Monday, June 27, 2011

365Beautiful... Day 15... Friends.. how many of us have em... (June 23, 2011)

Today is my friend Todd's birthday and a few people gathered at the local watering hole for a few drinks and to wish Todd well, including yours truly. I was feeling a bit ... off... tonight because of something that happened to me earlier. I didn't want to let it get to me and I was trying my hardest to put it in the back of my head.

Luckily, the night turned out to be incredibly entertaining. All of the people gathered around the table were in high spirits having continual conversation all around the table. Todd sat with his wife and was beaming with light and happiness. Slowly the event that had me continually shrinking into my own brain started to vanish, and I started to become immersed in the light of the people around me.

In all honesty, I can't say that the all of the people who surrounded me are, or ever will be "true" friends. Those that you can call to bail you out of trouble... or worse. But they were people who allowed me to share in their joy for that night; and, in doing so, pulled me out of some place I probably would have rather not been. I was able to refocus my priorities, feel an appreciation for life and re-envision what I wanted for myself.

The night didn't transpire in some magical place filled with luxury and decadence. It was.. in a bar. What I've dubbed "the old man bar" at that. But still, I feel thankful that I was able to share in at least a few hours of "funnitude" with Todd, my friends and his friends. Thanks for a beautiful night Todd, and Happy Birthday once again!. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

365 Beautiful... Day 15... (June 22, 2011) ... More Words

I know yesterday I talked about words, but I wanted to talk about words some more... because I love words. 

I love writing. As difficult as it's been for me to actually post what I'm writing online, I still love this journaling process. It's been three weeks since I've started and I really can't believe how fast the time has gone by. I've also found that this has become very therapeutic for me. Not only in the sense that I'm attempting at deconstructing what I thought was beautiful in myself and the world, but simply that I'm writing my thoughts down. 

I often feel that people are extremely rushed, myself included. Always going from point A to point B and sometimes making detours at point C. There's always something to get done within the next minute, always something to say to so and so before you forget. 

But we rarely take the time to listen to each other, to understand what other people have to say. We also forget to listen to ourselves, and to understand what we really want or, more importantly, need. 

This process really is forcing me to think about myself, what I want, need, desire and dream of. I've been able to evaluate and reevaluate the things around me. Writing is allowing me to listen to myself, and in doing so, I find myself wondering what other people have to say. Every person has a story to tell, and those stories... like Robert's or Paco's or my parents and many more I'm sure to encounter, resonate with beauty. 

365 Beautiful... Day 14 (June 21, 2011) ... Words

I have a great love for books. I wouldn't say an unnatural love, just a great, deep love. I've often been asked if I'd get one of those Kindle or Zoobs or whathaveyous and I immediately and firmly reply "no."

There's nothing more gratifying than reaching the last page of a good book and closing its back cover. Or folding down corners of pages and making little doodles in the margins, or sticking little mementos in between the pages and finding them later, like bus tickets and photographs.

One of my favorite past times is going to old bookstores or to flea markets and leafing through the older copies of books. While I'm intersted in the books themselves, I'm also secretely hoping that an old photograph falls out or that I stumble upon a dedication on the front pages.

Something like "Dear John, The poem on page 45 reminded me of the time we forgot the time...."

Ah yeah, I'm a hopeless romantic sometimes, but I feel that these little treasures fuel my imagination and hope for the human race.

Aside from their potential for harboring memories, I also love the way words can move you, can provoke memory or emotion.

Pablo Neruda has a poem, La Palabra that says:

Todo lo que usted quiera, sí señor, pero son las palabras las que cantan, las que suben y bajan… Me prosterno ante ellas… Las amo, las adhiero, las persigo, las muerdo, las derrito… Amo tanto las palabras… Las inesperadas… Las que glotonamente se esperan, se acechan, hasta que de pronto caen… 

or... in translation... 

You can say anything you want, yessir, but it's the words that sing, they soar and descend...I bow to them...I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down...I love words so much...The unexpected ones...The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop...

365 Beautiful... Day 13 ... (June 20, 2011)


These rough looking flowers are growing downhill from my apartment. (Note: as of today, June 23, these flowers are gone. I think this post is more relevant to me now.)

They're prickly and jagged and don't look very appealing. But their colors are beautiful. From one bush sprout these tiny purple, white, pink, yellow and orange flowers. One right next to the other, scratching at each other's branches. 

I don't think anyone in the neighborhood really likes them, the people walking their dogs never really pay any attention to them. Yet they always point at the pink and white Angels Trumpets that peek out from a few of the homes. 

It's a bit comical to me, actually, that Angels Trumpets receive the coos, when their flowers are, in fact, very harmful. 

Well if you hadn't known it yet, now you do. Angels Trumpets are a highly toxic flower that causes hallucinations. 

Oh, but everyone loves to look at them. 

The other prickly little things just down the street from them, though, are completely harmless. The bees flood to them to extract their nectar and they stretch out their petals like little spikes when the sun comes up. 

I think I'm a bit like the scruffy little flower... and I really don't mind. 

365 Beautiful... Day 12 (June 19, 2011) ... Aves

While I know today is father's day and it would make more sense to do an entry about how beautiful I think my father is, I felt compelled to share this snapshot. It still relates to my father, and my mother.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have had birds in the home. Sometimes they've been loud squawking ones, other times they're quiet and demur. These birds in the photo have been a part of our backyard for what seems like years. Although, I know it hasn't been more than a couple of years.

They're very quiet and have attempted to procreate many times over. Some have been successful, others not so much. When the female is placed in a neighboring cage after she lays her eggs, they seem to gravitate to each other through the cage.

I could be completely misinterpreting it and it could be out of fear and not companionship that they do this. Nevertheless, these birds are beautiful creatures. I've always had an affinity toward birds, perhaps because they remind me so much of my parents.

I love how delicate they seem and how strong they really are. How they're able to fly for miles at a time with things so light as a group of feathers attached to their bodies. I love that they're always singing and constantly moving. How they build their homes where a home needs to be.

I love them so much I've had one made a permanent part of my body. (I believe this will be another entry sometime in the future.)

I love to imagine that I can be a bird and fly home when I want to, or see the world when I need to.

365Beautiful... Day 11 (June 18, 2011) ... Dedication

I work at an organization called Proyecto Pastoral, for those of you who weren't aware. Every year they host a woman's conference. Over 300 women attend and are provided with workshops on healing, wholeness, health and empowerment, among others. From the very beginning, I took it upon myself (and the rest of the youth program staff) to coordinate the Young Women's workshops.

It's always an empowering day for everyone, that goes without saying. The thing that always strikes me the most is the work that is done behind the scenes. When all the women are in the workshops, the staff and volunteers are outside hauling boxes of free items, cases of water, folding and unfolding chairs, dragging garbage bags back and forth. It's incredible, the amount of energy that goes into creating this day long conference.

Today was the third conference I assisted with. I regret that this was the only photo I was able to snap of this day. The photo above is one workshop I was assisting with on, of all things, deconstructing beauty.

It was pure coincidence, honestly.

Most of the young women in the workshop talked about beauty being on the inside and creating power with our personalities. Those young women who had more traditional views of beauty were younger women, and those who had not been a part of the conference before.

The young women who said that beauty was defined by our internal strengths all had attended the conference year after year.

This is amazing - I thought.

Later that day I went down to help out with the end of day logistics, and as I mentioned before, its wonderful to see everyone working so hard to make the day happen.

What I really wish I would have gotten a photo of were the 8 or so women (staff and volunteers with the organization), gathered to sip on margaritas with pride for the work they had accomplished that day. Myself being in one of this group, looked around at the rest of the women sitting there; their hair disheveled, t-shirts dusty and faces dirty and flushed from the sun, and thought I had never seen more beautiful women in the world.

Monday, June 20, 2011

365Beautiful... Day 10 ... Sighs (June 17, 2011)

This afternoon I was able to take a drive down Pacific Coast Highway as the sun began its descent into the horizon. I'm not a very big beach person, but I can't deny the beauty, serenity and power of the ocean. 

I snapped a few photos along the way, and this one I caught while I was pulled over at a small turn-off. I found myself sighing every time the waves hit the rocks and taking deep breaths when the tides pulled back. 

I talk a lot about emotion, and I know I'll talk more about it as the days pass, but maybe my (and others)  connection to their emotions is what can make me (and others) radiate with beauty. 

I find sighs to be extremely powerful. It can be filled with desperation, with hope, with memory, with love. 

I imagine that if sighs could be physically manifested with color and texture, each one would be different, like snowflakes. Our lungs transforming into factories of breath and emotion, assembling our sighs and pushing them up our esophagus. Some emerging from our mouths pink and soft like cotton candy, other heavily floating out gray and dense like rain clouds. Sometimes they'll come out in prolonged puffs of glittering gold powder, floating with the wind and other times in different bubbles of colors: pinks, greens, blues and purples, tickling our noses and making our toes wiggle. 

The connections we can have to our bodies are amazing, I think I'll continue assigning colors to my sighs. 

365Beautiful... Day 9 ... Robert... (June 16, 2011)

I actually took this photo yesterday at the game and was split on which one to use as my daily entry, but I thought this was too important not to share, so I'm using this photo today to introduce you all to someone who I met and was moved by. 

When we took our seats at the game, I immediately noticed this backpack in front of me and the man sitting next to it, clutching an aluminum cane. At first I thought he was waiting for someone, but after the first couple of innings it became clear that he was here to enjoy the game on his own. Every once in a while he would respond or laugh at one of our comments about the game or the environment we were in. By the 7th inning, we decided it would be a good idea to buy our new friend a drink, and so leaned over and asked him what he was drinking and so opened the door to hear his story. 

His name is Robert, and as you can probably tell from the photo, he is a Vietnam veteran, serving between 1967 - 1968. His cane helps support his leg, that was shot up in battle. He also dons a tiny camouflage hearing aid makes up for the loss of sound he became afflicted with after an explosion. 

Shrapnel flew all around him and hit his body and face. He turned to me and pointed to several small scars on his chin and cheek as he told me this. 

He received three purple hearts and was sent home in a wheelchair. They told him he wouldn't walk on his own again. 

He picked up his cane and showed it to me. 

"It's hard for me to get up those stairs (in the stadium) but I ain't in no wheelchair though." He said proudly. 

I asked him what he did now and he told me he played guitar with some friends, just for fun. When I asked if he ever had public performances he shook his head. 

"Only for the kids." Robert and his friends play for the kids in the Children's Orthopedic Hospital. He takes bus after bus to get there because they won't let him drive, on account of a seizure he had years back. 

Since he can't work, he's decided to spend his days "doing things." Going to a baseball game, to the park, to play for kids at the Children's Hospital. Anything to get him out of the house and moving around. 

I don't know much more about Robert, but his story was beautiful. 

To all the Roberts of the world,thank you for sharing your stories and your courage with us. 

365Beautiful.... Day 8 Something out of Nothing (June 15, 2011)

Today I had the pleasure of taking in a Dodger game with Paco. We were sitting in great seats, under the shade with a perfect view of the field. We started talking about the left-field Pavilion and relating stories about those being the seats that riff-raff would buy. 

"That's where we sat when I was a kid!" I said happily. 

"Exactly," he joked. 

I laughed and felt content that I was one of those riff-raff individuals that sat in left-field Pavilion and heckled the other team when they were in the outfield. Throwing popcorn and peanuts at each other and taking in the sun. We may have really been riff-raff to some people, but the times we spent sitting in the Pavilion were full of laughter and smiles. It didn't matter that we bought the seats at a discounted rate, that we couldn't really see who was at bat, or that the sun was bathing us in its summer rays. What mattered was that we were there, enjoying the day, being kids and being alive. They were beautiful memories that flowed through my head as we sat and talked. I kept turning to the Pavilion to see the groups of families running up and down the bleachers, throwing their legs over the rows in front of them, enjoying their popcorn and hot dogs. They probably paid close to nothing for their seats, but there they were, enjoying their day. 

Happiness can be so simple sometimes. A smile, a ray of sunshine, a crushed peanut under your shoe.

Such a great something out of seemingly nothing.  

365Beautiful, Day 7... Music & Memory (June 14, 2011)

A quick note about this week's entries: I've been attempting to use my mobile blogger as I don't have internet access at home. Unfortunately, every time I try to post after I've written a lengthy entry, my app freezes up and my entries are lost. Luckily I draft them and can re-type them later. However, I think I may have to keep my entries short if I use my mobile app from now on. The next several entries are all of those I hadn't been able to post because of this, so please excuse the numerous posts today. Hopefully I'll be on track after today. 

Sometimes I stand in the middle of my apartment and think about the things I would grab if there were a fire, earthquake or if there really were a giant T-Rex coming up the street (an odd and recurring dream I have).  I've made my "escape" plan to begin in the living room with the photo of my parents and family, then the vinyls off of the bookshelf and my small record player. I keep it unplugged when not in use, for easy access. 

While I'm not the most well-versed person in music out there, I still have a deep connection to music and melodies. I have an extremely hard time gauging moments in my life by time and space. I can't really recall if something happened 5 years ago or 10. I often find myself counting backward from the present moment in order to get a good idea as to how many weeks, months, years ago something happened. 

But I can tell you if that's when I bought my first Iggy Pop album. 

Or if I was listening to The Cure. 

Or if I secretly played that R.E.M song over and over and over again. 

My connection to music runs deep, and I find that my day isn't complete until I hear one good song. Just one. 

Today I woke up feeling especially blue. This sense of depression and loneliness came over me and I couldn't exactly explain why. I thought I wouldn't be able to find the strength to think of anything to write about, how can I find beauty on a day like today? 

I decided to play the Lou Reed album I bought at the flea market while I was getting ready for work. While not the most uplifting crooner, his voice began to warm me up. First my toes, then my knees to my fingertips and into my heart. It was a warmth that didn't make me bounce with happiness, but rather sway like the cool branches of the tree outside my door. It's a strange sensation to explain, but it felt as if I were connected to all the lovelorn sighs, quiet giggles, crumpled love notes written on coffee-stained napkins and fading photos wrapped up in ribbons and twine hidden away in nostalgic shoe boxes; beautiful memories that time can't contain. 

Lou Reed - A Perfect Day 

Just A Perfect Day,
Drink Sangria In The Park,
And Then Later, When It Gets Dark,
We Go Home.
Just A Perfect Day,
Feed Animals In The Zoo
Then Later, A Movie, Too,
And Then Home.

Oh It's Such A Perfect Day,
I'm Glad I Spent It With You.
Oh Such A Perfect Day,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On.

Just A Perfect Day,
Problems All Left Alone,
Weekenders On Our Own.
It's Such Fun.
Just A Perfect Day,
You Made Me Forget Myself.
I Thought I Was Someone Else,
Someone Good.

Oh It's Such A Perfect Day,
I'm Glad I Spent It With You.
Oh Such A Perfect Day,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On.

You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow,
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow,
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow,
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

365Beautiful, Day 6... Strength

I'll be the first to admit, I'm far from being perfect. I make major mistakes. I've made some pretty irresponsible decisions. I'm sure I'll continue to make mistakes.

But I have grown stronger.

I've had people tell me that I'm admired for being a strong woman. I smile and say thank you and admit I'm not as strong as I appear.

No, no, no Lu... you're a strong woman.

So I put on my strong woman mask and get on with my day, pressing forward like the strong woman I'm supposed to be. Jumping in head-first into controversies and challenges. Swinging left and right until I emerge, victorious or not, bruised and battered. Then in my own private corner of the ring, I slide my mask off and let the tears roll. 

All of the hurt, deception, disillusionment, failures, loneliness bubble up in my intestines, boil up in my heart and overflow out of my tear-ducts. 

I used to say, this is not what strong women do. Strong women don't vent out their frustrations in tears. They stand up straight, have stares as hard and cold as steel nails. 

They're not soft nor sensitive. They don't allow the trials and tribulations of their daily lives to boil up inside of them. 

I wasn't a strong woman, I thought. 
And it made me feel ashamed and saddened that I was potentially living a lie. 

That was, until I really did break apart and a weak, ugly woman inside of me came tumbling out. Those tears that were shed were not of that of the aftermath of a battle, they were those of lost control, of illogicality and self-deception. Cursing and spitting, that was a woman who had given in to envy, jealousy, hate and rage; her body was tarred with darkness. 

That was not the weak woman I perceived to be peeling off her armor, tired from a day's fight. That was not the weak woman I perceived to be staring me back in the mirror when conversations of the heart were had between my soul and my brain. That was not the weak woman I perceived I was. 

And so I know, I must not have been that weak woman at all. I shouldn't be that weak woman again. It's the strong woman inside of me who can protect me from this, the one who acknowledges her heart and creates an empathetic connection to the world with emotional zeal. Recognizing that strong women do tire and find their times to release, reflect and revolutionize the ways that they see the world. I'm sorry for allowing that temporary instance of darkness overcome me, but I can't say I fully regret it. It was this way that I realized that my perception of the woman I am was marred. 

It's the strong woman inside of me, and every strong woman I know, that allows us to get up in the morning, regardless of the heartache, the challenges, the bills we have to pay, the roads we have to travel or the weight of the shields we have to carry and say "let today be a beautiful day."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

365Beautiful, Day 5 ... Home

This is my parent's back yard. A quiet and tranquil place, when it needs to be. A boisterous center of activity, when it wants to be.

Today's entry will be a quick one, as I hear the sizzling of meat being grilled outside and the music has started playing.

I chose to post this photo today because no matter where I am, what I'm feeling or who has shaken the foundation of my being, I always know there's home. This warm and beautiful place filled with beautiful people.

The furniture may be mis-matched and dishes may be chipped. There's always trash to take out and floors to sweep, but this is home. Here everything can disappear between the slats of the grill or fizzle away with the swaying of the lemon tree.

Here is where I can walk in and put my head on my mother's lap and let her stroke my hair, despite my 32 years and millions of tantrums and lost tempers.

I just heard the popping sound of an opened beer bottle, that's a beautiful sound. I'll end this entry here...

365Beautiful, Day 4.... Vision

Today I went to the Getty with Paco to take in the Cuba photography exhibit. I really enjoy going with him to these types of things because he, himself, is a photographer and we share similar tastes in art and photography. The exhibit itself was amazing. I was moved by the compositions, the stories and the faces of the people captured in time. There was a series of particular photos of coal workers dated 1933. Their faces blacked by the soot, masking their ethnicities and most of their facial features. Their eyes glowed behind the black canvas of soot, and in them you could almost hear their stories from 1933. 

Paco walked over to me and pointed out that the photographer had cropped the photo in a certain way so that some of the coal miners head's were not visible. "Why do you think he did that?" Paco asked me. I started at the photo some more ....

Why did he do that?

Had he not pointed it out, I suppose I would have been lost in the coal worker's eyes. But there was a lot more to the photo than what had captured me. There was a lot more to the question Paco asked me. There was also a lot more to the photographer's intent than what we, or I, was capturing. 

How beautiful, the mind of a visionary. To be able to capture these images, freeze emotions and stories and souls that fill up the pupils of the subject's eyes in time. To be able to take in the image, inch by inch, break it apart and ask simple questions that create complex answers. 

Why did he do that?

For the remainder of the trip I looked at each image and asked myself "Why did he do that?" I saw the images in a completely different light. 

Once outside, Paco and I began taking photos of the garden and the scenery with our cell phones. We weren't looking to capture anything as great as what we had seen inside the museum, but the shapes and colors of the environment were great to capture as a memento. At one point, Paco showed me a photo he took of the stairway above us, a curved structure tiled in white stone. It was a great shot. I was a bit amazed that he was able to capture that on a cell phone. On our way to our car, he stopped and snapped another photo of an space between the parking lot and a hill. It was an empty space, what could he be taking a picture of? He showed me and again, it was a great shot. Before what were just bland concrete slabs were lines of a majestic structure in a beautiful balance with light and shadows. 

How beautiful, I thought, to have visions. To be able to look at something like an empty space and immediately see the composition of a great photograph. To be able to take walk through a common street in Cuba and see art in the street vendors and coal worker. 

To be able to take something that anyone can pass by day in and day out, take no real importance to, and turn it into an image that embodies art, light, history, emotion and everything that is beautiful about life. 

How beautiful it is to see something for what it could be.

365Beautiful, Day 3 ... Growth

I'll confess that I didn't actually take this photo on day 3, but I thought it was appropriate for today's entry. 

Today we had a grand opening for a new computer lab at the program site. Our kids were excited, as were their parents. In the many years the program had been at the current site, they never saw such a hooked up lab as the one we were able to open for them today. One of our older youth stopped by, as he had heard there was an event happening at the site. He had slowly started pulling away from the program once he entered high school. 

When I spotted him, I gave him an enthusiastic hello and asked what he thought of the lab. In what I sensed to be a bit of shock and remorse, he quietly said that it looked great and asked me a few questions about what, exactly, was in the lab. 

After I listed what new computers and programs we had available, I pointed over to the garden and asked if he had taken a look at what we were growing. Again, with a quiet  response, he said "Yeah, I saw that. It looks good." 

I shook my head in agreement; he looked down at the pavement and added "I never thought this place could look this good."

Then he quietly walked away. 

There was such a sense of humbleness and remorse in his statement. As if he had felt proud, yet remorseful that he had abandoned the program and it continued to grow. His realization of what great transformations could come out of a seemingly run-down little place is what struck me today. 

The photo above is that of one of our basil plants from the garden, now fully flourished and ready to feed some hungry belly. 

That beautiful bouquet of fragrant leaves began as a small little seedling, and I remember well that I noticed it starting to die, yet there is sits, glowing and blooming.  

That a person, despite past challenges, break-downs, failures or mistakes, have the ability to grow and transform is beautiful. That there is a will after trials and tribulations, to continue to grow and transform is beautiful. That there is a simple individual dedication to the betterment of something is, in fact, beautiful.

Friday, June 10, 2011

365 Beautiful, Day 2 ... Rebel Red.

When I was 13, my family went on a week long camping trip to Yosemite. I was eager to get out of my suburban confines, away from the ruthless war zone that was our Junior High campus. I remember being mesmerized by the towering trees and smell of pure, clean earth. I walked through our campground later that afternoon and heard the sound of cackling laughter and what sounded to be a name being called in sing-song. 

I soon realized it was the group of neighboring kids, around my same age, laughing and calling out "thunderrrr thigggghhhhs! oh, thuuunnnddeerrr thiggghhhs!!!" 

The subject of their amusement.... me. 

I was thunder thighs. Storming through the campground apparently causing small earthquakes and shaking the enormous trees as I walked. 

This continued for the duration of my trip and I began to make it a point to walk to the showers under the cover of night, to look around for my tormentors whenever I came out of my tent, to make myself as minuscule as possible. 

After the camping trip, these practices manifested themselves into my day to day. I avoided eye contact, sat it the back, kept my limbs as close to my body as possible to reduce the amount of physical space I thought I took up. I threw bath towels over mirrors, I wore black...


Anything to reduce my own visibility in the world, and thus, eliminate any more future ridicule. 

In the months leading up to my 32nd birthday, I became obsessed with buying a tube of red lipstick. It had to be the perfect shade, I couldn't afford to experiment. Every opportunity I got, I would stroll through the make-up section of stores, browse the shades, pick one up, put it down. 

I had always loved red lipstick; the intensity of it, the sultry images it induces, the boldness, the confidence. I never wore red lipstick because of everything that I believed it embodied; everything I didn't believe I was. It would call too much attention to me, and attention is what I had worked so hard to avoid. 

A couple of weeks leading up to my birthday, as I picked up toothpaste and toilet paper, I walked into the makeup aisle once again. This time, after inspecting a few tubes of lipstick, I threw one into my basket. 

Rebel Red. 

Tonight I went out with a group of friends and coworkers to continue celebrating my birthday, wearing Rebel Red and a sequined sweater. A couple of sangria's into the night, I found myself on stage singing The Cure's "Love Cats." 

Front and center. 

There was no hiding. Nor did I feel the need to. 
I was armed with Rebel Red. 

Can a tube of red lipstick give you confidence?
No, but embracing your confidence gives your lips a nice smiling canvas to paint. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

365 Beautiful ... Day 1...

A few weeks ago, a very special friend of mine shared a link to this 365 Grateful project which has now turned into an extremely intimate documentary on one person's gratefulness. The video on the site moved me and had me thinking of all of the things I was grateful for. I felt inspired to take on a similar project and share with the world what I, myself, am grateful for.

As I began to think about these things, I realized that I have much to be grateful for, and I have, in fact, made it a habit to share this with the world. In between the time I viewed the 365 Grateful video and today, I found myself in - and out - of some very dark and frightening tunnels of my own mind and heart. Frightened and confused, I searched within to find just what drew me into these ugly tunnels.

I realized it was just that... ugliness.

Those of you who know me personally, know I have a very difficult time accepting myself as a wholly beautiful person. Some reasons for which I know and are too personal to share, and others which I do not fully understand. As a result I've often doubted myself, my abilities, my desires and life, in general. Emerging from these dark tunnels I told myself that I would attempt to see myself for what I truly am... beautiful. In doing so, I would be able to fully embrace the world for what it truly is... beautiful.

This realization was not an epiphany, I should add. This was more of a prolonged construction of multiple ideas, emotions and views I have of the world. It was the creation of a metaphorical pick-ax that I have equipped myself to use in order to break down my own previous construction of what I thought should be beautiful...

Hips, thighs, hair, nails, eyes...

And into a reconstruction of what really is beautiful.

I am going to say this now; I have not yet defined what is beautiful to me, nor have I fully embraced myself as beautiful. As I said, this is not an epiphany, but a construction.

This blog then, is going to be converted into my own 365 Beautiful project. Every day, beginning today (my 32nd birthday), I will post a photo of something I see as beautiful. More-so than beautiful, something that I feel is a part of me, my days and in essence, my existence. In doing so, my hope is that by the end of this 365 project, I will be able to fully connect to the word "beautiful" and more than anything, create a new definition for myself of what beauty truly is.

Now, I am by no means a photographer, nor do I pretend to be an "amature" one at that, but I am a writer and as a writer, I often find that my thoughts conjure up colorful images and memories and so my words will be my art, my photos an illustration.

The photo that begins this project is what I found strewn about my desk in my office and what the children I work with gave me as gifts after I arrived from a less than ideal morning. The misspelled and misshapen words scrawled on the folded up pieces of paper turned my entire day right-side up. This, I thought, is a great way to begin my journey...

"Dear Lucia, Thank you for all the good things you have done..."
"Dear Lucia, Thank you for all your hard work..."
"Dear Lucia, Today is a great day for you..."