Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snow and the Washington Monument

The weather in Washington, DC is like that Katy Perry song. It's hot. Then it's cold. It's warmer (not really hot) and then freezing again. Perhaps the ups and downs of the temperature gauge would be easier to take if there was a little snow falling to entertain us. Instead, we have lots of temperature changes and no snow.

So when the mercury falls, I find other ways to stay warm. Thinking of dear family and friends -- near and far -- is a good soul warmer.

Here's a lovely thought about the real definition of family to warm your heart too. While its author is anonymous, the sentiment should be remembered and taken to heart.
Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Snow and Shadows on the National Mall

Oh Monday, Monday. Why do you always cause me to sigh and breathe so deeply?

In order to get through dreaded Mondays, I meditate on the image of crisp, bright outdoor places, such as this photograph of the National Mall covered in snow. This scene is so serene and calming.

Farewell Monday. Let the countdown to the weekend begin.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Close-up of Bronze Tree in Snow

Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde once said, "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."

As we start a new week, let's strive to do more living than existing.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bronze Tree in Snow

Nature's color palette is remarkable. Even during the gray of winter, there can still be flashes of color like this bronze leaf tree on the National Mall.

Perhaps it is a reminder that in the bleakest moments, there is always a flash of life.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Truth in the Midst of a Lie

The Internet is like an enormous public library, except while it does offer lots of useful information, it equally provides as much misinformation as well.

Recently, my dad shared an email forward supposedly sent by his favorite comedian, Bill Cosby. After years of reading email forwards shared by family, friends and co-workers, I've grown suspicious of the attribution included in these messages. Did Bill Cosby really say all of those unpleasant statements about Americans? I didn't think so and I investigated it.

Within minutes of checking Snopes.com -- a site dedicated to tracking and documenting the truth about these email forwards -- I discovered that it was indeed another Internet hoax. Instead Cosby authoring that opinion piece about his tiredness with America's (and certain Americans') social issues, it was an unfamiliar former Marine who wrote it for a community newspaper. This is just another example of how sourcing sloppiness is running amok on the World Wide Web. Just this week, one of my co-workers wrote a great blog post about this plague of plagiarism and mistaken attribution on the Internet.

Once my public speaking professor shared that it takes only seven times to learn something, but 37 times to unlearn it. I've never been able to verify that statistic, but if it's true, that's quite a high cost for sharing incorrect information.

Today, I saw this fantastic quote on Facebook attributed to the Dalai Lama. Although it actually wasn't said by him, I still think it is worthy of sharing. At the end of the day, does it really matter if someone well known says something as opposed to just a regular person who had an insightful thought? I don't think so.

Words to live don't need attribution; they just need to be taken seriously and applied to our daily lives. So take in the life truth below and disregard it's inaccurate source. Somehow in the midst of the lie resides a great truth we should still think about and remember. Cheers.
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Standing in the Storm

Holding up the dome featured in yesterday's photograph of the District of Columbia War Memorial are a circle of pillars made of marble. They are striking, especially in contrast to the sparse tree of winter in the background of today's image.

Pillars are known for strength. According to the dictionary, a pillar is defined as "a tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building, or as an ornament or monument." Watching Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) resign from the U.S. House of Representatives and leave Congress on Wednesday reminded me of these pillars. What a remarkable human being.

In her farewell remarks to her colleagues yesterday, Giffords said, "I will recover and will return, and we will work together again, for Arizona, and for all Americans." And I believe she will return to the halls of Capitol Hill once more. It's what a great pillar would do, right?

The source of Giffords' strength and resilience must be founded in her recognition, understanding and acceptance of who she is and what is important to her. Before the terrible shooting last year and during the months after, you get the sense that Giffords really knows herself and uses that personal knowledge and truth to draw courage for the years of recovery ahead. As a result, she continues to earn the respect of her peers on the Hill -- no easy feat -- and keeps steady and focused on this challenging and frustrating road of recovery.

Another example of  pillar, Elizabeth Edwards, once shared in her autobiography what she wanted her children to say about her to their children in the future:
When they are older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way -- and it surely has not -- she adjusted her sails.
Life can be filled with so many storms. Like Giffords and Edwards, we must live to be steadfast and strong. We must strive to pillars that stay upright in the midst of life's own howling winds and blinding rain, willing to to adjust our sails to accommodate life's ebbs and flows. In the storm, we must stand and keep supporting our own life domes.

Thankfully, at least we still have Gabby Giffords in our world now to show us how to do it with courage, optimism and grace.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

District of Columbia War Memorial Dome

Did you know that black-and-white images do not use the colors black and white?

Black-and-white photographs use shades of gray, otherwise called grayscale, to compose images. If the photograph was just black-and-white, it would look more like line art and its photo subjects would lack dimension and shadows.

Even though I love black-and-white photographs, I tend to keep most of my images in color. Gray-scaled images are interesting, but I find the color versions more appealing and honest.

For example, the colorlessness of today's photo of the dome of the District of Columbia War Memorial could make a great black-and-white photograph. However, I like the contrast and variation that even the little color present in the image creates for the viewer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh, the Controversy of National Memorials

Somehow, war memorials are always lightening rods for controversy. The District of Columbia War Memorial, dedicated in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, is the first war memorial built on the National Mall. Erected by the District to honor its own World War I veterans, unbelievably, the future of this simple monument is stirring much debate right now.

Currently the only memorial on the National Mall in honor of World War I veterans, there is a movement to turn this existing memorial into a national WWI memorial and expand the site using national funds. A subcommittee for National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in the U.S. House of Representatives will be holding a hearing today on a bill that would rededicate the District of Columbia War Memorial into the National World War I Memorial.

Of course, DC leaders are in opposition to this plan and want the memorial to remain a tribute to just Washingtonians who served in WWI. City lawmakers see it as another threat by Congress to extend its influence and power over the business of the District.

The saddest part of this whole debate is that the memorial is almost hidden from visitors on the National Mall. Surrounded by dense trees and bushes, unless you knew it was there, you could walk through the National Mall between the WWII Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial or along Independence Avenue and never see it.

I actually discovered it myself during an unexpected blizzard during a visit to the National Mall a few years ago. The snow fell so quickly and heavily that I had to stand in place and wait out the storm. I was terrified if I continued walking with no visibility, I would walk into a tree or worse, a wall of a monument. Once the snow stopped, I looked ahead and found myself gazing at this structure covered with snow. Completely unexpected, it appeared like a mirage of sorts.

I'm not sure where I stand on the rededication issue, although I understand both sides of the debate. Washingtonians already share so much with the nation and are protective of their own memorials and tributes. For loved ones of WWI veterans around the country, they would like their veterans honored and represented on the National Mall too; WWI is the only 20th century war involving Americans that is not nationally commemorated there. With new laws limiting the construction of new monuments or memorials on the National Mall, rededicating the DC War Memorial may be the only way WWI memorial supporters will get a national tribute to the American soldiers who fought in the "Great War."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lists and Letters

Today, I discovered two fantastic blogs that make my history-loving heart skip a beat. Lists of Note and Letters of Note are blogs that share lists and letters, respectfully, created by people of note.

I loved reading author F. Scott Fitzgerald's list to his daughter about what she should (and should not) worry about in life. And Charles Dickens' letter to his wife to tell her about the passing of their daughter was so beautifully written and moving. Both sites feature countless of letters and lists that will make you pause and marvel at the beauty of the written word.

While reading these intriguing lists and letters, I can't help but wonder if these historic figures knew that their intimate correspondence would be read by thousands and become a part of our human record. How would they feel about it? Would they choose for these moment to be public?

When I started this blog, I chose to publicly share my photographs, experiences and personal insights. I don't know how I would feel about not having the choice.

I guess since most of these items are shared posthumously, perhaps the writers don't really care whether we read and share these lists and letters with each other. Maybe they appreciate us learning from their lives and words now for years to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Clearing Space

After the news broke this morning about former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's passing, I thought that his death would inspire today's post. The more I thought about it, the more I just didn't want to go there. All of it -- the child sex abuse scandal, his passing, his tainted legacy -- is just too sad to contemplate right now.

Instead, I share another life lesson that appeared on my Pinterest feed today:
When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.
What a great mantra to start off with this week. We all need to start clearing space for the good, right things in our lives and eliminate the clutter of wrong turns and unhelpful distractions.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Missing the Leaves

Snow is on the ground today after a brief snow storm overnight. It's not cold enough for the snow to linger for very long, but it was nice to have something back in the trees.

I do love the starkness of the leafless branches at the beginning of the winter season. After a while though, I miss the leaves. At least I took enough photos in autumn to enjoy and carry me through the the barer winter months.

Or if I'm lucky, there will be more snow storms in my future to add a snowy cover to the neighborhood tree branches instead.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Close-up of Appomattox

I knew I wanted to share this close-up of the Appomattox statue today and then I came across this fantastic quotation on Pinterest today and knew it would be perfect with this image.

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is attributed to saying:
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
So, let's end this day and start a new one, leaving the nonsense behind and starting the day with high spirits.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


At the intersection of South Washington Street and Prince Street in Alexandria, Virginia stands this statue -- Appomattox.

It was inspired by a painting of a lone Confederate soldier surveying the aftermath of the Civil War battle at Appomattox Court House that led to the Confederacy's surrender to the Union.

"Appomattox" was commissioned by the Robert E. Lee Camp United Confederate Veterans and placed in the location where Alexandrians marched south to join the war. The statue's gaze looks south in tribute.

This memorial is a solemn reminder that I live south of the Mason Dixon line in Confederate territory. Most of the time, Northern Virginia bares very little resemblance to the rest of this very southern state. It's easy to forget in my neck of the woods that I live in a state that seceded from the Union in 1861.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red Flares

Not sure who said this one, but it is a thought worth repeating:
Most of the problems in life comes because of two reasons: we act without thinking and we keep thinking without acting.
Here's to all of us remembering to be a great thinkers who take action. The truth is the world is full of enough actors without thought and thinkers with no action.

We need more red flares in the world, more bright lights to guide and inspire others to be their own bright light.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tree by the Potomac River at Sunrise

When I go out on photo excursions, I take hundreds of photos. It's what I love most about using digital cameras instead of film cameras.

To be honest, I was probably a better photo editor when I used my 35mm film camera. Wasting film is expensive, so when I used film, I needed to be more selective what photographs I took. With digital cameras, I can take as many photographs as my memory card can hold. The sky (or memory card) is the limit.

I took hundreds of photos in November when I drove along George Washington Parkway to capture autumn's final fling. Some photographs stood out in my memory and I posted them right away to the blog. Others, like this one of the sunrise lighting a tree along the Potomac River, was overlooked until now.

Reviewing old photographs is like unwrapping unexpected presents; you just never know what gens you will rediscover. I wonder what I will discover tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

King's Audacity to Believe

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!
As we observe his birthday today, I hope we continue to challenge ourselves to turn King's beliefs and hope in humanity into reality.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Weakness of Violence

Tomorrow is our national celebration of the life and work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a powerful, insightful speaker and often, I reread his speeches and writings, marveling at his thoughts and phrasing.

In tribute to him today and tomorrow, I will feature one of my favorite, and less-well known quotations on the blog for all of us to ponder.

In his book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? written in 1967, King wrote:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Part of this quotation is inscribed on one of the marble walls around the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


And I'm not talking about the paper towel brand that's the "quicker picker-upper." Today's blog post title is in reference to the bounty meaning "abundance" and "plenty."

This morning, I visited the local food bank to drop off a food donation. At my holiday party in December, I asked my friends to bring food donations of cereal, flour, oatmeal, cooking oil, soup, canned proteins, canned fruits, dry beans and rice, in lieu of Christmas or hostess gifts. I'm blessed with very generous friends and they brought enough food to fill two bags. I delivered the food today to my community food bank, the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

When I arrived, I was stunned by the number of people standing in line in the cold, waiting for their turn inside the food bank. They weren't homeless people as you might expect. Instead, they were working people with families who needed some help to keep their children and themselves nourished.

During my wait, I couldn't help thinking about the blessing of living a life of bounty. I'm not rich, but I can afford to live a life that is more than comfortable. So many are less familiar with such personal bounty.
Regardless of what the politicians might suggest, it is the moral responsibility of those with bounty to help those without. Looking at the downtrodden faces of those waiting for food, it was clear many of them did not want to be in that line this morning. If they could, they would much rather be able to just go to the grocery store and be able to purchase the food they need.

The saddest part of the experience was that I was the only food donor there at AFAC this morning. The need right now is so much greater than the resources available. If you should have a little extra in your pantry, please find your local food bank and make a donation. Your neighbors in need will appreciate it. Hopefully soon, the economy will make the turn for the better and we will have more food than the needy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tree Branch Gazing

I'm so grateful for the arrival of the holiday weekend. It's been a very long week.

Besides enjoying a Monday off from work, I think I need a moment this weekend to just lie on my back (in what remains of the grass) and then look up at marvel at a sky filled with tree branches.

Have you ever spent time just gazing up under a tree's canopy? It's so peaceful. When looking up at the underside of a tree, the branches look like interlaced veins. While it is easy to find the base or start of each tree branch, the rest of the branches become a maze of tree limbs.

Tree branch gazing is fascinating and time-consuming. It's the perfect holiday weekend activity and definitely on my agenda this weekend, if the weather permits. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Without the Whole Staircase

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." On the eve of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, he's an appropriate figure to think about and consider his thought.

I may have mentioned before my love of Indiana Jones' test of faith in the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He was asked to step out on a ledge that he couldn't see in order to cross to the other side of the cavern. King's quote reflects the same concept -- keeping the faith without seeing the road ahead.

My control freak self loves to know what is going to happen next. While I love planning out every possibility in advance for life's adventures, there's the other part of me that understands that it's life's curveballs that provide our greatest life lessons. To learn faith, one must forgo previews of the future and just trust that everything will work out as it should and leap.

When I position my camera to take a picture, I'm not always sure what the final image will look like. Will the exposure be ok? Will the image be in focus? Will the final composition be balanced? Even though I may not have the answers to these questions, I still take the leap and press the shutter button, trusting my instinct and knowing that what will be, will be.

I wasn't sure about this photograph of a dog statue at Tudor Place when I took it. Is the statue really interesting? Would the shadows confuse the camera and throw the colors off? And yet, without answers to these inquiries, I pressed the shutter and now we have today's photograph. Perhaps not the best one I've ever taken, but one I'm happy to share with all of you. A small and minor leap of faith, yet a leap all the same.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Photography, Less Stress

Today, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the latest findings from their annual Stress in America™: Our Health at Risk survey.

The 2011 survey data revealed that respondents are reporting they feel less stressed, but the connection between stress and chronic diseases, such as obesity and heart disease, is deepening.

How do we reverse this trend? According to APA, we need to integrate behavioral health care into our daily lives, as well as adopt healthier behaviors to reduce and manage our stress.

Personally, I think landscape photography is a fantastic stress reliever and works well for me when I make the time to do it. Photography gets me outdoors and active. Most nature locations require a lot of walking, and at times, even hiking. When my mother visited Washington, DC last year, I wore her out from all the walking around.

To counterbalance the stress that life brings, I need to schedule more photo excursions into my 2012 calendar and go back to planning a photo trip or visit every weekend as I used to when I first launched this blog. Even if it means walking around my neighborhood with my camera and photographing interesting sites, it's worth the time and will make this new year a little less stressful and improve my overall wellness.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blooming Where You're Planted

I've received a lot of inspiration and encouragement from my Facebook friends lately. Recently, a high school friend posted: "Bloom where you are planted." What a simple, yet profound statement.

Often we dream of being replanted in gardens that may be greener than our own, thinking that a new flower bed will make all the difference.

While change can be good, even life-altering in a positive way, we must first start to bloom where we are planted. If we don't try here first, we will just carry our pesky challenges to the next backyard and struggle there as well.

Each of us have the potential to be as bright and bold as this pink zinnia bloom. The only question is whether we are willing to find the courage to embrace life's possibilities for blooming right in our own backyard.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tudor Place Yellow Lily

I've always loved the play of shadows and light on photo subjects. While there can be much beauty found when photo subjects are completely bathed in light, I find the shading that occurs when light and darkness are both present is more compelling.

This photo composition of a yellow lily at the Tudor Place gardens is a perfect example of how even the conservative presence of shadows interplaying with sunlight defines the form and depth of the lily's petals.

If the flower was only photographed in full light, perhaps the color of the lily might be more vivid, but it would be the sole focus of the image. By allowing the presence of shadows along with the sun's rays, the photograph of the lily becomes intriguing and more honest.

American painter and printmaker Sam Francis once said, "An increase in light gives an increase in darkness." I believe that is very true. The presence of light and darkness in nature provides balance. Nature photographs should strive to try to depict that balance.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tudor Place Rose

One of the best ways to discover the hidden treasures in your neighborhood is to subscribe to the local magazine all about your metro area.

While living in Los Angeles, I was an avid reader of Los Angeles magazine. Since moving to the Washington, DC area, I've read Washingtonian magazine every month, discovering more about the people, places and news around the DC metro area. It was through the magazine that I read about the Tudor Place and Gardens, a five-acre historic national landmark in Georgetown.

I visited Tudor Place in the spring and enjoyed photographing its blooming gardens, such as this red rose in today's photograph. Built on land purchased with a legacy from George Washington in the early 1800s, this remarkable house and surrounding gardens witnessed so much American history, especially during the Civil War years.

UPDATE 1/12/12: Apparently, I've posted this photo already on the blog. I apologize for the redundancy. The first time this image was posted, it was in honor of my aunt's birthday. She's having a difficult time this week, which is probably why this photo made a return visit to the blog. I hope that both you and my aunt enjoyed its beauty again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Momentary Color Shift

During sunrise, if you stand in one spot long enough, you can see the whole color spectrum move across the sky.

Only minutes after taking yesterday's photograph, the color yellow interrupted the pinkish purple-tinted clouds. It was a painter's (and photographer's) dream.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Colorful Clouds

After several days indoors due to the flu this week, I enjoyed getting up early this morning to escape the apartment and return to work.

While briskly walking to the bus stop, I paused long enough to look up and admire the spectacular sunrise. Today's overcast skies provided an expansive cloudy canvas for the bold colors of the rising sun's rays.

What a fantastic way to end a less than stellar week with a bright reminder of the beauty that exists all around us even during a routine walk to the office.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blossoms and the Washington Monument

Brrrrr. It's cold on the East Coast right now. Local weather reporters are promising warmer days ahead. However, it doesn't seem like they are arriving soon.

I can't help wishing for a shorter winter and an earlier, longer spring. Right now, I'm longing for mild spring mornings on the National Mall, walking among the blooming trees and admiring the marble monuments in contrast to clear blue skies.

As in the movie, Field of Dreams, where the characters believed that "if you build it, they will come," perhaps if I will spring to arrive sooner, it will.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Photography and Choice

Freedom of choice is one of the most empowering elements of being a photographer, especially for control freaks such as myself. With my camera, I am the decision maker.

Photographers make a variety of decisions within a single frame -- determining the photo subject(s), whether to zoom in or out, what perspective to film from and more. Taking a photograph can be as detailed and complicated as ordering a beverage at Starbucks.

In today's photograph, hundreds of cameras were pointed toward the blooming cherry blossoms around the western side of the Tidal Basin. I chose to photograph this perspective as well -- the northwestern side of the Basin -- which captured the interesting Independence Avenue bridge in the background.

While there are many things out of our control in life, regardless of circumstances or situation, we always have choices to choose and make. As photographers and in life, we are bestowed with the power of choice and challenged to make and own the best decisions we can. Hopefully, our choices will result in beautiful compositions and outcomes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Great Mind Challenge

Yesterday, a good friend shared some famous words of wisdom by Eleanor Roosevelt on her Facebook page:
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
As familiar as I am with Eleanor Roosevelt's insightful quotations, I had not read that one.

At the end of the day, I'd like to be a "great mind." I'm grateful for the reminder on how to become one. I'm going to spend more time this year discussing ideas and less about events and people.

It's so easy for our conversations to become burdened by difficult to understand people and events, like trying to walk through snow drifts. Since we can't avoid troubling people and events, I'm going to use them to inspire new ideas and solutions and discuss those thoughts instead.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back to DC

I'm going, going ... back, back ... to DC, DC. Well, that's not how the Notorious B.I.G. song goes. Biggie's going back to California. But, I've been there and done that trip already. Now, I'm heading back to the cold East Coast after a good visit to the West Coast for the holidays.

Today's photograph is of DC's famed (or infamous) Watergate complex. While it used to be a hotel during the Nixon era, it is now private condominium residences. One time, I saw TV personality Ben Stein leaving the Watergate. Ironically before his acting and TV career, Stein used to work in the Nixon White House as a speechwriter and now lives at the site of his former boss' political undoing.

What's interesting about this image of the Watergate is that if I didn't mention it was located in Washington, DC, it could easily pass as a building in Los Angeles. The bright sunlight highlighting the Watergate and its green trees and modern architecture would be at home in the L.A. skyline and seems out of place along the Potomac River in DC where buildings tend to feature Greek and Roman-inspired architectural elements instead.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

More Optimistic 2012

Welcome to the new year -- 2012. According to a recent survey, people are feeling more optimistic about the new year ahead. I concur; we all need a more hopeful year.

In honor of our renewed optimism, my adopted mantra for 2012 will be "Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose." If this saying sounds familiar, you are probably a fan of the television show, Friday Night Lights. If you're not familiar with the show, you should add it to your must watch list in 2012. Its touching characters and story lines about a small town high school football program in Texas will keep you inspired and optimistic in the coming year.

With this mantra, I'm challenging myself to keep my eyes and heart open in the coming months, so I can achieve (and receive) all of the blessings in store for me this year. While the world in 2012 may continue to be as lopsided and crooked as this snowman, with my new mantra as a reminder, I will aim to share its happy, cheerful grin in the days ahead.