Inspiration

Dance To The Muse-ick

The creative process is such a mystery to me.

Many creatives have rituals or props or specific locations they use in order to practice their art.  And I believe all of those things can be very beneficial.  I may or may not use a few myself.

That being said, there is this spiritual component to creating that’s a little more elusive and a lot more necessary.  Call it your Muse, divine inspiration or Being In The Flow, there’s an untouchable, uncontrollable “MYSTERY” that takes the ordinary and turns it into something special when it shows up. And when it’s not there?  Well, anyone who’s ever experienced writer’s block knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Bleck.

Being in that mysterious space seems a lot like what being in Heaven would feel like, as I picture it.  Time stops, the world disappears and everything vibrates with JOY.  And, like Heaven, no one who gets there ever wants to leave!

I’ve been spending a LOT of time in that Heaven in the last couple of weeks.   Even on those mornings when, at 2 a.m., I show up a little blurry eyed and unsure if anything worthwhile will make it’s way to the page, it does.  On some days, the first few sentences of a new chapter are already running through my mind before the coffee is even finished brewing.  Other days, I have to prime the pump a little bit before anything happens.  I might journal awhile, read something inspirational, pray a bit, let the dog in and out a bazillion times, drink more coffee.  And even then I might have just one word to go on when I sit down at the computer…a general “direction” to head.

But something magical begins happen when I sit down and, by faith, start typing just a few words.  Before long, an hour (or two) is gone and another chapter is complete, including whatever extras I’m adding to each chapter.

Being a crafty chick, I’ve made a lot of things over the years, and I’ve written a lot of things for both professional and personal use.  I know what it feels like to be inspired, and to love the finished product. But I have NEVER experienced anything like this before.  It’s as if I’ve been living my entire life preparing for this very moment, and now the appointed time has come for it all to come together.

Time stops.

The world disappears.

Joy fills my soul.

And I am so very very grateful.

“Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life.  And that’s about it!  That’s the human lot.  Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!  God deals out joy in the present, the now.”  –  Ecc. 5:18-20, The Message Translation

Inspiration, Life, Love, Spirituality, Women, Writing

God In My Garden

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“To what shall I liken me?
To little birds in their nest.
If the father and mother do not bring them food,
They die of hunger.  Thus is my soul without you, Lord;
it does not have its nourishment, it cannot live.

To what shall I liken me?
To the little grain of wheat cast into the earth.
If the dew falls not, if the sun does not warm it,
the grain molds.
But if You give your dew and your sun, the little
Grain will be refreshed and warmed; it will take root and will produce a beautiful plant with many grains.

To what shall I liken me, Lord?
To a rose that is cut and left to dry up in the hand.
It loses its perfume; but if it remains on the rosebush,
It is always fresh and beautiful
and keeps all its perfume.

Keep me, Lord, to give me life in You.

To what shall I liken you, Lord?
To the dove that feeds its little ones,
to a tender Mother who nourishes her little babe.

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My enraptured spirit contemplates all Your works.
Who can speak of Thee, O God so great!
O Omnipotent One, it is my ravished soul,
A nothing, a bit of dust says to You:
Come to me.
Who can say that an Omnipotent One takes notice?
One glance! You who look at me, come to me.
You alone, my God, my all.
I see Thee, goodness supreme; Thy glance is maternal.
Come quickly, O Sun of Justice, arise!
My soul is consumed, I languish while waiting.

Come quickly!”

Psalm of Blessed Myriam Baouardy
1846 – 1878
From “Prayers of the Women Mystics” by Ronda De Sola Chervin

Inspiration

Uncovering The Gift

I’ve been staring at it for years.

I see it while sitting at the little table in our kitchen where I have my quiet time with God, writing and praying, crying and thinking…you know, doing Life.

Even though hidden by a tan cloth cover, I can see it anyway.  It was something I coveted and longed for, for years: A brand new black and chrome Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it one birthday about 5 years ago.  Initially, I stored it on top of our maple hutch while waiting to move somewhere that had more than the postage stamp sized counter space the 800 sq. ft. Craftsman we were living in provided.

4 years ago this month, we moved into just that sort of space. The Kitchen Aid, however, has remained hidden under tan fabric on the top of the hutch where it’s served as a book end for my collection of vintage cookbooks.  A very expensive, guilt producing bookend.

That is, until yesterday.

Thinking back on it now, I am again filled with awe at how God works in my life.  Waking at 1:11 a.m., I made my way to the coffee maker and the table.  From years of experience I know when I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, and I have no problem doing “whatever” comes to mind in those pre-dawn hours. My mother’s life has taught me many things.  One is, don’t push against the insomnia.  Don’t fight it and bitch about it.  Embrace it.  Make it work FOR you, not against you. There are reasons for getting up while other’s are sleeping, and many (if not most) of them are sacred.

They are Holy Hours.

You would think that after so many years of being the recipient of Just In Time answers to prayer, worry wouldn’t wake me in the middle of the night.  But it does, and it did, and so I knew a a Mind Dump was needed…. the writing out of my concerns into my journal that always brings relief (and often, answers).

I write a bit, sip coffee, stare at the tan lump on top of the hutch, at the vintage dishes stored inside it, at my cook books and cooking accoutrements.  I REALLY should bring The Lump down and uncover it.  I REALLY should use it or sell it. (a familiar refrain for months).

For whatever reason, yesterday was the day and at 2:30 a.m., after rearranging items on the counter top to create space, I climb onto a chair and surprise myself at being able to lift the damn thing from so high up because it’s weighty.  Brushing away cobwebs and snatching the cover off, my breath catches.

KAOh my God, it’s SO beautiful!  So shiny and perfect. How did I not do this before? Why did I wait so long?

Not only does it fit perfectly in it’s new home, the things on top of the hutch are arranged in a more pleasing way as well.  A domino effect of order and attractiveness ensued, and with it, a sense of relief mixed with import in the moment.

The word “Artisan” catches my eye….black lettering on stainless steel….tugging at my soul strings, trying to get my attention.

It’s symbolic, isn’t it,  this lovely, costly tool that’s been covered up, unused and forgotten?  It’s something about me.  My life.

My gift.

I sit back down to pray and write some more. 3 pages in, I find myself writing about writing.  Recalling a time when I was in an inspired and prolific flow, when words literally poured out of me, I relived the sense of satisfaction from being in my purpose felt as I heard from people who were touched after reading me.  They didn’t feel so alone, somehow.  They felt understood.  WE felt understood, my audience and I together.

And then I remembered when that wellspring of creativity stopped, why it stopped, and who stopped it.

Ugh.

In the decade since, I’ve never again been in that sort of inspired flow.   Did I decide I would be punished like before if I “went there”?  That I would be hurt? Scribbling furiously, I continued along this line of self questioning…

Did I subconsciously BLOCK the flow in order to protect myself from feeling pain and frustration?  Is there something in me that wants to be expressed?

IS THERE A BOOK INSIDE ME THAT WANTS TO BE WRITTEN? THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ?  (all caps now)

…..Yes.

(ok, that wasn’t me….I keep writing….)

What’s it about?

.….Not giving up….

(huh.  yeah, well, I guess I do know something about that)

Is it fiction or non fiction?

….Nonfiction….

(whew.  I’m not so great at making things up.)

Who is my audience?

….Women Who Want More….

More what?

…. Hope, inspiration, understanding, fulfillment, guidance….

….. GRACE

And that’s when I am given the title.

I am stunned.  I think God just showed up.  For reals.

As I ponder all this, and the direction it was going – how this idea connects to that passion that connects with something else creative I started last year – I found myself grabbing a pencil and sketching in my journal.   It’s the Kitchen Aid mixer.  The sketching itself feels like a meditation as I sip coffee, adjust lines, and think about, well, what just happened.

It’s about 4:30 when I get it where I want it and write the title underneath it.

And just like that, I see it.  Literally.  Ideas start filling my head.   Excitement and inspiration course through me.  I run to the back office and pull out my project from last Winter.  I am amazed at how the disjointed pieces of half finished work and a dream left for dead start fitting together – like a puzzle. It was all right here, the whole time, just waiting to be uncovered. The Plan.  HIS plan.

I know what to do.

“I am the Lord Your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  –  Isaiah 48:17

Inspiration

In Memorial

My cousin died yesterday. 

I got the news last night, as sketchy as it was, when my brother called.  When I saw his name on the caller I.D., I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.  When he asked, “Have you talked to Mom?”, my suspicions were confirmed.

Over the years, Mom has shared snippets of information about my cousin’s health challenges.  A life-long chain smoker, she had been battling cancer for many years in different ways and in different parts of her body. Apparently, enough was enough.  Sometime recently, she decided against more chemo.

I don’t blame her.

After several attempts in reaching K. were unsuccessful, and after receiving an random email from someone she didn’t know, Mom had a feeling something was wrong.  My mother and cousin shared regular phone calls – many in the middle of the night – as well as many many challenges over the course of their lives.  They were more like peers, even though K. called my Mom “Auntie”.   So when she didn’t receive any call backs, Mom reached out to one of my cousin’s friends, who hadn’t heard a thing either.  More calls were made and, unfortunately, the sad news was relayed.  K. passed away in a care facility up in Los Angeles somewhere at around 11:30 a.m.   She was 75.

I keep wondering if she was alone when she left this Earth, or if her husband or mom or my father were there to greet her.  Childless and a widow, we are some of her only blood family.  I’ll phone Mom later  to see how she is doing.  Personally, while my heart is heavy, I haven’t shed a tear…which is weird, I suppose.   Maybe I will psychoanalyze that later, but it won’t change anything.  I simply haven’t cried.  Yet.

My first memories of my cousin are of a young woman, fresh from a small town in Illinois, who came to California in the early 60’s to live with my family while she got settled.  Dixie (her birth name) was the only daughter of my father’s sister.  Dixie came to California with a dream in her heart and never a look back: she wanted to be a star! 

15 years apart, K. (a stage name she took and used religiously for the rest of her life) was everything I wanted to be.  Beautiful. Glamorous.  Brave. “IN”.

I can remember sitting on the toilet in our little bathroom with the pink and gray tile, fascinated as she applied makeup like an expert.  Sometimes she would swipe lipstick against my own little mouth, or brushed my eyelids with color. It made me feel beautiful, like her.  K. had a natural beauty only enhanced with color and contour, her most striking feature being her  blue “cat eyes” – a feature she would exploit to her best advantage with smoky artisanship throughout her life and career.

Because YES, as it turns out, her dream came true!  K. DID become an actress, playing many roles in movies and TV shows, as well as in live stage productions.  It was always exciting to go see her work, or to see her on a TV show.  Dynasty…Dallas….Happy Texas.  A sculptress as well, K. had an amazing voice that was at once classy, sexy and deep, with an infectious laugh.   Therefore, she was a perfect fit for the voice over work she also did. 

Over the years, K. and her husband B. (himself a famous stuntman/actor and one of the original cast of legendary TV show, “High Chaparral”) spent a lot of time with my family …. Birthdays, holidays, weddings.  B. and my father were contemporaries and loved to sit, share war stories and just “shoot the shit” over cigars and beer.  I have a collection of photos of us all together.  K. was the big sister I never had, B. and I  had birthdays 4 days apart, and while we lived very different lives, we all adored each other.

As often happens over time, we lost touch.  It began when my father died in January 2000.  Big Al was the glue that kept much of my family’s “togetherness” together, as it turns out.  After over 40 years of marriage, Mom was never the same after his passing, and family gatherings shifted to my home or my brothers …. the “next” generation taking over the traditions as happens with many families, I suppose. 

After a few more years, B. got very sick and passed away.  K. herself got sick, and, well, somehow the months turned in to years and the Christmas cards stop coming.

Life – and death – happened.  The last time we spoke was several years ago.

Turns out K. didn’t wish there to be any services, recluse that she had become.  That makes me sad, but I respect her decision.  I imagine that after a lifetime of making your living and your life around your “looks”, it would be extra difficult to face aging and illness – and to put that face in the public eye.  She was so very gorgeous, too.  This is how I will remember her.  img001

So as I go through family pictures, and talk with my mom, I will hold a little heart-shaped memorial by myself, in her honor.  Her passing has, once again, put the stark reality of my own mortality square in my sites.  None of us gets out of here alive.  Every day – every moment – is an important one, especially when you reach the age where the years left in front of you are, statistically, less than the years left behind.

Each moment is to be appreciated.  The sound of the rain falling.  The smell of baking cookies.  The laughter of a child.  These are the important things, the simple pleasures in life, that are to be valued.  We are given only so many days here on earth, and in the wink of an eye – like a wisp of smoke – they are gone.

My cousin, may she rest in eternal peace and beauty, reminds me of these things.  Her death compels me to make sure the people in my life know that I love them while I still have the chance.  I am encouraged to follow my own dreams (because even at 60, I still have some), and – most importantly – do everything I can to make the most of what a day brings.

Because it might be my last.

(Note:  I actually wrote this last Sunday the 11th.  Since then, I have cried – a lot and at unexpected and private moments.  Other than that, the rest remains the same.)

Daily Inspiration, Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

True Confessions of a Terrible Blogger

20150613_112004_resizedI’m a terrible blogger.

Long gone are the days when I would write a daily post, and then go around checking on all my blog “friends”, commenting here and there and interacting along the way.

When I first started blogging back in 2004 or so, it was a whole ‘nuther world.  Blogging itself was a relatively new phenom.  This was in the days before “Smart Phones” and tablets, social media and “monetizing”.

Before the “Like” button.

Sure, the platforms themselves were pretty rustic compared to all the bells and whistles available today.  We had a small handful of options for templates and such.  Corporate websites weren’t yet using a blog as a generic marketing tool.  “Click bait” would’ve been mistaken for some sort of fishing apparatus. But oh, those were great blog times.  I sometimes miss them in the middle of the night.

These days, I “think” about writing here far more often than I actually do.  One reason (the main reason) is, I’ve lost the plot. I don’t know what my motivation is….the whole “WHY” of it.

I’m not an “expert” on anything.  I haven’t any earth shattering wisdom to impart, a book to promote,  or a service or product to sell.

I have no interest in trying to be “someone”, or garner an adoring crowd (well, actually, that part sounds pretty good.  haha!)

So why write here?  What is it that keeps me coming back (albeit sporadically), year after year, even after weeks and months of being MIA?

It’s simple, really. I long to connect.  To reach out and touch someone and maybe, if I’m lucky, have them touch back.  To write something and have someone say, “Hey, me, too!” or “I totally get you!”

Being “get” cannot be rated highly enough.

One of the most unexpected developments of having been diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2 years ago was how it would impact my relationships.  I’ve written reams about it in my journal, and mentioned it briefly here (I think….)  And I suppose much of the changes stem from how the news – and the treatment journey itself – impacted me.

Unless you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of someone who’s been told they have the Big C, it’s hard to understand, even if you are close to someone who has or is going through it.  See, you can’t be in their head.  You aren’t there in those dark, solitary, sleepless hours in the middle of the night with your thoughts running amuck.  Hell, even my own family doesn’t know some of the stuff I had to deal with – emotionally and physically – because I didn’t want to burden them any more than they already had to deal with.  I still don’t.

Long story short, and not surprisingly, I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago.  For example, I’ve essentially ditched the New Thought/New Age/Alternative spirituality stuff I had been practicing for a decade or so.  I found that 97% of it was pretty useless when it came to dealing with the diagnosis.  My beliefs were tried by fire.  I am, most assuredly, a Jesus person again.  NOT a fundamentalist.  You can’t “unknow” or “unexperience” certain things.  I love and support my gay friends and the LGBT community at large.  I still swear up a storm and I don’t go to church (although, if I could find one where I “fit in”, I would go in a heartbeat).  I still believe in the Feminine Face of God, and the Mystery of the spiritual realm.

Physically, I’ve changed, too.  I don’t have long dyed hair and acrylic nails any more.  My face is different….a little more battle-scarred and war-weary.  And my wardrobe.  Ugh!  After being away from the corporate environ for this long, and after going from 2 incomes to 1, well, the word “limited” comes to mind.

Hell, some days I don’t even put makeup on except maybe my eyebrows.  They are a MUST HAVE, if I want to avoid looking rather alien.  I didn’t have much before and, after chemo, things didn’t improve.  At least I got my lashes back.  Mostly.

Another big change is how I spend my days.  I am, by and large, living the life of a retiree – even with my part-time bookkeeping job (which, as it turns out, is VERY part-time).  My days are spent doing mundane “housewife” things like cooking and laundry and cleaning.  I actually don’t mind that, interestingly enough.  And I have plenty of time (if not money) to do the crafts and classes that I enjoy.

I never did relate to the “cancer survivor” meme, even though – technically – I am one.  Never joined a support group and don’t have a single piece of pink-ribboned paraphernalia.  Going through breast cancer was more like going through an ugly divorce or a death or some other trauma. I am doing what I can to put “that phase” of my life in the past as much as possible considering it was – well – cancer.

So I didn’t come out of that phase with a tribe of “sisters”, even though I was told I would.  In fact, some friends have drifted off into the sunset.  Why?  I dunno…Changing interests or lifestyles, maybe?  Some of that is to be expected, I suppose.  In July 2015, when my BFF broke up with me  after my 2nd round of chemo (and right after I shaved my head), I had a big wake up call.  Another one, I should say.  It was the understanding that some people can’t handle the tough times…the really tough times.  Times involving a drastic change in availability, or appearance or energy.

Times of facing one’s own mortality.

My friendships have undergone a serious pruning.  In spite of that, the relationships I have with myself, the God of my understanding, my husband and my children are all stronger than ever.  I’ve made a few new acquaintances and friends along the way, although no one (yet) to fill those BFF shoes. But I appreciate these women when we spend time together.  We laugh and have fun as we get to know each other better.

But in my heart I believe there is one special woman out there.  One who is also looking for me, wanting the same sort of “sisterfriend” relationship I want.  Someone like-minded and enjoys the same things.  A woman who  makes the best of things and lives life  – every day – to the fullest.  She’ll be down to earth with a good head on her shoulders and a smartass remark on her lips. And we’ll laugh our asses off, A LOT, even when we’re crying.  It’s just a matter of time before we are connected.

CONNECTED.

Connection.  That feeling you get when you know someone is there for you, and you for them, during good times or bad, happy times or sad.  When the people involved experience the strength and comfort that comes from doing life together vs. going it alone.

I want more of that in my life. In real-time.  Because as wonderful as online friendships are, they aren’t the same as those where you actually DO stuff together, physically, in the same space.  Words written on a page (or in a text) are not the same as those spoken face to face, eye to eye.

Maybe even heart to heart, when someone needs a hug……

CONNECTION.

I may be a terrible blogger, but I give great hugs.

It’s just a matter of time.