decision came after I sent an email with an update from the wonderful Susan about how the trio are inseparable and seem to have an almost uncanny bond going on. Maybe it was the above picture of the trio in squalor I attached to the email as a reminder. (No pressure, I assured her...knowing full well I was stomping on heart strings.)

Family deliberation in the Kasia Blue household was short and sweet. They'd take him, because, hell, what's one more? Do you not love this family right about now? I do. 100%.

Kasia's daughters have been busy looking up cat names. You see, they already have a cat named Coco. Here's the new roster, so you can follow along: Coco is now Bella. Gwen-Puff is now Ginny-Puff. (Yes, they are keeping the 'hyphen Puff'). Creamsicle/Gabriel is back to Creamsicle. And I'm Aunt Gracie with visiting privileges. Pass the Kleenex.

If you listen close, you can hear a band of Angels giggling...

Please visit darling Kasia and give her some love.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Request For Love

Sebastian Blue needs your help. It seems he is not adjusting well to confinement. I was afraid of this. He has escaped his adjustment 'apartment' once, hiding out for as long as he could before being caught, and he wants nothing to do with the wonderful Susan, hissing and sulking and staying in the way back. I hope I have not done his freedom-loving self an injustice.

Maybe he just needs more time than the others. Maybe he will come along eventually. He did that for me once already. It was January 12th in the evening, by flashlight. All 4 sweethearts were in the garage. Coco, Puff and Creamsicle had gathered at the front on carpet scraps to listen to me, leaning through the door window, tell them how wonderful they all were. It took a full 5 minutes of me blathering on before Blue gave a yawn from the back, did a yoga stretch(downward facing cat), and walked deliberately to the front patch of carpet and sat down. He positioned himself just slightly in front of the trio. I talked, by the glow of flashlight, for another 15 minutes until my toes started going numb. Those 15 minutes are forever etched on my heart.

Could you please talk to Sebastian Blue and help him calm down? Susan, herself, sent an email asking if all of you could send some love his way. She's doing her very best to help him adjust. But he's scared. Large doses of love will help.

And the other 3? Doing wonderfully. The girls love to be petted and have bellies rubbed. Purring seems to be their new hobby. That Creamsicle-Gabriel has also given in to being petted and scratched behind his ears. For the 3 of them, I have no worries.

Thanks for your help.

xo, Graciel

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I Heart Groundhogs

I know you think it's all about the cat these days, and well, you're right, but surprise(!) they are not my most favoritest of animals. They're in the top 5 to be certain, but the number one spot is occupied by 2 animals. The elephant and...the groundhog. Yes, the bane of farmers and golf course owners alike holds a sweet spot in my heart. Just look at how cute they are! And if you've ever seen a groundhog/woodchuck waddle at full speed across a lawn, you'd be swooning too.

What do I love most about these big rodents? Their beyond-comprehension-ability to go into true hibernation (they go underground by late October in my neck of the woods) and their fastidious cleanliness, with separate toilet chambers in their underground housing. Magnificent. They are the epitome of big surprises in small, disdained packages.

I'm all about the underdog.

Or in this case, the underhog.

Happy Groundhog Day!

{photo courtesy of: justcallmesandy.stumbleupon.com}

Monday, February 01, 2010

For The Love Of Cats

Sebastian Blue: his 1st night in from the cold, 1/29
Stray cat inspiration: my Buddha(former throw away) and my Remmington(former stray)

29 days ago, my life unexpectedly changed. In an innocent moment of following an instinct, I was led to the hideaway of 4 stray cats. I had adopted stray cats from shelters, but had never been the one to pluck the cats from squalor and deliver them to better possibilities. Now, I've plucked and delivered and I will never be the same.

If you've followed the story of Coco, Puff, Creamsicle and Blue, you may think the saga was relatively easy for me. It was not. The fears this brought up in me were substantial. I cried many times wondering if I would fail in my quest to figure out how to get them to a shelter. If I failed, blogging woman that I am, I would fail publicly. My heart was wrenched from the first day Puff revealed herself to me and I had more than a few sleep interruptions, waking in worry. I felt tested on many different levels.

What I did in the midst of my fears was ask for help and intervention every day. And every day I got it. Every day the next step was revealed, connections were made, and one by one these cats I came to quickly love were moved from a life far below what they deserved to live to warm possibility.

This saga has been a metaphor for me. In spiritual terms, cats are totems that help human counterparts move more easily in the unknown, as well as helping humans move more efficiently through their fears. Cats are guardians and protectors. They are guides to self discovery and personal transformation. They usher in magic. What the gang of 4 helped me to discover is: 1.) I am more capable than I have consciously given myself credit for. 2.) It is time to move myself to better, more loving circumstances. 3.) Never again hold back when my heart leaps out in front of me and points the way. Yes, that's the clincher: do not resist for any reason, any reason, when my heart's purpose reveals itself in living color.

So, today I am making plans to lift myself into a new life. These plans have to do with my floral design skills, my writing, the need to move and (swoon) my Gypsy King. My plans also include cats, because my heart has made it abundantly clear, they need me and I need them.

{There is a call from Curious Girl to post every day in February about love. Every kind of love, not just the romantic, fantasy kind invoked by Valentine's Day. I'm going to do my best. Will anyone else join us in this teeny-tiny loves fest?}