I Accept My Talents

I wrote the following as a part of my “All is Well in My World” art and journaling project on July 7, almost exactly two years ago from today.

The project was inspired by the teachings of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She has an amazing story and her beliefs are very thought provoking.

She firmly believes that we can heal what ails us through the power of loving oneself and that aches and pains in each part of the body are associated with things like past experiences, negativity, fear, and a lack of self love. Based on personal and very real experiences, I believe there is a great deal of truth in what she teaches. I do believe that our “issues can get stuck in our tissues” and a lack of self love can hold us back by keeping us in a state of shame, fear and believing that we don’t deserve all of the abundance life has to offer.

I’ve recently come to realized that I have a recurring and ongoing fear of the future and money; it stems from a series of life events that began in my early 20’s and contributed to significant feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. I’ve processed, released, forgiven and moved on from many of these memories and as I do, my life becomes richer,I am more at peace and I have faith that the future holds wonderful outcomes for me.

The funny thing about letting go of doubt, anger, resentment, shame, fear and/or sadness that we associate with particular events in our lives, is that those same feelings can resurface when we least expect it. Sometimes they are intertwined with other past events that deepen the grove in our record that keeps us from moving forward, toward our greater good.

More than a few of those feelings emerged this morning, which prompted me to re-read and re-share the entry associated with this affirmation: “I stand tall and free. I love and approve of of me. My life gets better every day.” and “I move into my greater good. My good is everywhere, and I am secure and safe.” ~ Louise Hay

I Accept My Talents

07/7/2014

I embrace my talentsBooming thunder, flickering lights, and a brief power outage caught me off guard tonight. Just as I was settling in to write I could no longer see the keyboard.

Thankfully the power outage lasted only a short time, however the storm is raging on. In an odd way, the sudden squall provided the perfect inspiration for tonight’s thoughts.

Unlike many writers and artists, I wasn’t born with a passion to create, at least not that I was aware of.

When I was young, school systems and teachers considered reading, writing, and arithmetic to be important and subjects like art and creative writing were merely electives best suited to becoming a hobby. The focus of the education system, coupled with the fact that I moved 9 times before I turned 15, and the reality that there were no obvious clues that there was an artist hiding inside led my parents to guide me toward a practical path.

Truth to be told, I was better at math than I was at art and there were very few opportunities to explore writing that extended beyond my interpretations of novels by famous authors like Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, and Henry David Thoreau. I excelled at math, but literature courses were what I enjoyed most.

One of my favorite memories was a weekend field trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska – the home of Willa Cather. I don’t remember any specifics outside visiting her tiny home and afterwards sitting around a campfire talking with my classmates and our AP American Lit teacher. Who knows what we talked about or how much sense we made, I’m sure we thought we were profound.

To be honest, I don’t remember whether or not I actually loved “My Antonia” or pretended to because I wanted to impress my instructor. I do know there was a part of me that dreamed of being the woman, from the middle of nowhere, who wrote a book that both entertained and inspired people to think.

My journey to understanding and accepting my talents began about five years ago, during one of the most difficult times of my life.

In a late night and tear-filled conversation, my best friend challenged me to find a creative outlet as an alternative to escalating patterns of self-destruction.  The next day a flyer for ed2go.com arrived in the mail. The brochure promoted online learning opportunities and the featured area of study was creative writing, an event that I can attribute to nothing other than serendipity.  I registered for a class to learn about how to write romance novels. (who knows  it may still come in handy someday.)

I posted my assignments to the classroom forum using the pseudonym “Lady.” I used the penname for over a year in various 6 week courses before I gained enough confidence to sign my own name to what I wrote. Today I write with confidence both personally and professionally.

In 2012 I dusted off my desire to draw, bought a sketch book, and took the bold step of registering for the Intermediate/Advanced level drawing class through a local organization, The Artists of Yardley.

I was petrified the first day of class.  My one and only “real” class took place twenty-two years prior to that, and I was positive that my place was in the beginner’s class, which had sold out. After conquering my first fear, which was to enter the classroom; I perched in front of the easel stiff and nearly paralyzed, staring at the sunflower we were supposed to reproduce.

Petals, stems, and leaves seemed to fly from the fingers of the other students and they all finished their unique and amazing sunflowers by the end of the three hour class. My pencil drawing took me nearly three months to complete. During each lesson that followed, my instructor encouraged me and helped me see my artwork through her eyes and not through the eyes of a perfectionist (me). Over the past 2 ½ years my comfort has grown and my style has begun to emerge.

It may sound strange, but sometimes when I read something I wrote it makes me cry, other times it makes me laugh. When I look at things I’ve written or drawn as though the creator is unknown, I think things like – “wow, that inspires me.”

Today, I no longer introduce myself as a “want-to-be-writer” or an “aspiring artist.” I own who I am.

Today, I accept, embrace, and am thankful for the talents and gifts I have been blessed with and can share.

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Believe in Possibilities

Sometimes it can be tough to believe in positive outcomes, especially if you’re going through a stretch of “bad luck.” Like many people, there have been times in my life that have really tested my faith and my ability to be optimistic.

I’ve always considered myself to be a “cup half full” kind of person, however I’ve come to the realization that there is more to having a positive outlook on life giving lip service to the belief that “everything will be alright,” but letting the chatter in your head control your actions.

One of the many blessings in my life are my parents, they have lived through many difficult situations and have always maintained a positive outlook on life. My dad is a big believer in the power of a PMA, aka – positive mental attitude, and he lives it every day of his life. That’s not to say that there aren’t days that his optimism wavers, he’s human after all.

PMA could also stand for, perseverance means achievement; my dad faces every obstacle head on and somehow finds now to make the word No mean Next Opportunity.

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The drawing is from an art journal that I created as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions and to help me remain focused on the positive as I’ve been working my way through a recent set of challenges.

Near the beginning of this most recent “Adventure,” my friend Marilyn, gave me a beautiful postcard with this very meaningful quote from Art Mitchell – “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

The message really reinforces the way my dad approaches life and never gives up.

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Father’s day seems like perfect time to share a personal story of perseverance and growth, with many thanks to my dad for his unwavering support and for being an amazing role model for all of us. I am deeply grateful for all he has done for me and I know he is a big part of the reason that I am the woman I am today.

A look into the past….

On a warm September day in 2008, I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck with mixed emotions and a few tears on my face. My thoughts ping-ponged back and forth between sadness and joyful hope. It was difficult to be leaving friends, family, a beautiful home and everything that was familiar and safe.But it was exciting to think about the possibilities that our future in Pennsylvania held.

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When I accepted the job in Pennsylvania, it seemed like nothing could go wrong and the future held nothing but rainbows and unicorns. Maybe I wasn’t quite that optimistic (or unrealistic), but I was really confident that it was the best thing that could have happened for my family and myself both personally and professionally.

We put our house on the market and my seven month commute between Omaha, Nebraska and Philadelphia began. It was a rather grueling trek back and forth, but it offered the opportunity for my daughter to finish out her senior year of high school without moving.

My youngest son was 12, and although I knew it would be difficult for him to move and adjust to a new school, new and very different living arrangements – I was confident that he would be able to adapt and in the long run it would help him grow and develop in positive ways.

Our move to Pennsylvania has been full of new beginnings and life changing events, but not at all in the way I would have imagined them to unfold.

I had landed my “dream job” with a financially sound company, or so I thought. The job was great, but the financial health of the company was not; two months after my start date, they declared Chapter 11. I was scared, but because I was the primary income earner, we had no choice but to move and hope for the best.

The real estate market in Omaha was depressed, just like everywhere else in the country. In spite of St Joseph statues and wonderful real estate agents, we were unable to sell before we moved, which meant that our new home was going to be in an apartment.

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It certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but it was such a major change for all of us and it was not what I had hoped for. My unrealistic and unhealthy belief at the time was that we moved “because of me” so it was my responsibility to make everything perfect and as familiar as possible rather than asking for help and support.

After moving the challenges and obstacles seemed to gain momentum and magnitude.

In those days the voices in my head were working overtime.

I spent every minute of every day worrying. I hashed and rehashed the decision to move.  I beat myself up about the fact that the house back in Nebraska hadn’t sold and we were losing money every month. I speculated about the viability of the company I worked for and whether or not it would emerge from Chapter 11 and if I would be spared from any future layoffs.

I blamed myself for my husband’s unhappiness and deepening depression. I spent hours agonizing about my youngest son Christian and the fact that the ‘normal’ trials of being in eighth grade were amplified by a new school in a new state, being the only child left at home, and having to make new friends – something that is easier said than done when you’re the new kid from Nebraska and you started school almost three weeks late. I wondered if we’d be able to afford to fly my oldest kids, Jeff and Katie, out for occasional visits and I held myself accountable for it all, most of all, for the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to fix any of it.

There was no escaping the voices and daily I slipped further and further into a self-imposed state of emotional isolation. At work I found myself going through the motions and while I interacted with my direct reports, a handful of co-workers, and of course my boss. For the most part, I kept to myself and limited my contact with people to office hours only. I quit calling or even sending email updates to friends, and I talked to my parents and kids only when I thought I could fake a positive attitude.

I had no choice but to drag myself into work every day and do my best to appear upbeat and confident.  As the primary and now sole income earner I couldn’t afford to lose my job and it was the only escape I had from the dreary apartment and my relentless anxiety.  The voices took a back seat for a while every day while I managed my way through the work day. They were always there but just not as loud. By this point in time I’d had years of practice in compartmentalizing my personal life and my work life.  Lessons learned early in my career taught me to keep people at arm’s length and keep my personal life to myself.

Back then I didn’t realize or understand one of the underlying messages my dad lives,believes and had tried to communicate to me – worry doesn’t change tomorrow, it just takes the joy out of today.

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There were so many things I didn’t understand during that time in my life; concepts and practices that would have helped me maneuver more easily through a divorce, the financial strain and embarrassment that accompanied nearly foreclosing on my house and the challenges and blessings of being a single mom in a city half-way across the country from my family and closest friends.

I’ve not only made it through the majority of the initial challenges that came after my move; life is much richer because of them. It sounds strange to say, but I’m actually grateful for them because I’ve learned:

Self Love is the first step…

Self love is not the same as self indulgence or self acceptance. It means that we treat our bodies and our minds well, enjoy the person we are in the present, forgive and release the people and things from our past that hold us back and embrace our future with confidence.

I could write an entire book about the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years; lessons about being present and not dwelling on the past, tools for facing difficulties with positivity instead of catastrophizing and letting the negative chatter in my head control my actions.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and the most important one is that we only destroy our selves and sabotage our happiness when we hang on to regrets from the past, refuse to forgive ourselves for being human and compare ourselves to others as a way to measure success.

I suspect my dad finds the whole ‘self love’ thing to be a bit ‘woo woo,’ but I think that’s because he has an innate understanding of the importance of it.

Being Present is the next step…

I have never met two people who are as good at making the most of every experience as my parents. We moved a lot while I was growing up, and each time we moved they approached it as though it was the last place they would ever live and quickly made friends and became a part of the community.

My parents don’t “vacation,” they take trips. Earlier this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Hawaii with them. The entire trip was amazing, but I think if I had to pick, I’d say Wednesday was my favorite day. The last thing I expected that morning was for my dad to announce that he wanted to go zip-lining. His exact words (or close to) were, “I’m going to be 80 this year, who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to go zip-lining, so let’s do it.”

Talk about being present in the moment and making the most of things! I know for a fact that there were plenty of things on his mind that were “worry worthy,” but instead of focusing on things outside of his control, he chose to embrace the moment and experience something new.

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He may sometimes get lost in his own thoughts, but he definitely knows how to live life to it’s fullest and doesn’t let challenges or obstacles weigh him down.

beth & dad

Believe in Possibilities….

Believing in possibilities is so much easier and rewarding than speculating about all of the possible negative outcomes that may (or most likely not) happen as a result of a current situation.

As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Many, many thanks to my dad for all he has taught me about the power of positive thinking and the importance of believing in possibilities.

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Happy Birthday to My Beautiful Mom

There are many adjectives that come to my mind when I think about my mom; they include generous, intelligent, courageous, kind, thoughtful, positive and beautiful. She’s one of the people I admire most in the world and it would be impossible to describe the impact she’s had in my life and in the lives of countless others. But here’s an attempt to express it.

Lovely both inside and out. Her beauty is so much more than skin deep, it comes from within. Everything from knowing just how to add a special touch to a meal or how to create a stunning floral presentation with flowers from the grocery store to the way she touches the lives of people in her family and community. She works tirelessly to promote the arts and volunteers her time to help those who need a helping hand.

Intelligent and creative. My mom is the go to person for advice on how to solve a problem or to get feedback on the best way to approach a situation. She gives thoughtful consideration to every detail and has a unique ability to see under the surface of a situation. Her creativity is boundless and ranges from how to draft just the right message in an email to just ‘knowing’ what flavors will complement each other, and how to turn a home into a masterpiece.

Nurturing and caring. We have a diverse family to say the least. It’s actually very cool and my mom is one of the primary reasons we are all so open and comfortable with who we are. I honestly don’t know where I would be without having had her support throughout my life.She always seems to know just when I need a new outfit to perk up my spirits and she’s always been there to support me, fix my broken wings and celebrate my successes with me.

Determined and dedicated. I’ve never seen my mom give up or throw in the towel while facing challenges that would make most people run the other direction. When she sets her sights on something, there’s little question that there will be a positive outcome. She’s dedicated to her family and is the backbone of support during the difficult times and the good times.

Amazing and adventurous. I don’t know many people my age that can say they went zip-lining with their mom. My mom has a knack for discovering hidden gems while traveling and in how she lives her life every day. She has accomplished so many amazing things and humbly continues to devote herself to her family and community.

I am endlessly thankful for my mom and everything she does. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without her. I love you so much mom!

Happy Birthday!

Easter 2016

the whole family in paul bunyans lap

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Choosing Hope Over Fear and Worry

A few weeks ago my youngest son and I watched the movie “A Bridge of Spies,” a modern day interpretation of actual events that happened during the time of the Cold War; it was a story of espionage, mistrust and eventually a reconciliation of sorts.

It’s the story of Rudolf Abel, a convicted Russian spy and a New York lawyer, James Donovan, who against all odds chooses to do the right thing and represent Rudolf with dignity and integrity. Throughout the story, it became clear that there was little hope for a positive outcome for Rudolf in the U.S. and minimal hope if he returned to his homeland.

He and James Donovan become friends in an odd sort of way.

The reason it came to my mind today is because of recent thoughts that have emerged as a result of reading yesterday’s entry in “Miracles Now.”   The second tool the author introduces as a way to lead a less stressful and more fulfilling life is to – “Clean Up Your Side of the Street.” Or in her words, face and let go of the fears that are holding you back.

I’ve come to believe that worry fuels fears and we need to let go of both.

In the movie, and perhaps in real life, James asked Rudolf one more than one occasion – “Aren’t you worried?”

Rudolf responds, “Would it make a difference?”

Ha! What a brilliant answer.

Clearly worrying has never made a difference in the outcome of any situation. Worrying is our way of trying to control the outcome when we feel overwhelmed and there seems to be no hope. What we don’t realize is that worry only serves to feed our fears because it affirms the worst case scenarios – in the end worrying serves no purpose in our lives.

Back to today, well rather yesterday’s message to “clean up my side of the street.”

Deep breath, I took the challenge of the exercise and wrote down my fears, 10 fears. Of them all, this one is the most looming.

I am afraid of not belonging.

We all want to feel that we are a part of something, that we belong.

My guess is that I’m not alone in my fear. At our core I think we all want to belong, be loved and accepted for who we are. I think it’s part of why we’re here, and I suspect there are more than a few people who feel the same way I do.

Throughout my life I’ve adapted to situations so that I could “fit in.” Over the past few years, I’ve been brave enough to let a few people meet and get to know me rather than  just trying to simply adapt to the situation. The rejection I anticipated  as a result of “letting people in” was unfounded and unrealized. In fact it’s been amazingly rewarding and fun!

All I needed to do was to be myself.

Wow!

So, in the spirit of “cleaning up my side of the street” and facing the things that hold me back, I choose hope over fear and will continue to work toward putting my fears and worries behind me.

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Happiness is a Choice I Make

In 2011 I was gifted an opportunity to learn from Julia Cameron, author of “Walking in this World”  which led to a series of personal essays in which I did my best to share what I learned along the way about life and the art of “being.”

  • Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
  • Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
  • Accept yourself– be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
  • Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
  • We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.

In 2014 I discovered the teachings of Louise Hay through the movie adaptation of her book “You Can Heal Your Life.” Intrigued by her belief that much of the pain we experience in our bodies is a result of negative experiences and self-perceptions, I bought the book and embarked on another creative journey. One that involved 125 days of consecutive writing and visual art. As a result, I created my tiny but powerful journal entitled All is Well in My World.

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Looking back, I wish I had posted each entry on my blog instead of on Google Plus, but thankfully the entire series of mini essays, observations and illustrations is safe and saved in a word document. Who knows, I might actually do something with them some day. 🙂

I have no idea if Julia Cameron and Louise Hay have ever met each other, but I do know that in my world, the two of them have and they both taught me to understand and believe that life is a gift.

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Maybe more, or at least as importantly, their teachings helped me begin to understand that we have far more influence over what happens in our life than most of us believe we do.

Which brings me to my latest “project.” I recently purchased and am reading “Angels of Abundance” By Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue – I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say it’s a spiritual guide, that if read with an open mind and heart teaches how each of us has the ability to manifest and co-create an abundant life through believing in a Higher Power and also in ourselves.

As often-times happens, one thing led to another and as I pursued the works cited in their book I kept coming back to one in particular – Miracles Now: 108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow and Finding Your True Purpose” by Gabrielle Bernstein.

It arrived yesterday.

Coincidentally (or not), I recently replenished my supply of  Peerless Watercolor sheets and started a new art journal with no direction in mind other than I wanted it to be something positive. It’s all leading me toward another series of self expression through art and writing.

I created my first related journal entry today, the first tool in the Miracles Now book was the inspiration.

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Happiness is truly a choice. I can’t honestly say that I have always believed that, but I do now.

Choosing happiness isn’t about never feeling frustration, anger, sadness or fear – those are real emotions and they need to be experienced and felt. Choosing happiness means not letting those feelings rule our lives.

Happiness is now a choice I consciously make.

We the people, have a responsibility…

No matter what your political affiliation is – no one can deny that the 2016 presidential election will go down in history for many reasons. Hopefully one of them will be a re-awaking of ownership in our future among the voters (including me).

I know many people would agree with my opinion that our political system is flawed and has huge opportunity for improvement – but it is also the the system we have. To just ignore it and to not take the time and put in the effort to become informed is akin to “silence is acquiescence.” By casting your vote based solely on emotion and without regard for the bigger picture and facts such as: we are part of a global socioeconomic ecosystem, climate change is a real thing, and everybody matters – you are agreeing to things you may not even be aware of and may regret later.

It’s easy to vote the party line or listen to rhetoric that resonates at an emotional level. But what we need is a leader who can help the U.S. and our citizens become aware of the fact that we are participants in global citizenship as well as addressing the issues in the U.S.

This is not an easy role to fill, make no mistake – who we elect into office is not only challenged with resonating with the U.S. people and the challenges within our economy they are also held responsible for relationships with other countries.

I haven’t finalized my thoughts yet (although there is one absolute ‘no way in hell’ vote that won’t change).

For the first time in many many elections I’m paying attention and doing my homework – there’s so much opinion based, emotionally charged information out there, it will not be an easy task, but I am determined to cast an informed vote.

The outcome of this election has the potential to be unifying or polarizing and that responsibility rests on the shoulders of every U.S. citizen and how they vote, maybe more importantly how they respond after the election results are announced and we have a new president.

Be Kind to Yourself…YOU Deserve it!

Be Kind to Yourself by Beth Browning

One of the things I’ve been working to change in my life over the past few years is to end the negative self talk. We all do it and we shouldn’t. One night last week I found myself slipping down that path and decided to address it head on and through art.

While writing in my journal, the phrase, “be kind to yourself, you deserve it” started running through my head like a broken record and inspired me to grab a watercolor tablet and an assortment of my ink pens.

Be Kind to Yourself In black ink

The funny thing is that the very first version had a “writo” and I misspelled yourself . 🙂

The Y reminded me of a tree trunk and trees are a symbols for knowledge and life which seemed appropriate.  The “B” lent itself to a rainbow.

Be Kind to Yourself with a tree and a rainbow

The tree needed some additional color and life. At this point I was torn and wondering if I should have left it in black and white. In the end I think the color makes the tree “pop.”

Be Kind to YourselfWhile I was looking for inspiration for the butterfly one thing led to another and I stumbled onto one of my own posts while searching for pictures of butterflies.

A couple of years ago I tried my hand at colored pencils and drew an interpretation of Snapdragons and butterflies. It was a piece inspired by my grandmother’s gardens and my favorite flower. This became the inspiration for the butterfly.

white butterfly set free

The butterfly took on a completely unique and somewhat abstract look.

Be Kind to yourself

I decided to do the background in watercolor, which is a first for me. I’ve used watercolor pencils before, but not watercolor paint. I learned a few lessons here about how ink and watercolors do (or don’t play nicely together). In other words, it’s a good idea to do to the background first so the ink doesn’t bleed. It’s also wise to place a piece of paper between your hand and the lettering while working on the lettering to prevent smudging.

In spite of some smudges and ink bleeds I carried on and brought the piece to near completion. I’m more than a little in love with how the butterfly turned out.

Be Kind to yourself with color background

The smudging and bleeding got worse before it got better and my beautiful piece of artwork became an experiment in working with the imperfections created by my inexperience. I have to admit that I came close to tossing it out.

It’s far from perfect, but I think it’s beautiful and I’m glad I completed it.

Be Kind to Yourself by Beth Browning

I’m going to set it aside for now and work on the next lesson in my Doodle Arts class but I’m fairly certain I will revisit this and create a new version.

In the meantime, this version is on the mantle of my fireplace as a daily reminder to “be kind to myself.”

Flat Tires, Mega Snow, Power Outages, and Memorable Moments

2014 has certainly started off in a memorable way. Between January 3rd and February 7th I’ve experienced two major winter storms, two flat tires, two separate power outages, three nights without power, the perfect car rental storm, and last but not least a pair of broken eye glasses.

I’m notorious for not paying attention to the weather forecast and most of the time I learn about incoming hurricanes and snow storms from one or more of my family members from the Midwest. The winter storm Hercules was no different, my daughter gave me the head’s up the day before and so I thought I was prepared for my drive to Lancaster to deliver an on-site workshop.

Based on my calculation I figured I would have no problem beating the storm. Boy was I wrong. For the first time in my life I was listening to the traffic announcer on the radio say something like:

traffic on 202 is bumper to bumper and barely crawling due to heavy snow and near white out conditions,”

And I was in the conditions. It took me nearly 2 ½ hours to drive the final thirty miles. I’ve never been happier to pull into a Holiday Inn Express and be within walking distance of a Ruby Tuesday.

Glass of wine at Ruby Tuesday

The Sunday following my weekend in Lancaster was highlighted by a terrifying blow out on I95 at 4:30 in the morning. I now understand why there are emergency pull off areas on the interstate and I have a whole new appreciation for the importance of knowing how to change a flat tire. You’ll be happy to know that I now belong to Triple A.

I’d scheduled another on-site training workshop for the week following the Lancaster one. When I booked the training in Virginia I didn’t realize that my travel conflicted with a hair appointment. I figured I’d hit the jackpot when my hair dresser had availability earlier that same day. In retrospect I probably should have rescheduled the hair appointment for the following week and not just to an earlier time, but looking good for my training session was a priority at the time.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the car rental process hadn’t taken so long. I stared at the Hertz Rental car sign and the snow packed parking lot for over an hour waiting for someone to deliver the rental car from another location. There’s only so much small talk one can make with the guy manning the front desk.

My impression of Hertz didn’t improve when I discovered that I’d been double billed. In addition to the original Hotwire charge there was a charge for the full amount of the rental from Hertz. To add insult to injury, I received an automated message from Hertz threatening to pursue legal action for the car I had not returned.

I called and confirmed the return and check in of my car before responding to the message. After three separate hour long attempts to speak to the next available agent, I gave up trying and am hoping that since no one has shown up with a warrant for my arrest things have been sorted out.

The trip to Lancaster taught me to pay more attention to the weather and I monitored the incoming snow to help me decide whether or not to reschedule the workshops I had scheduled to begin on Monday and Wednesday. The forecast for Monday morning changed from 2 – 4 inches to 4 – 8 inches while I was sleeping. One student rescheduled and one did not.

While shoveling I spotted a woman trudging through the snow toward my house; she wasn’t my student, but easily could have been.

woman walking through the snow stormIt was amazing that we started only 30 minutes late and her Toyota didn’t end up in a ditch between here and New Jersey. We spent the day with our fingers crossed that the flickering lights wouldn’t go completely out. Luck was with us, and we had power all day.

Shoveling is hard work, especially when it’s heavy and wet and you run out of daylight.

snow piles in the darkLavender scented hot bath water and nice music is a great way to sooth jangled nerves and achy muscles. My relaxing bath was disrupted by a loud whirring noise accompanied by a bright blue glowing light and total darkness. When I called to report the outage, the blue glow seemed like a crucial piece of information however the gal at PECO seemed less than concerned about it. All I know is it was pretty scary.

I found the only open restaurant in town and made my meal last as long as possible.

margharita flat breadThankfully I had power when I returned home and we had both lights and internet access for the second day of training.

A forecast of freezing rain for Wednesday had me wishing I could reschedule the second class of the week; however my student had already driven in from New York City so cancelling wasn’t an option.

Tuesday night I was preparing for the next day and absentmindedly put my eye glasses in my lap instead of on the table. Preoccupied with weather conditions and Hertz rental charge issues it didn’t occur to me that the loud crunch under my foot was the bow snapping off.

The realization I’d crunched my glasses and not a cheap pen from the bank almost caused an official melt-down.

Wednesday morning the lights flickered on and off a bit but the freezing rain stopped. We broke for lunch at noon. My mission to replace my frames was thwarted by road blocks, fallen trees, and downed power lines.

There were no lights on when I got home. The temperature in the house was tolerable so between the remaining battery life on my laptop we made it through the majority of the training material. My student then fired up his laptop, connected to the internet from the hot spot on his phone, I downloaded the presentation from my Google Drive and we finished out the day.

I bundled up for bed and lit a few candles.

candles

I drew a little by candle light, and drifted off hoping I would wake up to power and heat. Not sure I love this one, I was experimenting with some new ink and haven’t decided whether or not to finish the entry.

experimenting with new inks

Thursday morning brought no power, 50 degree temps in my house, and a flat tire. We arranged to meet at a local coffee shop, one of the few places in the area that still had power.

Before meeting my student, I drove to the closest service station to get my tire looked at. The loud rumbling sounds of the generator powering the station made it impossible to hear the conversation between the guys in the shop. I kept my fingers crossed that they would be able to spare the power to fill my tires. He filled my tire from 10 lbs back to 35 lbs and checked the pressure in the other three tires for free.

The owners of the coffee shop were accommodating and we made it through Thursday and wrapped up training on Friday at Friday’s. It seemed appropriate to avoid over-staying our welcome at the coffee shop and find a place that served lunch and wouldn’t mind having me linger until it was time to catch a train to Philly.

I knew I would have to change my plans to spend the evening in Philly as soon as I saw my rear tire. Thankfully Friday’s is next door to a Firestone and I dropped my car off to have the tire repaired. A glass of wine and a salad later, I got a call from one of the service techs. Long story short, I’m the proud owner of four brand new tires.

blown out tire mechanic

Over 600,000 people lost power during this storm. The electric company reported that it was the second worst storm in their history. My power was restored sometime Friday afternoon and slowly but surely the temperature rose from 40 degrees to comfortable.

If the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true, I gained a whole bunch of strength in the past two months.

I’m beyond happy to have power back and second to that is having my glasses back. Yesterday on my way to the gym, I stopped at the place I originally purchased the frames from. I was hopeful, but not certain that the owner would be able to find a pair of frames he could pop my lenses into.

The great new is, he did!

The funny thing is, the design on the bows almost look like something I might have drawn.

new glasses frames with design on bow

I Am Enough

I am enough

There’s been a turning point in my life. For the past few months I’ve been waffling and worrying about the path I’ve chosen. There have been more than a few sleepless nights and anxious mornings.

In addition to the sleepless nights and anxious mornings, I’ve been experiencing some issues with my right hip and knee. It may seem unrelated to my feelings of uncertainty, but I’m almost positive it is.

Recently, the nights have been more restful and the mornings are hopeful rather than anxious. Interestingly, the nagging pain I’ve been experiencing in my hip and knee have almost completely disappeared.

Call me crazy, but I think it’s a physical (and meta physical) sign that I’m ready to move forward into the next stage of life. It’s as though I’ve stepped through the door of opportunity and my future lies at my feet.

Literally at my feet.

It’s my job now to sort through  and select the opportunities that will keep me, and the people I meet along the way, moving forward in a positive direction.

I often worry that if I let too much of myself out people won’t be able to understand, let alone accept me. But maybe they will and already do.

Maybe they’re relieved to learn that someone else feels the same way that they do. They may be amazed that someone is willing to try and express their feelings through writing or drawing or photography. I know I’m amazed by  people who can express themselves creatively.

In my mind, to find a way to represent human feelings through creativity is nothing short of brave.

You really don’t have to be “talented,” you just have to be willing to express and share. As a friend of mine says, “talent is overrated.” It’s not about a formula, it’s about being original and “uniquely you.”

I think my favorite artists and creators are the ones that remind us of the need to enjoy life, to savor the taste of food or enjoy the beauty of a garden.

There’s a lot to be said for the presentation of a meal, for the adornments on the table. And for the smiles and laughter that are shared among family and friends because the setting is so perfect and inviting and comfortable.

Creativity is about bringing your passion to life.

Creativity is about bringing life to your passion.

It’s remembering, “I am enough.”

I am enough

Author’s note:

The drawing is from my “ink journal” or maybe I should call it a doodle journal – just somewhere to express thoughts in ink rather than trying to produce art. Sometimes I write, sometimes I draw. This is my second doodle – took a few nights. Nothing spectacular, but I thought it was fun.

I didn’t realize where it came from until I remembered one of the first exercises from “Walking in This World” by Julia Cameron.

It wasn’t like I was reading a book, it was like the author was sitting next to me and knew exactly what I needed to hear and do.

The exercise was to queue up fifteen minutes worth of calming and expansive music, lie down and close your eyes and let your mind wander, giving your thoughts over to the phrase, “I am enough.” Her parting words to me were, “Stop striving to be more and appreciate what it is you already are.”

I am enough.