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.

Blog News

A month or so ago, I had a crazy idea to start another blog and publish a few excerpts and drafts from my book in progress along the way. At the moment I conceived the idea, I thought I was brilliant. Turns out; it’s a lot of work to maintain multiple blogs, people really only want to follow one blog, and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be to pluck out portions of the book as I write.

So I have decided to stick with one blog and when the spirit moves me, I will post the pieces here under the category of A Leap of Faith. There are a few pieces that I am going to re-post here. If you’ve already read them I hope you enjoy them again.

In other news I will be updating the look and feel of my blog and moving it to WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com. I’ve been told it’s a painless and transparent process so I don’t expect any issues. I’m making the move so more search engines can find me and so that I can add some additional functionality.

I’m not sure about the timing; it will most likely be in early August.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read and support my writing efforts!

The Envelope Please…

“You’ve been nominated…” – I’ve always wanted to hear those words about me and now I have! I was officially nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.

I’d like to thank Naomi Baltuck for passing the award along to me as well as for her support and encouragement.  Be sure to check out her blog Writing Between the Lines.  She’s funny, insightful, and a very talented writer.

In keeping with the established tradition for accepting the award, I am sharing seven things about me and have the honor to pass the award along to other talented bloggers.

First things first – a little more about me

1.  I had very little hair as a small girl.  Thankfully my mom figured out a way to work with it so no one would mistake me for a boy.

2.  I have a very low voice and before the days of video cameras in the drive through lane, more often than not the ordering process concluded with, “Will that be all sir?”  The first time my kids witnessed it first-hand they literally laughed until they cried.

3.  I was 44 when I registered for my first triathlon, I didn’t own a bike, and I hadn’t run since a failed attempt at track in high school.  I now have a half dozen events under my belt.

4.  I’m a Leo with a Sagittarius rising sign.  I read my horoscope every day.  I’ve been known to go to psychics.  I own a deck of Tarot cards and I believe in ghosts but not in coincidences.

5.  I have a prayer box beside my bed.  I write my dreams and my worries on slips of paper and put them in the box.  It keeps them from rattling around in my brain all day because I know they’re in a safe place and one by one my prayers will be answered.

6.  My favorite book is Gone With the Wind, I’ve read it no less than a dozen times and I cry from the time it’s apparent Melanie is going to die until the end of the book.  When I was a teenager I had a copy of the book illustrated with movie stills but a mouse chewed his way through it while we were on summer vacation.  I have no doubt that the wail of anguish and the waterfall of tears that ensued was heard around the neighborhood.

7.  I told one of my first bosses that I had no need to learn how to use a PC, let alone actually use applications like Excel and Microsoft Word.  Little did I know that I would end up spending a good deal of my career in an IT role managing software developers and designing websites.   I’ll never be 100% sure if his threat to fire me if I didn’t learn how to use Excel was real or not, but I’m glad I didn’t risk it.

Phew!  Now for the fun part – accepting and passing on the award…Ta Da!

Take some time and check out these entertaining and interesting blogs – Cheers to the world of Versatile Blogging 🙂

400 Days ’til 40

Belle of the Carnival’s Blog

Craig Hill

The Evolution of Eloquence

flyawayhomebook

GYA today

jmgoyder

k8edid

The Little Leaf

Live Simply, Travel Lightly, Love Passionately & Don’t Forget to Breathe

persephone’s step-sisters

Photobotos.com – an amazing photo every day

silverpoetry

and now it’s time for dinner!