Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year of Letting Go

I wanted to wait until year’s end before thinking about what 2015 meant and set goals for 2016 and now that it is New Year’s Eve, my mind is relatively blank. This is unusual after the gush of words this past week. Am I all worded out?

My plan this morning was to list my goals for the coming year, but I realize that I should close out 2015 first. What has 2015 meant for and to me? It certainly has been a highly emotional year.

The major highlights included the trip to Florida in late January-early February, the selling of the Bradford house in June, and the finding, purchase, and move to the house in Hillsboro in late August. The settling into the home the latter four months of the year have left me feeling shaken up, turned inside-out, and thrown down. My head is still spinning. The pieces haven’t settled (picture a snow globe). I struggle to get back on my feet.

2015 has certainly been a year of letting go. That letting go started on the trip south when plans changed. I had to let go of the preconceived goals and get into my usual ability to be spontaneous. Then on Mother’s Day, an unexpected turn of events led a buyer to the Bradford house. I wanted to move, but there was always the question of whether I’d pull it off. With a buyer showing up at my door out of the blue, I let the signs fall and grabbed the opportunity.

Then came the huge task of downsizing. Talk about letting go! There were years of accumulation – of mine, plus some of my mother’s stuff. What do I get rid of? How do I let it go? Thankfully, I had help, lots of help. I could never have done it on my own. Much was given away and thrown away. It was heartbreaking, but I had to do it. I had to close down and not allow myself to feel to get it done.

Finding a new home came down to the wire. I had to be out of Bradford by the end of August and I managed to pull it off (again with lots of help and support). It wasn’t my dream house. It wasn’t where I wanted to be. And again, I had to let go. I had let go of that dream of what my perfect house would be and change the plan to what I could live with.

I moved in with boxes packed just about floor to ceiling and spread out into the yard – far too many possessions which meant more stuff had to go. It was hard. Some things tore my heart strings to put out to the curb free for the taking. I watched possessions walk away or get thrown away. I could not keep everything. I had to let them go.

It took a few months, but I began feeling better about the entire experience. I started feeling settled in my smaller home. Then came Christmas; a time of year especially difficult for me. As I sat alone on Christmas Day, there came even more letting go as I realized that situations and beliefs that I’d held onto these past years were really not valid anymore and it was time to let those go. 

Wow! It feels like a lot of the old has washed away. I’m standing on the precipice of a new year and I’m not even sure where it will take me. This letting go process of 2015 has left me feeling more open and free. I face 2016 with excitement and butterflies in my stomach. After all this letting go, what will the coming year fill me with?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

If They Keep Saying It, It Must be True

Doesn’t it? Not at all -- but isn’t that how we learn? Think about it. We learn by repetition. We repeat words that our parents say to us, we learn the alphabet, arithmetic, by repeating over and over. Learning to do things well takes that over and over practice. Think about how all that repetition eventually imprints these facts into our brains. It IS how we learn.


What about other messaging? What about commercialism and product branding? We are told things over and over and over. If “they” keep saying it, it must be true, right? How often to you buy because you keep being told such and such is a good product? How often do you do things because others have said it’s the thing to do? What thoughts are your own or are they just something parodied by someone else? Think about it.

I refuse to listen to commercials. I refuse to have repeated messages branded into my brain. I refuse to have these big corporations and the media exploit me! 

Take this even further. What are we being constantly told by others; others who are supposedly authority figures or leaders? (And this has all been going throughout history.) Are we believing what we are told simply because someone “better than us” is saying it? Do we believe what the say because they have a lot of others on their bandwagon?

And how often has what is being said turned out not to be the truth? How often do actual actions belie what someone said? And yet, we continually believe the words over the actions. Words printed on cartons, advertising, slogans, news, books, and more. We easily get caught up in someone’s excitement and next thing we are signing up for something we didn’t want. 

Other people’s beliefs and their wanting to push their products are shoved in our faces day after day after day and if you’re listening to news or TV, it could be every fifteen minutes to half an hour we are hearing the same spiel. Remember, we learn by repetition. So what are these repeated messages telling us? Is it something you really want to hear? What about your kids hearing these messages? What is it teaching them?

Think about it. What do you really want to believe? What do you really want to buy (or buy into)? 

I love Facebook and all my Facebook friends, but how much of those messages are just repetitions of what someone else has said or posted? (I'm just using this as an example). Yes, sometimes others can say exactly what you are feeling or thinking and this helps us not feel so alone. There are good points that we do need to be reminded of often and when in a funk, sometimes platitudes and positive sayings/words can help us climb out of our holes. (I admit I need this.)

Sometimes repetition is a very good thing. There are things I need to tell myself over and over when I have crashed and burned mentally. But I am choosing what positive things to tell myself… and I choose positive. 


I believe we, as good people and a good society, need to start paying attention to what we allow to be repeated. I am sick at all the negativity in the world and to have that thrown in my face day after day, hour after hour does not help me be a better person. It just brings me down and destroys my hope for the world. There needs to be a balance between all the crap going on and hearing about more positive things being done.

And I wonder about the end messaging of bombarding us with all the negativity. Is it about control? “Believe in me and my products and I will protect you” seems to be a common subtle message. But again, what are we buying into? What freedoms and how much privacy are we given up for this so-called protection?

Think about it. This is a HUGE topic which has been going on forever and is getting worse.

Question everything!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Looking for Some Kind of Forgiveness

This morning I get up feeling refreshed. All the deep emotional outpouring yesterday cleared something within. I pick up my colored pens (today I am using orange and brown pens) after doing my usual morning chores and settle into journaling.

I talk about my mother a lot – if not to other people, at least with myself. I spend a lot of time on self-reflection and I analyze my thoughts and feelings. I consider why I act in such ways and contemplate the reasons behind the life choices I make. And I think and think and think.

Two words always jump out – I know – because I do know, and even though I do know, I still go through all this soul-searching. It’s what I do. It helps me figure things out and helps me understand why I do what I do. It also helps me understand life in general; not just mine, but I can see why others do what they do. (That doesn’t mean I have to like and agree with what they do, but I can understand… or I have a bit of understanding.)

So I know. I know I don’t have to feel guilty for my decisions. I know I don’t have to have regrets. I know I don’t really have to explain myself, but I do it because it helps me; and sometimes what I go through may help someone else with understanding their own lives, plus we find we are not so all alone when we share. I know what I experience, others, too go through.

I know I am not looking for someone to tell me what to do. I know my “talking” is putting words to my feeling so I can “see” my life better. I know what I want from my life and I know who I am. 

I also know there are always questions and, for me, a hint of self doubt; those old self-loathing feelings sometime creeping out of the past. And even though I ask questions, a good part of the time I know the answers. Am I a good mother/grandmother? Was I a good daughter? What can I give others to return the kindness and love given me? I know who I am, so why do these questions keep coming up?

The holidays are often spent in this soul-searching, especially around the issue of family, and today it hits me – a topic I keep avoiding because, in reality, I know the answer. 


Even though I know the answer, there is still part of me that… yearns… to know that I am forgiven. Yes, I know there is no need to ask. I know I am forgiven. But self-doubts tend to hover in the subconscious ready to jump out and nag. I know my mother forgives me for not being the daughter she wanted and I know she is proud of me and she loves me for who I am. I know my sons forgive me for not being the typical mother/grandmother. I know everyone forgives me for isolating myself. My kitty, Pele, of course, forgives me anything.

I also know I have to forgive myself. And because I keep doubting (well, on one hand I do and on the other, I don’t) does this mean I don’t really forgive myself for whatever it is I think I do or have done wrong? 

Forgiveness… is maybe one of the biggest words of all time; that, and love.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cannot Move Forward Holding Too Much onto the Past

I spent yesterday, Christmas Day, exactly as I planned… but something shifted within me as the day went on.

I wrote the morning journal pages and blogged. I posted a Merry Christmas to all on Facebook. Then I cleaned of the table and got out the game of yap. This was my mom’s favorite and after her passing on Christmas Day 2011, the ensuing Christmas Days were spent playing as three people – as if she, my aunt, and I were playing the game just like we used to. It was my way of honoring their memory, especially my mom’s. She would like that.

However, within half an hour, or less, of playing yesterday, I was bored. I’ve never been bored playing yap before. I even talked with them about “their” plays, but for some reason, my heart wasn’t in it. This year, it felt meaningless. It didn’t feel like they were with me.

What did that mean? Does it mean that it really is time for me to let go? Ma certainly wouldn’t want me pining myself away over her memory. I certainly miss her every day of my life, but perhaps I no longer need to honor her by playing a game. The honor is in always loving her. She was my mum and there’s something special, so very special about mothers.

Maybe it’s about layers. Yes, there was a letting go a couple years ago when we scattered their ashes in the Merrimac River at Salisbury Beach Reservation, but I still held onto her. There has been the getting rid of possessions; a little each year, but I still held on to her. This year was a big letting go when I sold the house where she and I last lived together; a place where my heart wrenched every time I looked out the window at the flower garden I’d made for her.

This new home is another phase of the letting go process. I’ve spent the past few months getting rid of excess possessions. But mum and I ourselves have to move on and how can I do so if I am not willing to let her go? I will always honor my mother and will always love her and miss her forever. I will keep her picture nearby, but I no longer need to let the grief of her loss cripple me. I have to let her go. She needs to move on, too. 

I’m still processing this. Yesterday, another Christmas of letting her go. And yet, there is more of a release and understanding. I’ve run out of words to explain this. I’m sure I’ll come up with more the next few days.

I tried to write a poem:

Holding on to Her

Her consciousness slipped away
I clung to her hand
patted her arm 
wept, and held onto her 

Next morning phone call
she was gone
peacefully, the voice said
broken, I held onto her

Time passed
I got rid of her possessions 
I did not need
in memories, I held on to her 

A couple years went by
she asked to go home
ashes spread
I still held on to her

The house we shared sold
I moved away from sights
that brought tearful memories
struggling, I still held onto her

Downsizing more
possessions all mine
another Christmas arrived
I fought to hold onto her

A difference sparks:
she is not here
I cling, I cry
and desperately hold on

A subtle time-space shift 
a moment of release
she will always be part of me
but I no longer have to hold on

She is my mother
I will always love her
and I will miss her forever 
I set her free
I love you, Mum.
    ---Sasha Wolfe 2015

I’m not totally happy with this poem…

Friday, December 25, 2015

Caught between Writing a Christmas Message and the Fires of a Creative Mind

My Christmas message is about wishing everyone simple peace, joy, quiet, love and happiness. It’s taking a few moments from hectic lifestyles to sit back, take deep, slow breaths, and allow calmness to permeate your entire being. Wish kindness, gentleness, and well-being to one and all. Spread joy. In my heart, I am embracing you all.

But, as it is so often, my thoughts are distracted. The pendulum in my mind swings from wanting to write about the spirit of Christmas to book, Book, BOOK and how to improve my travel writing. The traveling is not just about going on a vacation. My life is so entwined with what I call work because a lot of what I do is potential for story, book, articles, poems, and art. I can’t pull myself away from it, nor do I want to.

The biggest goal in traveling (as I’m in the throes of finishing this latest book) is not just for me, but to take you, the reader, on the trip with me. As I learn about areas visited, people I meet, and see different landscapes, vistas, and buildings, it is important to share that knowledge with you. I want you to see what I see, feel what I feel upon seeing new sites and experiencing different places. After all, if I cannot share these new discoveries, what fun is the travel? I cannot keep all this just to myself!

Yesterday afternoon was spent on one chapter, one day from last February. I am feeling like I missed something; a lacking in my descriptions. It’s hard when driving 55-70 mph to remember what is seen. Yes, I have a few photos, but…

So, this morning, I am already thinking how to describe the next trip better even though there are doubts to how I could ever afford to go on another such trip. 

But wait! This is Christmas. Why am I working? Because that’s where my mind goes. Naaah, let me pull back and take the day off. Yeah, I’m sure that no matter what I do today, I’ll occasionally write down some notes. It’s what a do.

Merry Christmas, Everyone. No matter what your beliefs, I hope you all have a great day.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Party in my Mind

I often try to describe the flashes of inspiration that flood my soul. This morning, it’s a feeling of a bunch of friends and neighbors crowding the door, ringing the bell (not that I have a doorbell), and all trying to get in the house (my mind). It’s ironic that when I get these flashes, it’s not just one train of thought. 

The visitors never stay long, but they all want to talk at the same time. If I don’t pay immediate attention to them, they disappear. Uh, oh, I just had another thought… what are you all going to think about me if I admit to having a ton of voices in my head? But it’s not really voices I hear. The impressions come in words and feelings and sometimes pictures. And it comes in one huge gush lasting about an hour. It’s exciting and just like a real party. Hmmm, I’ve never looked at it this way.

Maybe this is why I struggle in physical crowds and why I don’t like real parties, ha ha. If the mental crowd in my head is a bit overwhelming, then also having actual people around is much more. I am left with a similar feeling from both examples. I want to talk to everyone, listen to everyone. I want to give each feeling, thought, idea its due, but I can’t get it all down on paper. I feel guilty because there is always someone whom I didn’t give proper attention.

How interesting this is.

It’s like when the whole family visits and I try to spend a little time with each grandchild and each parent. I want each person to get individual attention, but always, after they leave, I’m left thinking, “Oh I didn’t talk to so and so,” and I feel bad. Or when I cover an event for the newspaper and there are many people and things going on. I come away to write the story and realize I’ve missed something or did not talk to someone important.

This is what happens when, for that hour in the morning, my mind is open to that flood of artistic inspiration. It all gushes in at once. Ah, a time limit, that hour, and again, similar to attending events or visiting with friends and family. Time is always an issue. 

So this morning, Christmas Eve, these thoughts come pounding at my door and I have a party of creative inspiration in my mind. I scramble to write here and write in my journal while ideas pop up from conversations held yesterday or something read. 

I do have to admit that I find this exciting and a challenge as I try to record as much information as I can while also trying to let the brain run free with the incoming thoughts. No wonder I can’t stay focused on one project, ha ha, but I practice this. I let my mind be open to possibility and what joy this gives me.

I am happy. I may be physically alone, but there is a party in my head and I enjoy dancing and singing with inspiration and thoughts and ideas of creativity.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone. I hope you can do what you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New Book Update

I’ve spent the past couple of days working on the book, but once more I am stuck. I made a table in Word to help me track information thinking I could open the file on the Mac and update as I go along while writing the chapters in Word on my laptop. Nope, doesn’t work that way. I can edit material already on the table, but I can’t add new items. 

I also need to decide if this chart is a waste of time. It isn’t something that will be published in the book. It’s only a reference for me. I so easily get hung up on some of these piddly issues that it holds me back from getting any real writing done.

I wanted to add a “Sasha’s Star Rating” to this book to rate the places I stayed and the various sites visited. I’m struggling with this a bit, too. Do I call it a star rating even though I’m not printing actual stars? I think it would be something people would understand.

I swear half of yesterday was wasted. Yesterday, I also re-went through chapters 1-9 and now I’m going to go through them again because I’m not happy with some of what I changed. Early this morning I edited the introduction… again. (How many times does that make?)

I can’t really complain, though. Each bit of work I do is getting towards the end and each time I go and re-edit, I’m making it better. Part of the work includes differentiating front matter from end matter. For those of you who don’t know, front matter is the beginning parts of the book like copyright page, dedication, introduction, and such before the body of the story. The end or back matter goes after the main part of the book. So what part is pertinent for the beginning? What does the reader need to know up front? Oh, if it was so easy to answer.

Still, I’m excited about plugging away at it. I’ll get there… eventually.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Is Anyone Ever Truly Happy?

Happy, as defined by Mirriam-Webster: “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life situation, etc.; showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment; pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.”

The question was asked of me yesterday as we talked about whether we thought our parents were happy. I’ve been thinking about my mom, as I do especially this time of year, and I wondered if she was a happy person on the inside. We had a unique relationship, she and I, but I wonder now how well I really knew her. My mother was never one to talk about her true feelings whereas I am blabbering all over the place. Oh, she let her displeasure show when she was totally unhappy. I know there were many times when she was happy. But do I see her as a happy person? No.

I look back now at her life. Oh, she was happy when others were around. She was happy doing particular things like playing games, bottle hunting, coin finding at the beach, and spending time with family. But deep inside, I don’t see her as a happy person. It was like she needed other people and things to make her happy. When she was alone, she was miserable… I think. But do I really know for sure?

“Dad wasn’t happy, either,” Don said. 

I think back about him. That’s true, too. I’d never thought of that. Is it just because we don’t look at our parents that way when we are young? My parents certainly did not talk about their feelings to us kids. My mom and I would talk when I was older, but she held back even then, I know she did. She held secrets. Dad must have held secrets. (After all, he talked less than Ma). Was it to protect us?

 “Can anyone ever be truly happy?” Don asked as we continued to talk about our lives.

“I’m happy!” was my immediate response. I took him by surprise. I don’t come across as being happy. “It’s not about a laughing and joking kind of happy,” I explained because that is not me. That is not my definition of happy. 

I consider myself a happy person on the inside. I make being happy a conscious choice. Yes, there are many times I am not happy. There is the grief and loneliness, the issues with self-exile as I live my solitary life to devote to writing and art, the frustrating life issues that need to be handled, and such. Inside I choose to be a mostly-happy person, but there are days when I am ornery and sometimes I just go with it and celebrate that orneriness. I use these times to explore the hows and whys and what makes my mind work the way it does. (This is an exciting journey in itself, like charting an unknown course. It’s almost like exploring the unhappy parts of my life makes me happy because it is giving me understanding of myself.) And, in spite of even this, I see myself as a happy-inside person.

I think about what makes me happy. Happy for me is not the party world. It’s not the adrenaline excitement experiences. Happy for me is an inner feeling of content. It’s living the life I want. (I don’t know if, when I was young, I could have made that statement because when you have to work jobs you don’t like to make ends meet… then again, happiness is a state of mind, an attitude. It took me a long time to understand this.)

Happy, for me, is seeing the beauty around me. (I adapted a Native American saying of “Walk in beauty every day.”)  Happiness is being able to look out the window at nature, birds, critters, etc. It’s having great conversations with family and friends. It’s being caught up in creativity or when ideas gush forth from a bubbling fountain and I try to write them all down – it’s like chasing butterflies and dragonflies to get them to stay still long enough to take pictures. 

Happiness is burying myself at home for a few days as I’m caught up in the latest writing endeavor (or book). It’s having the opportunity to travel, even if only a day trip, and visiting places and learning about the history of the area. It’s getting out a drawing board and supplies and putting shapes and pictures to a blank slate. 

Is happiness about a perfect life? No, there is no such thing as a perfect life. I say, “I’m perfect at being imperfect.” Happiness is a state of mind, an attitude, a choice. I choose to be happy! And on those days when things are not going so well I will try to find a way to make good from that.

We all make choices in how we live our lives. Our parents chose how to live their lives. I can’t live with any regret. There wasn’t anything I could have done that would have made a different. I am choosing to live a happy life. Yes, it has taken a lifetime to get here, but I am satisfied.

What makes you happy?

Friday, December 18, 2015

I AM Somebody Even When I’m Alone

This morning I was journaling about being alone on Christmas Day to play my mother’s favorite game. I set up three sets as if she, my aunt and her twin Margaret, and I are playing and I take turns playing for the three of us. This is my way of honoring them; especially my mother, and I’ve done this for the past years since her passing on Christmas Day 2011.

Yet, even though I look forward to doing this, there is still part of me that feels lonely about spending Christmas alone. I insist on doing it this way and I am stubborn about it! On this, I am not willing to give in. 

So, while writing about this in my journal, I also got into how Ma always seemed to need people around her to make her happy. Did this mean she was an unhappy person on the inside, that she needed others’ attention and company to make her feel worthwhile? Is this why I am so adamant about my solitude?

How unhappy was my mother? Was she? I know Don and I were her life, along with her twin and brother. And of course, this wasn’t anything she would ever discuss… these types of things were secrets, not to be talked about. (Again, is this one of the reasons why I spend so much time researching emotions and the whys behind them?) 

Did my mother only define herself by who was around her? Did she need us to make her feel like she was somebody? Did she feel useless when she was alone? Maybe this is why I feel the need to define myself and acknowledge that I am OK alone as well as when I am with others.

I may be sad and in tears while writing about this, but I also find it very interesting. Is there a part of me deep down that knows my mother was in those places of sadness when she was alone? Of course, as a child, I wouldn’t know that, but now… is that why it is so important to me to play “her” game and insist on my solitude? There is that part of me that feels I need to prove to others that I am OK being alone, that I need solitude – and I do – but it must be balanced with the company of family and good friends.

So, once more I get a bit of understanding, a little snigget of wisdom, in this journey of humanness. 

There’s something about the love of one’s mother… I miss her so much!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Two Different Minds and a Blank Slate

My best friend and sister-artist-in-soul and I can talk hours about life and creativity. Yet we are total opposites in how we view some things. 

Nan is totally linear. She has that mathematical mind that expects everything to be in place, to be planned out, and followed to a T. She is minimalist and everything needs to be organized, neat, and orderly. She plans her year ahead and likes a precise, laid-out path. Nan focuses on a set plan and will follow it to its exact end.

Me, I am spontaneous. I will move to the moment and I work almost totally on inspiration. My mind does not narrow to a specific focus which means I am distracted easily. I can have a myriad of thoughts gushing through me at once and I will bounce from one project to another on a whim.

Nan and I discuss our differences and from that we learn more about each other and ourselves.  

Yesterday we talked about the year coming to an end and how 2015 has been unlike the past few years art-wise. For me, most of my creative endeavors were put on hold due to the selling of the Bradford house and finding and moving to the new house in Hillsborough, the subsequent settling in and renovating to Sasha-fy it. I only put art work in a couple of places this year and I knew sales were going to be practically nil.

Nan’s year was a turnabout for her, too, as the two galleries from which she sold most of her paintings closed. She struggled to find alternative places with little results and she is feeling deflated by the lack of sales. She gets her inspiration to create from having her other paintings sell and move to a new forever home. No sales or too few sales are totally demoralizing for her.

And so, this year comes to a close. I always look forward to a new year to be refreshed and to start a clean slate. However, this year as I look towards 2016, the picture in my mind does not contain any images. It usually shows an open door to the New Year with flashes of scenes moving by… the possibilities of things that could be. At least it did in past years.

Right now, while there is color and images around the outside of the door, looking through the door into the New Year, I see nothing but white, foggy light. I squint trying to see an image, any type of picture, but there is nothing. Maybe I’m looking too early. After all, it isn’t New Year’s Day yet.

This is not a need to panic. Perhaps it’s just a hiatus, a resting period before the New Year. I know in my heart that something will come. The universe will provide. This is an opening to possibility and without set plans, anything is possible in 2016. How exciting is that!

I share my vision with Nan. Again, because of her linear, mathematical mind, she struggles with waiting for possibility to happen. She wants that concrete picture. She demands plans and precise steps. She’s more of a “make something happen” while I tend to “wait for something to happen.”

It’s very interesting sharing our ideas, visions, and looking at the way two different people think and believe. That doesn’t make one wrong or right. It’s all about other points of views. The sharing can also spark the flame that could put pictures in that open door. I am content to sit back and wait for possibility to happen. (And in the meantime, I can always find lots to do.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A New Christmas Season

The past three Christmas seasons have been very emotional as everything about the Bradford house reminded me of my mother. Yes, I miss her every day and some days I still cry. I have her picture placed so she is always with me. I miss her so much!

But moving to the new home has lessened some of the pain, the sad memories. I will still spend Christmas alone with her, playing her favorite game. I am actually looking forward to it. However, this new home has a different feel… or maybe I just feel more ready to continue moving on. 

Years ago I went a bit overboard with decorating. That became less so in later years, then after her passing, hardly anything as grief was too encompassing during the season (she had passed away on Christmas Day). In having to downsize to move here, I got rid of all of the decorations that had been saved throughout the years. Some went before I left Bradford, then another two full boxes after moving here. 

I did keep a wreath, my little, foot-tall, lighted, purple tree, and a couple of purple and pink ornaments. I realize I got rid of some of the items I meant to save as some of what I kept actually had prices on them from the estate sale.

Now that I have neighbors and can see nightly Christmas lights, I am feeling more inspired again. My little lighted tree isn’t enough and the blue balls hanging on the old wreath do not go with the red-trimmed house. 

I don’t know if I want to purchase new decorations after throwing away and giving away so much. However, I feel the need for color, for brightness, for happiness. I need to bring in happy.
I can’t feel guilty about what I discarded because what worked in other homes would not work here, so perhaps I do need to go new. And I don’t need a lot… never again too much.

It seems that not only a physical move has made a big change in my life, but I am moving in other ways, too, as even how I look at my art is evolving. It happens. So maybe if I run out today to pay my taxes, I can reward myself by stopping to purchase something Christmasy to further brighten my new home. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Throes of Writing

I am back in book mode. I went to sleep last night thinking about the book and I wake this morning with the writing on my mind. All I want to do is work on the book. Tomorrow is breakfast day with fellow artists and I’m tempted to not go because I want to write. But I have errands that need to be tended to and I can’t put them off.

Yesterday was another afternoon spent on the book. One of my problems is that I keep going back and rereading and re-editing previous chapters. I remember things to add. Annette advised, “Get the book written and go back to do the editing later!” I’m taking (or trying to) her suggestion to heart. My new mantra is “Get the book written.”

The funny thing is, is that’s how I write poetry. When the words are flowing, I don’t stop to edit, I just write. Later I go back and fix it up. Maybe I do need to do this with the book even though it’s a much more massive manuscript. If I keep spending time going back over what was already done, I’ll never get to the end.

I’ve got to stop worrying about what I’m going to do with all the pictures. I took some amazing photos on the trip and very few will be able to go into the book. I had this same dilemma with “Two Cold for Alligators” which was about the 2013 trip. I still have those pictures sitting in limbo. Maybe I could eventually do a picture book of each trip, but for now, I have to concentrate on the writing of the current book.

I’ve managed to work on the project two days in a row. It’s hard to keep straight writing while referring to the daily journal I wrote at the time and photos taken. My thoughts get interrupted by ideas to add to charts or lists I am also making. Questions pop up about how to do this or what other information I could add. I look up sites on the web to add historical facts on places I visited. This isn’t straight forward writing. Other factors are involved.

I am consumed by the desire to get this book written. I worked on it on Nov. 2, but that day was mostly trying to catch up to where I left off. The last day previously I worked on it was April 6. The project had been put aside with the house selling, new house purchase, and the stressful move. Now, I’m in the grip of creativity and I want to stick with it. How can I ever go on another trip if I can’t get this one written up?

And I do want to travel again. I enjoyed it so much! I loved the driving, seeing the entire countryside I travelled through, and being able to go or stay as I pleased. Just thinking about it brings excitement and writing about the journey and viewing the photos taken along the way make me want to do more.

(I just have to figure out how I will afford to.)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Consumed by the Fires of Creativity

This past week mornings are consumed by the fires of creativity and two poems erupted from the torrent of words rushing through me. It dawned on me that I can relate these creative outbursts to weather and natural phenomena.


A flash ignition quickly
burns through my mind
in an uncontrollable wildfire
of words and thoughts

I can’t write or type fast enough
my brain can’t catch it all
as the combustion of thought  
narrows in focus
to roar through me
with intense heat

The firestorm flares
fueled by its own storm-force
I grab at the flames
trying to capture
essence so profound
that my brain
can’t contain the heat

But the movement is too fast
and won’t wait
for my slow mind
to process what I’m seeing
and my slower hand
to record what I witness

For these few moments
my entire being 
is consumed 
by the gale-force words
I am scorched
by the hot gases
and the fear
that I can’t get 
it all down
on paper

Thoughts roar through me
one after another
light bulbs flash
deep understanding
astounds me
eager to get it
onto the page
I struggle
to keep it all contained

Too soon 
it’s over
the fuel and I
are spent
my brain gasps
for oxygen
a cool wind
blows through my soul
I can now rest
  ---Sasha Wolfe 2015

The poems are fresh and new and I could write one every morning. I even have the idea to do another poetry book with accompanying pictures geared to the topic of creativity. I certainly have written enough poems on the subject throughout the years to be their own book.

Creative Burst

It drops
out of the clouds
slams me into the ground
with the force
of a tornado

In moments
roaring winds
rip my soul to shreds
as the debris of words and ideas
crash against my walls

I have to capture them
I have to put it all together
I have to make them understandable

I struggle to hold together
keep my house
from falling apart
as the whirling forces 
strip me bare

Destruction and creativity
turn, spin, flip me upside down
then dissipate into the void
leaving me flattened 
on the floor

But oh the joy!
From the chaos
comes the awe
Once again
I am rewarded
with another bit
of writing
that leaves me
refreshed and renewed
      ---Sasha Wolfe, 2015

Then another exciting bit is I’ve finally decided on a path for my memoirs… yeah, like I need another project. But at least I have an idea. I’ve been wanting to put together a memoir for years, but I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to go about it. Oh, I am not explaining this well. My goal is not your normal life-story type of deal… and that’s all I’m going to say at this point.

However, there are many other things trying to grab my attention. I have articles to write, editing to do, and the community calendar to put together, and other assignments for the InterTown Record. I’m still settling in at the new house. There are the two books that are already in various stages and if I want to do any more traveling, I need to get that one book finished before I can take on another travel-writing project.

My brain is so intensely on fire for most of the day that it eventually shuts down. All I can do is crawl to the living room and become a couch potato until bedtime.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Decorating for the Holidays

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and a time when many start putting up Christmas decorations. Years ago, I waited until the first of December, but I have to admit, it is nice to have pretty lights shining when the days darken early. The few times I am out after dark, those lights bring joy during the cold, dark winter.

Christmas changed throughout the years once the kids grew up and moved out. I used to go all out decorating, but when people stopped visiting, I lost interest. It didn’t seem worth the effort for Mum and me and by that time, she no longer cared either. Then her passing away on a Christmas Day totally destroyed any joy I had around the holiday. (Tears are falling even in the writing of these few lines. For me, my mother WAS Christmas! Four years later and the thought of Christmas without my mother is still unbearable.)

But I am healing. Last year I got back into sending cards. Christmas cards are time consuming because it is important to me to handwrite a personal message in almost every one and the bonus was that these were Christmas cards that I made from photographs I had taken. This is my gift, my giving.

The year 2015 brought more major life-change with the big move and downsize. Boxes of Christmas ornaments, fake trees, and decorations went in the dumpster or were put curbside, free for the taking. And there were boxes! At one time, I had almost an entire corner of the basement in Bradford full of Christmas supplies; some still in individual boxes, only used once. All are gone now except for a dozen small pieces.

And so, I sit in this new home, this home where I did not live with Ma (except I have her picture placed so she is looking at me most of the day). Yesterday, I pulled out the decorations that are left and last night I plugged in the little lighted purple Christmas tree and today I hung a wreath on the front door.

The few decorations I saved are two stuffed Christmas unicorns, three ceramic rocking horses (I’ve always loved horses), and a few purple and pink ornaments. Did I get rid of too much? I’ll have to see how December proceeds and how I feel.

My emotions, at the moment, are all over the place. Part of me wants a new beginning. Part of me still feels empty and lost. I think I need to find a new meaning for Christmas… new for me because the Christmases of the past are no longer, nor can they be. And for this year, I still choose to be alone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Self Definition and Family

I get excited over my thought processes. Does that sound weird or what? But I do. It’s like my mind takes a topic and goes off on an adventure of exploration. The subject is turned upside down and looked at from various angles. Yes, it is all from my own mind, so there is the personal spin with my beliefs and how I view the world. I will also admit that, as much as I try to be nonjudgmental, I am human and cannot help how I feel about certain issues. But I still can see different sides and I do try to be objective and accepting.

One thought that always weighs on me is the fear of offending anyone. I would NEVER want to do that! My ramblings are, to use the popular term, “all about me.” My choice in how I live is mine and I accept that others make their own choices. I suspect I worry about what others think because of the need to be accepted. I may not see things the way you do or our beliefs may differ, but it’s important to allow those differences.

As I said, my thought processes are an adventure and just like when I go on a physical trip, I want to talk about and share what I discover on my mental journeys. The hardest part in writing about this is that my mind jumps all over the place and words flow much quicker than I can type. 

So today I got off on the subject of love, especially new love when you are soooooo in LOOOVE that you feel you feel like you are going to die if you don’t hear from so and so. I remember those feelings… and learned to hate them. There always seemed to be something wrong with totally giving up the self for someone else.

Well, that comment possibly opens a can of worms and it led to thinking about definitions. The topic of love is difficult because there are so many ways to love and how to love depending on who and what. I don’t believe love have to be the same for everyone. So, does it all come down to who we are as individuals as how we love? Perhaps it’s about self definition.

I also thought about gender roles. I grew up in a time when women were still expected to get married and raise a family. Oh, there were the “odd” women throughout the ages who chose not to, but it took incredible strength for them to buck the system. Early times had women who chose not to marry and have kids of their own taking care of parents or helping to raise siblings’ families; (which meant they still ended up taking care of children and still under a man’s rule). Other women became artists, writers, photographers, and such, which was a huge achievement in times that were so male-dominated. 

So, does it come down to self-definition? It took many years for me to figure out that I am one of those “oddball” women. I never felt I fit in, I never wanted the same things other girls/women wanted, and I felt there was something wrong with me for it. I didn’t know how to define myself. I didn’t know who I was because how I felt on the inside didn’t match the labels associated with me; labels and things that I felt I had to be to fit in.

The years and life experience allowed me to be more accepting of myself. When I was able to allow the self to be what I felt on the inside, a whole new world opened up. I finally knew who I was (am)… but it’s not always black and white and it changes… as life changes.

If you make a list of everything you are, what’s on top? Also, would that list change from one day to the next? My first thoughts about myself are: writer, photographer, artist and I am proud on one hand and happy to say that. However, on the other hand, I feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be putting my family first? What does that say about me if I don’t?

I love my life and I love my family, but when it comes to family, I feel I’ve let them down. Maybe it is the creative mentality; that artist within, that isolates me and makes me not want the same types of things other women want. I’m still trying to figure this out.

Maybe I have to talk about this because I want absolution from those I love. I want their forgiveness because I am unable to BE that normal mother/grandmother woman. And maybe the oddball/normal is only in my mind.

I definitely plan to explore this further as the topic expands and delves deeper. For instance, how well do we know our loved ones? Is how we see them really who they are? I hope to follow up on this tomorrow.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Good Person vs. Better Person

This morning as I was journaling about a Facebook comment, it came to mind how there are times I do not feel very supportive of others’ decision. Oh, I try to be. We all have the right to make our own choices and it’s not up to me to say who or what is right or wrong. I’ve certainly made choices these past few years that moved me in a totally different lifestyle than when I was younger and those choices have not always been understood by others. (I have to say, though, I consider myself a much happier person because of these decisions made the past eight years).

How can I expect others to accept my choices if I am not supportive of others’ decisions? Who am I to say this person is not making good choices for her well-being? Yes, I have life experience, but what I have seen of life really has no bearing on anyone else. My experiences are not necessarily a fair gauge. Just because I have never been totally happy in a love relationship does not mean others are not. I know plenty of people who are happily married and I commend them for it.

I admit I’m not being very rational with this situation. I also realize that while my mind tries to balance logic with emotion, more often than not, emotion wins out. I hear or read something and the emotional part of my being kicks in. Sometimes emotions are not rational.

I analyze why I feel the way I do. I try hard to be a good person, but it seems the older I get, the less… flexible (in body and mind)… I become. I am reminded of how old people can be seen as cantankerous and hidebound. Am I starting to fit into that category? And because I choose to isolate myself so much, does that make me more so?

What exactly does that mean to be a good person and how does my concept of a good person differ from everyone else’s ideas? Is my definition different than yours?

Definitions can be… funny. You can look up words in the dictionary, but in the long run, it is often how you feel when hearing a particular word or phrase. When I hear “good person,” I immediately think: loving, compassionate, self-less, unselfish, willing to give to others unconditionally, nonjudgmental, willing to give up wants for the wants and needs of others, kind, gentle, polite, considerate, helpful, etc.

As I write these words, I realize that maybe I am not so much a good person. I am in my heart, but I am also very aware of who I am and what I am willing and not willing to do. While there are many things on that list that I do believe of myself, there are some that are not me and never will be. Uh, oh, so what does this mean? 

Well, if “good person” means what I wrote above, and I am not willing to do/be all of those things, how will this change what I ask of myself? Yes, I am basically a good person. I mean well. I just don’t fit all the definition. Perhaps, as I say my gratitude prayers every night at bedtime, I can change asking to be a good person to being a better person. I can always be better and still be who I am. I still love. I am compassionate on many issues. I try awfully hard to be nonjudgmental. I am kind, polite, considerate, helpful… and I love you all. Have a happy day.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thankfulness Every Day

The holiday season is upon us and after the tricks, treats, and wonderful costumes and fun of Halloween, the seriousness of Thanksgiving settles in before the big Christmas rush-around catches everyone. 

The newspaper is preparing its Thanksgiving edition and many of the writers are listing things for which they are thankful. It’s important. It’s important to remember we have a lot to be thankful for. However, what gets me is how many items on those lists are the same. I could copy and paste quite a bit of their lists into my own because, for the most part, we are all thankful for the same things (or types of things) in our lives.

I’ve always strived to be a different. Even as an artist, I don’t want to do the same thing everyone else is doing or I don’t want to do it exactly the same way. And so, in my thanks, I don’t want to list the same things that are prevalent on others’ lists. (Such as being thankful for this wonderful country, family, etc., which to me are givens.) Of course, we are thankful for these things and we cannot say thank you enough. 

Thanksgiving Day, the holiday, a time for family and get-togethers, changed dramatically for me in later years. My thoughts of Thanksgiving bring memories of family with Ma and Dad preparing dinner (which, along with Christmas dinner, was eaten around noon). The memory holds love, laughter, warmth, and the smell of good food and plenty of it. Later years, when I became an adult and the children were young, the holiday still had some of that feeling. 

Times changed. Choices were made. Lives came and went. The holiday within the family changed. The entire holiday season… fell apart for me. All those old memories were just that – memories. The feeling of the holidays changed and I made the decision to pull back and drop out. It was my choice and I did not do this to slight family, but to protect them from my… sadness. Maybe this just means that I was unwilling to change with the times. (Although the past couple of years I did come out of holiday isolation to go out to Thanksgiving dinner with my brother, his wife, her sister, and husband and it was good.)

There is more. Thanksgiving is not just a one-day-a-year event for me. I celebrate thankfulness every day. Every night I say gratitude prayers at bedtime. I snug down under the covers and have an entire litany of prayers and thanks that I run through before falling asleep. Goodness, there is so much to be grateful for that the list could go on and on. Sometimes I feel like a broken record repeating things. But I AM so grateful!

So, what can I add to my list that is not exactly the same as on other lists? What can I add to my list that is different from last year’s list? Oh, yes, I have a list. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

There is a Faint Light at the End of the Tunnel

These past few days, in between doing the work for the InterTown Record which included three assignments, more work was done around the house. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but three months have gone by since moving in and I would dearly love to be more settled.

However, when all is said and done, it really does have to proceed this way. As much as I would have loved to have had things done immediately, I really needed to be living here and “feel” the house before making decisions. Things I wanted in the beginning would not work in how this place is turning out. It’s all for the better; just… living through renovation and downsizing is not enjoyable. At least, it isn’t for me. I’ll be glad when it over and I can be totally settled.

These past two days I went back through photos taken since moving and put together a time line room by room. I’m sorry now I didn’t take photos of the horrible mess the first couple of days I moved in when boxes and furniture were packed floor to ceiling. Also there were boxes and items piled around the shed and in the shed. It’s hard to comprehend and was a little embarrassing that I had that much stuff. 

Then with the ordering of a new bedroom set, items previously set up on furniture had to be packed away again. Bureaus had to be emptied into boxes so the older furniture can be sold off before the new arrives. (There’s no room to store excess furniture.) 

I sit and look at the cheap crown molding… can you call it crown molding?... and I want to paint it cream or a shade of off white. The wood coloring is not a pretty color… and I need pretty.

But the studio is coming along nicely and is almost finished. There are a few items I need to decide whether to keep or get rid of. The big easel is set up so I can draw again and the tables are ready for matting and framing. Well, I do have some items to take care of. 

It’s coming along and I want people to come see. (One thing about living alone is that I am sometimes starved to have someone to talk to face to face.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Feeling Overwhelmed Again

The immensity of a huge downsizing project is horribly difficult to describe unless you are actually in it and can see it. You may look and think, wow, that’s a lot of stuff, but until you actually get into sorting it, packing it, moving it, unpacking packing it, organizing it, getting rid of a lot of it… it’s impossible to fathom. 

And it’s not like entire boxes could be thrown out. Each box needed to be gone through. Then it’s deciding to throw it out completely, put it curbside for freebies for the taking, or keep it. If I keep it, then it’s finding a proper space for it.

I don’t know what I would have done without Nan McCarthy. (I know, I say this over and over.) She has been coming, first to Bradford once a week, then to the new home in Hillsborough sometimes twice a week. So much has been accomplished, but it feels like every time the end seems near, I find there is still much to do. If it hadn’t been for Nan, I probably would have just left stuff packed as I had in the past… and then added to it, ha ha.

A few others helped when they could and got to see some of what I needed to deal with. The overall stacks of boxes seemed overwhelming, but when Nan and I got into the actual going through those boxes – I can’t even fully describe it. The project seems never ending, and yet, we have made tremendous progress. I am more organized than I have ever been in my entire life! And I am so thankful.

The master bedroom was close to being completed with the painting of the walls. Things were unpacked (things Nan calls “frou-frou”) and arranged on dressers and bureaus. One room would be finished – then I decided to purchase new bedroom furniture. I haven’t had a matched bedroom for thirty years. I deserve it. Plus, I want a particular color for my new room.

I spent a few weeks off and on perusing various furniture websites and on Veterans Day (to try to catch a sale), I found a set that called to me. I spent the day thinking about it and in the late afternoon, placed the order for home delivery. How exciting!

Today, panic set in. I have to pack up and put out of the way everything recently unpacked in the bedroom. Bureau drawers need to be emptied, photos taken of the old furniture to be posted for sale on Craigs List, and the room ready to move the furniture out. Good think I have empty tote bins to put the clothes in. Those will be stacked in the studio to get them out of the way for the furniture move. I have to get rid of the old before the new can fit.

The end result will be amazing, but for now, I am in turmoil again. And this is on top of learning a new program (InDesign) to further my work with the InterTown Record Newspaper and with book designing and publishing. Life certainly isn’t boring.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It’s All about the Paper

My goal as an author is to incorporate writing with photography. I am not just a writer and not just a photographer. I am both and want to incorporate both! I want my photographs to be embedded with the text. If you are reading about the roundhouse in Martinsburg, W. Va., I want you to see a picture right there without having to search elsewhere in the book. 

But books don’t usually work that way. Pictures are grouped together in the middle or at the end. I couldn’t get it through my head, that why, with modern technology, pictures couldn’t be with the text.

“Too Cold for Alligators” was published in 2014. I insisted the publisher print the pictures on the pages with the text. The proof copy was a letdown. I ended up re-editing all my photos and re-submitting. The second proof was much better though not perfect. I am excited about the book, but there is a disappointment because the pictures are not great. How can I make this better in the next book?

The writing will be slightly improved as I’ve learned much since becoming editor of the InterTown Record. I’ve had to research and study AP Style and rediscover forgotten rules with writing. I decided for my book purposes I will stick with the AP Style as jumping back and forth between that style and the “Chicago Manual of Style,” depending if I am doing newspaper work or writing the book, would be too confusing. What is important is my writing style remaining consistent. 

But what do I do about the photographs? I want to show the readers, not just tell them about the journey. I have taken some great pictures. How can I share them with everyone? 

I need to know more about the printing business. I had the opportunity to tour Puritan Press, a printing company in Hollis on Wednesday. What a great experience, but too much information comes in during a whirlwind tour. I really didn’t know what to expect. There are many divisions, components, departments to the business. To make a simple statement, the many types of printing jobs performed, such as newsletters, posters, art books, reading books, catalogs, letterhead and business cards, have different needs, rules, layout, and more. Five days later my head is still spinning.

“It’s all about the paper,” I was told more than once. What you want printed dictates the kind of paper. Online printing offers the self-publishing author only a couple of options whereas there are many other choices. Price is also a factor as the better quality paper, the higher the price. If you are only writing a novel or something that is just text, then it is okay to go with a standard paper, but to do something with pictures requires higher quality and probably with a coating. 

I had gone with the standard paper for “Two Cold for Alligators,” hence the ink for the images (photos and maps) had a bit of bleed. Coated paper, which holds the color ink better, is more costly and heavier. The weight is a consideration in shipping and if readers need to hold the book or it the publication needs to lie on the table (as with coffee table books and art books). 

Then there is the type of pictures needing to be printed. If you are doing brochures or catalogs showing art work for galleries or museums, then a color editor may be needed (another expense) because of the need to make the printed material as exact as possible to the original. Printers do not all print the same and not all computers are calibrated the same color-wise. How I edit my pictures to look good printed from my printer may not come out well on another printer.

Who knew there were so many issues to consider in writing a book!

“It’s all about the paper!” The research will go on as I continue work on the book. I will learn more about the printing process and available options. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Back to the Book

Yesterday, after months of not being able to (or not making the time to) work on my newest book, I got back to it. I finished going through the writing file box and threw out the extra copies of the “Too Cold for Alligators” manuscript. And sitting there was a hanging folder labeled “2015 trip.” 

I pulled the folder out and took it to the workspace. I needed to find out where I am with the new book. Currently I am calling it “Not Too Cold for Alligators” (NTCfA) because it is similar trip (similar, but different, ha ha) to “Too Cold for Alligators” (TCfA) and because I saw more alligators on this trip. TCfA had a mileage page where I had tracked mileage traveled in 2013 day-to-day and between hotels. I opened the file for the 2015 trip on the computer and spent time looking for a mileage sheet, but I couldn’t find one. Evidently I hadn’t started one. So I did that.

I did find title, copyright, dedication, acknowledgment and such pages. There are chapters up through Day 11 along with various other chapters. I am adding different information to this book so it definitely won’t be the same as the other. I need to look these pages over and get them printed. I still have to have printed copies in my hand to be able to read and “see” where I am.

My biggest dilemma and one I’ve talked about before is photographs. I take a lot of photos and most will never make it into the book. Yes, many pictures are not that good, but there are still a lot of nice ones. I hate the thought of wasting them. I’m not into scrapbooking. Gosh, this is such work! There’s got to be a way.

Right now I am putting three or four into a Word doc with captions. One thing the pictures do is help me write better description in the manuscript itself. They help me remember the journey. I have to do one page at a time because Windows goes unresponsive if there is too much.

So, this is where I am right now; getting my bearings on the book. I am filled with excitement to be back at the writing. I love the traveling and telling the stories. I love the sharing and the wonder of discovery and the exploration. (And this comes from a person who likes to stay home and inside her house!)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Saying Thank You

Sometimes I can’t say thank you enough. I know it gets repetitious, but I want people to know they are appreciated and that I am grateful for their help.

Help comes in many forms. It can be in the physical aspect of someone coming over to help with packing/unpacking, organizing, and cleaning. There are the tradesmen who bring the electrical, building, plumbing, and painting expertise; and although I pay them, I am still thankful they fit me into their busy schedules. I love living alone, but having someone come to the house lightens the day. There are those who come once or twice and those who come more often.

Help can also be in the non-physical through phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages. Most people can’t give physical help. (I fit into that category.) These people offer words of advice, support, suggestions, and they send good energy. Kind words and positive thoughts can get me out of a funk or re-inspire creativity. Sometimes, when I feel stuck and can’t make decisions, a nice comment or suggestion can get me moving again. These non-physical contacts are important and it means a lot to know that I can send an email or post something on Facebook and someone will get back to me. 

It helps, too, that people read what I write and respond. A simple response is often all that is needed to keep me on track. Sometimes those responses are what drives me to continue to do what I love. And, because I spend so much time alone, the contact is important for my mental well-being. It allows me my solitude and yet, I am not totally alone — which is wonderful.

And so I send a heartfelt thank you to all family, friends, acquaintances, and tradespeople who take the time from their busy schedules to give me a few moments (or in some cases, hours). Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I wish you-all the best.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy, Happy, Happy

“If you haven’t looked in that box in a long time, don’t. Just take it straight to the trash.” I don’t know how many times these past few months I’ve been told that. But I couldn’t with this box. There was something about this one that tickled the back of my mind. I had to examine it closely.

The box had been packed since we lived in Hampton. It could even have been as far back as Kensington and we moved from that town in 1998 which meant the contents inside are older than that. The white cardboard is not a stiff as it once was and the tape is discolored and not sticking well; again, a sign of age. I remember this box sitting unopened in the third floor of the Hampton house.

Whatever, it feels forever ago since I viewed the items. Wait, it can’t be that long. I must have done a quick look at one time because there’s a date on the side of the beat-up cardboard stating “gone thru 2006;” which is the year I moved to Bradford, so I at least did a quick look before I moved.

I pull on the loose end of tape and it comes off easily. Older tape underneath is brittle. I open the flap with a sneeze as dust flies up in my face. The top layer is yellowed, crumpled, old newspaper. I pull out the uppermost ball and hear a trickling of small items tumbling down the inside of the box and a glass “chink.” Oh, I remember! These are gem stones.

I pull out the next batch of paper with more care. This one has a little weight and I cradle the weighted part in one hand and peel back the layers of paper.

“Yes! Finally! Light!” 

The words are whispered in my brain as if something has been released. In my hand is a small bowl full of polished stones; stones that have energy, stones that heal. (At one time I was really into it when I had my massage business.) I pull the bowl out of the paper and set it on the table. There is a happiness radiating from the stones that is almost palpable to me. That radiance reaches across the room.

I scoop a few stones into my hand. Agate, fluorite, lepidolite, hematite, crystal, citrine, malachite, and rose quartz… the names come to mind. I remember. I remember these stones. I love stones, have always loved stones. They call to me. (Stones always do.) These stones are so grateful to be brought out into the light. I can feel it.

I turn back to the box. The next layer is wrapped in old clothes; a bigger bowl, more stones and a fancy stand for the bowl to sit in. Other stones and rocks are unpacked. Some stones are local, ones I picked up while walking wooded trails or the beach, and will go out to enhance the flower gardens. But the gem stones are amazing. Some are pointed on one end and shaped as “wands.” There are pyramids, balls, and egg-shaped stones along.

I finish unpacking the box coming across a couple of amethyst clusters. Down the bottom is an old rabbit fur on which I used to set my stones. That, too, is disintegrating which adds to the dust. I dig out all the stones that fell to the bottom of the box. Oh, they are beautiful and are happy to be brought into the light.

The bowls are washed. The box and all the wrappings will got out to the trash. I will have to find a place in every room for a small bowl of stones. I can’t get over how much good energy is coming from the stones! How could I have hidden them away for so long? The will bring such good energy to this new house. What joy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Walls and Paint and House in Upheaval

I thought when the painters came they would do one room at a time. Instead, they’ve torn all the rooms being painted apart moving furniture and piling everything into the middle. All the previous work at organizing seems moot. 

That’s not really true because in the organizing, I did get rid of a lot of stuff and it did give them space to move things around. They would not have been able to get to the walls in the back rooms before this past week. I had way too much stuff!

Maybe it would have been different if they didn’t need to prime. They wanted to prime each room before starting to paint which means that everything is in disarray. At least they haven’t touched my work space, yet, which has allowed me to keep working.

The master bedroom and bath are done except for touch ups and I need to paint the receptacle covers. I was a little hesitant about purple on the walls, but I love it. I’m still trying to decide how to arrange the bedroom; not that I have a lot of space due to the room size and door and window placements.

One thought that hit me as I was trying to sleep last night was to get rid of the huge mirrored dresser that I’ve had for 40 years. Yikes, has it been that long? The thing is huge and is too bulky for the room. Could I get something smaller? That would work better in the size bedroom I now have.

The living room, dining/work room, halls, and guest bath are also done and they are now doing the two spare bedrooms. Those rooms have the most stuff in there as a lot will be storage. I wasn’t originally going to be able to do those rooms at this time, but because Nan has helped me get rid of a lot, it’s now possible.

The guys are doing a fantastic job! I am very pleased.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

You Can’t Write Like You Talk

Writing is not the same as speaking. I say this often. When talking, the mind is trying to come up with words in the moment to convey the point of view while the mouth has to speak the words. Sometimes the flow is smooth, but often it is not. The mind works quicker than the tongue which can cause people to babble a bit as the mouth tries to catch up with the brain. 

Think about it. Think about the way you talk and the way those around you speak. Think about those you are able to carry on good conversations with and those who can drive you a bit crazy. (Not that they are bad people. It’s all in how one person speaks and another hears.) We all have our… ways. We may all speak the same language, but the understanding of how something is said could be totally different than what the speaker meant. 

It is also important to note that when speaking, the mind can be jumping all over the place. Words jumble around each other. Some things slip off the tongue easily while other thoughts are hard to put into words. Look how easy it is to misunderstand. Words are repeated, blank seconds are filled with “er” or “um” as the mind tries to find the correct words to get the point across. 

What does this have to do with writing? 

People don’t speak in full English-grammar-correct sentences. They tend to ramble, use idioms or phrases that do not translate well to the written page and some people repeat themselves, sometimes a lot. There are nuances in the spoken word that is hard to incorporate in the written word. 

Writing needs to be precise. Writing has… stricter, much stricter… rules. And there are rules for the type of writing being done. There is sentence structure and proper grammar and punctuation. What can be picked up in tone and body language from a speaker needs to be translated and described with words and again, depending on what’s being written, can you assume from that body language and tone or do you need to stick to the facts. 

As a writer, I have to be constantly on my toes depending on what I am doing. My daily journaling is open and I can use any style, though I try to follow rules to stay sharp. Working on a book takes a different mindset than writing articles or editing for the newspaper as does writing poetry. 

But even the book work has its variations. Writing from a personal point of view can be looser than recording information on historical facts. Newspaper work follows the AP style and there are certain formats to be adhered to that are different if following the “Chicago Manual of Style” (sometimes referred to as CMOS). 

Dialogue has its own spin. Writing dialogue can’t be put down on the page exactly as someone speaks. There is so much more to the spoken word that a reader would find boring, confusing, or too much to get through, etc. Plus, words cost money in the written world. How can you say what the speaker needs to say using fewer words? The dialogue needs to be catchy to the reader and draw the reader in to the character and the story.

Another side is, especially with newspaper reporting or doing interviews, is the all-important quote. When choosing to quote a speaker, strong statements or a sentence or two makes the point stand out and is exactly what was said. From there, the writer, in his own words, can take other comments and elaborate on the speaker’s point of view. This will enable the writer to choose the important words and not use the unnecessary words and sounds that a speaker will use while trying to get their comments out.

If a writer were to totally type out a complete spoken dialogue, the sentences would run together, there might not be full sentences and where would the punctuation go? Subjects are missing, verbs are misconstrued and thoughts can trail off... (which I tend to do which entails ellipses which are not conducive to good writing – and here is an example of repeated words). 

I am learning all the time with the newspaper business. Plus, for my own processing, I need to break things down and figure out why a rule is in place. I need to understand the why and sometimes it can take many go-‘rounds before I get it. Of course, this is just one tiny segment.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Minimalizing a Life after 60-Plus Years

I am again thinking about this whole aspect of downsizing; what it means, what you have to go through, the difficulties, etc. Sometimes stories need to be repeated. Sometimes you need to talk things over and over before it sinks in. That is definitely true with me. 

And so, even though I’ve talked about some of this before, I need to mention it again as I traverse the maze in my mind sorting through the situation. There are important tidbits to be gleaned about downsizing. We often talk about the need to do it, but when it comes down to the actuality of letting things go… there are excuses not to do so or reasons why such and such needs to be kept. You have to keep asking, “Why? Why do I need to keep this?”

There are many reasons. It’s been in the family for years. I might use it/fix it someday. So and so gave that to me. It’s pretty. It’s worth a lot of money or I paid a lot for it. There are memories. It’s mine. I like it. Think of reasons why you are hanging on to things. Do these items serve a purpose or are they just taking up space?

What happens when you get too much stuff? 

I couldn’t imagine going through all the accumulation of, not only physical personal possessions, but books, files, photo albums, things to work on later, and more, without help. I tried. I really did. 

I knew the move to Bradford was temporary and that when I was alone (except for kitty), I would have to move to a smaller home. I had the years before and after my mother’s passing to get rid of things. It didn’t happen. I’m terrible about this kind of thing. A part of me wanted to do it, but when I’d make an attempt, my brain would shut down. 

People advised to start with a corner, to set aside specific areas of keep, give away, and throw away. I still couldn’t do it on my own. The little girl hiding inside threw temper tantrums. “I don’t wanna doooo iiittt!” she’d scream, and I could see/feel her stamping her little feet. I’d go back to doing the more artsy things I preferred and nothing would get done.

The universe provided an opportunity I couldn’t refuse and once papers were signed on the Bradford property, I could no longer put off getting rid of things. And it needed to be done right away. But I still couldn’t start. One part of me knew what to do, but the other part of me would just wail, “I don’t know what to do!”

I had to take help when it was offered, which in itself was hard because I felt it was my responsibility. Nan McCarthy has proved priceless. While many others helped here and there and gave good advice, support, and sometimes carried things away, Nan would (and still does) come once a week and sometimes twice to help me go through things. She has been phenomenal! (She says it’s fun going through someone else’s stuff.) She is a minimalist and doesn’t keep anything she is not using.

Yes, I could have, should have on my own, but there is something about having another presence to help me make decisions, to push me to let go when I hang on too tight, to just be here as I look things over. What helps, too, is that she will physically take things out to the curb for free or to the dumpster. It’s one thing for me to say I don’t need it anymore; it’s another thing to actually take it out. Plus, if I don’t see it go away, it’s not so bad.

And so, we had another afternoon of unpacking, organizing, finding a home for keepers, and getting rid of things no longer needed. I am so pleased to say it’s finally coming together. I now have space to set up the floor easel which means I can finish the big drawings. (In unpacking drawing boards, we found six drawings in various stages and all in-process). 

I am happy to be getting rid of things. I love the idea of being less cluttered. I am ready to get back to doing art. (Of course, that is still on hold awhile longer as the painters will be here three or four days doing the walls. Oh happy day!)


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Transforming another Old Writing

Here is another piece I came across while going through old files. It was written after my last boyfriend left. I like it. The words speak volumes and transcend many kinds of loss.

Twenty Hours into the Grief

The moon shines through my window like a huge street lamp. Full, the rays spread out over the land, and if it were warmer, it would be a good night to dance naked.

I can’t, though. Not tonight. Not when my heart is aching and I am feeling such a loss. Not when my soul suffers the fresh scars of emptiness and abandonment. The lure of the moonlight is only a tease of what could have been.

She reaches for me. She wants to hold me, envelop me until I am well. She wants to tell me that I am finally free; free to be me, free to do what I want. 

But for now, the grief is too heavy. Her arms are not real arms; warm arms, human arms. Her arms are not the solid arms that once held me tight and made me feel safe and loved.

How can I possibly think of freedom when I am feeling terribly alone? I want to be held, but there is no one to “snuggy” me. I am alone in this big king-size bed feeling the loss. I can still smell his scent on the other pillow. Part of me feels numb, empty. Grief feels frozen on my skin.

There were things I loved about him besides the “snugginess.” He’d pat me like a cat until I practically purred. He played with my hair with a comforting touch.

He had his own special names for me. I don’t think he ever called me by my real name. When we were first together, he called me, “Girly,” until the other guys at work did so, too. When we were alone, he called me, “Tit-kit-pussy” and “Woofie.” Most of the time, he called me, “Poffie” (his spelling for it although he pronounced it “Poofie”). It was kind of endearing the way he’d say these names. Sometimes he called me “Piglet” or “Pig-head.” He didn’t use his demeaning voice, but I wasn’t too fond of these latter two names. 

I wonder what he calls his new love. I hope he uses new names for her.

Later tonight, the moon will pass over the house as I lie in bed. I’ll be able to see Her light through the skylight. She will remind me of things I am when I cannot sleep during these long dark hours. And although I will not fully listen, I am glad She is here.

I don’t want to think because to think is to feel and be lonely. Instead, I just might float on endless moonbeams hoping to get lost – but knowing I won’t. Perhaps, for now, floating in oblivion would be a good thing.

For over 20 years, my weekends and vacations were devoted to him. It feels strange not to have that to look forward to any more. What will weekends mean to me now? What will I do for vacations? It feels strange. What do I have to look forward to?

I have always wanted to hike, but he never wanted to. This could be my year for hiking.

There are all the art projects sitting in various stages of work in progress and ideas never put into reality. Maybe I can be the artist I always wanted to be.

I will let myself dream on the moonbeams and forget this loss. I am glad he moved on. Now I can, too.

Looking back on that night; that night over15 years ago, that night – I still remember how it felt as if it was yesterday, and yet, it almost feels like it happened to someone else. That me back then, that isn’t quite me, and yet, is me and the same me of today. I still feel the emotion because feelings of loss and abandonment are always recognizable and transcend time. I can change a few words and a bit of the situation and it is another loss with the same type of feelings. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Story vs. Photos

I was the butterfly yesterday. What do I mean by being the butterfly? It means that, like a butterfly, I flit from one flower (project) to the next. I do a little here, a little there then move on to something else – and none is necessarily related.

I do my morning journaling in long-hand. The blog is done on the computer. I open the pictures file and see what I can do with a photograph. Later I dove into the last box of old writings needing to be organized. There are emails to take care of from people looking to purchase items I have for sale and those from AuthorHouse about the marketing of my book. And there’s still more organizing and settling in to do.

No wonder by 5 p.m. my brain says, “Enough!” 

I am back at it by 5:30 the next morning (today). The journaling has me thinking about words/story versus photographs. In publishing, it’s either a book filled with words or a picture book. Stories are told either with the written word or pictures and when there are pictures in a text book, there are very few. I am determined to break that rule.

As a writer, photographer, and artist, the written word and pictures are equally important. Computers make working in multiple genres easier. Pictures can be put with written text and I can’t see why there can’t be more of a balance. I not only want to tell my stories in words, but I want to show the reader sites and sights that I saw. What’s wrong with that?

Oh, I know, color ink is more expensive than black.

I love what I do. I am excited about what I find and I want to show everyone and tell everyone about my adventures. I came across one of the photos from the 2013 trip to Florida. I had taken hundreds of pictures and only 50 made it into the book. What can I do with the rest? Some are amazing and show fascinating landscape and architecture. How can I share them and tell the story that goes with those scenes? (And this isn’t even about the similar trip taken in 2015 of which I am still writing the story… or rather, I want to get back to writing the story.)

The thought of having great photos that no one will ever see saddens me. So, how can I make this happen…