Tag Archives: blogging

…You Lose Some

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
– Robert Green Ingersoll

I’m a Loser.

loserThat’s right.  Capital “L” and all.  La-hooooo-za-heeer. (Said in my best Jim Carrey/Ace Ventura voice.)

I often blog about my writing successes on here.  Last year, I wrote about winning first place in the essay category at the Chautauqua Festival Creative Writing Competition.  Then, I went on to tell you about my first published work appearing in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and now I have a second story appearing in another Chicken Soup for the Soul book, which will be available in August of this year.  Pretty awesome stuff, huh?

But you know what I don’t often blog about?  All the other submissions I’ve sent in.  Or better yet, all the rejections I’ve received.  And trust me, there are PLENTY of them.

Yesterday, in fact, I received two rejections in one day.  That contest I won first place in last year?  Didn’t even place this year.  The next Chicken Soup for the Soul book that’s coming out after the one in August?  My story wasn’t chosen.  These are just two loser-ish examples (did I mention they happened in ONE DAY?) but there are many more where those came from.  I sent my boyfriend Richard a message yesterday saying “Okay, I’ve received two writing rejections in one day. Tell me I’m pretty.”  (Yeah, I probably won’t be winning any awards for my sense of humor anytime soon either…)

Why am I telling you this?  Well, after my rejection-filled day yesterday, something dawned on me.  I had some pretty good luck straight out of the gate last year.  Now, mind you, I’ve written all my life – as early as I can remember I was giving poems to people as Christmas gifts (did I mention that I’m also cheap?…)  But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started sharing my writing publicly- starting with this very blog site you’re looking at now.  After the positive feedback I received on my blog posts, I decided to take a chance at submissions.  Lo and behold, I won that essay contest (my first submission EVER!) and then it was shortly followed by a call from Chicken Soup asking to print the story I submitted to them. Whoa! Talk about your beginner’s luck! But soon after those first boosts to the ego, the rejections started coming in.  Magazines didn’t want my essays. I didn’t place in other local writing contests. My blog stats started dropping. And for a brief moment, I sort of felt like giving up.  But you know what?

I didn’t.

And why didn’t I?  Well, I was one of the lucky ones who had been blessed with the feeling of winning.  I knew that just because I “lost” a few times, that doesn’t mean that my stuff wasn’t “good.” It just didn’t get chosen this time.

I kind of have this theory.  I think every life is filled with a certain pre-destined number of wins and losses. And I’m not just talking about writing submissions here.  I’m talking about all that life has to offer – in your professional life, your creative life, your personal life – all of it. They’re not all going to be losses, but they’re not all going to be wins either.  As far as this writing thing is concerned, I was honored with a few of those wins upfront. But in other aspects of my life?  Those wins took a little while longer. I had to go through quite a few defeats before I got to the winning portion. In fact, I’m in the middle of a few defeats now.  But you know what gives me hope?

I know that my time to shine is coming.  I just haven’t gotten to the winning portion yet.

You get it?  You buying what I’m selling here?

We don’t always get the wins up front. But that doesn’t mean they’re not coming. It’s so tempting to give up, isn’t it?  It’s so hard to believe that the good stuff really is out there somewhere.  But it is.

It is.

A few years ago, after my second divorce, I had pretty much decided that a “win” in the love department wasn’t possible.  And then, out of the blue, I met Richard.  And you know what?  That wasn’t a “win” either.  Oh, it is now, don’t get me wrong.  But at first?  Phew.  Let’s just say ours isn’t your typical “their eyes met and it was love at first sight” story.  (Well, it was for one of us…but I won’t get into that right now…)  I could’ve given up on this too.  And trust me, I wanted to. But somewhere deep down, I had a feeling that a win was coming. And you know what?

I was right.

us3Richard and I have what I’ve only dreamed about in the past. I honestly had no idea that a relationship could be this good.  This sweet. This tender.  This supportive.  (WINNING!)  But believe me when I tell you this – it was NOT easy.  I had to take the losses before the win.  Sometimes that’s just how these things work.

I’m so very glad I didn’t give up.  Look at all the love I’d have missed.

Are you going through a loser phase right now?  Hang in there, my friend. I have a feeling a win may be just around the corner.  Just don’t give up before it gets here.

***

“Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.”
– Richard M. Nixon

Slippery Muse

“I feel like I am allowed to share with the world what I see.”
– Joel Robison, photographer

A while back, I saw the above quote when I was reading an article about Joel Robison, a photographer whose career had taken off practically overnight because of his photos that were noticed and purchased by the Coca-Cola company. While I’m not a photographer, that quote spoken by Joel with regard to his new booming career struck a chord with me. I knew exactly what he meant.  That’s how I feel about my writing – that beautiful feeling of seeing something and knowing that there is a story in it.  And then having the freedom and means to share that story with others.  I was excited to see someone put so simply into words exactly what I feel so often.  So, I quickly copied and pasted the quote into a new blog entry and saved it to my drafts to write about later.

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“Stuck Inside” by Joel Robison

And there it sat.

And sat.

*sigh*

And sat some more.

The quote was phenomenal and I knew I wanted to expand on it and blog about it, but I’ve just been kind of stuck.  Not only stuck on knowing what to write about regarding this particular quote, but just stuck in general.  I briefly mentioned my case of writer’s block in my last blog, but I sort of blamed it on how busy I’ve been lately.  (Which, mind you, I’m not saying doesn’t play a big role in it.)  But honestly, I don’t think that’s the only thing.  Once in a while, I just can’t quite grab on to that muse, you know?  I know she’s there.  She’s always there.  She sits there waiting patiently for me…whistling, twiddling her thumbs, trying not to be a nuisance.  But yet, for some unknown reason, my hands just can’t get the grip I need on that slippery little booger.  I try to reach for her, even think I’ve got a good hold every now and then, but lo and behold, she manages to slither right out of my hands. Oh, it’s not her fault. She hasn’t done anything wrong – hasn’t changed.

It’s me who can’t get a grip.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was honored to be a speaker at a local event called Night of the Spoken Word.  Eleven local writers were introduced individually and asked to read a 5-minute portion of one of their works. While I was excited to participate, I was also looking forward to the inspiration that I knew the night would bring.  For a writer stuck in a rut, there would be nothing better than to be surrounded by fellow writers – hearing their magical words flow through the room and feel them seep into my soul. I just knew this would be what would jumpstart my writing and get me back on track.

Well, guess what?  It didn’t.

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“Bookworm” by Joel Robison

Oh, I was inspired of course. I was in awe and full of admiration at all the talent that surrounded me, and beyond honored to be included among them.  But I got home and sat down at the computer and still…

Nothing.

Well, except maybe this one thing.

Something I had heard that night kept playing over and over in my mind. A fellow writer got up to read a poem he had written about a trip that he and his daughter had taken together when she was younger. As he gave the introduction to his poem – describing why he had written what he had – he said he had just had such a wonderful time with his daughter on the trip that when he got home, he sat down with pen and paper to write about it.  Specifically, the phrase he used was this:

I wanted to remember what that felt like.”
– Scot Pope

If it wouldn’t have been massively rude to whip out my cell phone during his reading, I would have done just that.  I would have went to my “notes” app on my phone and typed in what he said to remind me to go back and read it again later. (Oh, how many blogs I have written based on short, practically unintelligible “notes” from my phone…).  But, as luck would have it, I didn’t need to be rude and type it into my phone after all. I remembered it. I remembered it as I was leaving, I remembered it when I got home, and here I was remembering it almost two weeks later. I didn’t know why that meant so much to me, but it just wouldn’t leave my mind.

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“Short Stories” by Joel Robinson

And then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, one day it hit me.

Inspiration.

I hurried to my blog site and dug out that dusty old draft with the Joel Robison quote in it.  Looking at his quote, and comparing it with Scot Pope’s quote, I realized why I write. And realizing it made me appreciate it.  And appreciating it made me want to do it again. I hope these two remarkable, talented men won’t mind my combining their quotes by saying that writing, for me, is not only a way to remember what I felt when I saw something in this big, awesome world, but to also be able to tell people about it.  I feel something, and I no longer have to hold it inside.  I pour it out onto the computer screen, hit that little “publish” button, and suddenly, I’ve shared a piece of myself with you.  I’ve invited you into my memories.  Into my life lessons.

Into my heart.

Writing is who I am.  It just is.  When it’s missing, a piece of me is missing. And sometimes that does happen…sometimes I lose touch temporarily with who I am.  (As I’m sure we all are prone to do.)  But then, inevitably, Inspiration comes slipping in that door I left ajar yet again.  And quietly, without any noise or fanfare to speak of, she plants her little seed once more- whether through the eloquent words of a fellow writer, the majestic beauty of a talented photographer, or the kind words from a blog reader who lets me know that my words meant something to them – and I once again find myself back on the path towards home.

In closing, and as a thank you to each and every one of you, my vast array of seed-planters, I’d like to once again quote Joel Robison:

“So with that, I’d like to thank YOU for being a part of this big and small world. For looking at, enjoying, commenting and appreciating my work and what I do and for helping me find the path that I’ve found.”
– Joel Robison

Thank you all for your part in helping me to reach out and grasp that elusive muse with both hands, and hold her tight to me where she belongs. Thank you for helping me to find my way back to where I belong.  Thank you for helping me to remember who I am.

Ahhh.

All is well.

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“Wordly Balance” by Joel Robison

10-Minute Rule

“Each day should have a clearly marked emergency exit sign.”
– Dr. SunWolf

Whew. These past few weeks have been somewhat Stressful. (Yes, I capitalized stressful in that sentence. That word deserved a capital S in this case.)  Between work stress, financial worries, worrying over a friend’s medical issues…it just seems like it has been one thing right after the other. And amid all the stresses, there have also been time-consuming good things as well – softball games, getting a house ready for renters, taking care of that precious new puppy of ours, watching my handsome son turn 16.  All good things, of course, but whew….after a few weeks like this, I’m beat!

So, here I am (exhaustion-induced grumpy mood = check!) and suddenly it dawns on me.  I know what I’ve been doing wrong.

I have let my 10-minute rule slip.

10minuteruleWhat is the 10-minute rule?  So sweet of you to ask.

I have decided that there are a few things in my life that I absolutely love that are only about ME.  Sure, I love spending time with my family and with that wonderful man I love, etc. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the things that are about and for me only.  And for me personally, those things are acting, running, reading, and writing. (I’m guessing your list probably varies somewhat from mine.)  When I’m doing those four particular things, I am doing them for me only. They are the fundamentals of what make me me. They are my escapes, so to speak.  The places I go where I’m no one’s mother, sister, daughter, partner, employee, etc.  I’m just doing what I want to do…the things that I feel make me a better person because I’m being true to myself.

Well, obviously I can’t spend all day doing these things.  I have a job and responsibilities that I can’t neglect.  But a while back, I made a promise to myself that in every given day, I would make certain that I spent at least ten minutes every single day doing one of these four things.  A 10-minute soul tap, so to speak.

Now, luckily, I have four things on my list, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to find ten minutes in a day to do at least one of them.  Now granted, I can’t just jump on a stage on any given day and act for 10 minutes (I know some community theatres that would frown upon someone just showing up and doing a random 10-minute monologue during a performance), but I can pick up a book and read for ten minutes, right? That doesn’t require any special circumstances…just a book and some downtime. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not.  And these past few weeks have proven it.

I have not posted on this blog in two weeks. Two weeks. I think this may very well be the longest stretch of time I have gone without posting since I started this thing in February 2012. Not only that, but I haven’t been working on my novel either. (It’s starting to feel like I may possibly have an eight-chapter novel with a horrible ending sitting on my computer for the rest of my natural life.) My running has been very sporadic (too much on my mind to dedicate the time I needed to it), I’m not involved in any theatre shows at the moment, and I’ve been carrying around a book that I have barely cracked open at all.

And you know what?  It shows.

I’m stressed. I’m grumpy. I’m overwhelmed. And, of course, I’m no doctor by any means, but I wonder if maybe skipping that 10-minute rule of mine has something to do with that?  I’ve forgotten to “take my medicine.”  Forgotten my soul tap.  Forgotten to check in with me. Is that really why things have felt so haywire lately?  Heck, I don’t know.  But I don’t think I want to roll the dice anymore. I think it’s time to pick it back up and stick to it this time.

It obviously can’t hurt anything, right?

Anyone else out there need to implement your own 10-minute rule?  Hey, who knows? It may be just what the doctor ordered.

***

“Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”
– Chinese Proverb

Weed ‘Em and Reap

“Don’t water your weeds.”
– Proverb

Plant1Now, let me just start this blog out by letting you know that I know nothing – and I mean NOTHING – about gardening.  Or even about keeping a plant alive.  Case in point, the poor little plant you see here to the right.

*sigh*

This picture is the reason I’ve never had plants.  THIS is what happens to them.

Now, in my defense, this poor little fella got left behind in a major move.  My boyfriend Richard’s family did a little house swapping and then I followed close behind by moving into the home with Richard.  In the midst of all the moves, this plant was left sitting on a shelf by a window.  Neglected.  Once we got moved in and settled, I finally noticed the poor little fella and went to work on trying to save it.  I diligently remembered to keep it watered and turn it towards the sunlight, etc. etc.  And what happened?

Um, well, nothing.

The plant looked exactly the way it looks in the picture for months.  And yet – somehow the parts that were alive (or at least I assume they were – they were still green), just kept going amidst all the dead stuff.  So, finally, it dawned on me that maybe I should treat the plant like you do gardens.  Get rid of the weeds to make room for the stuff that is still alive to be able to grow.

Hmmmm.

Eh, I didn’t know if it would work, but I figured it would at least make things look a little better, right?  So, I went to work.  After a full morning of picking and prodding and trying my best to efficiently differentiate between green and brown, I was left with…well…a much smaller plant.

Plant2Bless its heart.

(And hey, I didn’t even though that little fern-looking thingy was even in there!  How about that!?)

So, yeah, the little fella was looking a little pruned, so to speak, but I still had to admit he looked a heck of a lot better.  Right?

And that’s when that writer’s brain of mine kicked in.  Suddenly, all of those “weeding” quotes I’ve always heard began to make sense to me.  Looking at this little plant in front of me made me realize something important.

This is what it takes to change your life.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably faced some moments in your life when you realized that something just wasn’t ‘right.’  You know what I mean?  No matter how much you tried – no matter how many things you crammed into your life to try to fulfill some void that you were certain would top off that internal happiness meter – nothing seemed to work.  You tried this, you tried that, you packed your life with so many places and people and things just trying and trying to find that “thing” that would make your life perfect…and still.  Nothing.

And then, suddenly, when you realize that you can’t fit a single thing else in your life, it dawns on you.  There’s just no more room.  None.  You’re spreading yourself thin by trying to take care of all the things on your plate (or “in your pot” so to speak) that there’s just no more energy (or “water”) left.  And then, when you look even closer, you start to realize how useless some of these things are to begin with.  You’re putting precious energy into things that aren’t even serving you anymore, and maybe never even were to begin with.  And sometimes those ‘things’ are actually ‘people.’

In other words, you’ve been watering the weeds.

Kinda stupid, huh?  Sound familiar?  No?  Hmmm.

Think maybe it needs to?

I don’t know – maybe the way I am is unique.  Maybe I’m the only one who has crammed their life full of crap to no avail. But if the responses I’ve gotten from many of my blogs in the past tell me anything, I’m thinking I’m probably not unique at all.  I think we are a whole lot more alike than we may realize.  All of us.  And I’m betting someone out there probably needed to hear this today.  Was it you?

Get rid of the weeds, people.  You might feel a little empty to start with.  A little bare, maybe.  But what’s left will be worth taking care of.  And you’ll actually have the energy (“water”) to do it.  And before you know it, you’re going to have nothing but a pot full of life.

Doesn’t that sound kinda awesome?

***

“We’re like a gardener with a hose and our attention is water – we can water flowers or we can water weeds.”
– Josh Radnor

Take The Cookie

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Yesterday, was one of those ‘take the cookie’ days in my life.

Ok, let me explain what the heck I’m talking about.

A while back, I decided to go on a diet.  Well, sort of.  By diet, I mean I’m just going to try to watch what I’m doing and not put so much crap into my body.  Back when I was running regularly, it was easy to somewhat ignore what I was eating because I’d just work it off.  But now that I’ve been injured for a while (torn/strained ligament in my right foot), all that junk eating combined with no exercise was starting to show on my thighs, if ya know what I mean.  So, I decided to buckle down and do something about it.

And then one day my daughter and I were headed to her dance class and she decided she wanted a cookie from Subway.  So, we swung by and I gave her some money and sent her in to grab one for herself.  When she came back, she not only had hers, but she also had one for me – a scrumptious raspberry/white chocolate – my FAVORITE.  Immediately, guilt rushed over me since I’m not ‘supposed’ to be eating that kind of stuff, but how could I turn it down after she brought it back just for me knowing that it was my favorite?  Of course I couldn’t do that.  So, I took the cookie.

(And it was YUMMY!)

Since that day, I’ve decided to use that phrase periodically.  Anytime I have to veer from the ‘rules’ a little, I call it “taking the cookie.”  It’s basically my way of reminding myself that there are going to be exceptions.  Sometimes, you just need to take the cookie.

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Ready to ride

And yesterday?  Well, yesterday was one of those times.  And boy, was that cookie awesome.

My boyfriend Richard and I had a rare day free from responsibility.  Our kids were at their other parents’ houses for the day (ahhh, the dynamics of the modern-day blended families…), neither of us had to work, and there were no other pressing engagements that we had to be involved in.  So, of course, we both started piddling with our own hobbies.  He started learning a new song to play (he’s a musician), and I started thinking about all the things I needed to be writing (I need to work on my novel, get a blog done, etc.).  But before either of us could get too far in, we made an impulsive decision to just head outside and take a ride on the four-wheeler, something we very rarely ever have time to do.

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Tag-along

I mulled over the decision for a bit because I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to get some writing done, but finally I decided that this was one of those times when I just needed to ‘take the cookie.’  (Really – I actually said that to myself.)  No more thinking of what I ‘should’ be doing – just hop on the four-wheeler and take a break.

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Back we go!

So, off we went!  Well, our first attempt was somewhat short-lived since we had a tag-along.  We had to turn back and lead her back to the house and tie her up.  Bless her heart.  Oh, and we also had to go put more gas in the four-wheeler.  Oops.

But then we were finally ready.  So, off we went again!

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Gorgeous creek that runs by our house

Richard took me around and showed me the land that he grew up on – showed me all the places he played as a kid and even told me some of the stories of trouble he got into (not sweet little Richard!).  I was amazed that I had known him so long and have lived in this area for months now and had no idea how beautiful it was.  All the memories that are tied to this place and that make the man I love who he is – I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this day of getting to know him and this land that he loves so much.

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The Peak

The whole time we were riding along, I was overcome with how blessed I am.  I live in this gorgeous area, I’m in love with an even more gorgeous guy (with a heart to match), I’m healthy, my kids are healthy…the list goes on and on.  Sometimes I get too busy and too loaded down with worries (money, scheduling, etc. etc. etc.) to remember to take the time to realize all the things that are good in my life.

No, not just good.  Fantastic.

And if I hadn’t allowed myself to “take the cookie,” I would have missed out on such an awesome reminder.

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Wind in my hair 🙂

Yes, I could have been at home getting some writing done.  But what I did end up getting done was more important.  I was falling even more in love with the guy who stole my heart over two years ago.  And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

There is an old Doug Stone song called Too Busy Being in Love.  The lyrics kept running through my mind while we were riding along:

“I could have written a play so sweet and so funny
Given old Mr. Shakespeare a run for his money
Written the words to the prettiest tune
That would never leave a dry eye in the room
My only excuse for not doing enough…
I was too busy being in love.
Yes, I was too busy being in love.”

IMG_20140406_205853Yes, who knows what I may have written if I had stayed at home and took the time to be doing what I ‘should have’ been doing.  Better yet, though…who cares? 🙂  I think what Richard wrote was better than anything I could have ever written anyway…

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Don’t forget to take the cookie on occasion, my friends.  Trust me.  You’ll be glad you did.

“I could have written a poem to make young lovers crazy
Written a movie for Hepburn and Tracy
A beautiful song and it starts with your name
Written my way into fortune and fame
But I have no regrets for not doing enough
I was too busy being in love
Yes, I was too busy being in love.”

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Purpose

“The important thing is that men should have a purpose in life. It should be something useful, something good.”
– Dalai Lama

purposeblog2I visited my grandmother in the nursing home over the weekend.  She has Alzheimer’s Disease and is, unfortunately, in the later stages.  Meaning, she has no idea who any of us are.  And while this is still heartbreaking, most of us in the family have gotten used to it.  We know what’s coming when we visit her.  We’re ready for it, and we expect it.  We’ve learned to live with it.

Unfortunately, however, she hasn’t.

One thing she kept repeating over and over again during our visit was this one same question, “What am I supposed to be doing?”

Each time she asked the question (not remembering she had just asked it seconds earlier), I would respond the same way, “You’re not supposed to be doing anything, MawMaw. Nothing at all.” And each time, she’d say, “I’m supposed to just sit here?”  I’d tell her yes, and then the cycle would repeat itself.

And then, in addition to her question, I started noticing other things around the room that seemed connected to what she was getting at.

Now, we weren’t visiting in my MawMaw’s private room.  When we arrived at the nursing home, she had been moved to the ‘day room’ for activities with the other residents (which she didn’t seem to want to participate in).  So, while visiting her, we also saw a lot of the other patients.  And while there were a variety of levels of illness (as well as a wide variety of personalities), one common theme seemed to stand out at me.  The theme that my sweet grandmother was trying to convey with that one question she kept asking me.

The search for purpose.

Take one lady for instance.  She kept pushing her little wheelchair around firmly explaining to people that they were not allowed to go certain places.  In fact, she’d block their path if they tried.  (Which in one case resulted in a kick to the leg of the other person in his wheelchair as he was simply trying to go through the doorway. Yikes!)  While little Miss Bossy Pants was an annoyance to all concerned, I started to realize that she was just appointing herself with a purpose.  A misconstrued purpose, maybe, but a purpose nonetheless.  Her job was to tell people where to go and not to go.

And this same lady at one point (when everyone was apparently in their appointed places and she had allowed herself a break from guard duty), rolled herself over to a hamper near the door and, with curiosity, opened the lid and peered in.  What she saw was a mound of dirty, used towels.  So, what does she do?  One by one (until the nurse caught and stopped her), she pulled them out, placed them neatly into her lap, and started folding them and putting them back into the hamper.

She had found a purpose. Folding laundry.

Another woman sat at her table and made bread. No, she didn’t have any flour or shortening or bowls or an oven or any of that. Not that you or I could see, anyway.  But nevertheless, she sat at her table and mixed and kneaded the dough, placed it on the table, patted it out, etc. It took me a while to figure out what she was doing, but once I did, that same thing hit me again.  She had found her purpose.  She had to bake biscuits.  And she was content in doing so.

In every person lay the same idea.  One woman chose to sing, another chose to yell at her kids (who weren’t there)…the list goes on and on.  What looks to those of us in our “right” minds as unnecessary chatter and activities, to them are anything but unnecessary.  They are, in fact, very necessary.  To their livelihood.  To their well-being.

To their sense of purpose.

Which brings me back to my MawMaw.  While sitting there, I was reminded of a quote I once heard.  I couldn’t remember it exactly, but when I got home, I looked it up.

“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”
– Og Mandino

Those are some powerful words there.  How much do we take our purpose for granted?  How much do we complain when we have to go to work, or when we have to drive kids here and there, or when we have yet another activity to have to show up at or to have to devote time to?  Do we ever just stop to bask in the beautiful, yet forgotten, meaning of it all?

We have a purpose.

I turned to my sweet grandmother, with all of this on my mind, and I finally had an answer for her.  The next time she asked me, “What am I supposed to be doing?,” I had her answer.

“MawMaw.  All you have to do is just let us love you.”

purposeblog1

It’s time to rest.

I know that wasn’t enough for her.  And I know she won’t remember my answer for any length of time.  But regardless of whether it seeps into her aging mind on some level, it still remains true.  No, there are no more children to take care of.  No more laundry to fold.  No more dinners to cook or beds to make or groceries to be shopped for.  My MawMaw is right – there is nothing left that she is supposed to ‘do.’  It is time for her, whether she wants to or not, to simply rest.  That’s all.  Just rest.  And to a woman who spent her life as a wife, mother of nine, step-mother to many others, and grandmother and great-grandmother to too many to count, I’m sure that’s a tough blow to take.  But whether she realizes it or not, although there are no physical activities left for her to take care of, her purpose still remains strong and true.

She’s still here because she still has a lesson to teach us.

She may not realize that, but I do.

Thank you, MawMaw.  Because you are serving your purpose, I’ll now go on to serve mine.

(And I’ll try to remember to appreciate every moment of it….)

***

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
– Carl Jung

Laughter

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
– e. e. cummings

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about our dog, Lucy, and a lesson I learned from her one day.  Well, apparently, Lucy hasn’t hung up her teaching hat just yet – she had yet another tutorial for me this week.

lucy3If I didn’t describe Lucy well enough in my last blog, let me give you a few more details.  Lucy is one seriously happy dog.  I mean…seriously.  That girl LOVES everything.  She loves me, she loves my boyfriend Richard, she loves our kids, she loves squirrels, birds, the mailman, the UPS guy, the cats….(ok, that may be pushing it a little – she loves torturing them, does that count?)

But I noticed something else about her the other day that made me smile.  Apparently, Lucy’s happiness isn’t just dependent upon someone or something else being around.  I was walking through the house and just happened to glance out the window and there stood Lucy in the middle of the yard – not looking at anything in particular, not doing anything noteworthy, just standing there – and that tail of hers was just wagging to beat the band.  No one else around, and Lucy was just as happy as she could be.  Just because.

I told Richard about it later and said, “I want to be just like Lucy. I want to be so happy that I wag my tail even when nobody’s looking, don’t you?”

He laughed and agreed, the subject was dropped, and we went on about our business.  Situation forgotten.

Until a few days later.  I was driving along in my car listening to the audio books that I always listen to when I’m traveling anywhere, and I realized that I wasn’t retaining much of what I was hearing.  I was just stressed and distracted and not in the mood to try to follow along with a book.  So, I ejected the audio book CD and started looking for something else to pop in, when I came across a CD that my ex-husband bought me the other day.  Yes, you read that right – my ex-husband bought me a CD.  Ok, it was a $1 CD that he saw at Goodwill, but still.  It was nice of him to think of me. What was the CD, you ask?  New Kids on the Block’s greatest hits.  Yup.  He remembered that I used to be an NKOTB freak (their last known fan actually – I have a tendency to hold on a little too long), and he thought I’d like it.  Up to this point, I hadn’t listened to it yet, but I just decided to go ahead and throw it in the player and see what they sounded like after all these years.  And boy, was I glad I did.  I was immediately transformed back to the late 80s/early 90s and I still remembered just about every word to every song.  Before long, I was signing at the top of my lungs like nobody’s business – and with a goofy smile on my face to boot.

That’s when I noticed the car that had pulled up beside me at the red light.

And what did I do?  *sigh*  I turned the music down, wiped the smile off my face, and sat staring straight ahead until the light changed.

Now, what the heck did I do that for?

Isn’t that dumb?  What’s wrong with wagging my tail when I thought no one was looking, you know?  I was just so darn afraid of how I looked to someone else.  Why are people like that?  It’s just plain silly.  I don’t even think I gave it much thought at the time – I think it was just instinct to pull it together and look like a decent, non-crazy, non-NKOTB fan girl and make myself ‘presentable’ once I knew I had an audience.

I so need to stop that.

I’m like that with pictures too.  I am the queen of “Wait – don’t take the picture yet, I’m not ready.”  Or, “Ew, that one looks like crap, let’s take another one.”  My family just loooooves that too, let me tell ya.  And my boyfriend Richard and I couldn’t be more different when it comes to that kind of thing.  He is crazy about the candid photos – the ones that no one knew were coming or that we weren’t exactly ‘ready’ for.  Me?  I think I look like a doofus.  Especially the pictures where I’m laughing.

laughter2See this picture?  For some dumb reason, I never posted this picture on Facebook or had it framed.  I wasn’t “ready” when the picture was taken.  Instead, I posted the version where we were standing up straight, both looking at the camera, smiling, with just one arm around each other.  I even have it framed and sitting on my bookshelf at home.  But this one?  This one was just sitting on my phone as one of the ‘mess ups.’  I ask myself now, “What the heck were you thinking, woman!?”  I mean, look at that picture.  My daughter is all snuggled up to me and I’m laughing.  I think I had told her to stand closer just before the picture was snapped, so she bear hugged me being silly.

Good grief, Me.  Get it together.  *These* are the memories you want to hold on to.

laughter3Or, how about this one?  We were trying to take a ‘selfie’ just before we had gotten all dressed up to go to the theatre together.  It took about 30 shots before we finally got the ‘right’ one – you know, the one where we’re both smiling sweetly and looking straight the camera.  This funny, goofy one where I was laughing so hard my eyes disappeared was never posted.  This shows so much more of our personalities than the one that I did deem ‘post-able.’ Kelly being silly, me laughing like a dork – this is ‘us.’

But I was just so afraid of it not looking ‘right.’  Not looking good enough.  Not being posed and ‘perfect.’

Silly, silly me.

So, today, I ask you this – are you like me?  Do you make sure the picture looks ‘just right’ before you take it?  Do you hold back on laughing so that you don’t like an open-mouthed hyena?  Do you stifle your happiness so that you look decent and presentable to strangers that don’t even matter?  Do you only publicly post the pictures where you’re smiling perfectly and everything is in order?

Or are you like Lucy?  Do you express your joy, no matter the circumstances…laugh until you cry when you see the ones you love…stay so happy that you wag your tail even when you’re alone?  And for Heaven’s sakes, not stop just because someone is looking?

Well, here’s my advice.  Be like Lucy.

We only get one go-around, you know?   Just one.  Don’t waste it.  Wag your tail, people.  Just wag it.

Life sure is a heck of a lot better that way.

Thanks for yet another lesson learned, Lucy dear.

laughter1
 

#tbt Poetry – Aspiration

For all two of you who are reading these throwback Thursday poems, here’s the one for this week.  Circa 2002 or so.

***

Aspiration

You keep me going.
You make sure I take just one more step
Go that one extra mile
Take that final leap.
(You are responsible for all that!)
You fill my heart with music –
My mind with phrases –
My pen with energy.
What would I be without you?
Who would I be without you?

Ode to the dreams that have not yet faded…

***

medream

What A Novel Idea

“I like the challenge of trying different things and wondering whether it’s going to work or whether I’m going to fall flat on my face.”
– Johnny Depp

chapteroneSo, have I mentioned that I’m writing a novel?

Finally.  After all of these years of writing poetry and essays, I finally decided to bite the bullet and give a novel a try.  I never thought I could do this.  First of all, I have never been the greatest at that whole “follow through” thing.  Oh you know how it is – you get these great big grandiose ideas in your mind, and maybe you even actually start on them, but to follow through?  Ok, I’m out.  That follow through thing takes too much work.  On to the next great idea…

You feel me?  Been there yourself?  Oh yeah – when it comes to follow through, jumping ship has always been my superpower.

And another reason I’ve been hesitant to write a novel?  Well, I’m not exactly a ‘fiction’ writer.  Most everything I’ve written over the years has just been observations of the world around me, not something that I  made up in my mind.  Yes, yes, I know all books don’t have to be fiction.  There are plenty of great non-fiction books out there in the world.  But something I came across once in some “how to be a writer” article or another was this piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten.  It said that there is something important that you need to remember when you are ready to take on the challenge of writing a novel.

“Write something that you would like to read.”

Although at first glance that seems pretty obvious, there’s actually much more wisdom to that than you might think.  While I have always written poetry and essays, when I go to a bookstore, are the poetry and essay books the first ones I head to?  Nope.  I like novels.  Fiction.  I love them.  I eat them up.  I love the ones about family connections, the ones about mysteries, the ones with a strong, likeable heroine as the main character….all that stuff.

So, why am I not writing that?

Well, other than the reasons I’ve mentioned before, there’s also the big reason.  The reason that we all have whenever we’re afraid to rise to any challenge in our lives.  What’s that reason, you ask?  Well, I think you know.

I’m afraid I’ll fail.

What if I spend all this time writing a fiction novel…and it blows?  You know?  I mean, it’s highly likely for that to be the case.  I’m not a novelist.  I’m a beginner.  It may never get read by anyone except my boyfriend Richard.  (You know he’ll be forced to read it. I’m sure he already thinks I’m a little crazy for talking about these characters as if they were real people as it is…)  It may never get published and may just remain a pile of words sitting on a computer hard drive somewhere for the rest of my life.

Or.

Or…maybe someone will like it.  Maybe it will get published.  And read.  And (as is the most important thing to me…), identified with.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Eh.  Either way.  It’s time to try, right?

I compare it to when I first started running.  I remember the absolute glee I felt the first time I ran one mile without stopping.  (Quotes?)  And then the first time I ran an actual 5K.  (Poetry?)  And then the pride and accomplishment I felt when I ran my first half marathon.  (Essays?).  Well, now it’s time to rise to the challenge and take it a step further.  Just as I never thought I’d be able to get this far with my running, I also thought I’d never get this far with my writing.  I have an essay published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, for Heaven’s sakes!  That’s a big deal.  And I’ve ran not one, but two half marathons.  The lesson to be learned is that I can do things that I never thought possible.

Maybe it’s time to step up my game?

So here’s to the future.  Here’s to a finished novel (good or bad) and to a full marathon one of these days.  It doesn’t have to be the best – it just has to get done.  It just has to.

Bucket list, make room.  A few more things are about to join the ranks…

***

“I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone.  You have so much incredible potential on the inside.  God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.”
– Joel Osteen

#tbt Poetry – Forgotten Mistress

“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.”
– W. H. Auden
I see everyone posting these “Throwback Thursday” photos on Facebook, so I have decided to do my own little blog version of it.  Every Thursday, I plan to post an old poem that I wrote, together with the approximate year it was written.  I used to write a lot of poetry back in the day (not great poetry, mind you) before I started writing the essay/short story style writings that I now prefer.  So, let’s dig out some of this old stuff and broadcast that old undeveloped talent, shall we? 😉

First up, is Forgotten Mistress.  Written in 2003.

Forgotten Mistress

I am looking in the window-
Standing on tiptoe to see-
Watching the life go on inside
The life that doesn’t include me

I see the family that loves him
Who will always welcome him home
I see the good times that abound
As I stand here all alone.

I wonder, Does he see me
Out of the corner of his eye?
Am I included in his vision
As the walls keep me outside?

Am I the secret no one mentions-
The dirty reminder of a fall?
Or have I already been forgotten
Not even thought about at all?

I know that I should turn away
From this sight I cannot bear to see
From watching the life go on inside
The life that doesn’t include me.

But yet, I stand here waiting
For that invitation I will never receive
And I’ll remain outside this window
Until I can find the strength to leave.

mistress