Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day 30: The End is Nigh

This is the end of the year blog post in which I look back over the past year and attempt to summarize it in a witty and entertaining fashion while still managing to share a nugget of wisdom. 

Usually when I sit down to do this I've some sense of how to summarize the past year.  It's often rather cut and dry.  I'm either excited (This past year was awesome and I am so looking forward to what next year brings!) or I'm relieved (Last year sucked chunks and I'm so glad it's over. Next year can only be better).  2014 though is neither of these things.  I can't say that I look back with a major sense of  accomplishment nor can I say that I'm glad it's over. What I do seem to be feeling is a sense of not being quite finished...

I'm heading into 2015 with what feels like a million things still in progress.
  • I'm three semesters away from finishing school.
  • I was just accepted into an international study program that is an amazing opportunity and I'm trying to figure out how in the world I'm going to pay for it. It is also going to be a three month interruption in my life and certain things will need to be put on hold until I return.
  • My creative career, such as it is, is in flux.  I've found myself heading in a very new direction with my performances which I really want to pursue further but it might mean having to let go of other things (which is never an easy process).
  • Okay, that's only three things but those a three really, really BIG things.  And truthfully, I'm kinda freaking out a little.
For most of my life I didn't make plans.  I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.  Now here I am at almost 43 and I finally (FINALLY!!) feel like I'm headed in some sort of direction.  I keep telling myself that that not knowing what I want to do and having some idea of what I want but not knowing how it will turn out are just two different sorts of uncertainty.  I've lived with uncertainty for this long; why start freaking out,  about it now? Right?



Well, here I am, at the end of 2014 looking uncertainty in the face.  I'm hoping that I will either stare it down or we will shake hands and learn to be friends. I will be sure to let you know how it all turns out.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Day 29: Existance and Death

Thanks to the Imagination Prompt Generator I find myself contemplating my existence and death.

What do you sense you are supposed to do before your life is over?

Contemplating my existence and death are actually not uncommon things for me to do.  I spend more time than I should ruminating about both. When it comes to contemplating my existence I find myself asking why am I here (I don't know), what my motivation is to continue to exist (I've so much I want to do!!!) and finally how will I get it all done before I die?  Shit.  It's time to get busy.

Honestly I don't think I'm "supposed" to do anything.  I mean the only basic imperative we have, as dictated by out biology, is to exist long enough to pass on our genes, right?  If only life were that simple.  Yes we are mammals with all the basic biological urges as any other mammal but we also have these big brains that think...a lot.  We ponder things, we can imagine things and we also have this drive to make the things we imagine come to life. So I'd amend the above; whether it's babies or ideas we have a deeply rooted urge to create.

If that is what we as humans are supposed to do than I am grateful because I have a near compulsion to create.  I create with fiber, cloth, music, dance, words, paint, paper; I can't stop myself from doing it. Even in an empty room I will soon find myself humming or composing poetry aloud.  I find my inspiration in my experiences.  Sometimes those experiences are direct, such as travel, and other times it is the words of others and their stories. Along with this compulsion to create is the desire to share those creations.  Which of course means I need a community to share it with.

In looking back at the above question of "what do you sense you are supposed to do before your life is over?"  I'd respond with the following list:

1. Experience as much of the world and the ideas that fill it as I can.
2. Create.  Bring those ideas and experiences to life. 
3. Share those creations.
4. Build community.

And finally, do as much of it as I possibly can before I die!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day 28: Stuck

I'm stuck. 

I've browsed my favorite blog prompt sites and nothing has struck me.  I've drifted through Pinterest boards to no avail.  I've scrolled through old blog posts seeking inspiration.  And it is not quite time for my end of the year list  (I prefer to save the "Then best things of ___" and "10 things I hope for in ____" for the second to last and last day of the year).  So here I sit face to face with a serious case of writer's block.

Which leaves me with basically two choices:

1. Give up
2. Write about my writer's block

I'm going for option number two because however it might go or whatever words pour out of me, I will end up with a blog post.  It may not be my best post, but it will at least exist.

This is the part of the Month of Blogging that is always a challenge for me.  I choose to do the month of blogging for a couple of reasons, the challenge of it, the discipline of developing a daily writing habit (though it never seems to stick around for long once school begins again) and to force myself to face my inclination towards perfectionism when it comes to my writing. 

I want every post to be moving in some way.  Whether you laugh or cry or get angry I want my words to somehow touch you.  I want the story that I tell to be clear and well told with prose that flows easily into your mind.  I want to paint a vivid picture for the reader so they walk away with an understanding of what I am trying to say.  Fitting 30 days of perfect blog posts into my life is not something that is achievable, there will be some posts that are better than others.

And so I have come to accept that there will be days, like today, where the inspiration does not come easily.  I will struggle to find the words that convey when is in my heart.  And I may fail in the attempt. 

I am not sure if today is one of those days, but it is okay with me if it is.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 27: Five Things that Bring Me Joy

The first blog prompt that came up on The Imagination Prompt Generator was "Create a list of your 10 sorrows." 

Ummmm...nope, so not going there today. 

So I decided instead to list five things that bring me joy.  I picked five just because, well, I wanted to keep it short as I do have a tendency to go on.  Anyway, here we go.

1. My kitty.  It does not matter what sort of day I have had Miss Pickles will always bring a smile to my face.  Her sweet eyes, her soft chirpy mews, the ways she gets way too excited about her string toy, her endless cuddles.  She is my sweet girl and I luvs her!

2. Teaching.  I started teaching dance two years ago and I am absolutely in love with doing it.  Seeing a student learn and grow, being a witness to their progress just makes my heart buzz with joy.  And though it seems cliche, it is true that I learn as much, if not more, from my students.  The entire experience of teaching brings so much happiness into my life.

3. Performing.  I am not at all sure that I can express with words the joy that performing brings me.  Whether playing music, doing a spoken word piece,  dancing or creating performance art, I love sharing art with an audience.  Yes, there is the direct reward of applause but I think for me the greatest joy comes from creating that shared moment that comes from the performer-audience connection. When that connection is there it is no longer just a performance being presented on a stage, but something entirely new is born through that shared experience.  There is really nothing else like it for me.

4. Movement. Dancing, walking, weightlifting, running, snowshoeing, skipping, swaying, any sort of movement brings me to my happy place.  If it's movement to music, that is a bonus ;-)

5. Music.  In the past five years I have fallen back in love with music.  I love to listen to it, dance to it, sing to it and most of all make it.  These days music is a part of my life in a way it has not been since I was a teenager.   I'm grateful to have it back.

And finally this:  every one of these things is often even better when shared.  I love seeing folks smile with glee at seeing Miss Pickles antics; teaching is never done alone; collaboration on performance with other artists; sharing a walk, a trek, a dance with another person; and music...I do love to make music with other people.  My friends, those that I love, bring my great joy no matter what we are doing together.

Sooooo...now it's your turn.  What five things bring you joy?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 26: Deep Thoughts

It is apparently Deep Thought Friday over at BlogHer.  Today's blog prompt is:

Gandhi said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Agree or disagree? Is there more to happiness than that?

I don't believe that happiness is a permanent state of being.  Happiness is as transient as any other emotion, but I do think it is possible to find some sort of state of general overall contentment or sense of well being. AND I do think the above quote does have something to do with it...sort of.

There has been a fair amount written lately about how having a life that has meaning can be more important, and more achievable, than trying to create a life that is filled with happiness.  Some even say that happiness is the altogether wrong thing to pursue and that in the end, if you chase after happiness, you will find yourself feeling let down.  I have to say that I agree.

When I, for example, look at my return to school and I ask myself does it make me happy?  I'd say that most of the time it does not.  Each semester I struggle with high amounts of stress as I try to balance homework, creative pursuits and working.  I give up most of my social life and feel quite lonely at times.  There are fleeting moments of happiness such as when I do well on a paper, or become entranced by a new idea, and I'm sure that when I am finally done I will feel whole heaps of happy, but over all school is mostly a difficult and time consuming struggle.  Despite this I keep going.


Because I know that I am working towards something. Not just a degree, but something larger in that it is providing me with the skills to pursue an idea that will not only help me to make a living doing something I enjoy but will, in the long term, help other artists to pursue their dreams too.  If I based my decision of whether or not to keep going with school on the amount of immediate happiness it brings me, I'd have quit long ago!

So I do in part agree with the above quote.  I have a general sense of what my purpose is and I find meaning in pursuing it.  And while it might not bring me to a steady state of happiness, I know too that if I still worked in a 9 to 5 high stress job and relegated my more meaning filled pursuits to the level of hobby, I'd be one very, very, very UNhappy woman.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Day 25: Christmas

I spent today with my mum.  We had plentiful food and drink (all of it delicious). We lounged around watching movies on Hulu and Netflix (some good, some...well, meh).  We of course had great company.

It was the perfect way to spend Christmas.  

Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day 24: Three things

Today's blog prompt is courtesy of Imagination Prompt Generator.

Name three reasons you should get out of bed tomorrow.

1. I'll likely have to pee when I wake up and though I'll want nothing more than to close my eyes and sleep for five more minutes, I can't hold it forever. 

2. Food.  Today I leave for my Mum's place for Christmas.  We are spending the day eating yummy food and watching totally junky stuff on Hulu and Netflix.  I can't wait!

3. Coffee.  Maybe it's due to caffeine addiction or maybe it's the feeling of the warm cup in my hands and the happy shiver that runs through me when I take that first sip, but I do love my first cup of coffee in the morning.  Coffee time is my time.

4. (yes I know it asked for three) The cat.  No matter what sickness, hangover, or dread at facing the day I might be feeling I have to get out of bed to feed Miss Pickles.  

Yeah, I know.  Nothing earth shattering here.  No big "hey, it's a new day and I'm happy to be alive" platitudes.  Nope, what gets this lady out of bed in the morning are my basic bodily needs. Once I have emptied the bladder, had my coffee and put food in my belly THEN I can maybe think about the bigger things like what I actually need to accomplish on that particular day or figuring out if my existence has any sort of purpose. 

And truly, NOTHING is getting done until the cat has had her breakfast.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 23: Seasons

Today's blog prompt is courtesy of BlogHer:

What season do YOU think is the most wonderful time of the year? Is it winter?

I have something I love about each season of the year.  I love the waking up of spring as new things grow and we are able to be more active outdoors again.  I love the flowers of summer and being able to walk with bare feet.  I love the bounty of autumn and watching all the living things around me prepare for winter.  I love winter too, with its hats and mittens, snowshoeing and the peacefulness after a storm passes.

I have lived in places that did not have four seasons and it always left me feeling a bit disconcerted, as though I'd lost my place in time.

Winter officially began yesterday and so far I have to say it has been a bit of a disappointment.  Last year at this time I discovered snowshoeing and spent an entire afternoon trekking through the woods following a pileated woodpecker as he flew from tree to tree.  Thus far this year the snowshoes have been leaning quietly against the wall, waiting...waiting for the snow.  I am holding onto the hope that January will bring me plenty of snowshoe-able snow.

Last year I also went ice fishing for the first time. Not one fish was caught, but I still had an amazing time with my friends. It has not been cold enough to freeze anything yet this year.  So I'm also hoping for a long deep freeze that will let me spend at least one afternoon on the ice in the company of wonderful people, drinking beer and eating sausages.

And if we catch a few fish that's a bonus.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Day 22: Grades are in...

Yes, the last of my papers were handed in a week ago and yes, my last final exam of the semester was this past Wednesday, but today marks the official end of the semester.  Why? Because today the last of my grades were posted.  I finished out the semester with an A, an A- and a B. 

I am pretty okay with that. 

This semester not only had the heaviest workload I've had yet since returning to school four years ago, it also had one of my least favorite classes:  Management Science.  It is a class required by all business administration students at the school I attend, and though I understand why the class is required, this doesn't make it any less uninteresting to me.  I had to bribe myself into doing the homework. 

In the end I did apply myself and I am glad I did.  I even ended up using some of what I learned in preparing a business plan for my entrepreneurship class.  Okay, that actually did make the class a bit more interesting, but only briefly.  It was definitely one of those things in life that has to be done and well, if you are going to have to do it anyway, you might as well do your best.  In this case, my best was a B.

Now that I don't have to keep checking the school website obsessively to see if my grades are up I can spend the rest of my evening vegging out to every Anthony Bourdain show I can find on Hulu and Netflix.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 21: The Longest Night

Tonight is the longest of the year.  With the new moon it is not only the longest night but it is also the darkest.  One needn't dig too deeply to find the symbolism there.

Most years I try to stay up through the longest night.  This year I am not sure that I will have it in me to do that, but I do plan to stay up for as long as I can.  At some point I will take a moment to turn off all of the lights, turn off the computer, the phone and anything else electronic and just sit in silence trying to connect to that time long ago when the coming of night also meant the work was done.

My winter solstice posts are more often than not about the symbolism of making it through the dark nights of our lives; those hard times when we fear the light at the end of the tunnel will never show.  Tonight though I am thinking more of the quiet, the peace that can be found in darkness.  When we take the time to be still, to sit with whatever we are feeling.  When we take the time to just breathe.

I am also thinking about the darkness of uncertainty.  Those dark hours of waiting for the illumination of our minds and hearts that allows us to see the way clearly.  As the wheel turns this year I find myself facing an uncertain future in many parts of my life.  I have wonderful opportunities ahead that I am working towards, some of which require sacrifices that I'm still unsure about making.  My creative life is taking a dramatic new direction which I am both excited and nervous about.  My relationships are in flux, old friends have left and older friends have returned.  I still have an uneasy relationship with my heart; I'm sometimes mistrustful of what it tells me.

Whether or not I stay awake through the dark hours I will rise early and walk to the water to await the returning sun.  The weather currently says it will be partly cloudy, but even if I do not see the sun, I will know it is there.  The light will still come and the day will brighten.  Whether or not it will bring me the illumination I seek remains to be seen.

A warm and happy solstice to all.  May we all find our way to the dawn.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 20: Six Word Saturday

The 20th day of December is near to its end and I've not yet written my blog post for today.  As I am short on time I'll be taking my blog prompt from The One Minute Writer website. 

Six word Satruday: Describe your life or current situation using exactly six words

Friends, music, art, change.  Happy heart.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 19: Looking Back

Today's BlogHer blog prompt:

Audrey Hepburn said, "If my world were to cave in tomorrow, I would look back on all the pleasures, excitements and worthwhilenesses I have been lucky enough to have had. Not the sadness, not my miscarriages or my father leaving home, but the joy of everything else. It will have been enough." Do you think you would do the same, or do the sad times stand out in your mind?

I'm not sure I look back and see the sad events so much as I have an understanding of how certain events impacted me.  I recognize the bad habits and sometimes poor coping mechanisms they have left me with and I find myself feeling frustration when some event in the present day triggers an old emotional response.  I ask myself, how long have I been trying to process this, and how much work have I done only to find that I am still feeling the impacts of X event?

Wait didn't I write recently that healing takes time and we can't really control the pace at which that happens?  Yeah, I guess I should take my own advice right?

If I had to look back and review my life though I think I'd look upon it mostly favorably.  I have had my struggles and my dark times, but I've also had some rather cool adventures and I have met some really awesome people.  Over all it really hasn't been so bad. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 18: Work it out

Or not. 

During the past week I have been logging into Hulu, finding a fitness video and for one hour. working up a sweat.  So far it's been good.  I have sweat quite a bit and today I woke up with a bit of soreness in my core.  Basically I feel good, and I feel like I'm doing something.

Today I came across THIS.

Wow.  I can't imagine paying for a gym membership and not using it.  But apparently that is just what most gyms want.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 17: Transient Feelings

Today's blog prompt is courtesy of Blogher. 

Do you believe you need to know sadness in order to appreciate happiness?

I don't think that we need to know sadness to appreciate happiness.  When I ponder this I find myself instead thinking that what is needed, what I need, is to become comfortable with both sadness and happiness and to understand that both are temporary states of being. Their transient nature can lead us to an appreciation of both of them.

This evening I am feeling the let down, the crash, that comes with the semester ending.  Right now an evening of nothing to do seems frightening and is producing some anxiety for me.  I go through this at the end of every semester and despite the fact that I know it will happen, it still seems to take be by surprise.

When I give it some thought I realize that in years past keeping as busy as possible was my way of avoiding feeling.  When I would stop moving, stop doing, all of those thoughts and feelings would come rushing in.  They would overwhelm me and more often than not I'd soon find myself in full panic mode.  Perhaps this feeling tonight comes from my body automatically bracing for an emotional impact.

As with happiness or sadness I know this anxious feeling is a temporary one and even now, as I write, the feeling is beginning to pass. These days stillness is something I have come to greatly appreciate and welcome in my life.  Apparently some parts of my being are taking a bit longer to become comfortable with that idea.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 16: Something big...

About a month ago I applied for the Semester at Sea program.  Late this afternoon I received the notification that my application was accepted. 

I am excited, nervous, thrilled and a bit scared.  I'm worried about how I'll gather all of the money to pay for it but mostly, I feel massive amounts of anticipation.  I have traveled here in the United States, I've visited Canada on several occasions and spent a couple of weeks in Guatemala, but I've never done something like this.  This is three months on a ship with visits to seven countries, an Atlantic crossing and traveling south of the equator.

I'll cross the sea on a ship with no land in sight for days and when I look up my eyes will gaze upon different stars!!!  

When I was a little girl my cousin and I often said that when we grew up we wanted to be world travelers.  If this happens, this will be the second of my childhood dreams that comes true (the first was being a street performer - which I also thought I'd never, ever do).

It's ten months away.  That really, really doesn't seem all that long of a wait for a dream. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 15: Where is your happy place?

Today's blog prompts is courtesy of BlogHer's December NaBloPoMo blog prompts.  The theme this month is joy. 

"Where is your happy place?"

My happy place has never been one particular location.  It is more of a type of place, usually outdoors, often sparse or even barren.  I've always loved walking through the winter woods, visiting abandoned sand pits, roaming forgotten dirt roads, or picnicking in quiet graveyards.  Wide open places like the desert, the plains or the sea.  Places where I feeling willingly isolated.  These are the places that make me feel centered and peaceful.

I enjoy far away places, where effort must be made to get there.  Often this is simply setting a goal of walking to a place that is 15 or 20 miles from my home instead of driving there.  These pilgrimages are isolating in a different way because few people use walking as a primary form of transportation, particularly over great distances.  They are also very connecting.  Communities that one usually breezes through in a car I see up close.  I see the homes, the parks, the roadside trash and I also see, and often chat with, the people who live there. These adventures leave me feeling alive and connected.

I also find happiness right here.  In this chair, or anywhere that I am able to sit for an hour or a moment to write, create or just think.  This is where my body is still and my inner voice may find its way to the surface.  It is often calming, sometimes tumultuous and frustrating, but in the end leaves me feeling a sense of lightness and release.

I have many other happy places, the stage, the classroom, the library, my bed, across the table from a friend; I suppose that there are probably more.  That is a good thing...

Where is your happy place?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 14: My Awesome Day

I went to bed sometime close to 4:00 AM following a really wonderful holiday shindig.

I got back out of bed at about 9:30AM.  I showered, downed a cup of coffee, nom-nom-nommed a bit stuffed bread and packed my drums for rehearsal. My ride arrived shortly thereafter.

I spend two hours  making music, playing drums and singing.  

1:00PM rehearsal is done.  I am invited to grab lunch with a friend, which I do, and by 2:00 PM I'm off to a friend's holiday open house where I catch up with old friends and meet Mr. Longfellow, my new kitty cat nephew.

By 3:15 PM I have made my way to the library where I spend most of the next six hours finalizing a semester long project and planning the presentation with my fellow group members.

9:30 PM I am back home.  I write out my presentation notes on index cards, proofread one other group paper and send it off for final review.

Now I shall settle in with a glass of wine, a craft project and some Netflix.  I think it is well deserved.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 12 & 13: Decade Lists

This blog post took the better part of two days to write...so I'm counting it for days 12 & 13. 

I've been seeing a lot of articles lately about Decade Lists.  These lists are the ones where someone approaches a milestone birthday (30, 40. 50 or 60) and writes an article or blog post about the ten things they learned in the prior decade.  Usually they include something about valuing your friends, not listening to the opinions of others, loving isn't perfect and how the most important person to love is yourself anyway.

Now it isn't that these things aren't true and they are all indeed great things to aspire too but (yes, I always have a but) more often than not they are presented in such a way as to say that there is some defining moment in your life where you will figure things out, all things will make sense and life will be perfect from then on out.  Life does not work that way.  Ever.

I am of course not one to complain without offering up some sort of solution.  Below you will find my list of things that I've learned in my almost 43 years.  Take what you will from it.

1.  You won't want other people's opinions to matter, but they still will.  Okay, maybe not in the way they did when you were in junior high and Sally said that your favorite sweater made you look stupid so you folded it up, tucking it away in your bottom dresser drawer until the end of time, but there will still be people in your life who you admire and look up to, who you hope will support and approve of what you do.  And if they don't it will probably leave you feeling let down and maybe a little hurt.  That is okay, it is a part of being human; we want people to like us.  What isn't okay is allowing the hurt to stop you from continuing to work towards your dreams and goals. You pause, take a deep breathe, mull the criticism over to see if there is indeed any value in it, and move on to whatever next step you need to take. 

2.  Your parents are probably never really going to understand you.  They will hopefully try, and as you get older there will be many moments where you come close to a meeting of the minds, but they will likely always see you as their child.  They just can't help it.

3.  Loving yourself is important but you will pretty much always feel ridiculous looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself you are awesome.  None of us are perfect and we know this, which is probably why we feel a bit silly telling ourselves that we are perfect just the way we are. First I think not liking everything about yourself is okay, there really is always room for improvement.  Seeing ways that you want to better yourself is not a bad thing.  Of course being totally down on yourself isn't so great either.  Maybe we all need to start looking in the mirror and telling ourselves that we are basically a decent human being who is doing the best they can.  I think even I can say that.

4. Some experiences will scar you for life but you learn to live with them.  Hopefully.  There will be things that happen to us; most will be good but some will be really, really shitty-ass bad things.  Often we have zero control over this, which can be hard to accept.  We will ask what we did to deserve this (probably absolutely nothing).  We will obsess, replay the events over and over in our heads wondering what we might have done differently (likely a million things but that doesn't really matter after the fact).  We may try to bury, medicate or busy away the bad and yucky feelings that remain but in the end we accept that we must face it and learn to live with it.  Which leads me to...

5. We all heal on our own schedule.  No one can dictate to you how long it should take to get over the grief, sense of loss, feelings of violation, anger or pain that come along with a traumatizing event.  No one is ever likely going to say to you, "Hey, it's awesome that you won that award and all, but please stop being happy about it," but we have this expectation that people can move on quickly from loss or pain.   We are wired to learn things like, bear attacks are painful so I should stay away from bears, unfortunately our minds aren't so great at differentiating between the bear broke my arm,  that asshole broke my heart, or the icy road caused my car to crash.  We are however also wired to keep going into the woods to look for food, even though we know that there are still bears out there.  We do have a truly amazing capacity for healing, but we need to learn to allow ourselves and others the time to do so.

6. It's okay to ask for help.  Whether you need help moving or it's 2:00 AM, you are deep into the ugly cry and the wine just ran out, or you are just feeling lonely.  Asking for help is sometimes necessary.  We all need a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to listen.  I can tell you from my own experience that most of the really dumb shit I've done in my life has been the result of me trying to distract myself from loneliness, sadness or some other dark feeling. Most of which could have been prevented by just picking up the phone and calling someone.

I'll add to this too that sometimes that help comes in the form of a professional therapist.  I've seen various therapists over the years and I can't express enough how valuable their services have been.

7.  Answer the phone.  Really.  Don't hit dismiss or ignore or silence the ring when your friend's name pops up on your screen.  Why?  Because while you might might be thinking that you are too busy, or too tired, or too whatever, your friend could be acting on number six of this list.  They may be reaching out because they are in that dark place and need help.  They might also be calling to ask for your apple pie recipe or to just say hello or tell you that you are awesome, but in any case, they are making the effort to connect.  Honor that and answer the phone.

*I had a night about a year ago where I was in a pretty lonely and dark place.  I knew that the last thing I needed in that moment was to be alone.  As I made my way through my favorites list on my phone and listened to ring, after ring, after ring, I sank lower and lower.  By the time I dialed the last name, I was such a mess that I could barely breathe, let alone speak.  When I heard that, "Hello?" on the other end it was like someone invented oxygen.  What is perhaps  most ironic (I think...I always get the irony thing wrong) is that I'd saved that person for last because I assumed they were too busy and I also knew they were dealing with their own stuff - I didn't want to trouble them - yet they were the only person who answered. I will be forever grateful for that "Hello"

Again...pick up the phone.

8. Be kind.  We say this a lot but, along with loving ourselves, it is probably one of the most difficult things to do.  It isn't that we don't want to be kind, it is that life is full of distractions and we humans are a self centered sort of creature.  Kindness can take many forms from holding the door for someone, shoveling an elderly neighbor's walk after a storm, assuming the best of another person or just offering a smile to someone, but it always requires us to set our own wants aside for just a moment and turn our attention to someone else.  It's pretty much always worth it. 

9.  Friends, real friends, are rarer than we realize.  Most of us have one or two of these people in our lives.  They are the ones who understand you, who know that your go to favorite meal is red wine and pepperoni pizza, the ones who answer the phone at 3:00 AM, the one who is the first person you want to call when something awesome happens, they know you like no one who you are not related to does.  They are your family of choice.  The fact is that when you are 70 and your family of blood is long dead, these are the folks who will be your family.  Value those you have now, tend to those relationships with the care that they deserve and never stop looking to make new ones.

10. Talk it out.  Misunderstanding has lead to more pain and problems in my life than I care to count.  Taking five minutes to ask someone what their intentions were, to let someone know they may have hurt you or to offer up an apology when one is needed can be extremely uncomfortable.  My palms get sweaty, my chest gets tight and I worry I'll forget what I want to say but five minutes of awkward has saved friendships and prevented long term hurt.  Take the time to do it.

11. Finally the catch all.  Life is not easy.  It is filled with disappointment, failure, sadness, pain, grief and all sorts of other unpleasantness.  It is also filled with joy, success, inspiration, celebration and love. Most of the time it seems to make no sense at all. Perhaps the key is to strive to be aware of where we are at right now and recognize that wherever that is, good or bad, is temporary.  This thought, which I still strive to put into practice, has pulled me through some very dark times and allowed me to cherish the more pleasant ones. 

So there you have it.  My 11 Pearls of Wisdom form 42.8 years of being alive on this earth.  I hope you find some value in it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Day 10: Almost Endings

Today I attended the last of my classes of the semester.  I've two projects that will be finalized and turned in next week, and one final to take, but the active part of my semester is over.  I won't be attending lectures or taking notes until January. 

There is always a sense of relief when I reach this point; a letting go of tension.  It is a combination of knowing the end it in sight and the realization that there is little I can to to change the outcome of the semester.  Yes, my papers and my one final count for a solid percentage of my grade but I've also already put in 13 weeks of hard work.  I've laid a strong foundation and if grades were cut off now, I'd likely finish with two A's and one B.  I'll come close to that still next week. 

This was one of the toughest semesters I've had.  It had the heaviest workload and the most in depth course work.  I put in many hours and made more than few sacrifices, but I feel good.  The time and effort exchanged for knowledge has been a good trade.

After next week, when the last presentation is made and the final exam taken I'll have three and half weeks before I start it all again.  I'm already looking forward to it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 9: Making it Anywhere

I ventured elsewhere for a blog prompt today.  I found it at the Daily Prompt. The prompt read:

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” goes the famous song about New York City. Is there a place — a city, a school, a company — about which you think (or thought) the same?
The prompt jumped out at me because while I don't have a specific place in mind that  I want to go to, the though of leaving Portland, Maine has been on my mind a lot lately.  There are many reasons for my thoughts to turn this way. 

I am about a year away from finishing my bachelors degree and I have been giving thought to whether or not I want to go to graduate school. I've been browsing schools and while I've not yet decided if I want to continue on to the next level, I do know that if I choose to do so it isn't likely to be here in Maine. 

I've lived in Portland for nearly 20 years.  I love this city with a good chunk of my heart.  It has become my adopted hometown.  The people I have know for the longest and who are my dearest friends all live here.  It has been my creative incubator and my personal testing ground.  It has however changed greatly and while I will always love this city, I do often think it might be nice to get to know another place as well as I know this one.

There is a HUGE world out there that I have yet to explore.  I took my first traveling vacation in nearly four years a couple of weeks ago and it served as a great reminder of how much I have not seen.  When I was younger I wanted to be a world traveler.  I don't need to move to explore the world, but if I do begin to do so, it's quite possible I'll fall in love with someplace else. 

I do believe that I can make it pretty much anywhere.  I've always managed to fall in love with the places I visit and the places I have lived.  I am not sure what my future holds when I finish school in just over a year, but I won't be surprised if that future takes place in a land far from here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Day 8: How to do and have it all!!!

"How do you do all that you do?" is a question I am asked with some frequency.  I usually shrug my shoulders and respond with, "I don't know, I just do."  Or I offer up some semi-cliche piece of advice, "Well, I schedule everything, even my down time."  Both of which are true.  I don't really know for sure how I do manage to do everything and well, I do schedule nearly every minute of my day. 

I think though if I sat back, as I did today, and gave it some deeper though I'd  probably say two things:

1. That I manage to do all that I do because I want to.

All that I do in my life right now:  school, work, dance, music, write, exercise, etc., are all things I really, want to do.  I don't mean that I just think to myself, "oh that would be nice, I might try it some day." No, what I mean is that my desire to do any of these things is motivated by something deep inside of me.  To set any of these things aside, to not do them would be akin to setting a part of myself aside.  I would feel somehow incomplete if I stopped doing any of them. 

2. (this is probably the more important of the two) The title of this blog post is a lie.

I have been known to say that I am the last person in the world to hold up as an example of someone who "has it all" because when I want to accomplish something I tend to go all in to achieve it. What does this mean exactly?   

It means that in order to have time to do all of these things I can't work a regular job.  I need one with flexible hours that is willing to put up  with a complete schedule change every time a new semester begins.  It means my paycheck is not always predictable and it means I'm often living on the edge of poverty. It also means I've learned to cobble together a 'living' by working two different jobs and teaching.  I put in extra hours during the breaks between semesters. It also means I've learned to be very creative with the amount of money I do have. 

It means that my social life tends to vary from sporadic to non-existent.  My time commitments are such that I don't often have extra hours to spare.  I turn down so many invitations because a paper is due, or a lesson needs to be planned, or I need to rehearse a performance, or I just want time to practice.  That said, the time I do spend with friends and loved ones is time that I cherish and I am more present during these interactions that I perhaps used to be.  I am thankful too that I have people in my life who are so very understanding and supportive. 

It often means battling loneliness, self doubt and worry.  It means late nights with little sleep. It means that towards the end of each semester it feels like my life is falling apart, my laundry becomes a week or more behind and I accumulate a place setting for eight worth of dirty dishes on the floor around my desk. 

This is not a complaint.  I do all of these things willingly and I take a great amount of joy in what I do.  For every moment of "why the hell I am doing this" there is a musical epiphany, a new dance step learned, a story written, a new idea absorbed, a debate that expands my mind, a creation is born or a connection made. 

So, for all of those others who struggle with pursuing a dream and feeling overwhelmed or on the edge of defeat, it is perfectly okay to be in that place. 

It is okay for this to not be easy. It's okay to feel like it's too much, or to worry that you won't make it.  It's okay to break down in tears and pitch the occasional fit. I question my own sanity on a nearly daily basis and you know, I think maybe it takes just a tiny bit of crazy to step off the expected path to pursue a dream.

I don't believe that there is such a thing as 'having it all.' I think most things that are worthwhile in life often require some amount of commitment and sacrifice.  That often means that for some parts of our lives we may have to settle for having most or even just some of it. 

And that is okay too.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 7: I'm Tired

It's nearly 11:00 PM on a Sunday night and I'm so very tired.  I had a very full, and mostly enjoyable week, but it has had too many late nights and too few hours of snooze time.   The week ahead is the last week of the semester before finals and I'm sure it will take nearly every last bit of my energy to get through it. 

So my apologies for the short blog post, but I think I'll be heading to bed very soon.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 6: Trust

Tonight I had a conversation about trust.  Trust is something I struggle with and it has been the focus of many of my recent therapy sessions.I look at quotes like this one and I think to myself that trust should be something that comes easily.  It should be a default setting.  If you don't know someone well you just assume the best and operate as though that person has your and everyone else's best interests at heart.

I am going to get a bit confessional here.  I'm going to confess that I have had more than one glass of wine and as such, if I keep writing. I'm likely going to become far more personally confessional than I care to be.

So I'll leave you with the above quote and a somewhat wistful, "good night."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Day 5: Smiling

Today's blog prompt courtesy of...well, crap I closed that tab and I've forgotten what site it was on. Anyway, here is it is.

What made you smile this week?

I was going to do a day by day accounting of at least one thing each day that made me smile but as I sat there staring at the screen I began to be a little overwhelmed because there were actually so many things that made me smile this week.  It hasn't been a perfect week, I did spend part of Monday in the ER due to my asthma and I'm feeling the pressure of the end of semester, but there's been a lot to smile about.

...my kitty's ever ridiculous antics when she wants attention or wants to play.
...the friend who gave me a ride to and from the hospital on Monday.
...dancing in my bedroom for no reason at all.
...crafting costuming pieces for my dance students for a show they are performing in on Saturday.
...working on a creative project with one of my favorite collaborators.
...making music with drums, tin cans, buckets and whatever else is nearby that I can tap out a rhythm on.
...a silly joke about the weather that a friend made last night that still has me chuckling.

I know there was probably more than that to make me smile but those are the highlights.  What brought a smile to your face this week?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Day 4: Sadness

Today's BlogHer blog prompt:

"Who do you like to be with when you're feeling sad?"

There was a time when feeling sad meant I queued up my sad song playlist on iTunes, dimmed the lights, lit half a dozen candles and curled up in a comfy chair with a glass of wine and a box of tissues for an evening of letting whatever sadness was in my heart come pouring out of my eyes.  When I was exhausted and empty I'd make my way to bed, wrapping the covers close and drift off into a deep and generally very restful sleep.

When I was sad I preferred to be alone.

At some point this changed; there came a time when my sadness became something I could not longer just sit with.  Letting it out, instead of bringing relief, began to feel more like drowning and so I began to seek distraction from the sadness.  Most of the time this took the form of keeping myself busy.  I volunteered, worked, created, studied, hung out with friends did whatever I could to keep myself occupied enough to not think.  While I may not have faced what I was feeling, I certainly did get a whole lot accomplished.

So, who do I like to be with when I am feeling sad?  I am not sure I have found a person with whom I could allow my self to express my sadness in the way I did when I would sit in the dark and listen to music, but this does not mean that the people I seek out when I am feeling low or sad are simply another distraction, something to keep me busy enough to not think about what I am feeling.  The people I seek out when I am sad are people who I care for and in whose presence I find comfort enough to take the edge off what I am feeling.  Sometimes I just need to feel a little less alone, or I just need to talk and I am grateful for those people in my life who have been there for me. 

I miss the days of sitting by myself and letting my feeling wash over me, immersing myself in them, facing them and then letting them go.  I long for that time when sitting with my feelings was not so frightening or overwhelming and, well,  the truth is I'd really like to be able to once again say that the person who I like to be with when I am sad is myself.

(This post might make it seem like I am sad all of the time, I am not.  While the past couple of years of years have been a bit of a struggle I am generally in an okay place most of the time.) 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Day 3: Food

Today's BlogHer blog prompt:

What food makes you feel good whenever you eat it?

That folks is an easy, easy question for me to answer.  A large pepperoni pizza from Otto's Pizza in Portland, Maine.  It is doubly tasty when shared with a good friend along with a bottle of red wine and a long wandering conversation.

That always, always brings a smile to my face. 

I'm also partial to certain cheesecakes, garlic rolls from Ben Kay, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy & bacon, lobster, roasted brussel sprouts, and buffalo wings. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 2: Surprises

Today's NaBloPoMo blog prompt is "talk about a surprise that made you happy."  I've had quite a few happy surprises in my life...

...the dress that I dearly wanted (but couldn't afford) that all of my coworkers got together and bought for me on my birthday in 1992.

...the day in early 1996 that I came home from work and found two little fuzzy kittens curled up asleep on my bed (those kittens were in my life for the next 18 years)

...there was my 40th birthday when I had no time to plan a party and a dear friend instead asked all of my other friends to take me out to dinner during the coming month.  I ate out nearly every night for over a month.

...the way so many people helped me out last year when I was struggling financially. 

...finding out only recently that one of my best friends is moving back to Maine. 

But one surprise that really meant a lot to me  happened several years ago, when I was really feeling down about life.  I don't even really remember what it was that was going wrong but I was really struggling and I felt very alone.  One day I logged on to my email and there was this message from someone I only knew peripherally.  It said:

"You don't really know me though we are connected on MySpace.  I saw that you were going through a hard time and I wanted to let you know that I think you are amazing.  I admire everything you do.   I think you have so much to offer the world.  I hope you are smiling again soon."

I no longer use the address that that email was sent to and I so admit that this is not a direct quote but more of a summation.  I don't even now recall who sent me that message but I do know that I will be forever grateful for it. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

December NaBloPoMo

It is that time of year again.  When I make the commitment to blog everyday for one month.  December seems to be the only month that I am able to accomplish this feat, likely due to the fact that for much of December I am not in school.  This will be my fourth year of taking on the task.

The theme for this month is "joy" (which for those who know me personally is rather amusing for a variety of reasons).  Merriam-Webster defines joy as "a feeling of great happiness" or "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires."  I'm going to admit that these are not things I feel on a regular basis.  That might be something worth exploring...

Whether I decide to explore the theme or not the commitment to a month of blogging has been made. I had a very difficult time with it last year and I'm not sure that I even managed to complete it, though I do recall getting most of the way.  but I still managed to blog for the 31 days of December.

Here is to the 'try, try again' and best of luck to all who are participating in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo this month!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Stories We Tell - Part 1: The character we play...

"I'm not playing a role. I'm being myself, whatever the hell that is." - Bea Arthur

During my senior year in high school if you inquired about my ambitions I'd likely have said that I was going to be an artist.  If you asked for specifics I'd have probably said I wanted to write and illustrate children's books.  I might have said I wanted to be a poet.  I may even have offered up the idea of being a travel writer since I liked the idea of adventure.  Most people seemed to agree that all of these were things I was capable of doing.  In fact it even seemed expected and I did nothing to make people think that I might want to do or be something else.  I may even have encouraged the idea, since being a non-conformist, independent and adventurous artist was something I'd like to be seen as, and it certainly seemed better than being the timid, self-conscious and awkward person I felt myself to be inside.

Not that this image didn't have some basis in fact.  I mean, was I creative?  Yes.  I'd been writing, doodling, crafting, composing and dancing as far back as I remembered.  Was I independent?  Sort of.  I was always willing to take a stand for things I deeply believed in, but I also had a deep desire to be liked which meant that sometimes I went with the flow just as much as anyone.  Adventurous? Perhaps.  I was not afraid to sneak out of my bedroom window and spend a night wandering the woods near my house, and I never really had too much of an issue with making  public spectacle of myself, but the idea of talking to a stranger, one on one, in broad daylight terrified me.  So, yes the image mostly fit and so for most of my life, the independent, non-conformist, adventurous, creative type has been the character I have played.

I think this is something we all do.  Whether created by our own minds or by the perceptions of others, or more likely both, we have a character  that we present to the world.  We hope that the character is also true to our deepest self but I think for many of us it is a somewhat uncomfortable mix between what we feel we should be and what we truly are.  This character is influenced by all sort of things, who we are interacting with, the place we find ourselves, the way we view ourselves, our experiences.  At any time we can add or take a way a layer - who we are at work or who we are at school or who we are when we date.  We are daughter, mother, lover, teacher, supervisor, assistant, artist, dancer, goth, hippie, bookworm, activist, spinster...and we often act in a way that we think these characters should act under particular circumstances.

I don't believe that at it's core that this is a bad thing.  It is human nature to name things, to define them and to give them shape. And in general these are not false characters, for many of us they are rooted in a part of ourselves that we are or  we were or in some way desired to be. The danger of course comes when the character is no longer connected to ourselves in that way, yet we find ourselves clinging to it, keeping up the act because we don't know what else to do or be, or perhaps are afraid of disappointing others by not living up to that perception, or we don't believe we can be something else.   This is perhaps the source of many a mid-life crisis.

Those of us who have "independent spirit" or "the one who has it all together" as part of that character may often find it difficult to ask for help when we need it most, after all we are supposed to have our shit together and be able to handle life on our own.  The ones who "get things done" may find they can't say no to yet another project.  Others who have the title of "expert" or "smart" may not be able to admit when they are in error.  Those who see themselves as "not pretty" or "unloveable" may not ever take the risk of finding joyful human contact believing they are not worthy of it.  And those who took on a role because it was what the world told them they were supposed to do...get married, have children, become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, make something of your life...may find that what they thought they should be and who they actually are become very different things.

And so I look at myself.  Yes, I am an  independent, non-conformist, adventurous, creative person but I am also a woman who struggles at times with loneliness, who doesn't always have it as much together as the rest of the world thinks she does (or maybe as much as she thinks she does...what?), who goes on Magnum PI Netflix binges, who finds farts to be a source of hilarity, who often looks in the mirror and sees less-than-pretty but sometimes sees gorgeous, and who tries her best to appear confident even when afraid.  I see someone who, in the past twenty plus years of adulthood has changed her views on many things, who through experience has learned hard lessons and yet has made many of the same mistakes over and over and over again...we are not static beings.

Perhaps the key is to take that look on a regular basis.  To ask yourself, is what I am projecting out into the world something that is really me? The life I am living, is it mine or that of the character I want the world to see?  Eventually, if we keep checking in, the character and our self will become one and the same or at least as closely aligned as we can hope them to be in a world where who we are and who we are expected to be are fluid concepts and often at odds.

(This post is the first of a series of posts that came out of a fireside chat during a festival weekend not so long ago.  I am no expert in human psychology, these posts are my own musings and thoughts as inspired by that conversation.  Up next:  The characters we expect others to play.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

The stories we tell...

I spent the weekend at a festival about two hours north of my beloved city.  It wasn't just for fun, it was gig, and though I am today still feeling the tired from it I did manage to have a mostly good time.  I do find these sorts of event exhausting.  Though I tend towards being more extrovert than introvert I do require a lot of down time to recharge my batteries; this is something not always easy to find when one is sharing space with 600 or more other people.

The down time I managed to find came in the form of sitting by the fire at our campsite on the hillside while the festival continued on below.  I was able to enjoy the silence and comfortably carry on a one on one conversation.  It was during one such conversation that the subject of my next few blog posts.

About six months ago I read a book titled Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire and The Forging of History by Kenneth Lapatin about the murky origins of one the Boston Museum of Fine Arts most well known items, the statue of a Minoan snake goddess.   The book is not only about the origins of the statue but also how when someone wants a certain idea to be real they can often make the evidence fit the story we want to tell, even if that story may not be true.  A fellow performer and friend who had also read the book a few months after I did was also in attendance and one evening we found ourselves having a fireside chat about the book.

It was he who brought up the idea that is isn't just early 20th century archaeologists who are quite willing accept less than verifiable evidence to support a theory or story, but how this is something that human beings do on a personal level all the time with the stories we tell to ourselves and to the world about ourselves.  We can buy into the story so much that even when there is ample evidence to the contrary we insist on continuing to tell it even when we know it is not longer true.  Sometimes it is because we think it is the story we should be telling, or maybe it's because we are too afraid to let the story shift and change, or perhaps it isn't even the story itself, but the character we play in it that we don't know how to let go of.

In any case the discussion left me writing copious notes in my pocket journal the next morning so that I'd not forget the many points raised that night and the questions I found myself asking about my own story. As often happens when I find my brain lighting up over a new idea I have decided to blog about it.

So expect some soul searching posts over the coming days...hopefully without too much self indulgent navel gazing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

So Long My Sweet Boy...

It was eighteen years ago that I found myself on my bed holding a small saucer of milk into which I had dipped my index finger, which I then held out near the edge of the blanket in the hopes of coaxing the tiny black and white ball of fluff that was hiding beneath the covers to come out.  A few moments later a tiny pink tongue flicked the end of my finger and said ball of fluff finally emerged.  Though on our first meeting he was timid and afraid, over the eighteen years that followed this little ball of fluff would win not only my heart but also the heart of everyone he met...even those who swore up and down that they were decidedly NOT cat people.

I have always waited for my kitties to name themselves and Pandora christened himself only few weeks after we adopted him as he quickly showed a talent for getting into nearly any container presented to him.  Box, bag, dresser drawer and even a harp case, there was not a button, snap or zipper that could stop him and though we later discovered that his fluffy fur had concealed his decidedly male genitalia the name stuck.

He was one of the most clever cats I've ever known.  One of his favorite games was fora toy to be hidden inside of a box which he would then find a way to open.  The other was fetch, which I think he actually taught to me, not the other way around.  He could play the game for hours, not stopping until he was short of breath.

He once saved our apartment from burning down when a jar that held a burning candle broke and fell into an open drawer of clothing.  It was summer and we had a fan in the window blowing out to help draw the heat from the apartment.  It also pulled all of the smoke from the room where flames were now crawling up the front of the dresser.  He stood at the end of the hall growling and meowing, then he'd run to the couch to get our attention and run back down the hall crying loudly (he was never, ever a quiet cat).  Finally we stood up and followed him down the hall were the flames were discovered and quickly extinguished.

Pandora's real trick though was to work his way into your heart.  He loved people and always assumed that anyone he met wanted to share love.  Always the best dressed in the room with his black and white tuxedo, he greeted all visitors at the door and would reach up to their legs with his front paws, a gesture that meant he desired to be picked up.  I don't remember a time when any one refused and once he was their arms he would plant a kiss on the tip of their nose with his velvety tongue.  He had a habit of looking whomever was petting him straight in the face and giving long, slow blinks that we called his "love eyes."  It felt as though he was adoring you as much as you adored him.   If you stopped petting him he would place his paw gently on your thigh or lightly paw your hand until you started again.  He never used his claws. Eventually the paw somehow evolved into a high five which most folks never believed he did until they witnessed it. It then became yet one more game he was quite willing to play since the reward for each high five was of course, more love.

Every night he curled up at my feet and when his sister passed two years ago he took her place beside my pillow, curling up into a small ball just as she did.  He woke me with kisses on the nose every morning to let me know it was time for breakfast.

His favorite food was chicken which he could smell from any room he was in.  He was a rather polite beggar sitting tall and waiting until you were done knowing that of course you were going to set your empty plate down for him to lick clean.  In the last few years of his life he would wait while I made and ate breakfast knowing that he would either get to lick the cereal bowl or receive a spoonful of the yolk of my poached egg.

He was always a chatty cat, chirping, meowing and yipping as he made his way through life.  Towards the end as his hearing began to go he became much louder and more demanding, particularly when it came to closed doors or dinner time.  As he aged arthritis in his hips slowed him down and thyroid problems caused him to lose weight as did the cancer that, though he managed to miraculously fight off tumors several times, would eventually end his life.  But he never lost his love of people.   Even with painful hips he rose to his feet whenever someone new entered the room and though he was slow to get there, every visitor was still greeted at the door.  He still pawed to be picked up and he gave his soft and sweet high fives till the end.

These past few weeks his health had been growing worse.  He slept far more and ate less.  His weight dropped dangerously low.  It was yesterday morning that he began to wheeze and when I took him to see his doctor an x-ray showed what I feared most.  A tumor had grown in his upper chest and it was cutting off his airflow.  Later that day he collapsed as he tried to stand.  He tried to meow and barely squeaked.  The ride back to the doctor was one of the saddest times of my life.  My sweet boy was silent as we made our way and was barely conscious by the time we arrived.  He died curled in my lap only a short time after that, his passing eased by gentle hands.

Pandora, Panda-bear, Pandy, Pan-Pan, Panda-boy, My Sweet Boy, My Little Boog, our little butler.  You were in my life longer than most people I know today.  I was 24 when we first met.  So many things changed during those years but there was always you, with your sweet and gentle kisses, your bright eyes and tender paws.  I see you everywhere I look today and I will miss you so very, very much.

I do hope that there is a place where your spirit lives.  That perhaps you are reunited with your sister, Orange, that you are chasing butterflies and finding sunny spots to snooze in.  I hope that there are many hands to pet you and noses for you to kiss.  But even if there is not such a place, I do know that you will live on my memories and in my heart and in the hearts of the many more who came to love you.

Rest in peace my sweet boy.  I love you always.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"...um...good morning!"

My morning destination
I start my day each morning with a walk.  Okay, that is not absolutely true, my day actually begins with stumbling blindly, because I always forget to put my glasses on, into the kitchen to feed my cat masters followed by more fumbling around to make coffee.  After I have my cup of coffee I get dressed and go for a walk down to the ocean.  This can happen anywhere from 6:30 to 8:00 depending mostly upon whether or not I crawl back into bed after feeding the cats.

Whatever time of the morning I end up leaving the house, I always encounter other people as I make my way to the seaside.  Some are exercising, many are walking their dogs, others are on their way to work.  Until a few days ago I passed by all of these people without making eye contact, without smiling or saying hello.  In fact other than not bumping into the other person, we passed each other on the street with virtually no acknowledgement that we have even noticed one another.  

A few days  ago, as I was out for my walk,  an older gentleman nodded at me and said, "Good morning," as we passed each other on the sidewalk.  I mumbled some sort of response that vaguely sounded like, "Good morning," and went on my way.  A few moments later I thought to myself how nice it was to actually have someone notice my existence.  I didn't know him and he didn't know me, and he was likely just being polite but still, it made me feel some brief connection to him as a fellow human being.  So I decided that the next day on my walk I would say, "Good morning" to everyone I encountered.   I had no idea how difficult it would turn out to be. 

I wasn't worried about how others might respond.  I mean, it took me a split second to realize that someone had said, "Good morning," to me.  I realized how uncommon it was and so I was not going to take it personally if someone did not respond back or if they did belatedly.  No, the problem I encountered in my little experiment was me. 

At first I worried about when to actually say it.  Do I do it while someone is still a few feet in front of me so they have time to respond?  Do I wait until they are passing me on the sidewalk?  Do I look them in the eye? Should I smile?  I was so anxious about it that I passed at least a half dozen people before I told myself to stop worrying about it and just do it.  At that point I was quite near the end of my walk and began to despair that my experiment would be a total failure because I'd never work up the courage to do it.  Finally, as I rounded a corner one block away from my apartment I saw a young woman walking towards me.  My hearth was pounding and I think my palms may have been a bit sweaty.  I quietly cleared by throat and...

"Good morning," I said as she neared.  She smiled at me and replied, "Oh.  Good morning."

As she continued on her way and I on mine a huge smile came across my lips.  One of those big cheek lifting sort of grins that I get when I successfully do something that makes me anxious or a little afraid.  In fact I was smiling so big and feeling so darn good about myself I nearly missed chance number two as I waited to cross the street and man with a briefcase walked past me.  

"Good morning," I said.  He looked back over his shoulder and waved, "Good morning."

I couldn't believe it! I'd done it twice.  I skipped across the street - that's right, 42 year old me was skipping across the street because she'd managed to say, "good morning," to two total strangers.  

The next day I decided to do it again.  I was still a bit nervous so one or two folks walked by me before I worked up the courage to say, "Good morning," to a pair of folks waiting for the bus. They both replied with the same back to me.  In fact, with the exception of a young man wearing ear-buds who likely did not hear me, every person I wished a good morning to replied with the same.  

I could likely write much more about how acknowledging our fellow human beings can help build community or  how I hoped it made them feel good and brightened their day a bit, but while both of these things are ultimately true, my original motivation for doing this was a bit of a selfish one.  I really just wanted to do it because I wondered if I could and I wondered what would happen if I did.  My reason for continuing to do it is a bit of a selfish one too, it feels good.  

And so I will continue.  And yes, maybe one day it will even become a habit.  And maybe one day someone else who I said, "Good morning," to will decide they want to do the same and who knows, maybe eventually we will all walk around acknowledging the existence of our fellow humans.  Gosh darn it! This could change the world!  We might actually start to get along!  Heck, we might even end up with world peace all because early one morning a man said, "Good morning," to a one slightly bleary eyed woman he passed by on the street...

...it could happen!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Just for Me....

Today I must be ready to leave the house by 10:00 AM for a performance that my troupe has at a festival later today.  Last night I pulled together all of the things I would need: drums, our troupe banner, our mailing list sign-up sheets and props for skits..  I prepared a lunch for myself and laid out my costuming.  I sent a few final reminders to fellow performers about a change in departure time.  I set my alarm for 6:00 AM and went to bed.

This morning, while I did hit the snooze button three times, I managed to rise from bed by 6:30.  I made myself some coffee, which I sipped as I browsed Facebook and skimmed some news sites.  After I finish this post I'll likely do about ten minutes of yoga before hopping into the shower after which I will begin the process of costuming myself and getting into character for our performances later in the day; a process which takes about 90 minutes to two hours.

One might think that getting up this early on a Saturday willingly must mean I am a morning person  Actually it is because I am NOT a morning person that I arise so early to begin my day.  I learned long ago that I am not one of those folks who can get out of bed, rush around, chug a cup of coffee and head out the door.  At least it isn't generally something I can do and remain in a good mood.  When I feel rushed I am likely to forget important things...like props, or drums, or my lunch.  Which means in the end I'll also be stressed out, cranky and quite likely late.  I'll spend most of the day trying to catch up with myself.

These days I generally allow myself two hours of me time before I have to be anywhere or, as is the case today, before I have to prepare to be anywhere.  It isn't always easy but it has so many benefits; not just for me, but for others too.  If I have to meet someone somewhere, if I have a ride picking me up, if I have to start work, I do so with a clear head and a more calm demeanor.  I'm also rarely late.

But most importantly these two hours at the beginning of my day are a gift to myself.  This is time that is mine...just for me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

....and she's back.

Yes, yes, I know.  I said I'd be taking the month of May off from blogging.  Then it was June.  Soon came July and July is now nearly over.  Where have I been?

Mostly I've been spending my time enjoying my summer and doing a lot of thinking.  I'll soon share just what it is I've been up to and what I've been thinking about.

More to come very, very soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let's pause a little...

This post is about taking a break.  Specifically a break from blogging.  I have made the decision to put Spinster Jane on hold for the month of May.  Why am I doing this?  The short answer is time.

Time is the reason for a lot of my life decisions; mainly because like many of us I don't have enough of it.  I made the choice a few years ago to live a creative life.  I wanted to dedicate myself to being an artist in whatever form my art may take.  And it takes a lot of forms:  writing, dancing, choreographing, sewing, crocheting, drumming and teaching.

Currently my endeavors include:

  • writing this blog
  • managing and directing a performance troupe
  • performing with said troupe as dancer, MC and musician
  • a separate solo dance path
  • bettering my drumming skills
  • teaching workshops on live music dance performance
  • teaching a weekly dance class
  • forming a student dance troupe
  • custom crochet work
I also of course work a day job and attend school full time.  Today I am face to face with the fact that I don't have enough time to do all of it - at least not now - which leaves me with the options of finding a way to better manage my time or making the choice to let go of something. 

And I truly don't want to let go of any of it. 

Some choices are easy; I have to keep my job and school has an end date so I keep both of those.  I won't give up teaching classes and workshops as it consistently brings me great joy and I learn just as much from my students as I teach them.  It is also just beginning to become a reliable source of income.  The crochet work I only take when I know I have the time.   Actually if I kept going I'd likely find justification for keeing all of it. 

...and that is where the struggle is. 

And thus the break from blogging.  I've not been able to keep up with it regularly anyway and so I might as well make it official so that I at least I'll stop feeling bad about not doing it.  Hopefully over the next month I'll have at least a few moments to give some thought to whether or not to keep Spinster Jane alive. 

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of spring and I'll see you in June.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

30 Days of...ooops.

My 30 days of blogging about sustainability was derailed by five days of sickness and three days of recovery and catching up.  While I am pretty close to being up to date on work, school related business and performance matters I am not sure I will catch up on the blogging.

I will however complete the four part series mentioned in the prior post!

Stay tuned!!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 7 - Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

"Use it up,
Wear it out, 
Make it do,
Or do without."

- Anonymous

Often used in reference to "Yankee frugality" the origins of the phrase are unclear.  It was popularized in the United States during the rationing years of World War II. Whatever the original source of the saying today it could serve just as well as a slogan for seeking to live a sustainable life in our consumption focused culture and economy.

This week I'll be writing a four part series focusing on each line of the saying and  answer the question of how we can make this old adage apply to our lives today.

Have you heard this saying before?  Do you apply it to your life today?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day 6 - Buy Local

The buy local movement has been growing rapidly across the country.  Nearly every city has an organization to promote local business.  Here in Portland, Maine e we have Portland Buy Local that promotes local businesses.

There are numerous benefits to buying local.  The Portland Buy Local website lists several including...

...keeping your dollars local (studies have shown higher percentage of each dollar spent at a locally owned businesses stay within the community than those spent at national chains);

...environmental sustainability (aside from the shorter distance you may drive, or better yet walk, locally produced goods, especially food, have a lower environmental impact);

...supporting entrepreneurship;

...keeping your local neighborhood unique and diverse;

...and much more.

If you'd like to learn more about buying local in your community the American Independent Business Alliance can help you connect.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 5 - Walking

According to many estimates the average person gets the equivalent of 75 miles per gallon when walking. Compared to the average 24.6 miles per gallon of cars in the U.S. and the fact that walking is a zero emissions mode of transportation**, walking seems a pretty good environmental deal, and it is, but there are other sustainability related benefits to leaving the car parked.

Getting to know your community.  - Walking allows you to see your neighborhood up close and personal in a way that you simply can't do when passing through at 15 - 50 miles per hour.  You can get to know local plants and wildlife (yes, even in the city there is wildlife), frequent local business and say hello to your neighbors.

Health Benefits - Walking is good for you.  I'm pretty lazy about exercise.  I'm not the type to go to the gym or take an aerobics class.  With my feet as my transportation I usually walk at least a few miles per day just doing the activities of day to day life.  That's right a few miles.  Which means I'm getting quite a bit of exercise without any real extra effort.

** Human's don't have tailpipes but where we get our "fuel" is still important.  Farming in our country is very much tied to fossil fuel use.  Buying local and organic can greatly reduce the environmental impact of our human fuel intake.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 4 - Individual Sustainability

A video about individual sustainability.  It is an interesting approach to a sustainable life. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 3 - Energy Efficiency

I don't believe energy efficiency can be explained in 90 seconds as this video claims but, it does make the point that we can do a lot to reduce fossil fuel use through conservation.  Every light you turn off, every energy efficient appliance you use, ever inch of insulation you add to your home, every degree you turn down your thermostat results in lower energy use.  The less energy we use, the less fossil fuels we burn to produce power. 

While changing our power supply over to renewable sources is an admirable goal and one I hope to see achieved one day, energy conservation is something we can all do right now, today.  If every individual took steps to reduce their energy use it could have a great impact in reducing the environmental impact of energy production, and we'd all save a bit of money as well.  

Who is she (this impossible me)?

Other thoughts...

In my mind I have a vision of the person I want to be. In this vision she is always solitary...independent, though often standing in the midst of chaos - a busy office, back stage before a show, on a crowded sidewalk, she is calm and somehow apart from it all.  On her feet she wears stylish but sensible shoes.  She always looks well put together because she enjoys wearing things that make her feel beautiful.

She is strong, physically and mentally.  Taking care of herself is a part of daily life.  She is always well rested. While she has doubts about life they don't dominate her thinking. When she is in emotional turmoil she is able to set it aside so that she can take care of whatever immediate task life has put before her.  She is never overwhelmed because she knows her limits  She is passionate about many things.  She knows what she wants and she is not afraid of the hard work it may take to accomplish her desires.  

She is compassionate, offering a hand when others are in need.  She wants to save the world but knows she can only do the work of one person.  She attempts as best she can to live in a manner that lessens her impact on the earth.  

She wants to leave this earth having somehow made it a better place.

Lately I think of her and wonder, almost with a laugh, how I ever thought I could be this person? Yes, we are similar in many ways, passionate about what we do and about wanting to improve the world. I attempt to be compassionate but I stumble over jealousy, hurt and anger as most of us to.   I'm tired more days than I am not and I definitely fail frequently in the self care department.  I am overly emotional with some regularity and I struggle daily with self doubt.

I guess it's okay that I am not her.  It does seem like it would be a whole lot of work to be her and I'm not sure I'm really up to the task.  Maybe instead of seeing her as the me that I am not, I'll think of her as a sister or close friend because, even if she isn't me, when think of her I do feel a bit stronger and a little more capable.  It would be nice to know even if I am not her, that I at least have her on my side.

Note: I think there might have been a day, sometime in the spring of 2011, that I came as close to being her as I've ever been.  I should have noted the date but I was probably too busy being wonderful. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

30 Days of Earth Day: (Day 2) Know your recycling...

Many cities across the country have curbside recycling which makes it very easy to do something good for the environment. However each city and town's regulations are not the same.  For instance while nearly every program takes paper, glass and aluminium when it comes to plastics things can get tricky.

For instance, not all programs accept No. 2 plastic, some accept plastic grocery bags and others do not. Often a visit to your local public works website will help you determine what plastics your towns program accepts.  You may find that you what you thought was recyclable isn't or better yet find that your town has expanded your program and now accepts more than you expected.

Why is this important? If you place non-recyclable materials in your recycle bin these items will generally be removed during the facility's sorting process and still end up in a landfill or burned in an incinerator.  If you know that your town doesn't accept a certain kind of plastic you can make an effort to buy products that do not use that form of plastic which prevents it from ending up as just one more piece of trash.

If you want to learn more about plastics and how to identify the different types the EPA has an informative page which you can visit by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

30 Days of Earth Day: Day 1

April 22 is Earth Day.  It is the day intended to bring attention to protecting the environment and keeping our planet a livable place for all.  Of course while Earth Day serves an important educational function if we are to keep this planet clean, safe and a generally enjoyable place for all living thing well, though it might be on it's way to sounding cliche, every day needs to be Earth Day.

In the spirit of this I plan to share with you something I do each day in my efforts to lessen my environmental impact and help create a more sustainable world.  

I don't usually eat a lot of take out for two reasons: 1) I usually can't afford it and 2) it usually involves a lot of disposable packaging.

Today however, due to a busy morning, I found that I had reached about 1:30 PM without eating anything.  I was on my way to an afternoon appointment when I started to feel the effects of a drop in blood sugar so I stopped in at the grocery store and bought a small serving of soup from the food bar. It was a lovely day, about 50 degrees and sunny, so I sat on a bench to eat.

After I was done instead of tossing it into the nearest trash can, I put the cardboard soup container back in the paper bag and tucked it away in my purse to be added to the recycle bin at home.

While disposable containers are never my first choice a lot of places that serve takeout are switching to recyclable packaging.  This is great but it only works if we are willing to take the extra step to actually make sure it gets into the proper receptacle.