Who says?

How many people give up a hobby because someone says they are not good at it? And how many have persisted because one soul encouraged them to keep on going?

I was astounded several years ago when I spent five hours reworking a structured painting, ending up with an abstract by the end of the evening.

Having several writer, author, artist types on my friends list, one of the creatives spoke up and offered to screen print my creation onto a Tshirt to sell in his shop and divide the proceeds.

At the time I was in journalism, and though most writers have a side hustle of some sort, I opted not to take him up on the offer. A marketing decision it was, as I was working on my book and trying to get that finished.

Some time later I interviewed an actual artist. Pretty cool, as he taught middle school children how to rework their paintings for “art” effect.

The kids were mortified and protested greatly as they had one idea, carefully painting that. There were nature scenes, family pics, weird creatures and more.

So he instructed the children to blindfold themselves (teachers, Paras, and guests present) and then turn their painting upside down and use a different brush in different paint, making haphazard designs.

“Now you have art,” he said.

I guess the type A side of me cringed as I saw this, as all of a sudden, their paintings took on a different life.

Some of the kids were mad, others were laughing, still others were like “oh cool!”

Today’s painting is an abstract. It started out as an ocean scene, then I painted over that and it all became lavender with a olive green heart tilted to the side.

Frustrated that it looked like a nothing canvas, I then sloshed yellow paint across it in the middle, mixed with white.

Then remembering a little art trick we did in school, took a Q tip and scratched a flower and pot design in the paint while it was still wet.

Happy flowers. Happy happy flowers.

Anyway.

One thing I have learned from artists is that art is your expression. Yes, I would love to paint something that resembles something factual.

And I may again paint coffee cups for fun. Or other little items. Or rocks. Or my old jewelry box that has junk jewelry. Or a wooden spoon. Or.

Here is to exploring your creative side.

Molly sends her regards. The splendid housecat approves this project.

When the storm rolls in …

Sometimes there are no words.

When the cancer has grown.

When your mother has flown to be with Jesus. Or your brother. Or sister or friend or coworker.

When all the news seems to be a steady replay of death, controversy, suffering and pain.

When the money is not enough.

It won’t buy health, it won’t buy time, it won’t replace the years lost.

When you feel so defeated and wonder why even the good you try to do for others seems to go nowhere.

A song on the radio plays and you find yourself in tears.

Having bottled up your pain, the cup finally tips and you let it gush.

It would not be good for your friends or family to know you cried, you think.

Because why not, society only admires strength and this is not that.

A voice comes over the radio.

A paper thin female voice, wispy and soft and comforting.

“Give it all to Jesus,” she says.

She talks about prayer and how God loves you and how your life will never be the same when you let Him in.

Nine years old, eight years old, six years old, you remember the baptismal waters .. A crowd of Christians and Sunday morning dresses …

Spearmint chewing gum your Grandmother handed you from a thirty year old purse that smelled like old roses and held one Kleenex and a lipstick ..

The preacher and the cross and the music.

Maybe the question isn’t “Have you let Him in?” but “Have you let Him back in?”

Not wanting to be vulnerable, you go on a number of months, even years, and admire the people you see and how they smile as they share their faith and wonder why isn’t it like that for me?

The God of the fancy is the God of the every day person, not a pick and choose God that some would paint Him to be.

The Godhead with muscles. The Ancient of Days Who Gets It.

The One you can talk to about anything without fearing society’s pilfering opinions or judgment of man.

The tears, the fears, the concerns overwhelm you and suddenly it becomes clear.

This God thing is a relationship thing and not a religion thing and is something quite tangible.

God is Bigger than the cross around our necks.

He is Bigger than the altar at our church.

He is Vast and Omnipotent, Unchangeable, Ever Present and yet loving enough to pull up a chair in our hearts and have coffee with us as we dish on the day and all its cares.

Selah.

Lord, come sit with me in the quiet of this time. Walk through the corridors of my soul. Fill me with Your love and healing. Hold me close and give my bones strength for another day. Let me be a blessing, Lord.

Sparkle just because

As long as I can remember, the light and shine of glitter, sequins, and foil star stickers has given me hope.

For me, it goes to that “Let there be light” that God said in the beginning of time.

Tonight, am keeping this short as I want to see the opening Olympic ceremonies.

What makes your heart light?

Share that with someone.

Maybe if we all let our “sparkle” sparkle it will brighten someone’s day.

Steady moves reach the goal

Sporting a migraine is a great way to end the day, and suddenly I remember another Facebook post that someone else wrote .. “focus on your blessings and not on your complaints.”

Had the day off today as I work this weekend, and since the bestie was free, we checked out a few thrift shops, had lunch, went to the grocery and then swimming, where she went after a wasp nest full force with a bottle of spray. I was in awe of her bravery lol.

Presently, outside, the crickets are happy, or at least that is what I imagine as they chirp their evening pre-storm chorus.

You know what they say, in Florida, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

So, goals.

I find every time I have a day off, I have a pile of things I would like to do, because sure it is great to relax but also to keep up with life .. because that is what you do.

Or I do.

Or I try, that is.

The matter of the day was cleaning my room.

Imagine what a creative writer’s room looks like, or abode, or cave or whatever and you realize just how daunting a task that really is.

But this year, since reading Gretchen Ruben and her words on being Happier At Home, and taking in a few happy cleaning-organizing shows, I feel as if I really need to get my room organized to be happy.

Large exclamation point.

!

Seriously, though, it is not like it is trashy, as I empty the small waste basket every day, and dirty clothes go in the laundry hamper (which at present moment, the wicker hamper is being shredded by the newest housecat, Peebs, just for fun), and junk mail gets tossed and so forth.

But as I look around, I see piles of books, craft projects, art projects, sentimental and historical family gifts and momentos, thirty or so baskets (I collect them and as such, they multiply, and I am paring them back, slowly, painfully), bags of makeup (yes I am high maintenance but I try to maintain myself ha ha), shoes of various kinds, a few paintings here and there and more bottles of perfume than I would like to admit.

As you can see by the photo above, an ordinary cell phone snap shot of one of my baby blankets I am creating, this photo is one I shot .. am trying to get to the point where even if I take a still shot for my blog, at least it is mine and not from the free media library that comes with my subscription. And probably a more appropriate photo for this blog would be the pic of my messy room. Will have to tidy it more to get that shot I am sure.

My room. The mess. Yes. This afternoon dove into it and went through all my closet clothing and pulled out garments I don’t like any more, that are outdated or don’t fit, or are not useful. I was surprised to see that I actually have things to wear! Amazing! Like opening Christmas presents indeed.

Pulled out all broken or flimsy hangers and replaced them with the good ones.

Cleaned off one part of my dresser and hoisted my mother’s Japanese jewelry box (it has no jewelry in it) to the top novelty shelf.) It does not really fit my decor down low, but up high it almost looks like a mystery.

Weird.

Now having new room in my closet to hang more clothes, moved the clothes I hanged on both doors to the inside of the closet, and now I can see my long, hand painted tin sign with the motivational saying “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” It hangs on the door and is perfectly artsy there.

I believe that with my tan walls, I will eventually move back to a black accent decor (I have a few different comforter sets that I switch out occasionally, also weird, but I guess I take after my Mama, who does the same thing.)

Slowly I am moving toward a more almost minimalist room. I say almost, because I am not sure I will be for example, that person who lives with nothing on their walls.

Admittedly, even with the little I have done, I feel I can breathe again.

Recently, I visited my oldest daughter’s home in Virginia, and what she and her beloved have done with their home is gorgeous. Fresh paint, no clutter, organized rooms, touches of light decorating .. I thought to myself, that is what I want.

Light and clean, airy, simple, creative and beautiful.

Maybe tomorrow I will uncover another few inches of my dresser.

Or maybe I will organize my makeup.

We’ll see.

I feel accomplished, and happy.

The God connection

The Sunshine State did not disappoint today.

After church and a quick run to the grocery for a few lunch items for next week, came home and jumped in the pool for a while.

Swirling the water around with my toes and doggy paddling, I’m not a real picturesque swimmer, but I make do. Most of all, I just floated and paddled, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the scent of freshly mowed grass.

As I looked up at a few white billowy clouds, I thought of their beauty and thought also, hey this is really cool.

Floating weightless, and observing the clouds do the same, it occurred to me that most people have some kind of God connection, and whether they acknowledge it or not, it is still there, I believe.

I have never been one to get into deep religious arguments or skirmishes about the status of things.

Quietly go and do, hopefully live in such a way that I am a blessing.

Grandma always said don’t talk religion nor politics, and that is safe.

Yet I admire when folks are real with me because proverbial smokescreens of relation seem so shallow at times.

So when I write about God, or a muse, or something I have pondered, it is my way of sharing a part of me that blooms because of seeds others have planted.

Girl, get to the point.

Our pastor shared something today that I found very thought provoking. It went along the lines of “Are you showing up” for God?

And I thought you know, I have always felt the need for God, for His Presence in my life. I have always, even as a child, thought how on earth am I going to be good enough to get into heaven?

This might have something to do with me spending years of my childhood grounded, lol, for either sassing my parents, or foraging my own way instead of following instructions (for the last time, button your coat, turn the faucet so it does not drip, do not bring home C’s on your report card, as we already know you are a minimum B).

I laugh now when I look back, really, because as an adult I am such a rule follower.

So salvation to me has presented many challenges, as I thought to myself you have to be more than perfect to get to heaven.

Youth group changed all that for me, as our youth leaders glowed with the love of Jesus and were not hypocritical. They knew they would never win any of us by beating us over the head with a Bible, but by living it out before us, Christ in jeans.

Jeans. Opposite of a conservative Baptist church I attended in my early childhood years, the Southern Baptists reached into my heart and home and slowly, showed me their faith in action. My parents were impressed with the preacher who owned one suit and used to be a rock musician. Amazing Grace was really something when that man played the piano.

One half of my family was Baptist. The other side of my family were Church of Christ (non-musical.) And of course, that was one of the grounding occasions of my teen years, having an interesting discussion with one of my grandmothers over church history and music, and how music is so a part of worship.

After attending a number of Baptist churches, I came to the non-denomination Christian fellowships (i.e. the Alexander Campbell movement, not the only Christians, but Christians only.)

I raised my kids in those churches, and returned to the Baptist denomination after my first marriage ended.

Eventually, I came to the Assemblies of God, drawn by the open worship concept, and the warm and inviting church, who helped me through some of the worst parts of my adult life.

I also attended jeans and Jesus churches, which reminded me of my youth group.

In my second marriage, I went to a charismatic church and also joined a Jewish synagogue (by marriage, it was obvious I could not sing in Hebrew, though I did try!)

By the end of that decade, my marriage ended. So I was like wow, in church circles, this does not look good. But sometimes it is not meant to be and you have to move on.

I found I also began a heavy spiritual search. Who are you anyway? Every church I visited had a little pamphlet, a small handheld cross, a religious coin, a pen or a church coffee cup. I enjoyed the fellowship of many churches before I finally landed at my current church, Episcopal (Anglican.)

There are several of us who attend who came from different denominations. Some confirmed, some did not.

A Jewish friend of mine, who is a dear friend, to whom I still owe an Indiana pot roast, said once to me, how did you go from Baptist to Charismatic/Pentecostal to Episcopal/Catholic, so I thought I would share.

The God connection.

I feel like we all have a place for God in our hearts that only He can fill. Every nation on earth has some aspect of religion or relationship, worship or tradition.

I still feel drawn to Him because I have seen Him in others, and in nature – the works of His hand – in day to day things like sunrises and a child’s laugh, and the light of a candle on a stormy day.

Have a splendid evening, all. I was thinking of doing my spiritual writing on Sunday, then creative and life encouragement the other days.

Molly, my cat, sends her regards.

Prayers for all, for a safe and beautiful week.

The blessing of Friendship

Good friends are like a stunning teapot collection.

Each brings their own personality and view to your world, each leaves a blessed pattern upon your heart.

At the beginning of last week, I had one of those blah days. I know blah is not really a word. But it is a word in my vocabulary.

As I ponder on the last couple of weeks, it occurs to me that completely on their own, a few people reached out to me .. and all said hello.

Hello is a great place to start in the world of friends. You hear me share much about my bestie and our projects and adventures.

She and I both reflect on how many wonderful friends we collectively have .. precious souls.

Two friends sent me greeting cards, a few texted, a couple sent messages.

Even one of my Indiana cousins reached out with one of her beautiful hand made cards.

Love it, I did!

(I know suddenly that sounded like something Baby Yoda would say, but there you go.)

Lol.

And there is another note of interest. Well to me, anyway.

I have always loved cards. I love paper. I love words. I love books.

And that is no surprise.

In my younger years, as I was raising my firstborn in Tennessee, miles away from Florida, away from the familiar, I wrote a lot of letters and received a number of cards.

A large bulletin board hung in the hallway of my old house served as a gathering place for all of them.

And as new ones arrived, over the course of a year, I rotated them between the board and a small box that held the rest of them.

Ok. So I have started three sentences with the word And.

My old copy editor would be on my case to get rid of And immediately.

The sun is setting on another busy day, and as I listen to the evening traffic buzz and rumble by, I find myself very grateful for this existence.

That of knowing some special folk, who do their thing encouraging others.

And.

Perhaps I can repay the favor at some point.

The hum of nature

My neighbor’s chickens are scratching around in the farm yard next door and I must say they are delightful to watch (and yes chicken is great to eat, but these lay eggs and there is that lol.)

A few hours spent sitting in my garden, enjoying the wind chimes, and sipping coffee is time well spent.

Today, a family of cardinals swooped in to check out our bird feeders, while a bright yellow butterfly bounced through the air above them all, as if to say hello.

A fat squirrel appeared and then scurried up a tree.

Suddenly, a very slow wasp flew under the gazebo, toting another wasp beneath him, and I must say I have never seen that before.

He carried his weight and that of the wasp underneath.

(Ok forgive me if I missed that in biology. Will look it up for sure.)

So what’s the word for the day?

Peace.

Enjoying this quite beautiful day, I sit and wonder how much nature sense most of us have lost in this busy world.

All of the plant and animal kingdom do things by instinct.

It’s a God thing, I think.

Once our summer rains begin, mosquito spray will find its own home in a nearby flower pot while we all slap our arms and curse the “no see ems” otherwise labeled by the locals as “saber tooth gnats.”

Lest we, like the wasp, shall be carried away.

Figuratively.

Time in nature unravels our senses that have been knotted by constant automation.

I keep hearing a few footsteps in the farm grass behind us, and I believe it is the overweight, ancient farm cat that occupies their land and this plot.

And there is a chorus of a few cicadas, typical of Florida spring.

What is peace to you and how do you get it? For faith believers, that comes from God, an assurance that somehow, all will work together for good for those who love the Lord.

A friend and I recently discussed a few major world Christian religions, or beliefs, and came to the conclusion that the uniting factor of all of them, besides the Messiah, is prayer.

Have to tell you that as I sit here and take in all the beauty of this garden, I ponder this: Does nature pray?

Or does it hum?

Maybe the birds, the bees, the butterflies, critters, the grass and the trees, the flowers and even the weather elements all have it right.

A ceremonious celebration of this very day.

Peace be with you tonight, or today, when you read this.

The real reason writers write

Those who love words understand it well .. the real reason writers write.

An epiphany rose up in my creative flow this evening.

In the midst of listening to a motivational talk .. somewhat and not necessarily listening with intention, it made sense to me. The reason why I blog.

It is easy to talk oneself out of a goal, make a list of failures and shortcomings, and yes it is hard to reach the summit, but there is energy exerted in either case.

Positive versus negative energy.

I thought of my personal writing goals .. those that are outside my professional career.

And realized that many of my blogs .. although others have said they have helped them in some way, were written to myself.

A fellow blogger once said “that’s because blogs, by nature, are me-centric.”

So there is that.

Dear Me. Literally.

My goal is to create content, and continue to write my books, and hopefully along the way make a few friends and bless those who could use a lift.

Writers write. And readers read. And writers read. And readers write.

After questioning the future of my blog, what I would like to see, etc. I realize it is good to just put one foot in front of the other with this matter.

I guess it is ok, after all, if it is really talking to myself. But maybe, somehow, an adventure or creative burst, a poem or song, or observance, or muse, or story, or nugget of wonder encountered on life’s path, can be shared for the benefit of others.

Relish the Middle Moments

The view from the top of a mountain is exhilarating, and yet, it is the path to get there that recharges your soul.

A quick search of social media, and a friend of mine said “Wow it looks like everyone is having a good time.”

Is it not true that we post our highs and occasionally, lows, yet the Middle Moments evaporate?

People prepare for retirement, get ready for a wedding, shop for a party, study for the degree, get shined up for an appearance.

The pinnacle is reached, and then what?

A former New York Times reporter, most likely quoting something she had read, said “Enjoy the Journey.”

Are you?

It’s a question I have asked myself many times. It’s easy to respond with a professional “fabulous” with gusto when someone asks you how you are doing.

Professionals are highly skilled at masking negative emotion, having learned to put the best face forward.

And yet.

Let’s just get real here, all of us. We each know our load.

Those on display are seen for a moment in time, and yet nothing is said of their Middle Moments.

The Middle Moments when you have trashed the manuscript for the umpteenth time. The ragged seconds when a person digs in with resolve to finish a project, while fielding phone calls of family tragedy or one more bit of bad news. The quiet minutes, alone, or hours, or days, or weeks, or months, where nothing seems to be happening.

One gentleman I know lives in a very elite, expensive area of Hilton Head. An accomplished man, by the world’s standards. Rising from a poverty stricken life where he and his siblings were oft without the necessities of proper food and clothing, he endeavored early on in life to not settle for the status quo.

“He studied all the time,” said one of his friends, noting they couldn’t even go surfing on summer break without him toting a text book to keep up with his reading.

The Middle Moments.

Is it possible to both reach for your goals and also just enjoy this Moment in time? To breathe in and out, to be thankful for the little things? To be uplifted by song, good art, great books, coffee with friends? To keep the bubble leveled on the positive?

The Middle Moments.

Get to the point.

Celebrate your place in time. Sparkle even if you are not acclaimed as “the best,” “the fastest,” “most beautiful,” “the smartest,” “most accomplished,” “already there.”

Celebrate you and enjoy the little things that make you and others happy.

And perhaps, the Middle Moments, where you string pretty lights for the sake of their glow, or ponder a firefly on a starry night, or muse a tune for which you have no words, can be those moments you will one day look back and recall, “These were the best days of my life.”

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.