Of Dark and Light

I have always thought that there is beauty in difference. In contrast. In a juxtaposition of opposites. Chiaroscuro. Light-Dark. Laughter and tears. Somehow the knowledge and comprehension of one seems incomplete without the other.

Take, for instance, the most magical tapestry that hangs on the walls of castles: would our eyes have the chance to behold such stunning beauty without the crisscrossing of threads at the back?

But the key behind the beauty of opposites, I think, is not simply that both exist but that they do so in a peaceful manner, in a way that brings out the intrinsic and individual qualities of each. Kinda like Venus and Mars, no? 🙂

And this is why I particularly enjoyed this week’s theme for the WordPress Photo of the Week: Contrast.

Here’s my take on it:

{Click on the image for a larger view}

And this is where I have to admit that I couldn’t look at this photo without feeling the urge to hum along with Howie Day’s Collide:

Hope you have a wonderful week filled with bright days and magical nights, my sweet friends!

Perhaps they are not stars…

…but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.

Wonderful how this Eskimo proverb can be so visually soothing to anyone who has lost someone dear.

Disclaimer: if you’re not into diving deep or exploring caves, you may decide at this point to do a quick hello-how-are-you-see-you-soon kind of visit and come back another day. 😀 Not that you should be very wary … just that the following post isn’t going to be all light and happy in a fluttery fun way. Though I’ll try to keep it that way. 😀 haha. As if I could resist that!

Surprise, surprise. This fun-loving, laugh-loving girl is in a bit of a melancholy mood today. This morning I woke up to a text message from a dear friend that her husband’s father had just passed away. A couple of days ago, I got a message asking for prayers for the father of my eldest son’s classmate; he had had a stroke and was in the ICU of a hospital. This father is also my husband’s high school classmate. Same age. After Mass last Sunday another former classmate approached us, having heard also about the fate of this poor man, and between jokes and making light of it (as is the culture among my kind of people 🙂 ), I could detect the undercurrent of just a tiny bit of uneasiness… it was the same kind of uneasiness one would probably feel as they open the obit and realize they actually know the people they’re reading about.

Then just about a week ago, my U&R girlfriends (at Jessica’s playground) and I had a “game” which involved each of us creating a layout with the theme Beautiful. I had wanted to push the limits of my creativity and come up with something outside the box, but no matter how many angles I viewed it from, when I thought of the word Beautiful, my mom just kept coming back to my mind. (I haven’t seen my mom since January 1977, when her first heart attack took her away from me and my 5 brothers and sisters… but then you probably already know that, if you’ve read the posts before this 🙂 ) And then there’s the fact that in about a week’s time, I’m about to add another year to my age, the same age at which my mom went Home. To her real Home. (It’s a bit funny how all of us, her children, are queasy about turning 39… and each birthday after that makes us feel so glad, as though we’re on borrowed time. Perhaps that’s one of the side-effects of losing a parent early?)

Anyway. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the events that happen one after the other seem to conspire to stop you in your tracks and tell you: hey, you know what? You’re not going to live forever, you’d better make the most of the time you have, you’d better do all the good you can while you can. You’re mortal. It’s a wake-up call that, though not always so attractive at first, is necessary nevertheless. At least, that’s the way I want to see it. 🙂

I’ve been so lucky and blessed, because even if I lost my mom at such an early age (it’s never the right age, is it, even when you’re 80 and you lose your mom?), in the wonderful way that love allows, she continues to live on in my heart. And it’s funny because each time I’d “talk” with her, it would always give me such strength and comfort (and as I grew older, I was kind of thankful even that I had her in THAT way, that I never had had to go through the rebellious years when mothers and daughters pass through that stage where they may not get along so famously). If there’s only one regret I have, it’s that she wasn’t there to physically embrace my husband on the day I took his name. But she had the singular honor of getting my bouquet of flowers, which I lay on her grave right after the wedding reception, right before my husband and I took off on our honeymoon. (That’s right, no throwing of my bouquet… what can I say, I broke all traditions when I got married… I was quite a rebellious girl! haha!)

But you know what brushing up against Death has taught me? To value what I have, right here, right now. To tell the ones you love that they mean the world to you, right here, right now. When my mom passed away that morning, I insisted on kissing her goodbye (as was the usual practice) before walking to school, which was just around the corner. My other brothers and sisters, perhaps because they were older and more thoughtful, decided not to bother her as they knew she wasn’t feeling very well. Because I was the youngest (and insistent and probably headstrong in the way that well-meaning children are), I was the last and the only one of her children who got to kiss her warm cheek on that day (a memory I would treasure forever).

I sometimes think that what we learn from the painful events of our lives sticks more with us than the lessons we get from the joyous events (maybe because pain has the power to go deeper and hit where it hurts?) The one thing I carried with me from that day on was to TREASURE everyone and everything, because… well, we never really know, do we? So my husband teases me that I’ve turned our little family into a mini-Waltons family, as it’s very common to hear my boys and me say “I love you” so often everyday. (And that’s not the only Waltons thing, but you get the picture. You will recall that I have a testosterone-filled household, being the only lady there. So I suppose it’s not “normal” for boys to be professing love so easily… but that’s the way it is, and their wives or girlfriends will thank me for the training I gave their men one day. LOL! 😀 )

So anyway. This is probably much much more than anyone needed to know. Sorry. The news of anyone leaving this world always makes me stop and say a little prayer for the one on his way Home, and another in gratitude for all the blessings, for the life that is still within me and around me. It is always a gift. Always. A. Gift.

And just to complete the visualization roll begun by that Eskimo proverb at the start of this post, here’s my mom, for those who are interested to know a bit about her. (It’s the layout I did for our Beautiful class, and though it seems to stick out like a sore thumb to write the credits for the layout, I have to do that to respect the wonderful work of those who shared their creations and made it possible for me to create mine. 🙂 )



Amanda Heimann (Unconditional Kit) – BG paper & brown ribbon / Atomic Cupcake (Heavenly Holiday)-Overlay; Chalked / Bob at designing-on-the-edge: stitches (x on buttons) RECOLORED / ameliescrap – buttons / Natali-zigzag stitches, RECOLORED / Rhonna Farrer, 2Peas in a Bucket -Memories wordart; ColorMyWorld frame RECOLORED / Ca-pris – Flower fantasy brushes / Design Fruit – Japanese Foliage brushes

And to really set the mood, here is the song that was playing on the airwaves when she left us. It was one of her favorite songs then. Can’t hear it without getting sent back to those days. Enjoy the walk down memory lane with me.

Of legacies and nostalgia

Of all the words I’ve said and all the pieces of advice I’ve given my sons, I’ve often wondered just which ones my children would remember as grown-ups. I’ve dreamed about creating a layout for each son with this theme in mind… but because it requires drawing deep into my emotional well and really laying my heart open, it’s something that I’ve put off for a period when there is more calmness, a more peaceful quiet time which will allow the heart’s sentiments to overflow and spill onto the paper (without danger of being interrupted by the everyday noise that makes thinking hard to do. haha)

My mother passed away when I was 8 (her first and last cardiac arrest), but she left with me, my brothers and sisters a precious lesson that has lasted through the years and which we have passed on to our own children as well. I distinctly remember each time, after her friends had praised her children, she would pull us close when we were finally alone and tell us: remember, the more precious and lasting beauty is that which is in your hearts, which can never be taken away by anyone. Beauty on the outside fades, grows old, can be taken away in an instant, but the beauty of your heart will always remain. So grow in beauty of heart, and the rest will follow.

What a wonderful legacy to have and to pass on.

Speaking of advice, have you seen this wonderful, inspiring video of Baz Luhrmann? I loooove it. Watching this could actually give me just the impetus I need to get started on those layouts! 😀 Here it is; enjoy!

PS. Here are the words:

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead; sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry; maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children; maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40; maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

This is what it’s all about.

I just came across a wonderful quote by Kyle Lake:

” Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun. If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time. If you bike, pedal HARD
 and if you crash then crash well. Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done-a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all
 because soon he’ll be wiping his own. If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift.”

There’s something amazing about stumbling upon a pebble and, holding it up for closer inspection, discovering it’s actually a precious rock. That’s what this quote is: a precious rock I just happened to stumble upon today. I love it because it encapsulates so well what scrapbooking is all about. It’s all about living in the moment. Savoring the extraordinariness of the ordinary. Seeing diamonds where others see coal. And celebrating that.


When I got home this afternoon after doing the thousand errands we mothers must get done, I saw a piece of paper on my chair, the one I always sit on. It was folded in a careful-haphazard way (does that make sense to you? It does if you’ve ever had a child fold something “carefully”) and covered with scotch tape. I smiled even before I could open it. After prying the tape off carefully, I unfolded the paper and saw what I, as mama, will call ART. The best part of the whole work was seeing my name in that childish scrawl: mama.


A little bit later, my son wandered into the room and, as nonchalantly as he could, asked me: “Did you see a surprise on your chair?” He, of course, got a hug from me as I said “I loved it! Thank you!”

Mmmm. Children are SUCH blessings from Heaven.