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I spy joy in graffiti

Inspiring graffiti on a warehouse in Pa'ia on Maui

I’m used to seeing graffiti. I think it enters my line of sight more than I realize because I’ve desensitized myself to the often barely legible writing spray painted on buildings.

This bit of graffiti, however, flew out at me. It’s not in a typical graffiti font. It’s not a gang marking. I even hesitate to call it graffiti. The single word: INSPIRE instantly lifts my spirit. It is, in fact, inspiring.

I can feel the word imprint on my forehead, sinking in like blue water on a sponge. And I feel a great joy and delight in not only my experience of seeing it, but also what I imagine the person writing it must have been feeling at the time; the message he or she wanted to share with the world.

I am inspired to inspire others. And so it ripples out, beyond Pa’ia, beyond Maui, beyond me to you.

February 25, 2012   No Comments

I spy joy in a conversation about beauty

I saw this video today and it made me smile. Thinking about what is beautiful, hearing about how and where others see beauty, is a joyful thing.

Thank you Adam Harbottle for creating this video.

Beauty from Adam Harbottle on Vimeo.

January 4, 2012   No Comments

I spy joy in Portland, Oregon


In late March of 2011 the Wall Street Journal released a study finding Portland, Oregon, to be the the 2nd most miserable city in the U.S.

I have found much evidence to the contrary. In fact, looking at photos I’ve taken in recent years for ISpyJoy.com and LicensePlateWisdom.com as well as images of the joy-spreading work of The Joy Team, it seems the Portland-Vancouver metro area is overflowing with joy, love and wisdom.

This video is a just a sampling of those images–all taken in the Portland / Vancouver metro area.

City of Roses, you are also the City of Joy, Love and Wisdom.

June 8, 2011   3 Comments

I spy joy (and love) in Renee’s heart

Renee's Heart

On April 30, 2011, at 7:55 am, my sister Renee became an angel.

Well, I suppose she already was one, but on that day it became official. Renee had been living with cancer for nearly 8 years. What started out as breast cancer, became liver, lung, and bone cancer; and then ovarian and abdominal cancer.

Although she lived in Montana and I in Washington, my kids and I were blessed to see her less than a week before she passed. We said our tearful goodbyes and Renee told my kids she’d be watching over them–their very own angel. I believe her. And I believe she’s my angel, too.

A small group of family and friends went to spread Renee’s ashes the day before the service. We went to Glacier, one of her favorite places to visit. After each of us tossing some of the gritty ash that remained of her physical form into the lake, the larger portion was released at the edge of the water. As the ash slowly dissipated into the clear, cold water, I photographed it, thinking what a beautiful view she has.

Several of us picked up a few rocks–mementos of the day. I looked for pretty rocks in shades of red, yellow and green. I found a sparkley green one that looked a little like a heart.  And then I found a ruddy red rock that looked exactly like a heart. Thrilled with my tangible reminders of this last bodily touch with my sister, I showed them to everyone there.

Yet this was just a trifle compared to what I was about to discover.

My purpose fulfilled, I began looking through the images I shot while the others lingered. When I saw the photo above I gasped, loud enough to draw attention. Where did this heart come from? Clearly shaped from Renee’s ashes, this heart formation was undeniable. And it was also unbelievable–it wasn’t there when I took the photo. I never saw it until I looked back through the images. How could I have missed seeing that when I took the shot?

Everyone looked at their own images.  Nothing. Neither did they see Renee’s ashes ever looking like that as they stretched out into their resting place. We were all nearly speechless.

Unbelievable. And yet undeniable.

Renee sends her love. And I believe a greater message even than that. Her final resting place isn’t a lake in Glacier Park, Montana. It’s in love. LOVE.

Love is what’s on the other side. Lots of it.

After all, underlying everything, that’s all there is.

L. O. V. E.

Rock hearts from Renee

May 18, 2011   19 Comments

I spy joy in a sign

God Loves You!

I have no religion.  I don’t attend church.

I consider myself to be a very spiritual person.

I don’t believe in hell.  Never have. I can’t even begin to fathom a God that would put anyone in such a place. It just doesn’t make sense.  I mean, I would never put my children in anything even close to hell.  My children have my absolute and total unconditional love.  Absolute. There is nothing–nothing–my kids could ever do to change that.  No matter what they do I want the very best for them. I want the best and highest of love and joy for them.

If I love my children like that, wouldn’t God?

So when I–a woman without religion– saw this man holding this sign, something clicked in me.

This man is wearing a nice, clean jacket; with a nice, clean, shaved face and cut hair.  Which is only to say, I can tell he’s not using this sign as a means to make money (like so many others on freeway ramps).  He needs nothing from me or anyone else who happened to be driving off the Mill Plain exit on I-205 in Vancouver, Washington. He’s just sharing a message. Of love.  And joy.

God loves you.

God loves you. Allah loves you. Buddha loves you. The Universe loves you.

You are loved and adored beyond belief. Beyond condition.

Absolutely.

April 21, 2011   2 Comments

I spy joy in murals

Mural on Williams

Driving north on Williams in Northeast Portland for the first time in possibly a year, I was amazed to see this bold, albeit unfinished, mural on a residential building. An automatic “wow” escaped my lips. And then another, louder “wow” followed when I saw the other side was completely covered in art, as well.  I quickly looked for a place to pull over.

That’s when I met Kyle.

Kyle Simmons: curator, artist, student

Kyle kindly came down from his ladder, interrupting his artwork, to greet me.  I learned that the people who own the building commissioned this informal group of six artists to cover the exterior walls in beauty. Each allowed the freedom of his or her own style, you can see where one artist’s work ends and another’s begins.

Kyle has covered his section of the wall a couple times.  Just learning he’s been accepted to study art history in Italy (“wow” number 3), Kyle is adorning the building with a victory dragon.

They’re hoping to put the finishing touches on with the next dry spell (a bit hard to paint in the rain). Finished or not, it makes me smile to see life and color and art on a house.

There’s talk of formalizing the group into a non-profit with the mission of beautifying our streets with art.

Definitely something to be joyful about.

April 14, 2011   7 Comments

I spy joy in the I Love You Mom rap

My 7-year-old daughter came downstairs tonight and said, “Mom, I made something for you.” Then preformed this short but amazingly fabulous rap song. I just about fell out of my chair.

Way better than a Hallmark card could ever be. And it’s captured on my phone, so I can watch it anywhere, anytime. I’ve already watched it half a dozen times in the space of an hour.

I spy joy. I spy love. I spy one lucky momma!

March 14, 2011   No Comments

I spy joy in optimism

Being green...

After keeping a magazine ad version of this on my refrigerator for months, I finally looked up the website for The Foundation for a Better Life. In addition to putting up billboards and magazine ads, they also put out commercials.

I found one that really speaks to me and my journey for a joyous life. It’s on optimism, and it’s awesome.  Watch it here.

 

February 27, 2011   No Comments

I spy joy in LOVE

Images of Love (photos by Michele M. Larsen)

Joy, love.  Love, joy.  I honestly don’t know if you can have one without the other.

In honor of St. Valentine, here is a little collage of images around the area expressing love.

Happy LOVE day.

February 14, 2011   No Comments

I spy joy in Taryn’s 2011 Vision Board

Taryn's vision for 2011

Mom and I have a tradition of creating vision boards each year on New Year’s Day. It’s one of my favorite traditions, and one I stick to closer than a turkey meal on Thanksgiving.

Last year the kids joined in. This year my son was out following his passion riding motorcycles–an equally fitting way to begin anew.  Taryn was home and picked up the biggest board she could find, which was 3 to 4 times bigger than the boards mom and I were busily pasting together.  She grabbed the jar of markers and quietly began creating her BIG vision for 2011.

After some time I walked by and saw this joyful, loving and empowering vision. And I nearly fell over into a pool of warm, fuzzy happiness.

All on her own, without any encouragement or prodding from me or anyone else, my daughter filled her board with thoughts of love, appreciation and joy. She’s 7. I find that to be pretty incredible. Down right awesome even.  Or auesome or asoum, in Taryn-ese.

My cup runneth over.

January 15, 2011   No Comments