Be Kind

 

 

Still feeling under the weather, but plodding along anyway.

Journal page done and posted.  Yea me!

A check we have been waiting on finally came in a few days ago.  I’d done lots of math in anticipation of its arrival in order to make the best use of it.

A few things were paid off and an emergency fund established.

And yesterday, our car (which had been struggling) let it be known that it was done for.  A check-up at the mechanic’s verified what we had feared – the transmission is shot.

Sigh.

One step forward…

and two steps back.

It’s an old car and really not worth the money we would need to put into it to fix the transmission.  It also needs some work on something that makes the front wheels and the back wheels go round and round together.

I know that was a pretty technical description of the problem, but let me put it in simpler terms…probably well over $500 for that fix.

And the air conditioner doesn’t work.

So, it looks like we will go car shopping.

Yea.

Sigh (again).

On the bright side.

We have an emergency fund.  We only had it for a couple of days, but it still counts, right?

It’s not enough for a car, but it’s something, right?

It’s all going to be okay.

I think.

Maybe.

Nope, it’s definitely going to be okay.

Peace.

A “What If-er”

 

Mood swings, irritability, frustration, guilt and self-recrimination.  That seems to be my constant lately.

Some days I wonder if it’s worth the effort of maintaining any sense of optimism.

Some days, hope is hard to come by.

And then, something happens that turns things around and lightens the load…

On Mondays, I teach a class of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders at a small private, Christian school.

I pretty much teach a process over product class and place the emphasis on the “what if” idea.  What if you try this…what will happen?  I emphasize creative thinking.  When the class project is done, the kids get to work (play)  in their journals and work with all of the scraps that we have collected in what they have dubbed the “what if” box.

Yesterday, as we were working on a owl drawing and painting project, I shared a story from my own early elementary days.

A long, long time ago when I was about your age, I was working on painting a plaster owl in art class.  We didn’t have an art teacher or classroom at the school I was attending at the time.  It was my regular classroom teacher and she wasn’t an artist. We had red, yellow and blue paint.  I remember that I wanted my owl to look like an owl with lots of colors and texture.  I was young and didn’t know how to achieve that so I kept layering on paint…lots and lots of layers.  The paint began to muddy and crack. My teacher told me that I was doing it wrong and took my owl and washed all of the paint off.  She returned it to me and told me to start over and do it the correct way.  I didn’t want to finish the owl because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it right.  It’s important to follow instructions, but it’s also important to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes because sometimes that’s how we find the answers we are looking for. 

After I told the story, my little artists finished up their project for the day and  moved on to their journal time.

As they were working, one of the boys in my class who I often suspect doesn’t listen very much because he is always talking, stopped drawing in his journal and said to me…

Miss Kelly, what if God gave you that teacher who messed up your owl so that you would become a “what if-er?  What if you were supposed to become a “what if-er so you could help me be one to? ‘Cause I think I’m a what if-er like you are and we’re supposed to figure stuff out.  Is that even a word?  What if-er?  I think it is and I think that’s what we are.

Well.

What if I’m supposed to be a what if-er and I have just forgotten what that means?

What if it took a child to point out to me that there is a purpose and a meaning to my life that I have lost touch with?

What if I just keep trying things out and remember that life is a process and not a product?  And that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay.

What if I quit striving to reach the destination and spend more energy on seeing the joy in the journey?

The destination is a mirage that you never actually arrive at.  The journey is the reality and there are magical moments to be found…often when and where you least expect them.

Here’s to what ifs and the what if-ers who explore them…and to the joy to be found in the exploration…

And here’s to the purported wisdom of owls and some art teachers (including myself) and the actual wisdom of small children…

 

– and to following the instructions (mostly) and then celebrating the beautiful, varied and sometimes messy results of our “what if ” life.

Going Back to Move Forward

I read somewhere that if you get stuck in a problem, physical activity can affect your brain and make physiological changes that result in new perspectives.

So, since I feel somewhat mired in multiple challenges (my positive word for problems), I’m going to travel back to the beginning and try a fresh start.

I had figured out our budget so that it was working somewhat.  The bills were getting paid even if we weren’t making much progress in getting out of debt.  It was working.

“Was” is the operative word.  The insurance company’s quote for our truck is a tiny bit more than the “blue book” quote.  The appraiser did deduct $50 from it’s value because of the flat tire.  Hmmm. The tire that is flat because their client caused an accident that totaled our truck.  I don’t think so.  And he deducted $60 because the seat had a rip in the upholstery.  Right.  Because it was our idea to sell you the truck in the first place.  The wear on that truck didn’t affect it’s ability to transport us anywhere we needed to go.

So, the person who caused the wreck gets a nice, new car and we don’t even have enough to even make a down payment on something that we can afford to pay out.  All because my husband actually stopped at red light while she chose to run one.  We lose the rental car on Friday and have no way to replace the truck we lost. In case you can’t tell, I’m a tiny bit pissed off.

Most of the time I can deal with the fact that the world isn’t fair.  Today is not one of those days.

But where was I before I started ranting.  Oh yea, the budget.  Today, I am starting a new budget.  Working with where we are and playing with numbers to see what I can make work.  It’s the grown-up thing to do.  It’s moving in a positive direction.  And we all know how much I like working with numbers.  It’s okay.  Doing something is better than sitting around being pissed off.

And, I have realized during this bout of depression that the house has remained relatively together.  Not ready for a magazine photo shoot, but just slightly worse than “lived in”.  That’s got to be the result of the decluttering efforts of the past.

So, we’re going back to the beginning and doing another round of clean-out.  Life is changing again.

Youngest daughter is growing up.  She’ll be 14 in the fall.  Her interests are evolving and she is working on decluttering and organizing.

Oldest daughter has moved back home to do some evaluating of her life goals.

Son is coming home from basic training at some point.  He is receiving a medical discharge and will be back here to figure out his next step.

For now, we are moving folks and stuff around in the house to re-configure the best use for our family.

So far, lots of things are in the give-away pile.  Pictures to follow…

Life happens…good stuff and bad stuff.  That’s how life is, if you are actually living it.

And I love quite a few things about our life.

Mostly, I love our family.  I love how close we are and how supportive we are of each other.  I didn’t have that growing up.  My siblings were older than me and were grown before I was really aware of what family could be.  My parents struggled with a lot of personal issues.  Emotionally, I was on my own.

If I have done nothing else right, I didn’t suck at building a family.  I wasn’t a perfect mom and we aren’t a perfect family, but we are making it work.  Together.

And we will get through this rough patch.

We will keep moving forward.

Even if we need to take some steps backwards to do so.

Radljost

Radljost (noun, Icelandic) enough light to find your way by

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It would seem that I am raising a pretty smart kiddo.

Last night she was my “radljost”.

She often is.

This was her response when I commented that I was old…when I felt old and tired and depressed.  She said it out loud in the car and I made her write it down so I could keep it always and remember it.

I have made it this far.  Some days that wouldn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. Last night it was a struggle.

And then simple words said in love…radljost.

I want to remember what she said because it is so true.  It was the perfect thing to say and exactly what I needed to hear.

She didn’t try to tell me that I wasn’t old.  She’s 13.  I’m 55.  In her eyes, I am old.  And based on my family history, I am well past middle age.  I am unlikely to live to be 110.

She was honestly optimistic…Here are the facts.  Be grateful for what you’ve got.  Move on.

Today is a better day.

I slept well.

It is payday.

I get to teach art.

The problems of yesterday are still with me, but I’ve made it this far and have hope to keep on going.

I am not going to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

The journey is worthwhile and all the better for the loved ones that I get to travel with.

 

 

 

f life lately…

 

Lonely and alone

It’s quiet around here today.  I am home alone – but not lonely.  There’s a difference, ya’ know.

Hubby, youngest daughter and I tried a new church today.  I have a long and complicated history with church.  Long story short:  I used to and now I don’t.

I’m still a believer.  Just not an attendee – and not a believer in organized worship.  I’m not sure I ever will be again.  I don’t know.  My life and I have changed.  I do miss the community.  I don’t miss the scheduled worship (and meetings and busy-work).

My life seems more intentional now.  Worship is a moment, an observation, an experience – not an hour on Sunday morning.

Prayer is a continuous and ongoing conversation.

Service is a spontaneous reaction to circumstance and not planned.

The church service was strange.  I liked some things about it.  And I didn’t like a lot of things about it.  The worship environment was beautiful.  The message was good.  Worship was uncluttered and focused.

But it all seemed carefully planned.  And as I looked around the room, there was little diversity. Everyone looked happy.  The people in the seats didn’t look like the folks I spend my days with.  My husband and I were the oldest people in the room.  No one looked like they were worried about whether their next paycheck would be enough or if there would be another paycheck.  No one looked like they needed to be there.   Everything looked fine and good.  I’m sure they were perfectly nice people.   I’m sure that If I go back, I would enjoy getting to know some of them.

Maybe the timing wasn’t right.  Maybe it was just me.  Maybe my focus needs to remain where it is right now – on family, home, friends and self.

Will I go back and give it another try?  I don’t know.  I think I’ve reached an age and stage of life where appearances aren’t all that important.  I hope so anyway.  It’s what I’m striving for.  I want real.  I want tears and hugs.  I want fear and reassurance.  I want to know what the challenges are and to work to find solutions.  I want emotions and truth and sharing.  I want to be there for people who need me and I want someone to be there for me.  My life is messy and I want to be with people who are struggling just like I am.   I’m past trying to keep up a front and pretending like everything is just fine.  I grew up in that house and in that family – and everything wasn’t fine.

I felt lonely.

Except for two of my favorite people in the seats next to me, I felt like I was the only one in the room.

I enjoy being alone sometimes (maybe a lot).

I don’t like lonely.  It’s a big scary world out there…and sometimes right here, too.

minutiae part 1- paper fasteners

IMAG0782Feel free to laugh at me…or with me following the reading of this post.

This pile of paper fasteners (paper clips, binder clips and rubber bands) have been sitting on my desk for over a week – okay, more like 3 weeks. They are the result of the massive paper de-cluttering I have been doing with our old business files.

The shredded paper has gone to recycling along with the boxes.  Dropped off regularly.  Out of the house…out of my life.  Moving on…

But these paper fasteners, along with 3 other zippy bags stuffed full, are still here.  On my desk.  Taking up space.  Falling to the floor.  Kicked all over the place.

Why?  Because I might need them someday?  I’ve had one paper clip in my drawer forever.  I never use it, but keep it just in case.  Why are these decisions so hard for me?  Aargh.

If I ever did find myself in the position to organize hundreds of reams of paper, I could surely get some more for very little money.

What the heck?  They are going today.  Going to the thrift store where someone who does need them can have them.

Going, going, gone!

Because it does matter, DAMN IT!

Excuse the capitalization, I’m not really yelling at you.  I’m making a point to myself – or trying to.

As far as I can remember, my first serious bout with depression occurred my junior year of high school.  I remember walking down the hall with my arms wrapped around my books and my hair covering my face – feeling totally and utterly alone.  I recall going to my mom and telling her that I needed help, that something was wrong.  She told me that things would look better tomorrow.  A good night’s sleep would help.

I don’t blame her for that response.  I now recognize that she suffered seriously from depression herself.  And times have changed for the better as far as “mental illness” goes.  It’s at least recognizable as a treatable illness and not just a character flaw.

I wasn’t officially diagnosed until after the birth of my second child.  Meds were prescribed and when I couldn’t be sure as to whether I was “happy” enough or not, electroshock therapy was mentioned.  Believe me, I decided I was happy enough then.

What is happy?  What is normal?  Who the hell knows.  Certainly not someone who has been struggling for almost 20 years.

I’ve had therapy, I’ve tried drugs, I’ve tried no drugs, I’ve tried believing enough in God…what’s really helped?  I don’t know for sure.  Right now, I’m on a low dose anti-anxiety to help counteract the damaging effects of years of adrenalin overloads.  The current thinking is that I function in a constant state of fight or flight mode.

Whatever…

The fact remains that I am who I am and that I have a life to live and what I battle the most is “it doesn’t matter”.

  • Why do the dishes…they’ll just get dirty again.
  • Why pull the weeds…they are just going to grow back and bring their friends.
  • Why make art that’s not that great and isn’t ever going to get sold, or hang in a museum, or be important in any way
  • Why do random acts of kindness that aren’t enough to really make things better
  • Why write a blog…what do I have to say that’s important

It seems that I battle this question all the time…perhaps all with depression deal with this.  What difference does my life make? Does it matter that I’m even here?  Who cares?

I have to care.

I can’t compare my life to others and determine my value based on their actions and achievements.

I have to know.

  • know that I matter to my family even when they don’t thank me for doing the dishes
  • know that 50 people have chose to follow my blog to hear what I have to say and every single one of them matters
  • know that my art is important to me and that’s enough because I matter
  • know that random acts of kindness do make a difference even if I don’t see the outcome

Some days the “knowing” is hard…difficult…impossible even.

Those are the bad days and they happen…to all of us.  Especially those with depression.  Those are the days when we look in the mirror and think “what if?”.  What if I wasn’t here any more? Who would care?  What difference would it make?  I’m so tired.

Magic answers?  I don’t have any.  I have words like belief and hope.  I have a “voice” inside of me that says “do the dishes, make art, write a blog, be kind”.  And I choose to listen to that voice.

And I keep trying to live my life as best I can and not compare myself to others.  The others that have better houses, or art in galleries, or are skinny, young and gorgeous beyond words, or give millions away to charities that save lives.

I choose to live my little life and trust that I make a difference…somehow.

I know that I matter because I believe that you matter.

And that’s enough.

What happens when…

This is what happens when you wander into the studio at 11:32 on your way to bed – or what you thought was on your way to bed.

Canvas done (I think).

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I’m actually nervous about sharing this online with the world, but am bravely doing so anyway.  I’m not actively part of a local artist group and my artist friends are scattered about the world.  I’m going to consider you all a part of my creative community now.

Constructive criticism is most welcome.

I don’t normally include a note about what a piece means to me or what has inspired it…preferring people to be inspired by what a work means to them personally, but I’m going to make an exception in this case.

This week I have been in contact (directly and indirectly) with several folks who are traveling a difficult and challenging path.

This canvas evolved into their story.  Sometimes one can be so busy “running” that they lose track of whether they are running towards something or away from something.  The journey itself becomes all-consuming and their is no clear destination in sight.  This can result in an unnecessary struggle because with no goal or “end” hope can be difficult to hold onto.

It can be frustrating for those of us who are only peripherally a part of their journey to watch helplessly while they struggle and in some cases give up.  Our offers of support can seem inadequate.

When it comes right down to it, we each journey alone, even if we have a great support group – and so many don’t have that support or are unable to effectively connect to others.

So I did what artists do – I created it to the best of my ability.

…And am in awe that a canvas started many years ago developed into something that is relevant to the here and now.  I didn’t consciously set out to develop this theme.  It just sort of happened without plan or intention.

And such is my journey.