Thursday, October 4, 2018

Choosing the Untraditional

This morning as I was making coffee, I contemplated my blue coffee mug. Blue, like cobalt glass, and almost see-through. I’ve had this mug for many years. I thought about how blue was my favorite color for most of my life, and how part of the reason I chose blue was because blue was not considered a girl’s color.

My striving to be different started at an early age. Maybe it was because I saw my brother treated better than me. Maybe it was because I was still in an era where girls and boys had specific roles, and I saw that boys had more opportunities (got more stuff, were allowed to do more things … seemed free). Maybe I just realized from an early age I didn’t want to fit into a mold of what others dictated I was supposed to be.

I didn’t like girly stuff. I seldom played with dolls (although I liked paper dolls and making clothes for them – because that was artsy – not that I understood being an artist at the time.) I didn’t like being in the house or helping with house stuff that wives and mothers took care of. I didn’t like wearing dresses or having to act like a girl when the boys got to be wild and be outside.

My mother wasn’t a girly-girl, either, and although she didn’t totally act like those perfect “Leave It to Beaver” housewife models, she was still part of that timeframe of life for women. She didn’t do the normal woman-thing too much either. She was always on the fringe.

She taught us hide ‘n’ seek, kick the can, and took us out in the woods on walks. So, perhaps it was from her I that made me determined to not be like other girls. She didn’t have many friends. She didn’t play the “follow the leader” games or become part of a clique.

Instead of dolls, I wanted to be outside playing with my brother’s trucks. I wanted to climb trees, explore the woods and fields, and ride my bike faster than the boys. I decided to have blue as my favorite color because it was a boy color. Girls were supposed to like red.

I never did totally conform to the traditional role of woman. Yes, I married and had children. Yes, I totally love my children with all my heart, but even the role of mother and grandmother has me apart from most. Maybe my roles can never be the same as the majority. Maybe … I don’t know …

And in trying to live whole-heartedly, I have to accept who I am without feeling guilty for not following the more traditional role of womanhood. I have to celebrate my uniqueness and understand, too, I am not the only one. We can’t all be the same. It’s the differences in people that make life interesting. The important thing is seeing that we are all good no matter what roles we choose to play (or be).

These days I’m more known for my love of purple. Part of that, too, is a desire to be different. If I could find a coffee mug, just like my blue one, but in purple, that would be the cherry on top of my morning.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Changing a Word Changes My Outlook

For a while I've been using "Love and Success" as one of my mantras, but, for me, it feels a little heavy. I don't know why. Maybe love for me has a dark side with often pain associated. Oh, I know we're supposed to love one another, and everything and all that, but love also has to do with relationships that are sometimes not so good. Sometimes those bad experiences can have lasting effects.

Hmmm, maybe the word "love" is connected to "supposed to." And it shouldn't. Can I explore this avenue without it dragging me into a hole.

Guess there's some old stuff lingering here ... but that's OK for the moment. I can let it go. And perhaps, for me, it's accepting that's how I feel and not trying to figure it out or feel guilty that I might offend anyone by saying this.

It's not that I don't love. I love lots ... maybe it's just the perceived attached strings that come with loving somebody. Maybe it's about a price I've stopped willing to pay due to “failed” past relationships.  Hmmm, interesting. The topic can go in so many directions. There are, after all, many forms of love. Anyway, moving on ...

So, in striving to live whole-heartedly, I realize I feel much better when I say, "Light and Love" or "Light and Success!" The word "Light" makes me feel lighter and brighter, and in these instances, the words are in caps because this light is a God-Light. It comes from the Universe, the Great Creator, Great Spirit, the Beloved. This Light is greater than any of us, yet it is also part of us, when we open up to acknowledge it. And in saying this, I realize that it is love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Happiness and Living Wholeheartedly

No. 543. Dear Divine Presence, Thank you for showing me that the foundation of my happiness cannot be based on others. Others may or may not add to my happiness, but the FOUNDATION of my happiness must come from my own choice to live wholeheartedly and be the best ME that I can be! Love and Success, Sasha.

I’ve had a couple of recent conversations regarding the choice to go to a doctor or not. One had to do with friends trying to get me to go. The other had to do with someone upset because a family member wouldn’t go, and that if she lost this person, she would be devastated.

I have very strong issues about the medical profession; the basis of which is that it’s gone from a service to help to one of a money-making-big business. These are my beliefs and not everyone shares them. That’s OK. It’s about choice. I’m an older adult, so I’ve seen and experienced many things, and I’ve thoroughly thought this out. My choices are mine to make!

Unfortunately, my beliefs and choices sometimes get me into trouble with others who don’t share my point of view. Even though I am strongly on the side of avoiding doctors, I can also understand that other side. I’m certainly not going to tell them they are wrong for going to the doctor. It’s their choice. There are certainly times when everyone needs to get professional help. Maybe I’d have a different view were I much younger and didn’t know what I know now.

But it’s still about choice! However, some cannot fathom how I (and a few others) feel this way. They think we are selfish by not taking better care of ourselves; that we are selfish, because if something happened to us, what would it do to those who love us?

Well, what if we are making the right choice? For us? I believe it’s the right choice for me. That doesn’t mean I will never go to a doctor, just there’s got to be a real reason. (And I won’t go on as to my reasons because that’s not the point of this writing.)

I began thinking about the reactions of others and how I’m being told that my choices affect them and that I need to think about them, too. I thought about how their words make me feel. I am not faulting others their beliefs. I don’t have to agree. The choices they make for themselves are theirs to make.

So, how does this all fit into my living wholeheartedly? It’s me standing up for what I believe for myself. It’s about acceptance; accepting me for who I am. I’ve worked years discovering who I am and how I am. I learned years ago I can’t live a life as others would have me live! I have to be me, or I’d just soon not live. (I am NOT a martyr!)

This led me into more thinking what it means to live wholeheartedly and how happiness fits in with wholeheartedness. Yes, acceptance is important to me, along with a lot of things that everyone strives for. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I expect to, at least, be respected and not looked down upon or treated as if there is something wrong with me (mental case, for sure).

I remembered being told years ago other people cannot make you happy; happiness comes from within. There is much truth in that. It is easy to rely on others to make me happy, then when they don’t live up to my expectations, there goes my happiness. Hey, here’s the lesson in my face.

Positivity takes work! Using others for happiness is taking the easy road – but then when the road washes out, I’m devastated. There’s no real easy street, so it’s up to me to build a solid foundation, an inner base, for my own happiness. That takes training and vigilance (every time I come across the word vigilance, I am reminded of the Harry Potter stories.)

I was asked the other day what would make me happy. Of course, there are the same things that everyone wishes for. However, I need to dig deep and think about this to come up with what is the solid happiness foundation of my soul.

The self-work goes forever on as I strive to live wholeheartedly. Today I feel I’ve reached a milestone.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Deep-Wreck Diving on the Inner Self

I am always working on myself in my quest to live whole-heartedly. That takes a lot of courage and even extends into my other work. Every time I work on a painting or do a writing and show it to others, it’s an act of bravery. It’s setting myself up for comments – sometimes negative, although for the most part, people are nice.

But I love what I do! It takes courage to put myself out there and not hide from people. What I do is MY way of paying it forward. If someone enjoys reading what I wrote or even gets inspiration of a little self-awareness, that is all for the good. If people enjoy my photos or paintings, then I am helping to spread beauty. Of course, if anyone buys a painting, I am so very grateful!

My inner work recently involves changing how I think. It’s important to think positively and stop any negative thinking. Yes, I will admit that I return to a topic and/or will repeat what I’ve said before. Repetition is a teaching tool. I often need to repeatedly remind myself of things, and sometimes I need to hear/read something more than once (or a dozen times, ha ha) before it totally sinks in.

I love treasure hunts and I'm finding more of that type of analogy in things I do. Writing a poem when the ending often surprises me by going in a direction I didn't expect. The self-work definitely is a treasure hunt. I search through the muck for the gold because too often the past has filled us with muck. On one hand, this way of thinking makes the self-work interesting and fun. It's also a treasure hunt when I do a painting because the journey to the finished piece throws out nuggets of learning.

And here's a continuation of that analogy: I'm re-reading some books on deep-wreck diving like to the Andrea Doria or Empress of Ireland. (Something I would NEVER do for real, but it’s so fascinating!) Deep-wreck diving is far more advanced and dangerous than just scuba diving. What the divers go through from breathing apparatus and air mixture; then slipping down over 200 feet into sometimes total darkness except for whatever type of light they can carry; of not being able to see more than a few feet in front of them; of getting inside the wreck with jagged pieces of metal and dangling cables and wires that can ensnare them; to any movement (including their air bubbles) dislodging tons of silt to cover them making even less visibility.

Often the wreck settles on the bottom at angles, so ceilings are walls and floors might be ceilings or decks have collapsed onto others creating impossible obstacles. There’s the possibility of finding human bones and realizing that these wrecks are often graveyards. Then there are the dangers of the air mixtures which can cause narcosis or oxygen toxicity. Excitement and fear exacerbate the problems by causing the diver to breathe harder which depletes the air supply quicker. A diver can get lost penetrating the depths of wreck and never find a way out.

Then the diver sees a glint of something shiny, reaches in the muck, and pulls out a brass bell or a gold-rimmed piece of china ...

Doing inner self-work can be similar to deep-wreck diving with that deep, inner self being the wreck. How many years has the wreck been down there? How many decades of silt has accumulated and what kinds of things are growing on it? What kind of bodies are buried there. What obstacles are there to get around, get caught on?

It’s an emotional dive, for sure. For some, it’s a simple exercise in exploration. For others, it’s the opening of a whole new world. Sometimes a stirred-up memory can be like sharp, jagged metal ripping a hole in the skin. Other times, as the darkness presses in, claustrophobia sets off intense fear. What about the monster hiding around the corner? Is it that one that hunted you as a kid?

My favorite poet is David Whyte. He likened inner work as going down into the well and digging through the muck. (Your own personal well inside you.) That's been my favorite analogy for years because it IS like going way down into my inner well, deep within my abdomen which can feel like a bottomless pit at times. And now with this deep-wreck diving analogy, I can see myself swimming down dark corridors filled with dangerous obstacles and sometimes feeling I'm never going to get out and I'm going to drown in my own stuff.

But then my hand reaches into the gooey silt and I pull out treasure! That makes it all worthwhile. I’ve gained a better understanding of myself. I’ve learned. Another step in the journey to whole-heartedness.

As with deep-wreck diving and doing inner work, there are men and women willing to take those risks. WE take those risks whenever we go down (or back to our younger years).

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Handling Multiple Projects

Once more I was stressing over all the projects that are in process. There are so many I feel I’ll never get any of them done … and sometimes I let those worries spiral downward. I keep thinking how I have so much to do … over-thinking instead of doing. I let myself get depressed over it and end up not working on any of the projects.

Yesterday the writing muse was calling me. I have three books in the works and I haven’t worked on any of them in a long time. But if I work on the books, how will I find time to paint? And if I paint or write, how can I get the outside garden/house projects finished? Oh, the dilemma.

It’s important to reel in those downward spirals and remember my journey to live whole-heartedly. I realized: Instead of stressing about all the unfinished projects, choose ONE to focus on at the moment! It doesn’t mean I have to finish it in that one time-frame. Working on it will get me closer to getting it done. That one step closer is an accomplishment! Those single steps, one at a time, will eventually get me to the goal.

"The Hill" Pastel on BF Rives paper
I'm debating whether to call this finished.
I also must celebrate each of those little steps! Even if I just paint a few leaves on a tree or add another cloud to the sky. Even if I only write one paragraph. Even if I only take time to deadhead the petunias. Each small step needs to be acknowledged and celebrated to fuel the fire to continue.

And, I have to admit, it is easier to do more on a project today when I look back at what I accomplished on it yesterday. Today looking at that cloud I added to the painting gives me a new perspective. Re-reading the paragraph I wrote yesterday may give me the next direction to take the writing.

A new day, fresh eyes, and I’m ready to dive in on today’s chosen project.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Loss of a Friend

Today my heart mourns the loss of a friend. My heart struggles with the loss, almost to the point where I can’t take it. He was one of the nicest, kindest men I know.

My mind and heart are numb. I just want to sit, stare at a wall, and cry. But I do my laundry, read and send email, and pat the kitties. I think about projects needing to be done, and life, my life, goes on.

It’s funny because I can almost always talk about a myriad of emotional subjects, even death, but when someone close passes, I’m at a loss for words. My brain and heart empties and I am nothing in these moments. Maybe it’s my way of dealing with grief – by not being able to feel, although tears fall. After all, what can you say that hasn’t been said and that others are already saying.

I think about other losses: my mum – mum who was my rock – my aunt, my dad, others. I think about my own eventual passing. The loss, the emptiness, being alone – it all weighs heavy in this moment. I wonder who else will go before me.

Perhaps I’ll go out this week and purchase a new flower and plant it in his name.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Adapting to Life Changes and Embracing Living in the Moment

After over a month of depression, I am feeling much better. Every time I go through one of these cycles, some insight comes out of it; usually in the form of a poem. This time, there is no poem. Instead …

Yesterday I got up realizing my lesson for the day was “As much as I try to live in the moment, I get annoyed when my daily routines are interrupted.” Hmmm, what’s that say about routines and spontaneity? Me, who for many years claimed to practice spontaneity! Where did that go? What happened to living in the moment and enjoying the gift of life?

A few months back I had written: I don’t want to be so rigid in my routine that I can’t be flexible. But I continued to be frustrated when distractions interrupted my routines. I was mostly doing what I wanted to do, but the order in which I was doing my regular routine and the timing was off and that was driving me crazy. The big question is: Why let it upset me? What does it matter? And, who cares?

Today, in continuing the climb out of the black hole I let myself fall into the past couple month, I reach the rim and pull myself onto solid ground. I am determined to practice living in the moment and not be frustrated that my routine isn't exactly on schedule. Yes, I am older; my body aches and my brain too easily feels overwhelmed. I cannot do what I used to do in a timely manner (or some things not at all, ha ha).

That’s not an excuse to give up or not care. That means I have to figure out a way to do things MY way and in my own time; a way that works for me mentally and physically.

Others talk about doing things in “baby steps.” Maybe I could find different words or phrases to describe how I'm doing the work. I really don't want to say "baby steps" because I'm not a baby and I don't want to feel I'm babying myself. I'm just taking better care of myself physically and mentally. (That's important – care of the physical and the mental!) But I don't know what to call it yet.

Work the past couple of years has been done in shorter intervals over a longer time-period. I use the gardening time as a break from the “thinking” work of editing and writing. And a break doesn't necessarily mean doing nothing. It could be working on a different project to exercise other aspects of my being. For instance, after doing so much writing/editing work, get up from the chair and go outside to do a little physical gardening, or go in the studio and paint.

At first, I set specific time limits, but that added a pressure to either sticking to the time or feeling guilty if I cut it short or go over. (Going over meaning I short on the next project.) So, if I really want to practice being in the moment, that means listening to my body and mind. The key is doing so much and knowing when to back off and do something different. It means working until mind and body says rest, then taking a break and not feeling guilty. I do a little here, a little there, and eventually things get done. At this point in my life, it doesn’t matter if garden work isn’t fully done all in one day or if the painting gets finished today.

Maybe today I am only physically able to do 20 minutes in the garden, but tomorrow I might be out there an hour. When I'm standing at the easel and my legs and back start to ache, I can go sit at the computer and do some writing. It doesn't matter how much time I was there. And it’s not just the physical aspect, but if my mind starts getting frustrated, as when a tough piece of writing when the words won’t come or on a painting and I’m just not liking the results, that’s an indicator to do something else. 

Yes, listening to the self. After all, I live and work from home. Yes, there is a weekly deadline for the newspaper and I have an occasional deadline for an art show or an appointment, but the in-between times are very flexible. I can still do my morning routine, but it doesn't have to be exactly 1, 2, 3. Maybe today I did 1 and 3, then 2. Instead of having kitty play when Leo comes in for second breakfast, both kitties want catnip play after first breakfast.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Beginning Discussion on Suicide

I’ve been having some conversations about suicide lately. There are lots of opinions and beliefs out there, but I see no real discussion. It’s a touchy subject and one most people don’t understand. And, of course, in the past, it wasn’t mentioned hardly at all. It wasn’t talked about because people believed it brought shame to families. It was whispered, rumored, but no one actually talked about it out loud. People even feared the word suicide.

Could it be the subject is too uncomfortable for people to talk about it? Unless it’s some celebrity, then it’s news. Some just brush it off by saying, “Why didn’t he seek help?” Others remark, “There are medications that would have helped her.” There’s the latest excuse, “It’s a mental health issue,” as if by blaming it on mental health makes those with “mental health issues” some kind of freak. Others will mention the misery it causes the family, especially if a note was not left leaving them wondering what went wrong and not knowing.

Whenever I hear of a suicide, my first thoughts are on the person. What made her feel there was no other way? What made him so unhappy he couldn’t deal with his life anymore? I want to know the story. I want to know why. Is suicide really more prevalent now or is it just we hear about it more. (I tend to think it’s the latter.)

What could have been done to help? Did she just need someone to talk to? Did he need someone to understand and accept him for who he was? Was she tired of being ridiculed and abused? Did he feel no one loved him?

As a person who has sometimes been on that edge, I understand. I understand how one can be so discouraged with life he can feel there’s no way out. I understand how someone can feel there is nothing left for her; there’s no reason for her to live. There is no purpose any more. Everything seems to go wrong. The frustration and grief with life is so overwhelming they can’t take it anymore. And the worst: Feeling no one understands, that no one will EVER understand what you are going through! That you are all alone in the world.

Sometimes I feel I’m walking a tightrope and one wrong comment or negative remark will throw me into the abyss from which I may never get out. We all go through hardships and challenges in life. When does it get to be too much? And all those well-meaning people willing to offer advice in those old clichés that can come off as sounding mean and uncaring to someone who’s depressed. Keep your chin up. Grow some spine. Get over it. Stop being so negative. You’re such an idiot. Oh, I have a whole list of those types of things. I bet you do, too.

Many of us grew up in a time where tough love was the way to encourage children to be strong. That works for some, but not all. Emotions aren’t always a comfortable subject. What parent wants to know their child is unhappy. What child wants to see mommy in tears or daddy in a rage. And what about peer pressure (which can happen at any age?) If you’re called a name often enough, how long before you believe you are what they call you? How many go through life trying to be what they feel others want them to be or expect of them instead of being the person they truly want to be?

Another point to consider is that people who are on that tightrope have to realize themselves how fragile they are and be willing to seek help. However, getting help isn’t easy. The cost of healthcare is out of control. What the medical profession puts people through does not help a person’s mental state of mind. Then there are those who might think they are not really “sick,” so why spend the money.

One of my big questions is: Is suicide really a mental health issue? And usually, when people make those comments they’re kind of saying it in a derogatory way, the way kids used to say years ago, “He’s a retard,” almost insinuating that people like that should be locked away and forgotten – let some “professional” deal with it. (I put professional in quotation marks as a sign of sarcasm.)

And, are medications the answer? I’ve heard many say, “Oh, I feel so much better since taking …,” and I’ve also heard the same comments from people who take other drugs. “It makes me happy.” I’ve always questioned why anyone needs to take drugs to be happy – and that could only be because I’ve never wanted to do that. As I’ve never wanted tobacco or alcohol in my system. (OK, I do have an occasional beer, glass of wine, or a rum drink.)

I’m not saying the medications are wrong, but with the number of people on the drugs … I can’t help but wonder what purpose (or whose) it’s really serving. Granted the people who are depressed are benefiting, but …

But then, there are people who really do have serious mental health problems. There are people who need serious medications, and again, sometimes getting help is near impossible. I once worked with a woman who was diagnosed as bi-polar. She struggled horribly because the medical profession could never get her drugs right. About a year later, she committed suicide because she couldn’t take it anymore.

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers, of course. Instead of medicating the problem, could we solve the issue or some of the issues? I just can’t help thinking that with dialogue, listening to people non-judgmentally and compassionately, and taking the time to talk before someone reaches that desperation point that it would help. I feel the same about this opioid epidemic. Instead of spending money on all these rehab places and trying to save people who might not want to be saved, how do we stop the problem before it begins?

This all said, I’m sure there has been all kinds of medical research. But that’s on a medical point of view. What about the every-day person? Those of us who dealing with every day life between self, family, and friends.

In my quest to live whole-heartedly, there are times when I struggle to balance disappointment and frustration with the beauty of life. I believe that kind conversation is a key.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Attempting to Change History

A news report this morning talked about some people wanting to change the name of Faneuil Hall in Boston because the original builder, Peter Faneuil, was a slave trader in the 1700s. Faneuil Hall was built with money earned in that trade.

This announcement set off a stampede of thoughts in my brain. This, along with recent years’ attempts at taking down statues and changing other names that have been part of American history since the country’s beginning is not right in my book. History cannot and should not be changed!

I certainly don’t condone slavery or oppression of any kind, but I do have a problem with people trying to change history. Slavery is a terrible thing and still goes on in some parts of the world. As long as there are people who have the money and believe they are better than and want control of others, there will be some kind of slavery/oppression.

The only thing about history that should be changed is that more truth should come out. Most history books were written by those … I suppose you could say … more in control at the time. American heroes were made out to be heroes, and most of us grew up believing those men to be heroes. However, as time goes on, we are learning they were just men (mostly men), and as humans, they had their flaws, were not perfect, and often were not very nice.

Our founding fathers, because they owned slaves, are they bad men? They believed they were right and they helped build America on those beliefs. We can’t change that, and the changing of building and place names and destroying statues is not going to change that! What’ll be next? Changing the names of cities and states if they were named after slave holders?

What is the cost of making changes to be “politically correct?” It’s expensive to change names. Think about it: legal fees, signs, advertising, etc. What about the cost of destroying statues? Will that solve the issues of the past? Will that really make people feel better? Is that where money needs to be spent? If not, how can we better tell stories to learn by them?

Side note: When I was in school, I remember very little about discussion of slavery. It was all about the white-man heroes and slaves were needed on the plantations. Yes, there were some books and movies, but none of those showed the human reality.

Along a dyke at Magnolia Plantation, S.C. One either side, the
duck week filled swamps were once rice fields. 
It wasn’t until I was later in my years, and visited plantations in South Carolina, that I got a view of what slavery really meant and was like. Seeing the land, the tiny slave quarters that an entire family might live in, the land/fields/swamps, bugs, disease, etc. really affected me. The diverse difference between the plantation owners’ home compared to the slaves’ shacks and physically being on the properties and feeling the heat and hearing tour guides discuss the reality of life in the south brought it home to me. This was something more than just reading words in a book.  And why isn’t this side taught in history books?

It’s a part of U.S. history! It’s an important part of history and should be told, not erased. Oppressing parts of history is one way of condoning and hiding what happened and that’s not right, either.

So, what can be done? One way could be in the teaching of history itself; rewrite the old history books that told a one-sided history and make it feel more real. Use the past, “this is what happened …” and then discuss why slavery was wrong and perhaps discuss what might have been done instead. (And it’s not just about slavery, but about Native Americans, too!) Change plaques on statues to give more truth to the actual history and the person. This was then, now we know … Stop the propaganda!

One of my favorite things in traveling is reading storyboards. Start adding more to the storyboards. Tell both sides of a hero’s story. He accomplished such and such, but he also … and admit what he did to accomplish some of his feats that might not really be so heroic. Offer more stories in some of the wonderful things slaves did for this country; what they brought here, their knowledge, songs, crafts, their perseverance, etc.

Personalize some of them. They were not just slaves! They were individual men, women, and children. Put names to them. So and so was a good woman, raised her family as best she could, took care of her mistress. She learned to and brought her expertise in … He was a hard-working man who brought his knowledge of crop growing to this country. They don’t have to be elaborate stories, just a simple acknowledgement of a person.

It’s history, and we should be learning from history, telling its truth, and not destroying it! Maybe, too, instead of trying to change the past, we should be taking the lessons and putting energy into making a better future for America. Use the past to make a better America!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An Unanticipated Memorial and Childhood Recollections

I wanted to get down to Salisbury Beach Reservation for my mum’s birthday in April, but the weather then didn’t cooperate, and May was taken up with a big work project. This week, with the project finished up except for a couple stragglers to come in, I figured I could take Wednesday for the adventure.

However, I crawled out of bed yesterday up in the air about it. I’d lost the enthusiasm about going. There’s so much at home that needs doing. Do I bother taking an entire day to go to the coast? Plus, those who might come on an adventure with me were unable to which meant I would be alone.

I was hesitant, but it was a beautiful day for a day trip. The sun was shining, and temperatures were predicted to reach 80 degrees. A great day for the beach, so after breakfast with friends, I headed for the coast. The last few times I’d gone, I took Route 101E to I-95S to the Salisbury, Mass., exit. This time I decided to take the Exeter exit off 101 to visit areas where I grew up.

Buildings I remembered from younger years seemed more rundown. Businesses changed, new facilities are built, but there was still familiarity. A couple areas seemed unchanged except trees were bigger making roads feel smaller.

Then I got on Route 150 heading towards Kensington. Stronger snippets of memories flooded me. I remembered when that building was a restaurant. Years later a little girl drowned there. They lived across the river. Her mother babysat my kids. (Thankfully, my kids weren’t there that day.) It was so horrible.

Driving past the marsh, I remembered when I was really, really young, a fire burned through the entire swamp from one road to another. I remember the family waking in the middle of the night to the sound of sirens. (Hmm, maybe this is why the sound of sirens always bother me.) And although we lived on the other side of town, the smell of burned wood permeated for days.

Other names came to mind. Are these families still around? Do relatives still live there? What was once the town store is now a café. The church and town hall look run down. I passed the old cemetery and approached the newer one. It dawned on me this adventure was turning more into a memorial than just an adventure to Salisbury. Should I visit my dad? I don’t know if I’ve ever gone back to that cemetery since his funeral. The car turned in the small dirt path next to the old grange hall. Could I even remember where his grave is?

I pulled into the last crossroad before the woods and got out. I think it’s around here and was just beginning to think memory failed me when I found the Brewster plot. Yes! I found dad’s grave. His, and my uncle’s, had American Legion little flag holders and both had a small American flag waving in the breeze.

When we were little, the elementary kids would place these flags on veterans’ graves during the Memorial Day town parade. Do children still do this? It’s not Memorial Day yet.

I said some prayers to the family and spent a little time with dad. I thanked him for being a good dad and a good man.

Leaving the cemetery, I looked across the street to the library. It looks the same as when I was a kid. How many times did I climb those steps and go through those big doors?

I turned down Trundlebed Lane. Oh, I walked and biked this road so many times! There used to be an old, dilapidated blacksmith shop on the corner. It was caving in, and a friend and I found a bunch of horseshoes which we hid out by a small pond. The building was torn down and a bigger pond built for use by the fire department. We never went back for the horseshoes … at least I didn’t, I don’t if she did.

The surrounding landscape looks totally different now. The fire pond is longer and farther up the road, a huge, fancy town park has been built incorporating the old skating pond in the woods. (This was my favorite place to ice skate as a kid.) On the other side of the road, which was mostly just woods, now looks to have walking trails. The old Rev. Sawyer home is now gone. The plot of land where dad once had a big potato field is now a ball field.

Next up, the old farm we knew as Miller’s is still there, but more rundown. We used to cut from Cottage Road through edge of their field to Trundlebed Lane which saved time going up around to Stumpfield Road over to Trundlebed. Years later when they fenced in the field for horses, we cut through the woods coming out into where the park is now. Across from Miller’s, the old cow pasture from Schweizer’s Farm now has houses.

I took Stumpfield Road around to Cottage Road, passing the house my first husband lived in and remembering the parties we used to have at the Brown’s property on the corner. Are any of them still around?

The next corner, a very sharp, almost 90 degrees, is where, on the left side of the road, we cut through the Miller’s property. On the inner side of the corner is the farm my dad was born at. The house doesn’t look the same at all and the barn is being dismantled. I was shocked to see most the outside siding and roof gone, gaping holes, no doors or windows …

Barn being dismantled on farm where my dad was born.
A man was working inside. I stopped and walked up the driveway and called to him. He came over and I explained about my dad. He said he is taking the building apart and repurposing what can be reused. I told him some of the history of the property, what little I could remember. I took a couple photos.

I drove past the house where I lived from age 13 to 17. I stopped and looked for the magnolia and other bushes my mum had planted. But it’s changed. My brother and his wife lived here after my mum, aunt, and I moved out. At that moment, nothing pulled my heartstrings.

Continuing down the street, I remembered other families. The homes still there with newer homes squeezed in here and there. Here was a place where a barking dog ran out and spooked the horse I was riding. She bucked, the saddle came loose and flipped under the horse, throwing me to the ground. The horse ran off. I was one huge hurting body for days!

The huge maples in front of what I used to think one of the prettiest homes on the street are gone. The house looks to be well-maintained, but I was surprised to see the frame of an old (but not old, old) of a shack still standing in the trees to the other side.

I was shocked at the condition of my childhood home.
Then there was my old house where I lived until I was 13. I could hardly see it! I expected the old brown shakes that my dad had put on. Instead it was a light gray, but the trees and vines were so grown up around it, I could hardly see the house. What happened? It’s obviously abandoned. I had to stop.

It’s funny, because I’d been thinking about this house lately. Mum had beautiful flower gardens here, with a large lawn going down the hill to dad’s vegetable gardens, and farther down, chicken coops. Beyond that was woods, brook, and pond. (What I remembered about this pond was playing tag in the winter on ice skates around the trees.) This was a time in life where mum played hide ‘n’ seek with us in the woods, we’d walk old logging trails (and later when we moved to that newer house up the street, we could loop around through the woods between the two places.)

But now … there is so much vegetation, I couldn’t even see where there had once been any lawn, let along flower gardens. Yes, there was a lilac bush and honeysuckle near the road. I don’t remember honeysuckle as a kid, but I remember the lilacs. A long huge swath of it grew along the driveway that went ¼-mile into the woods to another Sawyer property. (And the only way you would know there was once a driveway there was because of the old telephone poles along the edge of that property and the one next door. Which at the time we lived there was a field, part of which dad had more vegetable garden.

Somewhere along the years, the driveway had been paved and a huge two-story, two-car garage built. The driveway is all cracked with vegetation growing through and the garage is almost as grown in as the house.

(I am now kicking myself that I didn’t trespass, but that vegetation was so thick! I’m totally flabbergasted by it.)

The upper floor right window in back was my bedroom.
I walked out on the other side of the house, in the field. Wow, the field looks so much smaller than I remember. I looked for the big forsythia bush we used to play beneath, but that’s gone. There are huge maple trees … I remember climbing them – they were smaller. I took a photo to show my bedroom window.

I was tempted to walk farther down the field to see if I could see more of the old yard, but I wanted to move along. Before getting in the car, I carefully stepped through poison ivy to reach the lilac bush and broke off a couple of sprigs. The blossoms are fading.

I continued on to Seabrook with memories swirling. I drove this route for so many years on my way to the factory where I worked for almost 30 years. I turned right onto Route 1. Yikes, Seabrook has changed! Big box stores and businesses have swallowed smaller places which look a bit run down. Some businesses are still the same as I remember. Stop light after stop light and I was finally through and passing around the corner into Salisbury, Mass.

I decided that as this day turned more into a memorial than in just going to the reservation, I should go by my uncle’s place on Ring’s Island. A lot of the same buildings remain along Route 1 in Salisbury and again, the older ones are looking sad. Even Jim’s Auto Body is still there (where my first husband Bill worked when we first got married).

My uncle was harbor master here for over 30 years.
I made the turn onto Ring’s Island and almost drove by my uncle’s house (except I knew that was the house because of the corner!) Holy crap. The small garage has been turned into a huge fancy garage and the house has been so fixed up it’s got to be a multi-million-dollar property now. It’s stunning and beautiful!

There used to be only one floating dock.

I pulled into the parking lot for the pier. It’s wider than in my uncle’s time. I took time to photograph the plaque/memorial the town put up to honor him: “In Memory of Ray Flanders Harbormaster 1957-1995.” On “his” house side, saw grass has filled in the small beach where we learned to swim. I walked out to the end of the pier stopping to take photos. (I’m looking for scenes to paint.)

This was once my uncle's property. I didn't look like this back
then! We learned to swim here. No swimming now.
Years ago, there was one floating dock on the water accessed by a ramp that moved up and down with the tide. Now four docks with boat moorings between extend out into the river. There is a no swimming sign. I remember jumping from the pier and/or dock and swimming to shore.

I walked down the ramp and out to the end and back. I wished for someone to talk to, to learn how things are now. I sat on the pier to take some notes. The sun was hot, and I didn’t have on any sun screen. I returned to the car to continue on to the reservation.

I’ve told stories before of Salisbury Beach Reservation and how my mum spent her early years here. Their house was along the banks of the Merrimac River between Black Rocks Creek and the Atlantic Ocean before the government took their property by eminent domain. What’s now the reservation and campground was my mum’s and her siblings’ playground. It is here we took her ashes after she passed when she demanded to me to “go home.”

I drove in along a road that I remember from my mum taking me here as a child. I don’t know if it’s changed much. Now, of course, there’s the huge campground on the creek side and facilities and boardwalks over the sand dunes on the ocean side. I turned right towards the boat launch on the creek stopping for photos. Unfortunately, the tide was out so there were no good water scenes.

Butler's Toothpick
I pulled into the first space at the boat launch parking lot closest to the path to Butler’s Toothpick, grabbed my camera and walking stick and headed out along the trail. The paths are well marked. It’s important to stay off the dunes. Again, I stopped often for pictures, and as I reached the beach area, I chatted with a woman about mothers and childhood homes.

Through the dunes.
There were people fishing, sunbathers, and dog walkers. Boats and jet skis were in the river. The water was a beautiful deep blue. I looked across to Plum Island and down river towards Newburyport. What a gorgeous spot!

The sand was very soft. Soft sand is difficult for most to walk in, but especially so for me. The sand gave way under my weight and each time jolted my body sending my back into spasm. My right hip also began to cramp. I managed to get photos of the toothpick, looking up the creek and along the Merrimac River.

Along Black Rocks Creek
I sat on a rock of the little jetty on with the toothpick is perched and took a few notes. I wanted to feel my mother but couldn’t. It was like she wasn’t there. I came here for her, for her memory. Well, there were plenty of memories, but I couldn’t feel her presence. I told her about the lilacs I picked for us.

I started to head towards the rocks closer to the mouth of the river where the seals hang out, but the soft sand was too difficult to walk in. I had to turn around. It was agony; three baby steps, pause, all the way back to the car. It was disappointing. I wanted to walk so much more. Twice people passed me asking if I saw the seals. I was sweating by the time I got to the car and had an awful time getting my legs in. Drat. My plan to stop oceanside would have to be postponed to another time. At this point, there was no way I could walk out to the ocean from one of the parking lots even along a boardwalk.

Yes, disappointing. Oh, this getting old. Still, I got down there. I know even though I didn’t feel mum, she’d be pleased I visited. (And yes, I know, my mum is with me all the time.)

I left the reservation and drove north on Route 1A. Hampton Beach was beginning summer with bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic. There have been so many changes since I’ve lived in the area. Once through the beach proper, the drive is much more enjoyable. I continued into Rye but didn’t see any interesting spots for photos. I cut through some back roads in North Hampton to Route 1, then down to Route 101W.

I arrived home just after 4 p.m. My mind was on such a whirlwind of emotions all day. I couldn’t process it. There are always so many “I wish I had …” but this just means I have to make other times … or not. I did what I could. It really was a good memorial. Hey, how many lifetimes can I cover in one day.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Importance of Visualization

Today I was reminded of the importance of visualization. I’ve meditated for years and I practice living whole-heartedly, but I struggle with visualization. I realize I, once again, have to change how I think about a subject.

Visualization isn’t daydreaming. Daydreaming is letting the mind ramble and that could go to bad thoughts as well as good. Visualization takes more effort because I have the power to control what I’m thinking about, and how I think about it! I have to take that power and use it to good. That means ceasing any negative thoughts the minute they creep in and redirecting them to how I want to be and live. And making myself FEEL I’ve already achieved my goals. 

It sounds simple, and in way it is, but it’s also work. It takes practice. It’s work to stand up to the negativity that swirls around. It’s work to stay positive when life throws obstacles in my path. It’s too easy to get caught up in negativity and give in to it. (And yes, there are days when I just mentally spiral downward.) Which is why, as much as I can, I avoid the news and media hypes. I try to avoid negative, woe-is-me, woe-is-the-world people, politics, and commericialism/advertising. But when I take my power and stand tall, oh, what a difference in how I feel!

Visualization is taking time each day to visualize how I want my life. It’s making myself feel I’m already there. (Yes, positive repetition to keep reminding myself of the good I want to achieve.) That doesn’t mean perfection, because there’s no such thing. That doesn’t mean I’m a Pollyanna. There are, and will be, days that are not so good. But I have the power within myself to bounce back up and be the me I want to be.

It is being the best I can be; respecting myself and others. It’s looking for the beauty around me and creating beauty (which I try to do through my writing, painting, photography, and gardening). It’s giving a kind word, positive feedback, and support when I can. It’s being as courteous as I can be, and when my tolerance level drops, it’s time to turn and walk away.

Visualization is one aspect of living whole-heartedly. Visualization helps me stay on my path. Visualization helps me stand strong.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dressing for Respect

Today I want to cover a topic that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve noticed how people dress often plays a part in how they act. Friends and I have been discussing this lately. We lament about today’s styles and wonder how attire reflects on respect towards self and others. Does the lack of “respectable” style have something to do with how people behave nowadays?

Pele always dresses in style 
We talked about the different fashions we grew up with and how they changed. Some of us remember a time when girls couldn’t wear long pants to school; dresses only. I remember hating being forced to go outside for recess in the winter because my legs would be so cold. Then when mini-skirts became popular, teachers would make us kneel on the floor and they’d measure to the edge of our hems. If your hemline was more than 2 inches from the floor, they’d make you go home to change.

Those were also times when employees of businesses (they weren’t called “associates” back then) dressed nicely. Boys/men wore suits or, at least, nice sweaters and ties. Girls and women wore dresses that weren’t too revealing. Hair styles had to be professional. People were courteous and were taught to be helpful to customers. The customer was priority. And yes, certain jobs require particular attire. But there was a general feeling that there was more caring between people.

Times changed. People changed and insisted on a more casual dress code. They wanted to dress for themselves and show their personal style. Employers started to ease up. Many still have some kind of a dress code in that their employees wear company T-shirts. But have the times gone from one extreme to the other?

Looking nice doesn’t necessarily mean dressing fancy or owning expensive clothes. (Here’s where I’m probably really going to show my age.) To me, there has always been something appealing about well-dressed people. (Remember ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man?”) That doesn’t mean I think people should always wear shirts and ties. There is something sexy about a guy in well-fitting jeans and a nice T-shirt or even a flannel shirt. And a little dirt doesn’t hurt if he’s a hard-worker. A woman in a dress or pants and shirt that is flattering to her body-type is also beautiful. (And that doesn’t mean shockingly skin tight showing every bulge and blemish or having half her body hang out!) 

Then there’s attitude. People nicely dressed carry themselves in a more self-assured, strong but gentler, manner. (That’s self-assured, not cocky.) They often act with a panache that is comforting. The attire reflects respect of self and respect of others. When you feel good about how you are dressed, you’re more apt to be nicer to others. You can wear comfortable clothing, be stylish, and look and feel good.

When and what made the change? Is it only to appease the young? Is it the continual rebellion of the young to make their statement to the world? Is it the big business marketers feeding the rebellious frenzy of the young? (Big business who makes billions off consumers!)

I try hard to respect others’ choices. I try hard to allow people their individual styles, but it seems that wearing ripped and/or dirty-looking clothing brings about an almost demeaning sense of attitude ... of self and to those they encounter. It’s sending a message that they don’t care what they look like – and their attitude reflects that because they always act on the defensive. They develop an angry, negative demeanor in aura and stance. And how can you say baggy pants with the crotch between the knees is sexy and appealing? 

The hate and anger in the country scares me. The lack of respect for one another saddens me. I wonder, if people dressed like they cared about themselves, others, and life, would that change? If schools helped teach respect and self-esteem, instead of having to focus on national scores and political correctness, if our kids would grow up feeling more self-assured within themselves. If kids were taught how to dress for their body-types, and how to accept the many types of body-types (instead of feeling they all have to have the model-type anorexically-thin bodies), would they grow up with better self-esteem?

As I ponder all this, I wonder where this comes into my goal of living whole-heartedly. How does living whole-heartedly fit in with how one dresses? 

Perhaps it’s just about my goals for myself; being true to myself. I’m not a martyr. I’m not physically pretty. Fancy dressing doesn’t work on my body type. I don’t go anywhere where I need to “dress-up.” 

Being true to myself means accepting who I am and finding clothes that look OK for my body-type/size. It means not forcing myself into clothes that are uncomfortable, so I can be “in-fashion.” I can work, move around, dance, paint, whatever, and my clothes work with me. 

Living whole-heartedly means wearing clothes that reflect a self-assurance and comfortableness for who I am. I don’t have to put on “airs” or pretend I’m somebody I’m not. I am comfortable within myself, and others are comfortable around me. 

Life is good when I’m living whole-heartedly!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Writing on an emotional level

“Emotions drive my writing. If I don’t feel it, I can’t write it.” --SW

This past week I returned to writing the book I’d put aside last winter. Emotions drive my writing. If I can’t feel it, I can’t write it. This puts my writing style a little outside the box for conventional publishers. I feel my way through the writing, and I write in first person. 

I have a couple of theories of why I’m compelled to write this way. 
  1. 1. My goal is to be honest in my writing. I don’t want to hide or sugar coat. I want to tell it like it is, like it happened from my point of view. 
  2. 2. These are my stories, my feelings in the moment, yet I also believe many people have similar emotions. Perhaps, in my daring greatly to be vulnerable, I can say what others may not be able to express.
  3. 3. This emotional honestly is a release. By my telling my truth, I am not letting issues stew inside.
  4. 4. I feel better when I’m able to express my truth.
  5. 5. The writing, and seeing the written word of my feelings, helps me better understand myself and the human condition. It helps me figure things out … or just tell my story.
  6. 6. A final belief/hope is that whatever lessons I learn from life might be passed to others or at least help others find a key to their own answers.
It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. This doesn’t solve problems, but in my quest to live life whole-heartedly, it’s one more aspect in standing up for who I am, for daring greatly to speak my truth, and further work towards being a better person.

As for my book? I continue to struggle to figure out how to present my vision. Every time I think I have it figured out, and I’m writing the book I want to write, self-doubt sets in. The over thinking confuses me and my brain spirals around. 

The hardest part is not having an advisor/mentor because there’s no one I know doing it like I do. I rely on prayer and meditation and hope when I get those flashes of inspiration, I can get it written down before it bursts into a cloud of smoke and disappears.

I believe. I’ll get it.