Finding Your Peace

I’ve noticed a trend.

It’s nothing earth-shattering or headline-prompting like you’re probably thinking. The trend at the moment is simply that I, despite all good intentions to the contrary, have managed to miss hitting Kristi’s Finish the Sentence Friday link-up deadline for three weeks running. The reasons are varied, but the end result is the same.

There’s an upside to that scenario, though. As I look at my unfinished drafts, I realize the last few topics are connected. We’ve written (well, some people have…not me) about how to relax, about self care, and about what to do when we’re upset. The underlying theme seems to be how to deal with whatever ails us. And now this weekend, Kristi asks us to consider what brings us peace.

 

I am not very good at relaxing. Anyone who knows me will see how true that is. Even when I appear to be relaxing – reading a book, playing a game, watching a movie, even sleeping – I find it difficult to truly relax. I remember someone telling me when I was twelve years old that it’s easy to relax; just turn off your mind and think of nothing.

I don’t know how to do that. I’ve tried for more than 30 years and the concept still eludes me.

It’s not for want of desire. It’s just that ADHD will do that to a girl. One of my particular symptoms is that my mind is “on” constantly. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. It’s what allows me to remember every detail for every person in this house and work on a piece of writing in the back of my mind at the same time I pick up Zilla at school or make dinner. But it’s also the thing that keeps me awake at night doing all the thinking…

And when I’m awake at night is usually the time when my worries and fears come to the surface. It’s at night when that witching hour occurs, the time when everyone else is asleep and the only thing to distract you is late night horror flicks or sitcom reruns. It’s at night when everything else is quiet that those worries and fears break through the surface and whisper in my ear.

Like anyone, I have many things that upset or worry me; I have many things that frighten me. And I’m willing to be that you have at least some of those same concerns – our children, our spouses, our parents, how dirty the house is, paying the bills, paying for college, keeping the cat or dog from crapping on the rug, the headlines, the hatred, the world…

It’s pretty hard not to spiral into a constant state of frenzied unending stress.

But that’s no way to live. It wreaks havoc on our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It colors the way we see others and the way we interact with one another. You want to know what I think is really wrong with the world right now? Everybody is stressed out and pissed off and we don’t know what to do with ourselves so we take it out on everything and everyone around us. It’s so much easier to scream about why we’re angry than to shout about why we’re glad, isn’t it?

When I’m upset about something, my Husband always tells me, “Hon, you gotta find some Zen about this.”

He’s usually right.

As a society, we have become so conditioned to living in a state of stress. We are told daily by all manner of input what to worry about, what to fear, and whom to blame for our lot in life. We have been taught to focus on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. And if you ask me, we have become far too separated from the things that enable us to find peace – things like rest and prayer and meditation. We have become far too likely to rely on things like God and Nature for solace. And I don’t wonder how or when we lost that – just look through history and literature over the ages; the answers are clear.

What I wonder is why we allowed it to happen. How is it possible that we have allowed ourselves to stray so far from the essential act of simply being human? Why is it acceptable to so many of us to hold only our beliefs as true and to condemn and criticize anyone else who thinks differently? We are so focused on proving our differences that we have lost sight of our similarities.

So back to my Husband and the Zen thing. Perhaps what we all need is to find some Zen, to stop screaming about everything that’s wrong and how angry we are about it and just focus on finding some peace – about the world, about the news, about our partners and kids, and about the pile of laundry in the corner.

No, it might not solve anything right now. Yes, some may see it as inaction or passivity. So what. And for each one of us, that small act of finding some peace will look different. Maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s a cup of tea, or maybe it’s engaging in meditation or prayer, maybe it’s writing or listening to music, maybe it’s a bowl of noodles. It doesn’t matter. Go hit Google and you’ll find any number of ways to “find your Zen.” Pick one you like. But do it.

Start with you and start with now. Stop hollering about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and start finding ways to be in your world and to help and heal it. Maybe things will start to look a little less impossible and a little more clear. Remember that you can bang two rocks together until one breaks, or you can let water rush over them until they wear smooth. Your choice.

Allow for the possibility of the power of the human spirit.

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This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.

This week’s sentence is “I find peace from…” or close enough.

Finish the Sentence Friday is a link-up where writers and bloggers come together to share themselves with a particular sentence. If you’d like to stay ahead of future sentences and participate, join our Facebook group

Six Sentence Stories – Beneath the Surface

She stretched herself out and waited to feel herself floating, noticing the fading light and the chill of the light breeze skipping across her skin.

She began to sink slowly, the breeze and all sound disappeared as the surface broke, then closed again overhead.

Darkness grew ever closer, rushing up from below to meet her even as she could still see the light above slipping further and further away. Her arms felt light at her sides and her hair floated in delicate tentacles in the space around her head while fragments of scenes from her memory drifted through her mind.

The images passed by and disappeared with the waning light. No longer able to reach the conscious world, she stopped trying, then turned over and welcomed the dark.

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Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is SINK.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

A Brief Expression of Fluish Thankfulness

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming thought: I need to write.

I often feel that way, so this isn’t something new or surprising. What was remarkable this time was that I haven’t sat to write or do anything else for about the last five days since our home got hit with the dreaded flu.

Yup, flu.

As far as I remember, the last time we had actual flu in this house and not simply colds with flu-like symptoms was when Zilla was an infant. That was the year of the horrible Swine Flu epidemic here. Anyone remember that? I do. She was so sick I honestly thought she wouldn’t make it through the night. I was never as scared as I was that night and have not been since. So let’s start with that – I’m grateful that Zilla made it through that awful night (and that whole experience) about eight years ago safely to be the light and joy of our lives that she is today.

Speaking of flu, I suppose I’m thankful that all three of us went down together. I know, weird. But in my mind, all of us sick at the same time means we potentially get it over and done with once rather than trying to avoid (unsuccessfully because come on, it’s flu) passing it from one to another in a never-ending cycle.

I’m even more thankful that we’re on the backside of it. The Hub was the first to be back in action and returned to work today. He has the immune system of steel and seems to be nearly back to full capacity. Zilla is next and seems to be just a bit behind her Dad. One more day of rest at home should do it. I, unfortunately, am trailing behind. Of course my RA complicates things so I’m not surprised, but I am getting a bit frustrated with the length of this. Still, I’m thankful we are all on the mend.

I am thankful for how much the Hub has been able to for all of us these last few days. Being the most upright and functional allowed him to keep all three of us well cared for. I am thankful for how completely pleasant and cooperative Zilla has been through the whole thing. She is a good and patient and compassionate soul and that has shone clearly these last few days. Being down and out when you’re a high-energy kid like she is can’t be easy. Honestly, we’ve all done a pretty good job of taking care of one another and, all things considered, done it with minimal stress or discord.

I am also so thankful to Lizzi for her brilliant idea of the TToT in the first place and for all the time and love she has put into it. I am thankful that she is willing and able to pass the torch to someone else to carry for a while. I’m thankful to Josie for willingly taking up the torch so we can all continue to connect and focus on the good in our lives. Participating in the Ten Things of Thankful hop has been life-changing for me so I’m glad to see it continue.

And now I see that I have about one minute to get this linked so I’m out. Time to get back to bed and kick this stupid flu.

 

 

 

The Bakery

The smell was exactly the same as it was forty years ago – the doughy comfort of freshly-baked bread and crescent rolls mingled with the sugary sweetness of coffee cake, shoo-fly pie, and the best cream or jelly-filled doughnuts ever made.

Instantly transported through time, I was seven years old standing with my cousin, noses pressed up against the glass of the display case where they showed a birthday cake with a menagerie of decoration options. The circus train at the edge of the cake passed by ballerinas and baseball players, a zoo’s worth of animals frozen in motion, laughing clown heads, tiny pink and blue baby bassinets, and a comparatively large bust of a graduate stuck smack in the middle of it all as if overseeing the celebration.

The display cake was long gone, but the rest was unchanged; the same tiles still shone on the walls and under our feet, the same glass cases offered the same baked goods of my childhood, and the same smells wrapped around me in a blanket of memory.

My daughter breathed deeply, taking in the smells and, I suspect, a taste of the history as we made our selections and I remembered aloud late Sunday suppers of baked goods and coffee or milk spent with family around my Grandparents’ table.

I was certain I saw my Grandfather standing there beside us just as alive as he was when he brought my cousin and me here…

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Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is BREAD.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

 

Hello. It’s Been A While. (A Ten Things of Thankful Post)

It’s a good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to post here more.

Somehow I got out of the habit of delivering any finished product to this page. It’s not for lack of ideas or inspiration; I have a ton of things drafted and scribbled in my notebooks. They somehow just don’t make it to the page. If a messy desk is a sign of genius, I should be producing a whole lot more brilliance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s probably more that I got distracted (not that distraction is new for me). It goes without saying that the headlines of late have been pretty overwhelming and that has definitely affected my state of mind. I had to back way off of the Internet and social media. So if I seem absent…I am. On purpose. Let’s call it self-care.

I’ve also been distracted by my physical state lately. There is no question that for the last week I have been in the throes of an active RA flare with a whopper of an eczema flare thrown in for good measure. A result of stress associated with the news? Maybe. Hard to say. At any rate, I’ve been trying to focus on what my mind and body need to be more at peace. It’s only fair to say here how thankful I am that my Hub and Zilla have been more than understanding, even though I’ve been pretty horrid.

So what else has been going on…?

Well, I guess my biggest news is probably that I entered a writing competition. Yup, I did it. I just put up a post about that experience if you want to check that out. If not, then keep moving along…

I actually have been doing a bunch of writing, but so far most of it has been for my eyes only. What will become of these efforts is yet undetermined. But the writing feels good. I have started a ton of things to join my semi-usual link-ups – Six Sentence Stories, Finish the Sentence Friday, and Ten Things of Thankful. But despite those efforts, I haven’t managed to join. I plan to remedy that moving forward.

I’ve also been reading a lot more lately than I have in recent months. More self-care, I suppose. That feels amazing. I read three of Bradbury’s books in a row – Dandelion Wine (a re-read), Farewell Summer (stunning), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (completely creepy in an awesome way). Right now I’m working on finishing The Martian by Andy Weir (loved the movie – book is even better) and I have about five things queued up to hit next.

Absorbing others’ words has been good for my mind and my soul. I’ve joined a couple of writing challenges for 2017 and choosing books for those has been fun and also helped me continue to take advantage of the offerings at my public library. I’m doing a handful of reads for folks I know who have published their books and I’m thinking maybe I’ll review those here on the blog and introduce you to to their work. Stay tuned.

What else?

Thanks in part to the accountability factor provided by the Graviteers, I’ve managed to hit a weight loss goal (again) so I think it’s safe to say that I am steadily working toward my weight loss and health goals. I’ve been walking more regularly and upping my number of steps each day (insert eye roll). That feels good. Next stop: The Bowflex machine. I’m laughing just thinking about it, but sure enough one has joined the team in our basement next to the treadmill and I’m planning to get on there regularly. Weight-bearing exercise is important for women, especially as middle age creeps closer on the horizon. So I’m pretty excited about that.

Kidzilla is kicking butt and taking names with her school work and all related sub-topics. That little girl works so hard and loves learning so much. I love that she sees hard work has tangible rewards. And speaking of school, the Hub is back in school working on a new degree – one more step in this journey of career change that was forced upon us. He’s also doing a fantastic job and just a few weeks in is already ahead of his projected timeline for this term. I am so proud of both of them. Shameless gushing. <3

I’m happy to report I’ve found my groove again in the kitchen. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I pulled away from cooking anything decent at home and we resorted to bring-home or go-to options far too often over the last several weeks. Granted, the holidays are a strange time and then we were all so sick during and right after Christmas and into January, so maybe that’s just it. But even with my flares lately I’ve been happily tossing pots and pans around in the kitchen again. We’ve tried some new things and I’ve gotten back in my habit of rolling leftover parts of one meal into the next.

We’ve had pinto bean tacos with cabbage slaw, oven-baked lime butter cod served with the leftover slaw, some awesome Mexican street corn as a side – that was delicious. We tried mujadara – lentils and brown rice with caramelized onions – which is a new favorite here. Red beans and rice are always warming and satisfying, Salisbury meatballs were a hit for my meatball-lover daughter. Up tonight is a basic roast chicken because I’m out of chicken broth and need to make some. So I’m out to get that little bugger in the oven. Besides, I think I’ve rambled on here quite long enough.

I haven’t counted or numbered, but I’m certain I have at least ten things in here. For these and for so many more…I am thankful.

I’ve missed chatting with all of you here. What’s new and exciting in your life? What have you been doing the last few weeks? How are your self care habits? Talk to me…

 

So I Did a Thing…

I did it.

I entered a short story writing competition. Yes. I. Did.

I’m not sure what I was thinking, exactly, other than maybe “why the hell not?” And so I did it. At the last possible second, of course, right up against the deadline. But anyone who knows me at all will not be surprised in the least. I’ve always claimed that I work better under pressure. (Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.)

So what was it like?

Excruciating.

Of course I drew the genre that I absolutely did not want – political satire. Yes, I’ve read it. Yes, I know what it is. Heck, I’ve even dragged students through it in my other life as a high school English teacher. No, I do not particularly enjoy reading it and no, I most assuredly did not want that to be my first foray into competition writing. But whatever. I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste the entry fee and submit nothing. Even if I get knocked out of the game right away, at least I did it.

The process of writing was…difficult. Seriously. Trying to fit my story into a neat little package of assigned genre/topic/character in 2500 words or less was no easy task. But I wasn’t completely intimidated – except by the satire genre. That just sucked.

I’ve been writing Six Sentence Stories and other short fiction – mostly to a prompt – for a number of months. I’d like to think the experience of doing that helped me to feel at least somewhat prepared to tackle this contest. I don’t think I really got nervous until I realized I was hyper-tinkering with some edits at 20 minutes out from deadline and started to get worried that I’d miss the deadline. I had to finish title and synopsis 1-2-6 and get that baby uploaded. I made it in with literally less than five minutes to spare. So if it stinks, too bad! It is what it is now…

And now we wait to hear the results of the first round. Until March 20th. (I know – forever.) In the meantime, I plan to do a whole lot more writing and hopefully some of it will actually make it onto the blog here.

What about you – have you ventured into the world of writing competitions? Share your experience with us here? I’d love to know your thoughts. 

 

My World at Night

I’ve never been good at sleeping.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping for one reason or another. Maybe it’s time to just admit I’m a lifelong insomniac. But whatever the cause, I often find myself awake at night when the rest of my immediate world is asleep.

I’d love to tell you something lovely and romantic like “I’m a writer; of course when I can’t sleep at night I get up and write all the things that swirl in my head.”

But that’s not true.

Well, sometimes it’s true. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I do have things swirling in my head that beg to be written down and won’t give me peace until I acquiesce to their urging. But other nights I can’t sleep because the words don’t come and I worry if they ever will.

Continue reading “My World at Night”

Reveille – A Six Sentence Story

There would be no battle today.

Try as he might to muster the troops, they were slow to form this morning and did not show face; they knew there was no real penalty for showing up late, aside from the steep one he would impose upon himself for failing to make them comply. But that was his problem, not theirs.

Minute after hour he coaxed, forced, and cajoled until finally they assembled, falling into haphazard ranks and files, letters becoming words, sentences, paragraphs, working in concert and flowing freely from his pen.

Still, they were in no condition for battle. The only battle fought today would be the one to save himself.

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Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is RANK.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

The Market – A Six Sentence Story

Walking into the market always felt like coming home.

As soon as she stepped through the swinging double doors, her feet knew precisely where to go. For the last fifteen years, they walked the same path, stopped at the same favorite vendors, and never really wondered why – maybe her mother walked the same path with her as a child and the memory was etched somewhere in her subconscious.

The market has a particular aroma. It is the scent of each individual offering drifting across the aisles and mingling with the scents coming from other stands. Individually, each is a perfect solitary experience, but combined, they make up the smell of the market – a hearty, briny, heady mix of life and memories.

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Hitting the cue “cheesy” was a bit of a stretch perhaps. I was really stuck on this one, but as I walked the market for real last week, I got my inspiration as I passed the cheese shop and was thinking about the particular smell and feel of the market. So, truth – that’s where my cheesy inspiration struck.

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

LAST week’s cue was CHEESY. I wrote a post, but never linked. So here it is.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

The Turning of the Page

I don’t necessarily believe in putting the past behind me.

I suppose I do to a point; there are simply some things upon which it is fruitless to dwell. We certainly cannot change the past, but for better or worse, our past remains forever a part of who and where we are today. At the same time, though, we need to turn the page and move on to the next part of our story. It is not progress to throw down the book and stop reading because the events of a particular chapter are not as we might like. If we do not continue to move forward, we will never find out what the next chapter brings.

Making the transition from past to future feels much like turning the pages of a book. Once we’ve moved beyond each paragraph, page, and chapter, the words we have read remain part of our experience. They affect us, change us, and help us make sense of the next thing we read. Likewise, the words we have yet to read lie before us waiting to be taken in, savored, and made part of our experience. The only thing that comprises our present is right now, the moment in which we turn the page and move from what has been to what is yet to be.

As we turn the page from 2016 into 2017, I find myself tremendously grateful. This has been a good year for me and for my family in so many ways. We are healthy. We are safe. We have enough of all the things we need to sustain us and then some. We are blessed with friends and family near and far who love us. We have grown as individuals and as a family. I could not be more thankful. And while my little brood has certainly had our share of challenges and disappointments, I know that we have soldiered through and made great strides toward accomplishing our goals.

I am painfully aware that there is much trouble and sorrow in the world right now. I am aware that many people have found 2016 to be a harrowing year in many respects. Too many are not healthy or safe. Too many are lonely and separated from loved ones by distance or other means. Too many live in fear and pain. I suppose knowing this makes me appreciate even more the good that we have felt this year after several years of challenges for all of us.

In 2016, I chose the words Calm and Control to guide me through my days. While I will very likely never call myself a calm person, I definitely think that I have found a better sense of both inner and outer calm this year. I also realize that it is nigh unto impossible to be in control of every (or really any) aspect of life, but I have found strategies to help me better manage what aspects I can. I am better for it. My family is better for it. Better is good.

I would not say that any of us is “finished.” Like Franklin and Thoreau and Emerson and so many others, I believe that living life as a work progress is a good thing. Rather than striving for a state of completion or finality, the human spirit thrives when striving always to better the Self. As I look back over the words I’ve chosen each year for the last several, I can see how each one continues to weave in and out of the ways I think and live. Focus. Focus. (Yes, I chose this one twice.) Progress. Calm and Control.  Like all else, while they may not be my primary tasks, they remain with me.

And now it is time to look and move forward. As I turn the page on this year and begin the next, I know my word for the year will be Balance. I find myself saying it often lately and so it must be on my mind, at least subconsciously.

Balance is necessary in all things and balance exists in all things. There is no darkness without light, no failure without success, no sadness without joy. We all worry about how to balance home and work life, kids and relationships, work and play, family time and alone time, eating well and enjoying a pizza…and so much more. As we move forward in a world filled with so many things to worry and frighten each of us, I know it is important to seek the good and the positive, to find the balance that absolutely exists.

To focus solely on what is terrible can only prove harmful, just as never turning the page of a book can only leave the end of the story unknown. I, for one, would rather keep reading. I want to know what happens. I want to know how the story ends. And then I want to read another…and another…

At this time of year it is easy to talk about starting over and making goals. But I believe that every month, every day, sometimes every hour is an opportunity for a fresh start and a new goal. If moving through life is like turning the pages of a book, then there is always another page to turn, another story to tell, another book to read.

There will be challenges ahead; I believe they are necessary to help us find the victories. And so I wish each of you a story filled with challenges that will ultimately bring you health, happiness, love, and (perhaps most of all) peace in the days ahead.

xo.