Young at brain

I started this post early last week then got caught up in several projects we have going on around here and totally and completely forgot to finish it. Ironic considering the title.

When I am NOT forgetting things, I have been TRYING to keep my brain young. This doesn’t mean taking Ginko supplements (though maybe I should!) or doing Suduko (even my best young brain couldn’t do that).  It means I have been trying very hard to not catch myself saying things like, “when I was young we had more sense than that”, or “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” (Just how old IS that saying? Who even knows what a hand basket is anymore).

I remember hating to hear old(er) people rant and rave about the younger generation as if the young uns just invented stupid. Stupid has been around a long time and is not limited to a post baby boomer age group.

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So, I have been trying to look at the world through younger eyes and see what is going on out there. I listen to my kids and other young adults I run across to get a perspective that I do not generally glimpse in my everyday life.

In many ways I think the 20 somethings will be smarter in the long run than my generation. They recently watched their parents navigate the Great Recession and are more careful with their money.  At least my kids have realized that McMansions are not the great investment the Baby Boomers thought they were. They are also much more aware of the environmental impact we are wreaking on earth. They live in a global world. My generation at best had a national world or regional world. Our perspective on life in another country may have come from a pen pal you wrote once a month or saw a little of on the nightly news.  I now keep up with numerous people daily all over our amazing dot via Instagram. How freaking cool is that!

I listen to friends complain about how bad, lazy, uninformed, etc. young people are.  First, I remember how utterly boring the news was until I reached the age of tax paying! Second, I have the amazing pleasure of spending one week each year with high school and college age young adults. In that week they repair around seven homes for people who do not have the financial and/or physical ability to make their homes safe, warm and dry. This is done in 90 degree heat and usually involves mud and bugs as well. And unlike many adults they do not complain!  Five straight days of sleeping in a gym, enduring subpar showers, generally not eating as much as they like and NO COMPUTERS. All this is handled with good humor and patience.

From my perspective, if these amazing young people don’t catch the “we have alway done it this way” disease from us, we have hope for the future. They despise our political system and well they should. Our Constitution has been whittled away at by both parties. Hopefully these bright and compassionate up and comers will clean up the mess.  I don’t believe they are as influenced by money and power.  They have seen what it does to society.

Not only do I want to stay young at heart as the years continue to pile up, but I want to stay young at brain.  I don’t want to shut down fresh ideas or not listen to and consider the views of our younger generations. They have such a different world than the one I came into.  I think it is going to fall on their shoulders to save the human race if the current powers that be don’t destroy it first.

Photo by Tyson Dudley

Life – Phase 4

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Slowly but surely some semblance of order is taking shape around here.  I say that while our washing machine sits in the kitchen.  The laundry room is getting it’s new floor finally.  The whole floor tiling ordeal began because of the laundry room when there was water damage from our leaking hot water heater.  I have been looking a subfloor all these months and am beyond ready to have that covered up.  Then, all I have left is our powder room.  You would think a tiny little bathroom would be easy, BUT I wanted a new cabinet in there and if you are going to have to take up the toilet, you might as well replace the child size one with an adult size one.  So, this week there has been a chunk of bathroom improvement shopping.  Our poor bank account!

I titled today’s post “Life – Phase 4” because as I settle into my new life I realized that we don’t actually break our lives down into neat little bits anymore than life ever goes completely aggravation free even during the best parts.

In my head, Phase 1 was childhood through my early 20’s, Phase 2 was married life and early motherhood, Phase 3 was divorced and single mom and now I am at Phase 4, remarried and empty nest.  There are varying numbers of years in each phase, but the common denominators are big life changes.

How many times do you hear people refer to their lives as, “after I got married”, “when my second child was born”, “after I lost my job”, “when Mom was sick”, or “after my husband died”?  The big, pivotal life events are our markers.  Sometimes we can’t even remember the year all that clearly, but the event is burned in our soul.

These time markers aren’t planned either.  I’m sure the 2016 Summer Olympians will always mark these couple of weeks on their life calendars, but I suspect they will not actually be the beginning of a new life phase.  Probably in many cases it will be a moment like, “the first time I swam the length of the pool when I was seven” or “after my shoulder injury I had to make up my mind to keep going”.  Time markers are deeply relational and/or deeply emotional.

Sometimes we get stuck in a phase.  I know people who seem to be stuck and unable to move forward in life because of grief, unforgiveness or fear. In limbo is not a good feeling. I have been there.  The problem is that you can’t rush it, but you do have to deal with it.  Head on.  Running away or avoiding just makes it worse.  Wallowing in it should only be allowed for a limited time. Two weeks most likely, not two years.  People start avoiding you if you wallow too long.

If you have some down time this week, kick back and think about your life phases.  Enjoy the memories of the good ones and pat yourself on the back for surviving the bad ones.  If you are in a bad one, be good to yourself and know that you will get through it. You probably have some work to do, but are capable.  Don’t think you aren’t and there are people who can help if you need it.  We all do sometimes.  Life ain’t for sissies!

Have a great week!  I am working on my writing skills and subjects, so if you have suggestions or ideas please let me know.

 

Photo by Brooke Campbell

Expect the unexpected

This was my last week at my job as office manager for our local community theatre.  On May 1st my plan was to stay for another year.  On May 2nd I found myself making new plans.  Life happens that way.

For almost ten years I have worked two jobs.  I will now be down to just one job and that one is my business.  For the first time ever I will be able to put in the time on work that I have always wanted to do.  I’m just totally blown away by this.  I can hardly wrap my mind around it!

There are piles of sketch books and reference photos that have been growing for almost 30 years just waiting.  And waiting. And waiting.  Now it’s time.  Holy cow!

Of course I have to unpack everything as I move to my new home, finish the last minute details of our wedding and go on a mission trip before I actually get to enjoy this new life/work situation.  The slight delay is probably a good thing.  Hopefully by June 27th I will have had enough time to adjust and make some sort of schedule instead of just walking around in a daze wondering what to do next with all this time on my hands.

There is also that problem of actually having a place to work.  Right now that room is piled high with boxes.  Ahhhh, motivation to go unpack….NOW!!!

Have a great week! Next week I may be missing in action.  Please forgive a girl for not getting her blog written two days before her wedding.

Photo credit

Hands

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Most of us come into this world with two hands and ten fingers. Once the early infant discovery of our hands and their abilities is over we give little thought to the miraculous appendages that serves us so well in our lifetime. Now, at the age of 53, I am deeply appreciating what my hands have allowed me to do.

I do not know how far back the genetic disposition to arthritic thumbs and fingers go in my family, but I have seen my Dad struggle with it for many years. Since my late 40’s my thumbs have given me increasing pain and this year every finger has expressed its displeasure in the tasks I put upon it.  It is a rare day that there is no pain now.

All these 50+ years I have been blessed with the finest motor skills in my hands.  In one of my many retail jobs the jewelry department would bring me all their tangled, knotted necklaces for me to carefully unbind after they discovered I had the patience and motor skills to work the tiny chains apart. My hands have allowed me to make almost anything I wanted to make from pottery, clothing, embroidery, Halloween costumes to jewelry.  I have used them to repair my home and car as well as dig in the earth for my garden and train delicate tendrils of vegetables and flowers onto a trellis.

I have braided my daughter’s silky hair, buttoned tiny baby buttons and trimmed tiny baby fingernails.  I have doctored many scrapes and bruises on young knees and elbows, stroked the soft fur of many loved pets and chopped thousands of vegetables to feed my people.

All of this I took for granted.

No longer will my hands go unappreciated.  As a “Do-er” not a “Be-er”, I am struggling to learn how to sit with my hands at rest. No more can I mindlessly keep my hands busy while a movie or TV show is on.  No more can I ask my hands to move heavy tile for hours and expect them to be able to still knit scarfs that night.

There are long standing activities that I am questioning now. My signature is no longer as pretty as it was, closer to a doctor’s scrawl, so writing is limited.  The crochet hooks may be retired soon.  Knitting is less painful, though even that will be pared down to what I truly enjoy making. My jewelry making supplies are likely to be given away after I squeeze out a few more pairs of earrings and my long time plan to learn the craft of stained glass work probably is not going to happen.

Is there a positive side to the aging process?  I am finding that though there is a mourning process as the children leave the nest, the face in the mirror looks strangely different and the body parts become more vocal about their distress there is good in the transition.

Like the cleaning of a cluttered, heaped up closet it is cathartic to pick and choose the most important elements of your life.  What do you truly love to do?  What sooths the soul? What brings a smile? What brings the most good to you and others?

I can still paint and draw.  That makes me extremely happy and I am finding that the limitations of my hands are making my artwork better.  Now instead of getting sucked into the vortex of detail that has been my nemesis, I am forced to be looser and more expressive in my work.  I now question what is most important to be done before I tax the strength left in my hands.

I can still hold a baby and the hand of a toddler.  These are becoming increasing joys as D’s kids have kids and I look forward to the possibility of my own grandbabies in the future.  I can still hug and hold the hands of those I love.  As each year brings the loss of more special humans and animals in my life, a simple touch is precious and golden.

I can still play in the dirt and tend to the plants.  As long as the spot is large enough, sunny enough and nourishing enough the plants do not complain about how unwieldy my fingers are.  They respond to my energy and my commitment more than my finesse.

My hands have given and given and given over the decades.  They are asking for more gentle treatment and appreciation now.  They will no longer let me take them for granted and I concede they deserve better.  There are still many things I want to do and would like their cooperation for another 50 years.  From here on I will thank them for their service on a regular basis, listen when they ask for a rest and appreciate what they are willing to do with me as we head into our next half century!

Photo credit

She tells it like it is.

Since our last visit we had a major snowstorm. Well, major for my part of the world anyway. Five to six inches.  Everything came to a halt and it gave me enough time to read a book that I have had on hold for months with our digital library. Big Magic

If you haven’t heard of Elizabeth Gilbert, she wrote Eat, Pray, Love, and it was on the Best Seller list for ages.  That was my introduction to her and I have read the book twice.  The first time I read it I was smack dab in the middle of a divorce and single parenthood and still working with my ex in our business.  Life was not particularly good and I found an escape with Eat, Pray, Love.  I was not in a place where I could up and travel the world to recover from a bad life situation, but I darn sure wanted to! I read EPL again a few years later when the dust had settled and still loved the book.  I think it is Elizabeth’s honesty that I relish and found the same honesty in Big Magic.

You can also see Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talks on YouTube as well as an interview on Marie Forleo’s, Marie TV, YouTube station. Oh, and as a side note…I do not have any affilates with Amazon or anyone else for that matter. Now back to our regularly scheduled post.

If you need/want some honest advice about what it takes to live a “creative life” read Big Magic.  Ms. Gilbert has the street cred to give it. She doesn’t tell you to quit the day job and live your passion.  Instead she tells you to wait tables or make coffee. Not what most people want to hear. She also has a charming name for the not so great stuff that comes with life and how to decide just how badly you want to follow your dream. It is a short read, but packed with practical, down-to-earth advice.

One side note from personal experience…don’t go into a creative day job thinking it will be helpful in your creative after hours pursuits or close enough to your dream job to be fulfilling.  From someone who has done and is still doing it, eight hours of being creative for someone else doesn’t leave much left after dinner is cooked and the kids are in bed.  Some folks are made of hardier stuff than I am and can pull it out after all that, but I am pretty much at the zombie stage by 7 pm.  Wait tables or make coffee if painting, music, writing, etc. is coursing through your veins.

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures

that are hidden within you?”

After my major downsizing purge a few years ago and having hauled nine boxes full of books to donate to our library, I am very particular about what hard copy books come to live with me.  I try them out first from the digital library.  Big Magic was worth the wait and is now sitting on my wish list on Amazon. It will reside beside EPL in my office and I foresee frequent return visits when not-so-creative frustration sets in.

My plan was to give you an update on what I have been doing lately, but I got a little carried away here and suspect you are ready to move on to other things in your day. Remember hand dyeing, kitchen cabinets and invitations for next time.

Have a lovely week!

Jumping

We are expecting our first big winter storm to start tomorrow.  The grocery stores are almost cleaned out of bread and milk already.  No, we don’t get piles and piles of snow here, but we do get ice and some snow.  Ice is much worse to try and function in plus there are always power outages.  We look crazy to our Northern friends, but if you have ever had to spend a few days or even a week or more without power you will understand.

This week has been a little difficult.  It has been one of those weeks when things don’t go as planned and some situations need to be re-evaluated for the future.  A week full of frustration to be honest.  I happened to see this video on Facebook of Steve Harvey talking to his audience about taking a chance and jumping.

Normally I would view this video as a motivational speech, but for someone who has “jumped” several times in her career and personal life it was more a reminder to me that jumping can be painful at times.  A reminder that just because you got up the courage to jump doesn’t mean that the outcome will all be soft breezes and sunshine floating in your parachute.  Sometimes the parachute doesn’t open or you have to fly through a few storms.

Several times I have been asked  by people about how to start a business or if I thought they should. First, I find this interesting since I am not what you would call a role model for financial success.  I live very simply and accepted long ago that I did not pick a lucrative career.  It’s fun, but not necessarily a great money maker.  Second, I don’t tell these people what they want to hear.  I am all for doing what you want to do in life.  If working in a cubical is a soul sucking existence then find something else. Life is too short.  BUT, jumping is scary because it involves some high risks.  Don’t jump until you have looked at the ground with binoculars.  Know what is below you to the best of your ability.  There will still be things you don’t see coming, but learn what you can and take off the rose colored glasses.

I’m sounding like Debbie Downer today, but one of my saving graces in life has been my ability to see reality.  No fairy tales for me.  Jumping is exhilarating when you finally take that leap.  It is heart stopping.  It is breath taking.  It is also heart breaking, painful and to be horribly honest there can be a fatally hard and sudden stop.  Jump, but jump with a well prepared parachute, milk and bread.

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It can change in an instant

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I had the beginnings of three different posts started to choose from this week, but yesterday (Sunday) changed all that.  A friend lost her 28 year old son in an accident.  Another local family lost their son on Friday in a separate accident.  Life changed in an instant.

Even though most of you would not have known the difference it seemed insane to write about a favorite book or website in the aftermath of such shocking news.  My heart hurts and grieves for them. The clarity of the very few things of true value pierces through everything else right now.

I saw my friend as she expertly directed a wedding Saturday afternoon, laughed and danced at the reception and went home to be awakened by the phone call no one wants to get.

I got the news when I walked in the door at church to set up for the service Sunday morning.  There is some comfort in corporate grief.  After the announcement we all sat in silent prayer because our assistant minister could not get the words out without tears. We understood completely.  Our Senior Minister had gone into his office early that morning after he received the call and changed his sermon to one that spoke of grief, the stages of grief, and how to comfort the grieving.  For now, all we can do is wrap them in our prayers, words of love, embraces and provide what basic tasks they need help with.

Like most people who have had five or more decades on this tiny planet, I have had some painful losses.  It seems as one gains the wisdom of experience the more one realizes that there is only a miniscule amount that we have control over.  We can let that lack of control drive us mad (and we all know people who do) or we can learn to embrace the people and the moments tightly, knowing that nothing is guaranteed to be there in an hour much less the next day.

This may seem to be a depressing post today.  I don’t mean it to be, but a sadness grips me right now.  This same weekend I had the delight of seeing the grown and newly engaged, daughter of my late dear friend and college roommate.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, my former college suitemates and I had lost contact with CV after her Mother’s death.  She had been very young at the time.  For oh so many years we thought of her, wondered how she was and prayed for her a wonderful life.  Through the power of social media we found her again and she made the trip with her fiancé to NC for a visit and to learn more about her lovely Mom.  What a wonderful thing to see what a beautiful, sweet, smart, down-to-earth woman she has turned out to be.  It was one of those times to pay attention to and wrap your heart around.

If someone out there happens to read this who is grieving, my prayer for you is that there are people near you to give comfort and if not, you will find your way to someone or someplace that can.  So many people resist a place of faith now, but a good one can truly be a saving grace.

For anyone who is taking what and who is important for granted right now, my prayer for you is that you will become aware and rectify the situation before it’s too late.  Regret is a terrible, awful thing to live with.

Quit working extra hours to buy the boat and go home to read to your kids.  Put down the phone and see your friends face to face.  Spend time with your parents and listen to their stories. Play fetch with your dog for the thousandth time just to see his tail wag. Don’t put off what you love to do until later.  Later your eyes may not see or your hands may not work like they do now, kids leave home, parents pass, friends suffer in silence, dogs are not here nearly long enough.  These are hard earned words, don’t take them for granted.

2014… It’s gonna be a doozy.

Happy New Year!!

As often happens, I may have bitten off more than I can chew this year, but what the heck. It’s better than not having anything to do. To keep me focused I have taken on the Zero to Hero Challenge with the Daily Post here on WordPress. Today’s assignment is to introduce myself and even though I have had this blog going for a while, it’s probably the perfect time for me to update who I am and what I’m doing.

I often start with the title of “Mom”, but this Fall my two baby birds left the nest (more or less) and I have found that my twenty year, primary life focus isn’t as primary anymore. Now what? Well, like many empty nesters, I have gone deep into the archives and dusted off an old dream. To be honest, it’s wasn’t buried very deep, nor is it an old dream. It has lived just barely under the surface of everything else I have done for the past 25 years. What is this dream?

My dream is to finally have the time to focus on my artwork again. Since the time I could hold a crayon I could get lost for hours drawing my world and sometimes other worlds. Back before college I would draw almost daily. I got extra assignments in high school art class because that was “my thing” and I was good at it. I won art contests and doodled constantly in class (my art teacher was the only one who appreciated this). Then college rolled around and I was advised to “do something practical”. I conceded and focused on graphic design thinking this would be close to being an “artist”. Boy was I wrong! Fast forward through twenty-five years of design jobs, kids, marriage, divorce, self-employment, more jobs and only occasionally did I find time to do my creative work. Halloween costumes only partially count!

Now it’s 2014. Do I have less demands on my time? I have less demands by my kids, but I still run a design/printing business, have a home to keep up, a good man in my life, a part-time job with a community theatre, and parents who are starting to need help (though they haven’t admitted it yet). Next week my Mom has shoulder surgery, the following week my boyfriend has shoulder surgery also and I am in the middle of helping my daughter plan her May 2014 wedding. There is no good time. It’s now or never.

Since July I have finished one piece of art per month, which is way more than I have in a long time. Some have been personal projects, some business and some are very delayed pieces for friends. I hope to continue with basically that time frame. As a designer I was trained to work on deadline so that works for me. I have also opened an Etsy shop (search for BloomtownStudio) and hope to get a link on here soon. My business cards are done and I have many, many sketchbooks full of ideas I have been hoarding for a long time now. From here on I plan to start posting my work and whatever crazy stories are swirling around it and in my life.

Please forgive me any ranting and raving I do while my Mom and Boyfriend recover from their surgeries. I do not have a calling for the nursing field. This will test the patience of all involved. The wedding planning may have similar side effects. It’s going to be an interesting year.

Wishing you all a wonderful, wacky, fun and exciting 2014!
Christel