Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sis has got a new blog!!!!

Check it out here!: Diane Phalen

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kayaking at Merrill Creek Reservoir, New Jersey

Today we planned to go kayaking on the Delaware River, but recent heavy rains made the river swift and a little too dangerous. So instead we headed out to Merrill Creek Reservoir, a 650 acre reservoir in New Jersey. It was the perfect day, temperature in the high eighties, bright sunny skies, but with a breeze across the water. We kayaked to the end of the reservoir and maneuvered through a submerged forest. Then we paddled to the area where several bald eagle pairs are nesting. Although I didn't see any of the eagles, we did see swallows and diving ducks. The kayak seemed a little too "tippy" to bring my camera, but I did take a few shots from the shore.
Later, we went to the new Portuguese restaurant Valenca, where I had carrot ginger soup, baby greens salad, and lots of their chewy delicious bread dipped in herbed olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Submerged trees near the shore. At the far end of the reservoir is a little "forest" of submerged trees which is fun to navigate through.

A view from the shoreline

Pretty flowers by the visitor's center

Our original destination, the Delaware River. Not a kayaker's paradise this weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Last Lecture

Many of you have heard of the The Last Lecture, a speech delivered by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who at the time was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In his speech, he tells of his life lessons learned, in order to share a bit of encouragement, but most importantly, to leave a legacy for his children.

Sadly, Randy lost his nearly two year battle with cancer today. My heart goes out to his wife and children. If you are at all inclined to, say an extra prayer for Jai Pausch and her children tonight, or think a good thought for their future...

He is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful! O God, my God! Thou seest me, Thou knowest me; Thou art my Haven and my Refuge. None have I sought nor any will I seek save Thee; no path have I trodden nor any will I tread but the path of Thy love. In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor and at the hour of dawn my drooping soul is refreshed and strengthened in remembrance of Thy beauty and perfection. He whom the grace of Thy mercy aideth, though he be but a drop, shall become the boundless ocean, and the merest atom which the outpouring of Thy loving-kindness assisteth, shall shine even as the radiant star.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Power of Our Words

I've recently had some conversations with friends on the power of our words. Words can inspire, encourage, motivate, heal, and console. Sadly, words can also stifle communication and harm others.

Years ago I came across a wonderful website, Words Can Heal. It gives advice on the power of our words, and it also gives practical suggestions about how to avoid backbiting in very common situations. From the website: "Words Can Heal is a national campaign to eliminate verbal violence, curb gossip and promote the healing power of words to enhance relationships at every level". It's enjoyable to read and there's even a downloadable free handbook!

Here is the Words Can Heal pledge:

I pledge to think more about the words I use.
I will try to see how gossip hurts people, including myself, and work to eliminate it from my life.
I will try to replace words that hurt with words that encourage, engage and enrich.
I will not become discouraged when I am unable to choose words perfectly, because making the world a better place is hard work.
And I am pledging to do that, one word at a time.

Here's a fun video from the Polynesian Baha'i Youth Group Mana on the effect of our speech...
Enjoy! Hoo yaaaaa!!!!!

Quotations of Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i Faith, from the video:

Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.

Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.

Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great.

O Son of Being! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

July is Dressed Up and Playing Her Tune

Ah, July!!!!! The temperature is in the mid nineties, the sun is searingly hot, and the air is still.

When I checked the garden in the morning, it seemed like it had suddenly transformed into a small patch of jungle. Who knew the pale green fragile cucumber I had planted in May would overtake most of a patch of garden by mid July? I found amazon sized cucumbers ready to fall off the vine. Even the eggplant looks promising. And, most amazingly, I harvested the first juicy tomato of summer! Lunch was a delicious tomato and veggie "bacon" sandwich with an icy nectarine tangerine smoothie. I love the tastes of mid summer!

It was a perfect afternoon to spend lounging by the pool. I read "To Kill a Mockingbird", my latest book club selection, and occasionally did some laps to cool off and get some exercise.

I love these beautiful bright days of July!

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind
-Seals and Crofts

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Going With the Flow- Whitewater Rafting on the Lehigh River

This weekend I once again visited the Lehigh Gorge State Park, but this time for some whitewater rafting during a dam release weekend. We rafted 12 miles in the Lower Lehigh Gorge, maneuvering rocks and currents and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Our team was very enthusiastic and not at all camera shy....

Afterwards, we went to historic Jim Thorpe and ate at the charming restaurant Flow located in an 1800 stone mill with a creek flowing beneath it. They serve locally grown fresh foods "farm to table". The building is also the art gallery for local artist Victor Stabin.

The pretty flower gardens outside on the patio where we ate dinner were in full bloom.

Front of Flow, part of the Carbon County Cultural Project

Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Ocean Of Wisdom: The Dalai Lama Teaches At Lehigh University

Uploaded on July 6, 2007by FerneMillen licensed under Creative Commons

Today I had the good fortune of hearing the Dalai Lama speak on Tibetan Buddhist concepts at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was amazing to be in the presence of this great leader, educator, statesman, human rights advocate, and gentle, humorous, and warm human being. Also fascinating was the crowd of people assembled to hear him speak. I talked to people from as far away as Alaska and Florida who were enamored with his teachings and sought the great honor of being taught by him.

Initially he spoke of the interdependence of all of reality, everything is connected on many levels, from economics to politics to ecology. Realizing this, and fostering an altruistic attitude leads to sustained peace of mind.

The heart of his talk today was generating an awakened mind, or bodichitta. The principal element and key to the awakened mind is compassion. First one realizes the truth of suffering and desires the cessation of this condition. One develops a compassionate mind, a sense of affection towards all other beings and holds all others as dear to one's heart. Arising naturally from this attitude is the wish to help all sentient beings and bring about a relief from their suffering.

In order to cultivate this affection, we must first realize a sense of connection. Initially, we learn to perceive all other beings as related to us in some way. This enables us to recognize the fundamental equality of ourselves and others, we are able to "exchange and equalize" our own being for others. This attitude is based on the realization that just as we wish to be happy, all other beings wish to be happy and free from suffering. This is the cultivation of genuine compassion which is completely independent of how others act towards us. We desire their well being and happiness regardless of their attitude or behavior towards us.

I feel blessed to have the privilege of hearing this great man speak and absorb some of his teachings. His speech is punctuated with laughter and joy. He exudes not only wisdom but also warmth and gentleness and a genuine interest in the welfare of others. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is an advocate not only of human rights and global interdependence, but also of the warmth of human compassion and affection for all beings interwoven in the daily fabric of our lives.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lehigh Gorge State Park, Pennsylvania

Lehigh Gorge is a pretty Pennsylvania state park along the Lehigh River in Carbon and Luzerne counties. Today we biked on the riverside path from Rockport to White Haven and back again. It was a warm day, but the path had plenty of shade and a slight cool breeze from the river.

A view through the trees of the Lehigh River

The rhododendrons were blossoming in beautiful pink and white flowers.

By the rhododendrons

A pretty little waterfall to cool off in

A slight bend in the river

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Independence Day Weekend

I'm relaxing after a long and fun filled Fourth of July weekend. I went to a couple of backyard picnics with family and friends filled with good food, fellowship, fun, and of course, fireworks! Today was filled with tubing down the Delaware River, listening to a live country rock band Cooper Boone, and friends playing sand volleyball along the river. A great way to celebrate a wonderful holiday!!!

Coplay Fireworks

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