Gators, planes, motion and bees. Oh. And bobcats. And heights.

Fear comes in many forms.

The breeze blew gently, making a rustling in the trees above our heads, as we took a seat on a cast iron garden bench at Bok Tower Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida.

Striking out on a new and unexplored path with my bestie, GJ, I found myself stiffly checking for water and gators. As a bush shook, I heard a few giggles, and realized gators don’t laugh, but people do. My shoulders relaxed, and for the moment, I surveyed the beautiful gardens. Azaleas and honeysuckle, lantana and camellias, jasmine and hundreds of daisies were in full bloom. The scent of orange blossoms was intoxicating.

Wings.

Overhead, a humming noise cut across the sky, and a plane that appeared to be a Piper or something of that sort was making its way to its next destination.

A friend of mine is into planes, and I wondered if it was his.

Overhead.

I am not sure exactly when the fear of planes flying overhead settled into my spirit. When my kids were tiny, I lived across from an airport, and enjoyed watching all the air traffic, to include the Blue Angels and other jets.

Then it struck me that I had covered a couple fatal plane crashes during my time as a journalist.

So there you go.

Control.

It is no secret that I do not ever ride with anyone in a vehicle .. other than my best friend. I like driving myself when possible.

Planes.

I cannot fly a plane.

The last time I flew on an airplane (rather, in an airplane), the pilot sensed there were some uptight passengers afraid of flying.

In his quite professional voice, he told us all to sit back and relax. And he handled the plane like a soldier. Amazing flight.

Issues.

That is what people say if you are not crazy about riding roller coasters or flying, or are cautious as you go through life. As I was recently chided by a new friend about not riding theme park rides and avoiding sushi, I turned to the man and told him that I am very confident in who I am as a person.

“You’ve got to live a little,” he said.

My nostrils flared but I was still smiling.

After a few minutes on the garden bench, the bestie and I charted course for the next path, and as we did, stopped for a photo by some outdoor sculptures situated in the Fairy Garden. I bent down on one knee in the white sand as the bestie took a photo.

Buzzzzzzzzzz.

Reallyyy? I said, as a very large wasp started chasing me.

The ultimate photo bomb.

Take two.

We finally got the photo.

Further down the path, I saw a sign about bobcats. Like, in the day, where are they? But there were kids running around, so I thought hey I am safe.

Of course I checked the trees.

No cats.

I think I heard a gator laugh, though.

Spring is in full bloom in Florida! (Photo by GJ.)

As you know, this is the season of Lent. A time to reconnect spiritually and do a sort of faith overhaul.

Fear.

I justify my many fears by the reality of said matter at hand. While it is true tragedies of many types happen, it is not necessarily likely that they will.

Truth is, while I have many fears, I also am brave in other ways. And I only share this because I am sure others deal with fears of various kinds.

What are your fears? Do you also have areas of your life in which you truly live courageously?

Is it possible for me to both acknowledge my fears, respect myself, as well as try a few new things now and then, a new path at a nature park? I did today.

And for that tiny step, I am encouraged in my spirit.

P.S. I have learned that sushi is not always raw fish. Some is cooked. I have taken note and will examine the subject at some point and return with my thoughts.

Optimistic ponderings

What will I believe about my dreams?

It is true that those who see the glass half full may oft be deemed unrealistic and out of touch, aloof with matters present be.

And yet, there we are. Faced with two choices on any given day, in any given situation, one must decide to either believe the best possible thing could happen or hang the proverbial hat on the rack of impossibility.

I also believe that many of us are a mixture of both, and some might say that is balance. Others might say such thought contradicts itself.

The phrase “it just might work” has probably been uttered countless times since ancient days by inventors and entrepreneurs, dreamers and pursuers of greatness.

Write down your hopes and dreams, sprinkle them with a bit of glitter, and let the breeze of opportunity blow upon them. Chase the bits of light and see where they go.

Are you an artist? Create with your best effort. Establish your why, your motivator. What drives you? Maybe you are more logical, and you say creativity flees you. But you can push up weights and run countless miles, faster and longer than others you know.

One look at my friends list, and on any given day, I see a number of dreams popping all over the place. One girl takes selfies as she jumps out of an airplane. Another sweats in the gym at 4 a.m. An elegant lady paints the most beautiful snapshots of country life in impressionist style. The list goes on. A realtor shines as she unlocks the key for a couple’s future. A deputy rescues the downtrodden, endangered, saves lives and then makes dinner for her family. Countless others are at various places in their education journey. One just finished her PhD. And one friend with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer still fights the fight and lives each day with nothing less than her all, leaving a trail of inspiration for all of us who are honored to watch her sparkle.

A glass half full accomplishes much.

For all these, by not only believing their dreams would come true, but also by applying the corresponding effort, saw great things come to life.

Authors. Creators. Mamas raising babies and some even educating them at home. Working women. Philanthropists. Singers. Models. Home business operators. Health care workers. Bankers. Food industry professionals. And more.

Anything is possible.

What are your dreams?

All the best for you

Eat right. Sleep well. Walk every day. Meditate. Work hard. Drink lots of water. Make time to play. Chase your passion.

Don’t forget to breathe.

Some of the best advice comes in snippets, a one liner in passing across a soup bowl at lunch, a quick goodbye or a speedy hello tossed across the traffic on a busy street.

Find yourself.

For the last several months, I have not blogged, though certainly inspiration was all around me.

2020, while full of uncertainty in many ways, brought me to a career in law enforcement as a crime prevention specialist, a position which has proven to join my creative side with my desire to serve the community.

I have spent the last few months in various kinds of training, and I love it!

Now that I am getting used to my new routine, I am reconnecting with my glitzy adventure blog and other side pastimes.

After work today, I ate two small bags of Cheetoes and swigged a cup of coffee while reading a friend’s blog and making a list of books I would like to read.

Be careful with the eating and reading thing.

Simultaneously that is.

As a child, I hauled armloads of books home, then nestled in a small curl of existence as I devoured the pages before me, traveling to places and times I have never seen, and musing about what I would do if I did.

So here I am .. I hope to blog often, and with substance.

Meanwhile, I have a cat on my lap.

Molly says hello.

Dreams really do come true.

When did I fall in love with God?

When did I fall in love with God? Was it the day I saw the picture of Jesus on my great grandmother’s wall? Was it because I saw His love in my family and the way their faces glowed when they talked about Him? Was it the joy of  Christmas and Easter, and how cool it was to celebrate this Savior?

I never really thought about that until today.

I fell in love with God before I had even read much of His Word.

Nature itself revealed Him to me, as I wondered at its beauty.

Sunrises and stars.

Walks on country roads and swimming in lakes and the ocean.

The fresh air smells in springtime.

The shimmer of snow under winter moonlight captivated my heart.

He must be real.

As I sit on my bed this morning, pondering the future of my blog, my life, my goals, it occurs to me that maybe this is the way the world sees Jesus.

Having not read His word, “we are the only Bible some people will see” pastors and priests alike proclaim.

But I am flawed, I tell the Lord.

Yet somehow I feel as if God accepts my flaws and stands willing to help, and reminds me that He wooed me to Himself before I had any understanding of the church world or spiritual commitment.

He is real. I feel His Presence on some days. And I still sit in wonder, wherever I am, just like I did beside a lake long ago, when I pondered, “Without God, what would the world be?

Selah.

The sun is up and I have been up since 5 a.m. On my second cup of coffee. Time to work on my book and do some journaling.

photo of person wearing yellow converse shoes
Photo by Toni Ferreira Ph on Pexels.com

 

The spaghetti days of our lives

FB_IMG_1590883833791What exactly do you want out of life, and what are you doing to make that happen?

Are you happy where you are?

What does your best life look like?

It is funny what thoughts hit your head first thing in the morning.

I once heard a college professor say there are “goal oriented” people and “task oriented” people. Both are needed in our world.

Goal oriented folks have their goals before them, for example, an end goal in mind. Like a football player running for a touchdown, even if they have to zig zag across the field, they keep running.

Tackled. That happens too. People and situations often try to take you down when you are headed to your goal.

Or maybe you are the force taking yourself down. (Self defeating thoughts do that.)

But you get up and keep going.

Task oriented people could be equated to waffle squares.

They work in one square at a time and absolutely will not work on anything else until that is finished. Some say this is like obsessive compulsive behavior. Yet they also get the job done, whatever it is. Interruptions are annoying. Let me finish this task.

I believe there are also spaghetti times. The abstract random, noodle approach to life, creativity abounds, but where it comes from and where it is going, who knows.

I also believe that most of us have spaghetti times of our lives. Cook the noodles too long, they stick together in one big glob. Try to get half done spaghetti out of the pot, it goes everywhere.

In our pursuit of our personal, spiritual and work lives, it is good to have a friend or counselor who can help detangle the spaghetti of our lives.

I have one friend whom I trust with everything. This person can ask a couple probing questions, then bam.

It all makes sense.

Counselors can do the same thing.

So can life coaches.

Personally, I have a few people that I consider mentors or voices of reason.

Where did we come from, and where are we going?

Meanwhile, observe the lighted bottle above. I made these as Christmas gifts last year for 2020, The Year of Light.

(Little did we know how much we would need that Light this year.)

The little wire strands look almost tangled by daylight. Turn it on, and the lights are like fireflies.

May your days of spaghetti make more sense to you as you see that even those have purpose.

 

What good will I bring?

In the midst of a chaotic world, what good may I bring to this day?

What kind words can I offer to another soul in need?

What positive endeavors can I cultivate?

What good thoughts may I ponder today?

What songs will I sing, songs of overcoming life’s challenges and trials?

What creative things can I do?

What blessings may I bring?

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Be kind to yourself, and that will flow to others

FB_IMG_1590884066322The drizzling rain outside from a passing tropical system will for sure help my flowers grow.

A couple years ago, Florida went through such a drought that the water in many shallow ponds dried up, leaving mud and a stench of dead fish.

The buzzards had a feast.

Heartbroken at the dried pond that once inspired poems, I prayed that Florida would get rain, and never be that dry again.

Pineapples. I picked one of the three I have been growing and noticed it is tiny and has, as of yet, no smell.

Either I picked it too soon, or perhaps, it did not get enough water. (It is on the side of the farm that has no irrigation.)

The rains did not come early enough to sustain it, I guess.

Anyway. Or as my Dad always says, “anyhow.”

Had a conversation with a fellow survivor yesterday, a person I will likely interview someday on my Youtube channel (which will be aimed at helping other survivors of sexual abuse.)

Conversations help us grow and understand the world around us, and understand ourselves.

I was telling this person how in every facet of my life, I often think that others think less of me because in my heart I tell myself I am not good enough at whatever it is I am trying to do.

This person blew my mind when they said I need to start my own channel and really get involved in sharing my own story, and also having conversations on healing, creative living, overcoming, PTSD, spirituality, and so forth.

As I see it, this endeavor would definitely not be one of those “hey I have all the answers” kind of things. Because I don’t.

This person shared with me their struggles with a variety of life elements and said they would for sure appreciate a channel dedicated to that.

I went away from that conversation, in the midst of a terrible approaching storm outside, realizing this:

If I am going to be able to bless others with kindness, I’d better start being kind to myself.

Wow.

That means “speaking life” over myself.

The counselor I was seeing a few years back asked me if I would treat a small child the way I treat myself.

If someone compliments me, I am quick to brush it off. My spirit says to me “You ain’t all that, don’t believe it.” Growing up, one person in my family said “the world does not revolve around you, butt out” when I would try to join conversation.

So there was that.

I had aspirations of being a writer, and another person said “don’t give up your day job,” when I was in middle school.

(Well I did eventually write for a living, working for years, and still do, in the news industry.)

As an adult, daily I have to confront the lack of confidence and also the disdain I have for myself.

Why do we survivors hate ourselves?

That is a conversation for another day.

Being kind to myself is recognizing that God gave me unique gifts, that my artsy and creative side is not a curse, that whether I am wearing makeup, not wearing makeup, whether my shoes match my outfit or whether I am the only one in the room with cheap shoes, whether I am energetic or depressed, feeling fun or basically, drained, whether I succeed or fail at my attempt to face this day with a smile, whether I know much on a subject or little, it is OK.

Being kind to myself means that I give myself permission to relax and quit attacking myself, while also noting my struggles and things I need to work on.

It means my list of things I approve about myself grows.

And that approval is based solely on what God and myself think of me.

And not what I assume others are thinking.

There are days when I succeed at this, and as such, am nicer to others.

I have a cat at my elbow.

Happy Sunday, all.

 

The anxiety trap

Was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a bestselling author and blogger.

In it, she notes that she did not always find the support she sought for while writing what would one day be a best selling book, and yet, she kept pursuing her Happiness Project.

The subject intrigues me greatly. Happiness.

And then I think of anxiety. That can be some shaky tennis shoes there, when one starts thinking about writing something that could change the world.

Or when one embarks on a new project or endeavor of any kind.

Or when one is hatching such a plan in the middle of a pandemic.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, a book in the Bible, that many people had written things, many people had wealth, many people pursued futile things in life.

He came to the conclusion that “life waa meaningless” and “there was nothing new under the sun.”

A few times already, I have almost trashed the fiction book I am writing.

Hold that thought.

Was talking to a friend at the newsroom one day about how I need to restring my guitar and how I would practice more, but I might give it up because I will never be any good at it, and so forth.

I admire Dolly Parton and her long nails and happy attitude, and there is no way I could ever sing nor play like she does.

She is a legend.

My friend pulled on his long red beard and said “Why do you have to be good at it? Do you like playing? Do you have fun doing it?”

And I nodded that yes, I did enjoy playing, and suddenly had an epiphany.

That in all my hobbies, I always try to be the best. Of course I have fun.

That kind of thinking can corral creative enjoyment.

Be the best.

The anxiety kicks in when I am surrounded by music professionals in choir at church, when discussion as to what line or note we are on turns to Latin terms.

Learn Latin.

But then I start having fun and figure even if I have to lip sync on the high notes, hopefully God approves.

I think of all the times in my life when I just cannot relax. Either because I feel I am not good enough, smart enough, deep enough, creative enough, or because my head is spinning a hundred miles a minute.

A notebook and pen, and a garden bench, and wind chimes, flowers, sunlight and birds .. and before I know it, inspiration has lit my soul, and there you go.

Words on paper.

Am feeling the same internal fire I felt in the writing of my first book. I want to write a bunch of books. And I want people to read them, and in some way, for just a little while, to realize how beautiful life can be, that their place in this universe is by deliberate creation.

The written word helped provide a way out for me when I was a kid, stuck at home, with no money for band lessons or cookies, and tormented by the thoughts swarming my head during those often dark days.

I still love reading.

Anyway. We are having homemade waffles and bacon for supper. One of the cats has curled up on my lap, and I find the pressure from the tropical storm or whatever it is .. is messing with how I feel tonight.

On a bright note, here is a picture of my feet this past summer, in my favorite pair of tennis shoes. Six bucks, Walmart.

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Light, peace, and mental health

The card tumbled out of the book I had loaned to a friend to read, as I took it out of my desk at work.

I love cards.

The friend had read my story, The Brighter Side of A Darker Thing, and put an encouraging note inside.

The person had a background in social work with kids who had been physically and sexually abused. They noted that while they understood that my faith helped me in that time, they wondered how I did not turn out to be a destructive individual, either being angry with myself or others. And they wrote that they were sure that most survivors of childhood sexual abuse keep much of the dark stuff inside.

Memories, triggers, hurts.

I think one challenge I faced was realizing that there would never be “true justice” for what had happened to me.

Sexually abused from age 7 to about 12, with full blown rape happening around age 9, my perpetrator, although arrested, never served time for the crime. Charges were dropped because my family did not want me to endure the pressure of the court proceedings, and also because a key witness was unable to testify.

I felt angry, betrayed. I felt like a freak as I went to school with other girls who seemed to have great lives. They were in band, cheerleading, sports, clubs.

A pen and notebook.

During the years prior to me telling my family what had happened, during the time my greatest secret was told, and during the aftermath, and since then .. writing has been a release for me.

I often have a hard time articulating my feelings and thoughts verbally (not a great off the cuff responder to questions usually). Writing enables me to freely express what is on my heart.

Besides the abuse, I also was bullied by numerous people in middle school. I was surrounded by girls who said they hated me .. though I did not know why. There was one girl I did not even know who started a fight with me, saying people told her I wanted to beat her up. I guess my subsequent laughing was not the best response (I did not know her, after all.) For 2 whole weeks she hounded me until we actually did have a fist fight in the girls bathroom at school, for which we were both suspended.

Then there was a group of kids at the bus stop who used to call me names and make fun of my clothes and my appearance. I dreaded the hour long wait at the bus stop in the snow.

There was a group of like 3 or 4 girls who rode the bus who also often followed me home, pushing me to the ground, where I skinned my knees on the asphalt, and ran home, bleeding. Again, I did not even know their names.

There was a boy in one of my classes at school who started walking by me and slapping me hard on my hip and backside as I went from one class to another in the school corridors, every day for a little while. I sustained bruises from the attacks. One day, with my long nails, I finally grabbed his arm and dug in, leaving bloody nail marks on his arm. And of course, the teacher yelled at me. When I told the guidance counselor what happened the last few weeks, we were put in separate classes.

About that time, my eyes started opening to nature .. the birds, the trees, the snow, the shine of sun on a body of water, sunrise, sunset, the smell of rain and of dandelions when you pick them and pull their petals off, or blow the seeds into the wind.

Maybe it was disassociation, I do not know.

I had an attraction to light. Little lights, candles, tiny flashlights.

Turning my attention to writing dozens of poems, I eventually wrote for my middle school newspaper, The Crusader.

Somehow, seeing my byline made me feel as if I was not, as my bullies would say, worthless.

At the 8th grade yearly awards convocation, I won an award for my writing, The Shyrl Craig Creative Writing Award.

My life changed.

After I reported my abuse, I felt like nobody understood me nor listened, like I must have somehow deserved it.

Looking back, practical things my family did that helped me were:

1. The rules did not change. When I disobeyed my parents, there were still consequences.

2. The church was there for me, my only real friends in my childhood. We were all, well almost all, a little nerdy.

3. My grandparents on my Dad’s side took an active role in developing my interest in reading and writing. We talked about news articles, encyclopedia entries, the Bible and recipes.

4. Counseling helped. But more than a few sessions would have been nice. I later received years of therapy as an adult that really helped my perspective.

5. After my sister died, I was an only child. Because I grew up mostly alone, luckily I learned to self soothe my spirit through music, art and reading. As well as church and a few school activities. I feel that every kid in a public school should be in something. We were poor, so anything I was involved in had no cost.

6. Most of my family loved and nurtured me, although because of the abuse, it took me years to see that.

7. As an adult, I love to read, write, take photos, garden, listen to music and occasionally play my guitar, painting, crafts, sewing and crocheting. I love spending time with my family and friends.

I am glad that though I would never see “justice” .. that I did overcome. And still overcome. It is a daily choice.

Three words come to mind: Light, Peace, and Mental Health.

Outward actions regenerate the spirit, causing internal healing.

More on that, another day.

I am encouraged to keep sharing my story.

Life is not ever perfect. Life is full of challenges. But life can be beautiful for me when I choose it to be so. FB_IMG_1590883615400

 

Never too late

Was going through some photos tonight to add to my blog.

My goal is to quit using file art from the free media library offered by the company from which I purchase my website, and create beautiful and original art of my own.

When I first started taking photos, my camera went with me everywhere.

I need to get back to that, for sure.

It is never too late to make something better.

Changed up my profile photo on my blog. Will likely do a complete redesign.

In my free time, am writing another book and planning to launch a Youtube channel at some point, sewing a quilt that I have been (yes, ashamedly) working on for 30 years, crocheting a baby blanket for my next granddaughter, and working in my garden every day after work. Also, I am almost finished with my training for The Order of the Daughters of the King at our church, and after quarantine, am anxious to get back to singing with our choir.

Guitar strings. I need new ones. So there is that as well. A random thought.

So that is what is on my mind tonight. It is never too late to improve.

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