A Moment in Time

Hi friends,

I’ve been in an artist mentoring program for a year now and have gone through a few important changes. I am much more confident about who I am as a writer, poet, and painter. When I entered the program, I had no confidence in my art, even though I’ve been doing it on and off for as long as I can remember. I am happy to report that though I am still working on improving my skills, I am much more confident about sharing it in the world (and you can see some of it on social media or in my monthly newsletter).

I’m also much more confident about who I am, as a child of God, and that is where my identity lies. Because of God’s grace, I love to paint flowers and other things that pop color. Since flowers bloom for a short time, I feel like they are little blessings showered upon us to show how much God loves us. He is the maker of the rainbow and all the magnificent colors we see.

I recently learned from Betty Edwards book, “Color,” that the human eye can see so many more colors than anything our technology or materials for creating and printing can make. What a wonder – our eyes! Each time I take a moment to study a color that I might paint, I am grateful.

This puts me in the state of mind that we should all take moments to appreciate the little things. I know it sounds cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason. There’s usually truth to them (and how many times can you use the word cliché in a sentence?).

Why do we learn to appreciate things as we get older? As my aging eyes grow worse, so I appreciate those moments that I can read without them getting blurry. As fall approaches and leaves fall from the trees, I appreciate when those same leaves were young and pliant in the spring, rather than old, brown, dried out. When the flower withers, I long for the moment it burst from its bud, fresh and vibrant. As my back aches, I long for the days of my youth, when I rolled my eyes complaints of pain, got on my bike and rode for miles.

Now I’m rambling. But I hope that you will take a moment to appreciate a color-a flower, a child’s hair or eyes, a young tree, or the stripes on that skunk you just passed on the road. These are moments. Wisps of time that won’t return. Days move on and time passes, like the leaf that buds, blooms, gathers light, and then withers and dies.

Writing for Joy & Gratitude

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Recently at one of my writers’ group meetings, we did an introspective writing exercise on why we write. Here’s my essay:

I write because I have stories in my head that need to get out. When I began writing, I thought it necessary to share all the words, and it worked for awhile. Now, after writing for several years, I find that I have loads of stories and poems that may never see the light of day–including a four book middle grade series. This disappointed me at first, but I’m coming to realize it’s not so important to share everything, as it’s not so important to do all the things. I’ve come to learn in my writing process that I have put too much pressure on myself. I have felt a failure in most of my endeavors since I stopped being graded in schools. I realize that I have valued myself on how others thought of me, and even subconsciously need approval when I “got serious” and shared my works. Now, in this season of my writing journey, I’m grateful for the soul search and realization that because I have so many ideas, I can find value for myself in that.

Since the pressure has lifted to write all the things, or the things I have set goals for, now I can take time to enjoy the creative process of playing with words again. I can roll them over my tongue in rhythm and rhyme, tasting the sounds as they exit my mouth. I can hear the alliteration and consonance as they surround me, and when I listen, I am able to turn them over in my head for double and triple meanings. I can connect irony and humor, and then apply it to the problem of the day.

I write to express emotion.

I write to show a scene in the imagination.

I write to think and organize thoughts.

I write to bring joy to others.

I write to pray.

I write to observe.

I write to record my observations, which helps me figure out this crazy world.

I write to thank.

I write to heal.

I write to give.

I write to celebrate and congratulate.

I write to sympathize.

I write because when I open my creative faucet, I delight in the stories that flow out.

I write to delight God.

Maybe I do still write for approval after all, but only now do I recognize that it’s from myself and God, not from others.

 

Picture: cc0 at Pixabay.

Christmas

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The Christmas Tree is an ancient custom that in modern days represents Jesus as an ever-living life, just as the evergreen tree continues to stay green through the winter. Over the years I have developed quite the affinity for the trim-a-tree tradition; so much so that some years I may have six or seven different themed trees!

My favorite part is the sparkling lights. I like plain white lights; they are like the stars on the night that Jesus was born (I know, I know-they say they don’t know the exact date, but still…). Also, the red ribbon reminds me of the blood that was shed for my salvation, and the reason for the birth of this babe. No matter how much time goes by, my favorite Christmas colors are always red, white and green. The gentle peaceful music and the kindness of the season are also wonderful parts of my favorite time of the year.

On the lighter side, my daughter and I bake cookies every Christmas. Last year I tried to skip it (anyone remember “Christmas with the Cranks?”), but she gallantly rallied and reminded me it was a tradition of the season. She graduates this year and I hope that she’ll still want to bake cookies with me when she comes back home from college. Our frosted sugar cookies make our home smell good, fill our bellies and warm our hearts.

Here’s a steaming mug of hot cocoa and a sweet sugar cookie held up to you as I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Cheers!

Giving Thanks

 

Version 2Every year we Americans look forward to our holiday, Thanksgiving, where we get to cram our bellies full of turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, yams, veggies, salads, dinner rolls or biscuits, greens, pumpkin flavored treats like pie and cheesecake as well as classic fruit pies and newfangled desserts. We mustn’t forget the cranberry sauce! We get together with our families and play games or watch football, all while in that after-dinner hazy dream state of eating way too much from the smorgasbord of deliciousness.

We also normally say a prayer of thanks for our blessings, or go around the table while each person announces something for which they are grateful. This is good. This is a giving of ourselves to the energy in the universe. We should be grateful for our families, friends, homes, cars, boats and abundance.

Something strange has happened to me this year, though.

Instead of thinking about and saying the normal blessings for which I am grateful, and I truly am, I have been pondering on the blessings in more difficult areas of life. God shows up in the oddest places. Though my husband and I have been under extreme stress this year, I am grateful for the opportunities the hardships have brought because they have brought us closer again. I am grateful that my hubby has had to really take stock of his life and make decisions about his future, and in turn, so have I. I am grateful that even though my heart is breaking at the thought of my daughter moving away from home in the next year, she is beautiful, kind and intelligent and is able to get into college. And, that she can afford it! I’m grateful that even though there have been spiritual struggles, the Lord has given me places and people to refill my pot when it has boiled dry.

Most especially I have recently seen what abundance I have and take for granted, compared to others who do not have the stuff, making me doubly grateful to God for those “regular” blessings.

This year I will thank God for my hardships. Genuinely and with a full heart. For without the hard, how can we appreciate the easy? And, I will try not to take for granted the easy, because without a word, it may once again become hard.

May the Lord bless you, and may you see the blessings in every situation.

 

 

Failure as an Option

I was raised in a social environment to be the best and do the best I could. I started to instill that same philosophy in my daughter when she was younger, and I began to see how a perfectionism mindset came into being. I saw her set unreachable goals for herself, and then the utter sadness and low self-esteem that came from not reaching those unattainable objectives. And then I realized I had done that to myself, my whole life.

Yes, I quickly made a change in my expectations for her. In those moments when she has held exceptional standards and then not met them for herself, I have told her to give herself a break. She cannot do things perfectly the first time she tries – nobody can. We hear the old adage “practice makes perfect” and think it should be true. However, practice does not make us perfect, as nobody can reach that unattainable goal – ever. Practice makes us better.

And what happens before we reach better? or even best-in-our-talent? Failure. We fail to meet our goals and expectations. We fail to please the people we try to please. We fail to make that x amount of dollars we try to reach. We fail to… get the part in that film or play… sell that book or painting… pass that driving test… get into the college of our dreams… fit into that outfit… beat that game… get that promotion or new job… even buy the right ice cream.

And what happens when we fail? Usually we veer right or left and head into another direction. We might find a different outlet for our creativity, or a different outfit that works even better, or another job that makes us feel more fulfilled. We might make friends at a different college that we would never have made and we might delight our taste buds with an extraordinary new flavor. Or… we try again. And we might make it the next time.

Failure is not a bad word. Failure is practice. It’s a learning opportunity. It can be a new adventure. Keep trying my friends, but don’t beat yourself up for failing.

Because really, as my friend Leah would say, what will it matter throughout the rest of eternity?

That is a very good question, Leah.

I keep your words close to my heart and think of them often when I’m tearing myself down for not meeting my own perfect objectives. And then I remember the most important thing – that God loves us, no matter what. He is the only perfect.

Peace

The Quickening of Time

Have you noticed how fast time moves as you get older? Things that seemed to take forever as a kid now happen in a snap of the fingers.

For instance, my child is about to be grown. She will soon be able to do what she wants without my input. I hope she will still want it, but legally, she’ll be on her own. I’m looking forward to seeing how her life pans out, but her adulthood sure crept up on me. She was a babe and now she’s an adult – it happened in a blink.

What’s really weird is how much time that will free up for my husband and me. What shall we do with it? Then, just as soon as we get that free time, someone gets diagnosed with something that’s going to slow them down. We just can’t win with time, can we? When we are young and energetic, we don’t have the wisdom and when we are older and wise, we don’t have the energy.

So what can be done?

We must engage in each and every moment as much as possible. Put down our devices and spend time with each other. Look our lover, mother, daughter and friend in the eye to have a conversation. Visit grandma. Take in a museum. Compliment a stranger. Try a new food. Stomp some grapes. Paint something wonderful. Make introductions to the neighbors. Take a trip that’s been put off. Why has it been put off?

We must appreciate this life we’ve been given before it’s taken away. We must praise and pray to God who gave it to us. We must engage in it to our fullest capacity, rather than let it pass us by in a sleepy passive way. We must not waste a single minute.

Peace…

Smelly Devices

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Isn’t it interesting how our sense of smell doesn’t get much attention? We live in a world full of beauty and ugliness, hushed and obnoxiously loud sounds, soft and hard feels, superb and horrific flavors, and delicious or stinky odors. Well, I am paying more attention to those stinky odors nowadays, and am grateful for so many options.

Scented candles have been around forever (at least my whole life anyway). I have tried the cheapy finds that I could barely smell or that lasted maybe an hour. I have sold Partylite and I have actually worked for Colonial candle. Partylite had dainty decorative candle holders that I enjoyed and I thought CC’s scents were lovely in wonderfully shaped jars. My favorite, as with many others I’m sure, is Yankee candle. Those bad boys last forever and the jars are reusable for my miscellaneous doohickeys. I even made my own scented candles for a time. The problem here though, is that no matter which way you light it, you have to burn candles. That means fire. And babysitting the flame.

Scentsy has been great. I have several warmers and a container full of different scented bars. The smells are great, even if they cancelled my favorite – grape. I like their laundry smelling bars and anything even remotely fruity. I keep my Scenty’s up, but there is another problem for me here. I have to turn them on and off. If I forget, then the wax smell goes away much quicker and it involves either freezing the containers or digging the old wax out to change it more often.

My latest smelly devices to cover undesirable odors are plugins. I used them when I first moved out on my own, back when the word “plugin” wasn’t used as a website add-on, and back when the Glade brand had these little film covered slide packs that lasted about a month. Supposedly. Mine never seemed to, but they did work well for small areas. My new favorite plugin is Bath & Bodywork’s Wallflowers. There are several lovely scents and I can get nightlights for my bathrooms, or plain devices for other areas. The best part? I can leave them unattended.

In my car I’ve tried so many types of car fresheners and you know what? My favorite is the good old standby Little Trees Vanillaroma. Yes, Traci and Monica, I still love them.

I hope you’re using something to please your sniffer, because it makes life just a little sweeter.

Peace.

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Beaches

I have been extremely lucky to be able to travel quite a bit in my lifetime. It’s a favorite thing to do, so I’ve taken advantage of opportunities presented to me. One thing I’ve noticed over the years, is the differences in beaches.

On the east side of the continent, or west side of the Atlantic from Massachusetts to Florida, I’ve generally seen beaches in a normal tan sand color. They usually have tiny bits of seaweed, shells and the occasional dead fish, ray or jelly that wash ashore, but the sand is fairly soft and not too gritty or sharp. Beaches are short or long from ocean to boardwalk/parking lot depending on the tides and weather patterns. I do prefer a longer area with the low level water gently washing over my feet.

On the west side of the continent, or the east side of the Pacific, I’ve noticed the sand is similar to the Atlantic side; however I’ve seen large seaweed with carrot-shaped attachments and sea glass wash ashore. Rocks litter the beaches and snakes like the beaches there too, yeesh (shiver). The water’s cold, but surfers and seals seem to like it. That is cold, unless you find a beachy alcove with shallow water that is heated by the sun. Then it’s fun to swim and flop around. California beaches, from Sausalito to San Diego, are lighter in their coloring than the Alaska beach I visited, and that one had pines fairly close to the water.

When I was on the west side of Europe, or the east side of the Atlantic, I dipped my toes in the icy waters of the North Sea. When I say icy, I mean it, as there are icebergs in it. I can tell you I didn’t stay in long, that’s for sure. But my little family enjoyed walking along the sand, as it was almost as firm as a sidewalk. We barely put footprints into it.

I also dipped my toes in the Mediterranean. (Totes just spelled that right the first time!) I stood on the black rocks of Tuscany and looked into the clear aqua blue water. Even though the rocks were smooth, it hurt when different parts of my feet went in different directions as they did their balancing act. It wasn’t a “lay-out” kind of beach, but it was fun to skip rocks and test the warm water temperature. Now, I know all Tuscan beaches aren’t like that one, but that’s the fun of checking out many different sites.

What’s my favorite beach, you ask? Why, the beaches along the upper Florida gulf coast! Soft white sand warms with the sun and has the occasional beach grasses growing through. Shells are aplenty, the cost of visiting doesn’t blow you away, and the water’s warm. People are pretty laid back, excluding traffic, and there are tons of things to do and see. It’s why we visit repeatedly.

Peace. And sand. And flip flops…

 

“Sound of Silence” Observations

I don’t know if you have seen the new video “Sound of Silence” by Disturbed, but it’s been floating around the internet and gaining great reviews. It is a remake of Simon & Garfunkel’s original song, which I really like.

The first time I heard this version, it struck an internal resonance within me. A song has not affected me quite so strongly in many years. It made me feel sad and confused. The song is haunting. The video is dark. I am drawn to it.

My effort to be of the light and share that with other people is in direct opposition to how I thought this video/song should make me feel – I should not be attracted to it. And yet, I am.

These feelings sent me on a quest to find out about this man who sings in such a haunting manner, David Draiman. I was surprised to find out how pre-judgmental I had been about this heavy metal band with the strange name – but if you want to know about them, you’ll  have to do the research too.

I have been told by my loved ones that I am tone deaf. In a social environment where strong conflict often arises from being “outside the box,” and yet sought after, I am glad that people can break free from stereotypes and the norm – not using shock factors – but with genuine talents. I want to embrace a culture that values artistic souls – a culture that values those such as the autistic child with immense math genius, the painter on the verge of insanity producing impossible works, the people with special gifts not of the earthly realm, and the musician who can resonate with people on different frequencies. I want to be awed and amazed.

People mostly live in this world using their sense of sight, but if I were a scientist, I would be studying the sense of sound. This song sparked a conversation with my husband, an engineer, who tried to explain to me that everything has a resonant frequency. We brought it to dinner with friends and though they tried, my mind could not comprehend what they were talking about, because I do not think the same way as engineers.

But I do FEEL it. I can feel vibrations and resonance. That is what I would study. How people are affected by feeling and sounds – but I guess that’s two senses…

Anyway, this song has been on my mind so much lately that I even asked my writing buddy to do an exercise with it. My observations during the writing exercise pertained to the song and the video and this is what I wrote:

“This video confused me as I felt the power of the music and tone immediately, but the scenes did not connect for me. I couldn’t understand some of the lyrics, but still felt the power in it. The feelings that are drawn out of me are sadness and calm, but also a silently screaming rebellion – like someone trapped within themselves who cannot speak, such as a mute person, someone with a mental disorder, or even a normal person who will not look inside themselves. Instead they allow the darkness of negativity, denial, and resentment to build until they feel miserable and want to scream – but are unable to let it out.”

The second time I watched the video with people in a writing workshop who had many takes on the meaning of the video images that were different from mine.

I think after several times watching it now, I see the main connection of music/silence much in the same way as the song, Day the Music Died, portrayed the end of music. Pure sadness.

As I continue to keep that impression, I want to poke holes in the sadness and let light in through the darkness for those who cannot find it. I want to #BeALight. I want to push boundaries and be aware. I want to share happiness.

#BeALight in the darkness where you are.

Peace.

 

Museums

I enjoy a museum, and I think I’ll visit one soon.Why?

The best reason is to get the family out of the house. It’s nice to take a day trip locally – an escape from the humdrum of every day living without the expense of travel. We can delve into a story without reading a book, even though I so love books! What’s that called? Live action, you say? Perhaps we should wear costumes next time.

Another reason to visit is the variety of interests museums hold. There are art museums, which we inevitably visit many times over and never tire of because we can take them by one section at a time. We may sit on a bench and contemplate our surroundings, or meditate upon a painting or sculpture for their content, or sketch or study them for line, form, shape and color.

Visiting history museums can be fun when we stand amongst historical items to imagine ourselves wearing a uniform or fancy dress from days gone by, envisioning ourselves amongst the rubble of a flood or in a factory producing metallic objects that today’s children would not recognize.

Children’s museums have a wonderful way of engaging kids’ creative imaginations through hands-on activities, while science and specialty museums carry specific items as they pass through the ages. I remember how much fun we had at the SPAM museum, even though nobody in my house actually eats SPAM anymore.

Visiting museums is great for education. Remembering and reflecting on past problems reminds and helps in modern day, so that society doesn’t repeat its errors. Studying a progressive form of something as it advanced to become better may spark a new creative idea for someone in a particular industry, such as electronics or fashion. It also helps a mind stretch for possibility.

Are you bored? Tired of the same ol’? See what your city or town has in the way of museums, and get out of the house. Don’t forget to donate a few bucks either, if you can afford it; some people cannot, but education does our whole culture good.

Peace.