Saturday, January 28, 2012

SCAVENGER HUNT FOR BLESSINGS | 4

This past week was challenging on ALL fronts: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Hope was as elusive as the sun on a cloudy day, Joy was playing hide-and-seek, and Happiness was missing in action. You know who was around to play? Despair wanted to play tag, Depression waged a tug-of-war competition, and Despondency was a dodge ball expert. Although I tried my best to win against these masterful opponents I got a shameful beat down! This entry almost didn't get written and I was contemplating on giving up on these installments. I wore my WUSSY jersey with pride and allowed myself a few breakdowns while wallowing in the pool of Oh-Woe-Is-Me. 


"Oh, who cares about these stupid blessings anyway?" 
"No one reads my dumb blog so I could skip a week, or two, or forever." 
"Life sucks and then you die." 
"I like being negative, I was born negative.Word." 
"People are dumb and I hate them." 
"Ooh, look another gray hair, see, I'm an old hag, no one cares." 
"No one really listens to me anyway. Every time I open my mouth I get interrupted." 

But I wasn't focusing on blessings and changing my character for anyone but me. I wanted to change and I was sick of being me. Since when have I given up so easily? So I did what I've always done in the face of adversity. I picked myself up in my bruised and battered state to fight back. And there they were, the blessings that surrounded me but I was too blind to see. They appeared in the form of my girlfriends, nature's beauty, Twitter people, and my granddaughter, Rylee. Oh, I know there are infinitely more blessings than what I've listed but for the sake of time and short attention spans I'm limiting my scavenger hunt discoveries to these: 

I <3 shiny disco balls and I was grateful for it last Saturday night when Ray and I were at the Grandstar Jazz Club in Chinatown, L.A. Just put those things above me and I won't refuse to dance, dance, da-a-a-a-a-n-c-e.

Thank goodness for my favorite leopard print umbrella that made my Monday morning walk to work a fun one! I felt like I was in a musical and almost busted out a dance move while the rain fell on the sidewalk.

I almost missed the beauty of this plant or flower but red is my favorite color and I zeroed in on it. I was on one of my step-away-from-your-cubicle-and-calm-yourself walks and I was so grateful for this splash of color.
How appreciative I am of my friend, Lina, who is always so patient and tolerant with the unpredictability of my life. We were supposed to have a brainstorming session for writing and photography projects at Barnes and Noble but we had a surprise guest...Rylee. What I WAS NOT grateful for were the Barnes and Noble staff who kicked us out of our little corner then continued to give us the stink eye wherever we parked ourselves. We felt so monitored that we left for Starbucks. Thank God for Starbucks with comfortable chairs!
I'm back on Twitter and ONLY following people who will enhance and nurture my brain cells. Thank you, LINA BEAN, for recommending Jeff Goins and Jon Acuff to me for they have been awesome resources for writing, blogging, and hilarity! And to the rest of the followers I have thank you for making my comeback to Twitter a great experience! 
Yesterday I received an e-mail from my friend Courtney who saw this on Pinterest and thought of me. Her timing was precise because I was sitting at my desk thinking venomous thoughts of someone. Thank you, Courtney, for not only sending this to me but for your sage advice: Be kind to yourself. (I'm trying, girl, I'm trying!)

So this week if those bullies-Despair, Depression, and Despondency-want to play mind games with you just remember to enlist Team Blessings to be your back-up. You will stand victorious in the bully beat down of the week! I will leave you with this video of my granddaughter, Rylee, whose singing made me laugh in the face of adversity! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

CHOOSE WISELY

"A cubicle at a job you don't love can either be a prison cell or a launch pad. The choice is yours each day. Choose wisely." ~JON ACUFF

I follow Jon Acuff on Twitter and when I read his tweet this morning I felt the impact of each word as if boulders slammed into my chest. The truth HURTS! I took the picture of the girl above when I attended a homeless outreach in Fullerton. It wasn't so much the shirt that caught my attention but the pure happiness radiating from her smile. I was jealous. She was HAPPY doing her job, serving the homeless plates of hot dogs and potato chips. I was drawn to her and couldn't stop staring. I was so grateful that she let me take a photo of her. 

I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't the homeless that mesmerized me that day; it was her. I want to work in a job that I LOVE. I want to perform in a job that made me smile like that. If it were feasible for me to quit my current job in the field that I detest and become a full-time photographer there would be no hesitation. 

For years my sorrowful lament was about the prison cell that was my cubicle. I read blogs of other photographers who were in the same plight, yet, took the leap of faith and are now successful full-time photographers. But photography is NOT cheap and instead I dug myself a ditch of debt to start my photography business. It is a ditch so deep I can barely see the top of it as I stand in the bottom looking up. In 2011, I was miserable every day that I logged into my work computer and became more depressed, despondent, and dejected. I came home after work looking and acting like Gollum, corrupted by my own lust, loving and hating myself for my desires. My boyfriend, Ray, would try to be patient, advising me to make the most of it at work, that I was only making things worse for myself. His advice was received with vicious hissing and whining. I was a mess. 

As 2012 loomed ahead I knew I had to make changes and tweak my mindset about work. Weary of being miserable I looked for the positive and focused on them. Even on my bad days I battle the Gollum inside me and tell myself that God has plans for me: plans to prosper me, not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future. 

Tomorrow when I walk into that dreary building and plop my butt into my chair in the middle of a drab cubicle, I will look around and view it as a launch pad. Tomorrow I will choose wisely.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

SCAVENGER HUNT FOR BLESSINGS | 3

Have you ever made a vow to change your ways for the better only to be vehemently confronted with the old ways that you question your conviction to change? I don't know if it's my hormonal cycle, the weather patterns, or the moon phases but I get the impression that the negative circumstances and people have risen up in an ungodly revolution against my resolve to focus on the blessings. It has been one of those weeks that have wreaked havoc on my immune system and yesterday morning as I was driving to work my thoughts were saturated with negative content. I had no energy and it was easier to whine, complain, and revile the world than to praise God and be thankful. 

But I reigned my savage thoughts in with as much deftness as Solomon Rarey taming violent horses. In the confines of my car I shook myself and said a prayer of gratitude for all the good things that occurred this past week. Why does this have to be a constant struggle? Gratefulness should come as second nature and that is my goal for 2012.

This week's installment of hunting for blessings uncovered priceless finds: 
I was scrolling through the camera roll on my iPhone when I found this picture. I am grateful that I found it because it served as a reminder to stand tall and strong like a tree in the face of adversity. 

I'm grateful for learning the act of forgiveness; for releasing yourself of grievances is like dumping the heavy baggage you've been carrying for years. 

I'm grateful for my very good friend Michele whom I've known for over 10 years and is my "twin" sister. She lives in "the Palisades" and I got to reunite with her at two of my happiest places on Earth: L.A. and the beach! Commiserating over our similar "war" stories and common annoyances made me feel less...insane. HA! She reminded me to forgive and that "Anything worth having is worth fighting for."
Can I get an "amen" for Trader Joe's?! With my new heart-healthy diet I found the best granola to drown in my Greek Yogurt. Hemp Plus Granola is organic, a source of Omega-3 AND low-sodium. If my blood pressure doesn't lower after this I will seriously scream.
I'm grateful for those who oppose SOPA and PIPA. Don't we live in a "free" society or is that only an illusion?
I detest drinking water! But it's essential for survival especially when you have hypertension. Okay, I know, I know, it's essential, period! Thank you, Michele, for recommending MIO liquid because it is now my best friend! I can drink gallons of water when it's peach tea flavored!
Yogurtland + my granddaughter Rylee = priceless memories with Gramma Nette. How can I not be grateful for that?!
Hallelujah for the Glo Bible app on my iPhone! When I am stressed, frustrated, angry, depressed, lost, broken, and GRATEFUL, the word is just at my fingertips. It puts everything into perspective and the verse above restrains my mouth at work.
A high 5 goes to my friend Alma's 8 year old son, Evan, who unknowingly lifted me out of  the depths of a weary funk one night. When I receive compliments from grown men I am instantly suspicious and on guard about their intentions. But admiration from an 8 year old boy is genuine. Thank you, Evan, for making my day!
For the upcoming week, no matter what challenges and hardships you face I hope you step back, be still, and see the blessings surrounding you. 


"Gratitude lifts our eyes off the things we lack so that we might see the blessings we possess." ~Max Lucado



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Monday, January 16, 2012

DROP THE HATE




Last Friday my friend Christi wrote the following quote on my Google+, "Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, live truly, and forgive quickly." I nodded my head as I read the first three until I got to the latter. (Insert sound of screeching brakes here.) I've written about my inability to forgive quickly in some of my previous posts but this weekend I was confronted by a hate so palpable it felt like a blow torch incinerated my viscera.

I've sat in church hundreds of times and listened intently to sermons on forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice that liberates me from a self-imposed prison cell built on hatred, bitterness, and resentment. Once THAT concept penetrated my thick, stubborn skull I made a conscious effort to forgive the one who physically, mentally, and emotionally abused me for ten years. And forgiveness is like an ongoing self-improvement workshop that requires commitment and daily attendance. But I've discovered that it's true: choosing to forgive someone releases you from your own hatred because harboring that venomous poison is another form of self-abuse and self-destruction. I couldn't move forward with living life in its abundance and loving another if I didn't learn the exercise of forgiveness.

As a recipient of a hatred so fiery in its depth I felt an excess of emotions: pity, wonderment, irritation, disdain, and amusement. Pity, because this person who is practically a non-entity to me wasted so much time and energy mustering an almighty hatred. Wonderment, because the vicious hatred spewed from this person would be justified if I intentionally sabotaged or retaliated in some form but I have not. I'm not claiming innocence but take ownership of my own actions. I know my deeds have been misunderstood and/or misconstrued but this person's hatred doesn't allow room for compromises. The gavel of this person's justice has slammed and I've been judged without mercy or grace, issued a life sentence of undiluted enmity. Irritation, because it is evident that hatred truly festers from the inside out and the state of this person's health is being affected. Disdain, because this person's hatred is affecting a third party and it's unfair. And amusement, because this person is clueless of my ambivalence to the hatred. I'm not one who operates on affirmation and the need to be liked. I've always believed that you either like me or you don't and I will not apologize for who I am if I'm not intentionally hurting others.

I accept that this person will not alter their stance in their hatred toward me. This person is not unlike the hollow tree that is infected by spreading decay of fungi and insects leading to deterioration. It is the individual's choice to forgive me or to initiate an act of reconciliation. In the past I have made overt acts of deference but obviously this person was merely lying in wait for the time when I would err in judgment. Thus, opening a door to unleash the monster of hatred.

So, I remain silent. And grateful for a living testament of the inward devastation that occurs when hatred is nurtured, then harbored. This person will serve as a reminder to live my own life choosing to forgive quickly.

I encourage all of you to heed the words of one of my favorite Fatboy Slim songs, drop the hate, forgive each other.


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

SCAVENGER HUNT FOR BLESSINGS | 2

Whenever I'm experiencing major life changing events my first inclination is to retreat. I enclose myself in an invisible shield and keep everyone at arm's length. I spent the majority of last year in a fetal position; not awaiting birth but to protect myself from the harsh elements of reality. Our family lost a loved one, my finances were a mess, my dad's health was deteriorating and thought we were going to lose him, my parents dependence on me was overwhelming, and my aunt had a massive a stroke a week before Christmas. My withdrawal manifested negativity, bitterness, anger, and resentment. I was ugly. I'm surprised I still have a family who loves me and a boyfriend who persevered in a relationship with a woman who spewed hatred as often as a pastor preaches loving thy neighbor. 


My 2012 resolutions didn't include hitting the gym on January 1st. Forget about my physical appearance, my inner character required a major overhaul. We are 14 days into the new year and my resolve to focus on blessings has not wavered. The practice of being grateful has opened my heart to endless possibilities of joy that come in many forms. 


This week's scavenger hunt for blessings uncovered the following treasures: 

  • The rich beauty of winter foliage. I can be so engrossed in my busyness that the sun will rise and set without my noticing the simple beauty around me. How grateful I am for the undisputed glory of nature's colors. 



  • This week I have been incredibly blessed by my girlfriends. Again, I'm surprised I still have them considering I withdrew from everyone last year. I should devote an entire blog entry to  all of them but for now I am so grateful for Christi and Nary who introduced me to antique stores and nutty monkey bagels (haha); for Lina who is always so incredibly understanding of the unpredictability of my life and is patient with my rescheduling. Thank you, Lina Bean, for dinner and the "awkward" moments. "You wh*re!" (HAHA!) And my biggest shout-out this week goes to the pretty-kick-a$$-earthly-prayer-granting-angel, Courtney, who surprised me with a gift certificate for a massage. I have been secretly praying for a massage so her gift is priceless. You ladies make me strive to be the best kind of friend to be!

  • No matter how many ways I spin it in my head or justify the reasons why I'm living with my parents in my 40s, it is still embarrassing and shameful. Last year I railed constantly at the injustice of not being able to afford my own place. Nonetheless, I've learned to be grateful for my parents and precious moments like these when I wake up to my granddaughter snuggled next to me in my bed. 




  • Every Wednesday my son and I attend bible study at Cottonwood Church and it is a soothing balm to my soul. It's like pressing the reset button on my week, recharging my weary bones, and bringing life back in them. I am grateful to have the chance to spend quality time with my son and worship my Creator in the middle of my crazy week. 



  • Having been diagnosed with hypertension three days before the new year would have put me in a depressed state. But being depressed wouldn't be in alignment with my 2012 resolutions. Changing my diet has been difficult but not impossible. I am thankful for my son who is an assistant manager at Subway and who made me this egg white and tomato sandwich for my Friday morning commute to work. 

May your week be filled with abundant blessings and I hope you slow your footsteps long enough to notice the beautiful world around you! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

SCAVENGER HUNT FOR BLESSINGS | 1



I've decided to post an entry at the end of each week to list the things I was grateful for during the week. It is part of my conviction to change in 2012 by being happy because I am thankful.  For some being happy and thankful is as easy as instant oatmeal. For someone like me who suffers from severe depression and is naturally negative being happy is an uphill battle. I say "naturally negative" because I was brought up in a family who didn't believe in positive reinforcement or outward expressions of love. But I DON'T have to be that way. I CAN reprogram my mindset. I DON'T have to ruminate on what I DON'T have and wait for happiness to grace me with her presence. Since January 1, 2012 I have conducted a daily scavenger hunt for blessings and it has completely realigned my mindset and heart. 


This week's scavenger hunt turned up the following blessings and I am incredibly grateful for: 

  • Living in a time such as this. My cousins spent three weeks in the Philippines and on his layover home he sent me this photo of Tagaytay. I am grateful for technology that allows me to appreciate the beauty in this photo. In the background is Taal volcano. 



  • This book! I want to publicly thank Stefano and my sister for this wonderful gift! The best gifts I receive always come with a spine, pages, and words. Buying books was eliminated from my budget and I have greedily checked them out at the library but THIS is MY treasure. I'm savoring every page, every word, every morsel of Steve Jobs. 



  • My casual Friday shoes that make the dreariest of corporate cubicles bearable. I posted this photo on Instagram and wrote that caption. It's been over a year since I wore these shoes and recently found them. Another treasure. I mean, c'mon, can you blame me? Look at that hideous office carpet! 


  • My girlfriends, Christi and Nary, who had to accommodate my broke A$$ and change our Sunday brunch venue from Orange Hill Restaurant to umm...a bagel place. Yes, a bagel place. They're depriving themselves of scrumptious all-you-can-eat food so WE can all see each other. I'm also giving my girlfriend, Jessica, a shout-out for completely understanding when my debit card got declined while I was buying her breakfast. Oh, and my son Tristan who lent me gas money to tide me over until payday. My financial mess HAS to change. So I guess I'm thankful for declined debit cards to show me I need to be diligent in managing my finances.  *sigh*
  • My family and Ray who pitched in so that my daughter, Maricelle, was able to reach her fundraiser goal. She is now sitting on a plane flying to Panama on a medical missions trip as I write this. Oh, how I envy her! 


  • My Ray, who sent me this awesome video to help me sleep! He really is the Sam Gamgee to my Frodo. LOL!  Ray instructed me to listen to the words very carefully and I was blown away! Another priceless treasure!


Stay tuned for next week's scavenger hunt treasures...
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

OWN IT!



I posted this photo on Instagram today and wrote: When you find true joy in HIM people will try to take it away from you. Don't allow it. Life is too valuable to function in someone else's dysfunction. Be the wind to change the course of your direction and let HIM guide you. 


I have made a gargantuan effort to CHANGE my ways in the new year and to adhere to the resolutions I've made. Within the first hour of 2012 I wished a happy 2012 to the amazing and inspirational photographers I've connected with on Google+.  A man by the name of Shayne Cuffy commented with "No, thank you +Nannette Ricaforte make sure whatever defines 2012 as being amazing for you is not based on other people, it needs to be based on your decision, this year must be on your terms. If you want more you need to be more."


Since then his words have hovered within the periphery of my consciousness because the truth cannot be denied. Last year, I allowed others to define my life-my parents, my boyfriend, my kids, my job, my finances, etc. I was operating on a victim mindset without realizing it. "I'm broke therefore I can't have fun." "My dad's sick therefore I can't live my own life." "I'm miserable at my job therefore I can't be happy." "My kids need this or that so forget about my needs." And through it all I lost connection with the ONE source, the only source, of my pure joy. My faith wavered like a flickering candle sitting on a drafty window sill because I allowed others to infiltrate the sacred and holy place inside me. The place that only Jesus can fill. 


The people surrounding my life haven't changed. My parents still depend on me to be around for them, my kids still need me, I'm still helping with my granddaughter, and I'm still on a tight budget. But instead of being the perennial victim of my circumstances I am living like a victor. This year will not always be perfect and it will have its low moments but the way I react to these circumstances will define how amazing this year will be. I AM owning 2012 with its challenges and growth. 


I know I'm off to a great start and hope you are, too! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

RYLEE SAGE TURNS 4!

Ever since my granddaughter Rylee was born on New Year's Day four years ago our lives have revolved around her on the 1st day of the year. We joke about how popular she is because so many family members want to take care of her that we have to ask her to "pencil us in". 


I still remember the time when the light bulb turned on in my dim brain while I was at work and realized my nineteen year old daughter could be pregnant. I had just driven her past Starbucks and asked if she wanted one of those Venti Caramel Macchiatos and she refused. How odd, I thought. And as I sat there at my desk I also realized that my daughter didn't smell like cigarette smoke which should have convinced me immediately but I was still in denial. I did NOT want my child to perpetuate the cycle of teenage pregnancy I began. 


But four years have passed since then and our lives have been enriched by the presence of Miss Rylee Sage. She's the little buddy I take everywhere, the little voice that tells me I don't know everything, and the living reminder that unplanned pregnancies are priceless treasures. I've watched her dissolve the most hardened of hearts in the male species, like my dad and Ray to name a few. When Ray and I began dating he was forthright in letting me know how he has no kids for a reason, never wanted any for himself, and didn't want any at all. I secretly laughed at him then because I wasn't trying to foist my granddaughter on him and you can bet that I was NOT looking for a baby daddy! But once they were acquainted they became each others' buddy and the depth of his love for that little girl almost rivals my own. 


Although she's not perfect and could be the bossiest and most know-it-all little girl in existence, she continues to bring humility into my life. The simplicity of her reasoning breaks me down into a sheepish human being. I was experiencing one of my silent rages recently when Rylee's keen sense compelled her to approach me and say, "God is in us. He's in us, Gramma." And I silently stared at her with a shamed face as she climbed on my lap and hugged me. 


This year, courtesy of Auntie Lu and Stefano, we held an impromptu ice-skating venture for the birthday girl. Her first time on the ice and she loved it! Happy Birthday to my granddaughter, Rylee Sage! Thank you for providing a channel to pour forth the love especially reserved for granddaughters! My life will always be strung with colorful, kaleidoscopic lights because of you! 


*All photos taken and edited with my iPhone 4.*


Gramma Nette and Rylee

Mommy and Rylee workin' the ice! 

Auntie Lu and Rylee hammin' it up! 


Birthday girl scored at PF Changs! 

Freezing cold, tired, but happy!