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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Interview: Bill Apablasa

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today’s interviewee is Bill Apablasa, creator of theother99rooms.com.

BillApablasaWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

Easy answer for me. It’s my wife. I’ve been writing about her recently on my blog, so she is on the top of my mind. But, the truth is, she’s always there. Even after 27 years of marriage, I feel wonderstruck by her each day. Even those times when my vertigo flairs up and she threatens to spin me around in my chair, or all those times when she lovingly tells me that I “make her itch.”

And it’s not that her life is all that extraordinary. In fact, it’s pretty normal. Plain wrap. Vanilla. And while I won’t use those words for her next Valentines day card, it’s true.

And, yet, beneath the humdrum ordinariness of her life, she is a woman who lives an extraordinarily conscious and exciting life. She can bring awareness and beauty to tasks as mundane as the laundry. She’s not just the love of my life, but my own personal Buddha monk, only with a tougher left hook.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

I’m a big fan of 11:11. AM or PM. They both work. For as long as I can remember, my son and I have been big fans of the time. I know it’s a spiritual number of some sorts, but for us it’s a connection. Out of the 14 times a week the number strikes on a clock, at least 7 times I will get a text from my son. All it will say is: 11:11. It’s a small sign that says he’s thinking of me, or I’m thinking of him. Many times we’ll text it at the same time, or run in from the other room to point at the clock. I take that brief moment to silently give thanks for him, as well as for my daughter, who apparently never bothers to check the time.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

Over the past year, I have had health issues pop up in my life. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease in one ear and a benign tumor in the other ear, both of which have affected my hearing and balance. Because of this, the mornings have been tough and I’ve had difficulty adjusting to them. I am a little slower. Less stable on my feet. And before my diagnosis, I used to be the quintessential morning person. Up early, roaring to go, and always with a spring in my step. But, now, I’ve had to find a new rhythm. I’ve had to make adjustments and learn to be more patient.

The best way for me to move through it is with gratitude. There are a lot of people far worse off than I am. I got off easy. I can also honestly say that no matter how hard the past few months have been, I am a better person today because of the struggles I’ve faced. Like all challenges, I’ve been given the opportunity to look at my life in a new way. It has made me who I am today.

What do you wish you are more conscious of?

As all life is a spiritual moment, I want to be more conscious of every thing in my day, right down to the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant moment.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I think the key to staying focused is to live in the moment. To slow down long enough to see what matters. I have to constantly work on this. It doesn’t come easy. I get so busy with my life that I end up missing things because I’m focused on something that has already happened or will be happening in the future. Of course, it doesn’t matter how slow you go if you don’t open your eyes and heart to see what’s in front of you.

About Bill Apablasa:

Bill Apablasa is a husband, father, baby-booming sherpa, social experimenter, writer, filmmaker, blogger, and nomadic homebody, who writes about reinventing your life at www.theother999rooms.com.

Find Bill here:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheOther999Rooms
Twitter: https://twitter.com/billapablasa
Company website: www.sherpa9media.com

Monday, March 25, 2013

So Much for the Spring Thaw

I love spring. The warmer (but not too warm) temperatures, the birds singing, the buds on trees that hint at the burst of color to come, the snow.

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Wait... snow?

By calendar, spring joined us last week. According to my teenager's school, it is spring break. Looking out my window this morning, I think someone didn't get the message.

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I don't anticipate any feathered visitors at the local hangout this morning.

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It seems like a good day for hunkering down and writing. I wonder if that's likely with two kids at home. It's worth a try.

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What does spring look like where you are?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weekend Inspiration: Random Act of Kindness

I read a post on Momastery about a woman who paid for the groceries of the woman in line behind her. A random act of kindness. As it turns out, those groceries were being purchased for a women's shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Beautiful.

Stories like this inspire me. This is what I want to see more of in the world- people doing things to help each other, to make this world a better place.

What kind thing can you do this weekend? Don't wait to be asked. Don't wait for applause. Just serve.

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Interview: Victoria Brouhard

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today’s interviewee is life coach Victoria Brouhard.

VictoriaBrouhardWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

Wonder can be a bit of a challenging quality for me, since I tend to get a bit too serious at times. I could definitely do with more wonder, more frequently.

Lately what I’ve noticed is the way that being in nature can cut through my anxiety and help me feel connected to something larger than myself.

Connecting in that way helps keep the stressful things in my life in perspective, which is always a good thing.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

The days when my schedule allows me to ease into my work (rather than go straight from bed to fifth gear) are glorious. And when it’s not one of those days, I’m grateful for the fact that even a few seconds of pausing and connecting to my breath and to myself go a long way toward keeping me from losing it.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

Any time I feel stuck and like I’m just not moving forward is really difficult for me. If I’m not careful, I can quickly wind up mired in despair and convinced I’ll be stuck forever. In those times, I do my best to let go of my agenda and take some time to just breathe.

It’s incredibly tempting to give up and find a way to numb out (Netflix, anyone?) but I feel better if I can notice where I’m feeling my frustration in my body. By allowing myself to experience whatever emotion I’m feeling, it shifts faster than if I try to avoid or ignore it.

To be clear, though, numbing out wins quite often. I’m getting better at noticing when I’ve gone that route, but it’s not easy.

What do you wish you are more conscious of?

I’d love to be a lot more conscious of my true needs. I find it can be tricky to stay aware of what I really, truly need, because sometimes giving those things to myself takes more effort. For example, if I’m tired, I think, “My kingdom for a nap!” but if I can muster the energy to head out for a (slow and easy) hike, I wind up feeling way more replenished than I would have by lying around. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to cut myself slack and when to give myself a push.

How do you stay truly focused on what is important to you?

I seem to oscillate a bit. I’ll go through a season of doing a really good job of prioritizing my work and staying open to inspiration and making space for creativity. And then that productivity leads to a longer to-do list that takes over my mental space, which can leave me hyper-focused on Getting Stuff Done. And then I forego important things like exercise and meditation.

Once I’ve spent too much time hyper-focused on my work, I wind up drained and have to take time to recharge my batteries. Then, once I’ve recharged I set out with renewed vigor on keeping my work and life well balanced. And so the cycle begins again.

I don’t think there’s an easy fix. Putting routines in place definitely helps, but keeping up with the routine can be its own challenge at times.

Mostly I find that simply accepting that I’m still learning how to stay focused makes it easier to get back on the horse when I fall off.

About Victoria Brouhard:

Victoria Brouhard is a life coach who helps smart, creative women start and complete the projects close to their hearts by being kinder to themselves. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two cats, and loves to hike when it’s not blisteringly hot.

Find Victoria here:
Website: www.victoriabrouhard.com
Facebook: facebook.com/victoriabrouhard
Twitter: twitter.com/victoriashmoria

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Best Part of Pink's Concert

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Sunday night I took my husband and teenager to the Pink concert in Philadelphia- one of the best shows I have ever seen. (Seriously, if you have an opportunity to see her, go.)

Pink's energy level is insane (as are her muscles), her voice is great, and her passion is undeniable. She loves what she does and it shows.

She performed the perfect mix of new songs, old songs, and everything in between. She even sang Chris Isaak's Wicked Games.

She danced, jumped, and flew. Yes, flew. Pink sang several of her songs while doing aerial acrobatics- tangling in scarves, climbing through and hanging off the side of a spinning ball. (That's her hanging over the stage in the photo.)

For her encore, she took her flying to a whole new level when she flipped and air-jogged the entire length of the stadium, then rose to the nosebleed seats. She zigzagged around the stadium visiting fans at all levels (all while singing "So What"). I've never seen anything quite like it.

Some of the best moments had nothing to do with theatrics, though. Because she grew up outside Philadelphia, she mentioned her mom and dad periodically, adding "they're here somewhere."

She said her mom makes the best s'mores that she would never ever share, but brought a partially empty tray of rice krispy treats because she "ate four and couldn't eat anymore." Then she passed out treats to some of the audience members in the pit (where people stand near the stage). "See, mom? Told you I'd share."

But my most favorite moment was this. Pink sat on a stool next to her lead guitarist during an acoustic set. One verse in to Who Knew, she stopped singing, and told the guitarist to hold on.

She looked beyond the pit, back about 15 rows, pointed and asked, "Is that little girl okay? Why is she crying?"

Talk about awareness. She was clued into her audience enough to notice. Then not just to notice, but to stop and make sure everything was okay.

Someone from the audience explained that people were fighting near this (maybe seven-year-old?) girl and she was scared. Pink told the girl that everything would be okay, then offered her a rice krispy treat and a stuffed frog that a fan had previously given her.

The family carried the girl to the edge of the pit, then the pit audience passed the girl toward the stage so Pink could personally hand her the frog and the treat. While the girl was handed back to her family, Pink looked at the audience and said, "Knock it off out there. You're grown a$$ women."

She returned to her stool and, when asked by her guitar player if they were picking up where they left off, she laughed. "No, we're not that coordinated. We're going to start over." So she started the song over and the concert went on.

The lesson here? Connect with people. Be real. Pink has put together a truly impressive show. The most amazing part of it, though, is how she connects with her audience.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Deck is the Local Bird Hangout

Birds have flocked upon my deck today. Apparently, our bird feeder is the equivalent of a corner coffee bar.

Feathered friends come and go amidst falling snowflakes, taking turns to nibble. Different kinds, colors, and sizes, all in search of a little sustenance.

I'm no... um... birdologist. I only know a few of their names- the woodpecker, the cardinal, and blue jay (all of whom visited before I took out my camera).

Then there are these little guys...

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Some take to the floor...

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Some (mostly the large birds) watch from afar...

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...and some wait for their turn...

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Some are shy, like this bigger black bird whose head shines iridescent blue and wings shimmer purple...

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Then, of course, there is the one who watches them...

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It's a busy day at the corner feeder. What wonders do you see out your window today?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview: Nikki McCormack

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today’s interviewee is writer Nikki McCormack.

NikkiMcCormackWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

I am perpetually wonderstruck by nature, especially living in the magnificent northwest. Because of that, I thought I would go a different route with this and hit on something a little different. I’ve been wonderstruck many times recently by the people around me and the little things they do, all the time, often without thinking about them, that make my day or someone else’s day a little better. Anything from a quick hug or texted smile to holding a door open a little longer for someone who isn’t so quick on their feet anymore. Seeing little things like that go on around you all the time lets you see how wonderful the world can be in the simplest of ways.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

Every part. Really. Even the bad moments add up to a whole that I am generally quite happy with.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

Anytime I struggle with my writing. This is a big one for me because there is nothing I do that I put more of my heart and soul into then my writing. Like anyone, I am subject to doubts and uncertainty at some times and simple procrastination fits at others. How do you move through it? Often, if I crack my own whip and just sit down to work I am fine. If I find myself being more stubborn, some time doing something physical, a workout, a hike, or cleaning stalls, often gives my subconscious enough freedom to work its magic and get me going again.

What do you wish you are more conscious of?

My limits. I love to spend time with the people I care about, but I often find myself overbooked and stressed trying to fit everything in. As a result, the time I spend on my work and the time I spend with others is often not as good as it could be. This is something I continue to struggle with.

How do you stay truly focused on what is important to you?

Sometimes I don’t. I stray off track now and then, but I always manage to get back simply because those things are so important to me. My writing and the people (and critters) I care about are important enough that I can usually force myself back on track. I do find that being careful about my schedule helps and taking time to do some of the physical things (kayaking, dancing, etc.) that I enjoy helps me keep my head clear so I can focus on those things.

About Nikki McCormack:

A science fiction and fantasy author represented by Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Agency. I like to dance, kayak, explore caves, practice iaido and archery, and work with my horses when I can find time for all that.

I have one book represented by Emily at this time and a second that she is reviewing final edits on. I hope to have publishing announcements soon. 

Find Nikki here:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Flew a Helicopter (and everyone lived)

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I took my first helicopter ride this weekend, which then turned into my first time flying a helicopter. Freaky and cool.

Before Christmas I had found a coupon online for a helicopter lesson and bought a voucher to give my husband as a gift. He's been looking for things to do and collecting experiences as opposed to things.

Flying a helicopter seemed likely to be a memorable experience.

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The lesson was Saturday and, as it turns out, instead of just riding along, I was also given the opportunity to fly if I wanted.

Did I want to? Honestly, I'm not sure, but when else would an opportunity like that arise? So, I said yes.

When we arrived, the instructor introduced himself, asked us to sign our lives away (that was literally the wording he used), and jumped into the workings of helicopters.

Using a model on his desk and a whiteboard sketch of the controls, he showed us the different parts of the aircraft and what they do. There were three controls we would need to know: the collective lever, foot pedals, and the cyclic.

The collective is next to the seat, similar to the emergency brake in a car. (Mind you, yanking up on the collective will not bring the helicopter to a halt and is, generally, not a good idea.) The collective controls altitude, so if you lift up (gently) you go up. If you push down, you go down.

The foot pedals control the tail rotor and work in conjunction with the collective. If you lift the collective, you push the left pedal. If you reduce the collective, you push the right pedal.

The cyclic is the control that sits in front of you between your legs. (You know, the control you most often see in movies.) It controls which way the nose is pointed. Forward=down, back=up, left=left, right=right. Again, small movements only.

At the end of this discussion, the instructor looked at us and asked if we had any questions.

Me: "What was your name again?"

Bad, I know. My husband broke out laughing and, fortunately, the instructor laughed, too. (His name is Kevin, by the way.)

It's just that I'm bad with names. I've tried correcting this. I even usually repeat it right after meeting someone; something like, "Nice to meet you, Kevin." Yet, a few minutes later I still forget.

And after that lesson of all things seemingly life or death related, I'd forgotten Kevin's name and I really didn't want to go up in a helicopter with "anonymous."

Anyhow, at that point we went out to the helicopter and tried all of the controls out on the ground before starting up.

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Kevin flew us around in a small circle, then let me take over the controls. Fortunately for everyone involved he doesn't hand over all the controls at the same time. First, I worked the collective lever and the pedals, then he took those back and gave me a turn working the cyclic.

Before landing he gave me an opportunity to try hovering (using the cyclic only) at about tree top level (but in a field clear of trees, of course).

Then Kevin landed expertly and I switched places while my husband took his turn manning the controls.

It was a ton of fun. Certainly an experience I'm not likely to forget soon. (Unlike Kevin's name.)

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Word Play- Me and My Blog as Rendered by Tagxedo

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I had some fun playing with Tagxedo last night. It's an online word cloud generator that will render clouds based on a website, a topic, or a Twitter name (though I haven't gotten the Twitter feed to work yet).

Above is Tagxedo's take on Live Wonderstruck and below is what happened when I entered S.M. Hutchins as a search topic.

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Curious, really. On the right side of the S.M. Hutchins cloud, I see "TX," "WhitePages," and "Gallagher" in fairly large font which implies they are common results, but not related to me. What do "DVD" and "Wilson" (on the left) have to do with anything, and what does "Fbo" mean?

I like that my favorite words are the biggest: magical, humorous, mystery, everyday, life, writer. Sneaking through the middle is the word "seeking." Love that.

Anyway, I apologize now for the stuff you will not get done today because you are playing with Tagxedo.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview: Liv Rancourt

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today’s interviewee is writer Liv Rancourt.

LivRancourtWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

I have a big window in my kitchen, and the view is dominated by a Chinese cotoneaster, a huge shrub producing tiny white flowers in spring that ripen to scarlet berries by about November. I call it the Bird Buffet, and once the berries are ripe it’s covered with robins and sparrows and other neighborhood birds. As of today, the top third has been stripped of berries. By March it’ll be pretty much bare.

And then in June it’ll have flowers, and in September it’ll be covered with little green berry nubbins. And in November it’ll be scarlet again.

Against the backdrop of that shrub, with its soft serrated leaves and scarlet berries and robins, I’m watching the inauguration of President Obama. This afternoon, I’m going to a wedding where a very old friend will finally marry her long-time female partner. And this morning, I posted a link to my newest release and saw a surprising and amazing and gratifying number of people share it and send me well-wishes.

So what have I been wonderstruck by recently? This moment, right now, by the crosshatch weave of the new against a backdrop of the stuff that doesn’t change. I’m awed by life. And a little bit humbled.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

The part where I wake up again. ;) Seriously, every day is a gift.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

The toughest moments involve my kids, like when the fourteen year old drops down a wormhole the way only an adolescent girl can, or when I have to drag my son off the computer – again – because he’s lost his temper playing video games. They’re truly great kids, and I love the heck out of them, but sometimes it’s like dealing with toddlers with adult (occasionally very adult) vocabularies.

What do you wish you are more conscious of?

I wish I could be more consistent about staying in the moment. I saw one of those Facebook memes, with a quote attributed to the Lao Tzu. “If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.” Since I read that, whenever I start feeling anxious or depressed, I ask myself if I’m living in the past or in the future. Sometimes it’s both, but when it comes down to it, you can’t control either. The only thing you can control is now, and your response to it. That’s the lesson I’ve been trying to learn. Some days are better than others.

How do you stay truly focused on what is important to you?

It’s pretty easy. The important stuff – my husband, my kids, my friends, my work in the NICU, my writing, my church – all seem to climb up into my face and insist that I pay attention to them with freakish consistency. I’ve always been fairly goal-directed, so
moving forward on things isn’t a problem.

The one concrete step I’ve taken is that for the last couple months, I’ve made a promise to take the dog for a walk every day. It takes half an hour or forty minutes, it’s been a great help in stabilizing my back problems, and it gives me time for my mind to wander.

LivRancourt-bookAbout Liv Rancourt:

I write paranormal and romance, often at the same time, and live in Seattle with my family and assorted pets.

My newest release is a sweet paranormal romance, Forever and Ever, Amen. It’s available from Crimson Romance, Amazon, and other fine e-book retailers.

You can track me down on-line at my website & blog (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dear Teen

Dear Teen,

You're in a hard place right now. That place between boy and man.

The place where your caveman brain is telling you to push away from family so you can start your own tribe.

The place where you're old enough to recognize that everything is changing, but you aren't sure what to do about it or if you even can do anything about it.

The place where your free time is split between your friends, girlfriend, and family.

You have big decisions to make- whether to do what your friends are doing, where to go to college, what to study.

You have big tests ahead of you- SATs, driving tests, daily peer pressure.

I don't envy you. I've been there. (I know that's hard to believe since you've only known me as "old.")

I wish I could give you a magic answer to make everything easier. There isn't one. You are in for some crazy change, both adventures and challenges.

You can coast through, surviving from one day to the next. You'll get by.

Or you can give a damn.

Care about something - baseball, science class, your best friend, the cat, remembering sunscreen, anything, everything.

Notice people. You have a keen sense of perception and an astounding understanding of the human psyche. Use it.

Use it to read your little brother's face or the kid that sits next to you at school. Use it to see what emotion they are really experiencing and let that guide your interactions.

Connect. (I know, I know. It means disconnecting from electronics. It's worth it.) Connect with the people in the room. You'll be glad you did.

Giving a damn is the difference between Living (capital L style) and merely getting by.

I'm not saying it won't hurt sometimes, but you can't know elation from a state of numbness.

You still have a few years at home. Lean on us. Your dad and I are here for you. We love you. We want to help.

Between the two of us, we have a lot of life experience and, believe it or not, most of what you're going through, we've been through, too. We might understand more than you realize.

Ask us questions. Lots of them. As many as you want.

It's still your life. You get to decide where you're heading. You'll know where to go based on what you care about.

Give a damn. Watch how magical this world can be when you do.

Love,
Mom

 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weekend Inspiration - Be Real

There have been some wonderful posts around the web this past week and it seems the ones that have caught my eye did so because the person speaking was being real.

Not putting up fronts. Not trying to sound bigger or smarter or tougher than they felt. Simply being real in the moment. Nothing is more captivating.

Dear Gail - A heartfelt letter from Glennon (of Momastery) to a woman in the audience of her speaking engagement. Glennon was so moved by the woman's attentive nods that she climbed fire escapes and scoured the web until she was able to meet her. This on

See Gail's response on her blog: For those of you who were wondering what just happened... The lines at the end are beautiful.

Then there's this video of Jennifer Lawrence at backstage interviews after winning her Oscar. No canned answers. No heard-it-a-million-times "proper" thing to say. Jennifer answered bluntly and directly. How refreshing!

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I found this video in a post from Copyblogger: Copy this “Oscar-Ready” Approach to Boost Your Social Media Star Power. The post includes a transcript of sorts in case you're reading this post in a place that doesn't allow you to have the noise of a video right now.

All of this makes me wonder, though, if being real is so attractive, why do so many of us fear being ourselves in front of others? We try to appear as an expert. We scramble to get our homes spic-and-span before guests arrive. We try to convince others how great we are.

In fact, we are great, but not because we polished our words or our silverware. We are great when we are real and present in the moment.

Be real. Be YOU.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Strange Dream

I had a strange dream last night. In it I was driving on a road in France (I've never been to France, so don't ask me how I know that's where I was, but that's where I was). Ahead in the road was a giant seed/pod thingy as tall as my car and it was surrounded by a ring of piled grass.

I shifted lanes, all the while wondering who put it there and thinking it must be a bomb that would blow when someone hit it. (Because that makes perfect sense.) That made me question who would be dumb enough to hit something that large.

Of course, then I saw in my rearview mirror a car was approaching the pod and not moving. Sure enough, it hit the pod which burst open causing architectural details to fly everywhere. (You know, like statues and decorations from old buildings.)

A huge stone medallion with a bust in the center came flying over my car and landed in a river beside the road. The medallion was from a rectangular building straight ahead with lots of columns. It was supposed to be at the roofline in the front center.

I turned to my husband who was in the car with me and asked, "What was THAT?" He watched the river complaining that, since it was the weekend, we would have to wait until Monday's news to find out. (I guess this dream world didn't have internet.)

This dream was followed by a recurring one in which I'm going to a college class that I suddenly realize I haven't attended in over a month.

So there you have it.

I can't begin to make sense of it. (And no, I haven't been drinking, nor am I on any medications.) Any dream interpreters out there? What could this craziness possibly be telling me?