Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Fairy on the Painting

Melody was sitting on her favorite bench at the art museum and writing, as she always did. She liked to look at the paintings and then close her eyes and imagine them coming to life. Sometimes she watched the people, especially children, and how they responded to the paintings. One day, she saw a couple come in with a little girl, about four years old. The little girl was wearing fairy wings, and she was lagging behind her parents a little, seemingly overwhelmed by the grandeur of the room. Suddenly the little girl stopped in front of Melody and stared at a painting in the corner of the room, her eyes wide.

“Do you see her?” Melody asked. The girl nodded. “Would you like to meet her?” Melody offered. The little girl looked at her in questioning amazement and nodded carefully. Melody walked slowly with the little girl over to a painting of a brightly-lit path under an archway of trees. They stopped a few feet away and looked up at the top of the painting where a tiny fairy sat. Melody said, “Her name is Silva. She loves to come to the art museum and look at the art and watch the people, like I do. This is her favorite painting.”

“What’s your name?” Melody asked. “I’m not allowed to tell my name to strangers,” the little girl replied. “That’s usually a good idea,” Melody agreed. “That’s okay. Do you hear her?” Melody asked the little girl. The little girl nodded again. “It’s like she can speak directly into our minds.” Melody paused, listening. “Is she right? Do you like telling fairy stories?” The little girl lit up. “I LOVE to tell fairy stories!” Melody said, “You should record your stories or ask your parents to write them down. Then, when you’re bigger, you can write them down yourself!” The little girl asked, “Can I write a book?” “Of course you can!” Melody encouraged. “Silva believes in you, and so do I. Silva says your parents are looking for you. We’d better get back.” Melody smiled down at the little girl. “Bye, Silva!” The little girl waved to the fairy.

When the pair returned to the bench, the parents eyed Melody curiously until the little girl exclaimed, seemingly all in one breath, “We went to talk to a fairy! She’s sitting on that painting right now! It’s her favorite! Her name is Silva, and she thinks I can write a book about fairies!” The parents looked surprised but smiled.

While the little girl was telling the parents of her adventure, Melody had taken her book The Storyteller out of her bag and began to write a message in it. “Is it okay for you to tell me your name now?” The little girl looked up at her parents, who nodded back, and she said, “Emily.” Melody extended her hand and said, “Emily, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Emily proudly shook her hand. Melody then wrote in the book, “We believe in you, Emily! Love, Silva and Melody.” She gave the book to Emily and said to the parents, “She is going to be a wonderful writer someday.” The parents smiled and thanked Melody and escorted Emily to the next room in the museum.

Melody packed up her things and headed for the exit, but not before waving “see you next time” to her friend, the fairy on the painting.

Riding a Falling Leaf

Snap drop glide

Stall drop whoosh

Drop glide fall

Sway sway sway

Swing

I pump my legs back then kick them out and face up to the clear blue sky. I fly up, up, up, through the clean air, into the vast blue. I fly higher and higher, my back to the ground, face to the sky. The air around me gets cooler. The chill air quickly moves past my face, feeling like wind blowing from heaven down to earth. I fly so high the sky turns from blue to black. Soon stars appear in front of me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the glowing blue curve of Earth's atmosphere. I can't tell if I'm slowing down, or if space is just so vast that I lose all perception of speed. Soon I slow to almost a stop. I turn myself to face the Earth. It grows smaller and smaller, an illuminated blue sphere with speckles of white and brown. Where am I going? I float farther and farther away until suddenly I'm snapped back like a rubber band, hurling toward earth so quickly I can't make out the stars around me. As the Earth approaches, I see only a hint of the blue glow before I see the land moving toward me impossibly fast. My body feels the sensation of falling, and my limbs start flailing on their own as if they possess the power to slow my descent. I close my eyes because I don't want to see my death. I turn my body to face the blue sky so I see its beauty as my life is snuffed out. I feel something catch me, holding me from underneath. It grips my backside and seems to all but stop my fall. I feel it jerk and then suddenly I'm swinging backward. I see the ground underneath me. The creaking screech of the chains brings my consciousness back to my surroundings. I don't move, allowing my pendulum swings to get smaller and smaller until my body comes to a rest, still hanging a few inches above the earth, my journey done.

quicksand

i'm stuck

in the muck

of writer's block



sucked in

by the viscous

love of words



writing looks

so pleasant

a sandy beach



but the deep

waters below

form a trap



i can't resist

the sensation

of flowing words



but when flow

mixes with dry

i can't escape



being a writer

is balancing

on quicksand

Friday, April 5, 2019

365 Table Topics Day 11 Number 255

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 11

#255: "What have you done that you are not proud of?"

There are a lot of possibilities for this one. Most of them took place before I was 25, so I'll blame my underdeveloped prefrontal cortex for those. I have plenty to choose from since then, too. It's hard to think of one that isn't too personal. I'm not sure this question can be answered beyond a shallow depth once I filter out all the things I'd like to keep private. Here. I thought of something I can answer in a way that more or less fulfills my desire for privacy.

I have anxiety. It turns out I've always had it, but I've only been diagnosed for a little over a decade. Sometimes my anxiety presents as fits of rage. Even though I'm not proud of my behavior before I knew this, I'm very ashamed that I haven't done more to control it since I found out. Anxiety usually has warning signs, but sometimes it doesn't. Mine almost always does, so I really have no excuse for lashing out at my husband and children like I do. I don't actually like yelling at all. Ever. It's never a fun release of stress for me or anything. (Well, I do like to yell-sing when I'm stressed, but it's not the same.) But I'm known for my yelling. Family, friends... Those cute little interviews you do with children... They all tell stories about my yelling. It's horrible. It's absolutely no way to treat someone. But sometimes I'm just too tired/hungry/emotionally-drained/etc. to take the time to stop my anxiety from steamrolling everyone around me.

I have gotten better. I have tried really hard to get my anxiety under control and better recognize my symptoms and equip myself with tools to handle everything that anxiety entails. I work on it every day. I know I'll never be perfect, but I don't want the people around me to think of me as a ticking bomb or a land mine set to shatter their spirit at any moment. The fact that they do expect outbursts from me pains me. Your spouse/mother should be your safe place. But I continue to work on myself. Change of behavior is the only real apology. And I am very sorry.

365 Table Topics Day 10 Number 220

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 10

#220: "Do you like the city or town you live in? Why or why not?"

I am absolutely in love with the Portland, Oregon area. I live in Portland right now, west of Forest Park, and I've lived in different parts of Hillsboro, and I love it all. I've never lived in the city, but I love being in the city, so I think I would enjoy living there, though maybe less so with young kids. My only complaint about my current neighborhood is lack of proximity to the light rail. I do have a bus stop at the end of the street, but nothing beats the convenience of being able to walk to the light rail like I could in Hillsboro.

What do I love about this area? First, the nature. I grew up in the Phoenix area, and no amount of gorgeous desert flowers can convince me I should live there. Someone in an airport once asked me what I liked best about Arizona. Rather than laugh in the poor stranger's face, I gave it a serious thought and replied, without hesitation, "The sky." It's true, Arizona has some amazing sunrises and sunsets. But guess what? I've seen many equally amazing ones here. Yes, there are fewer opportunities to see the sunset, but I do not feel deprived in the least.

I also love the weather here. I have zero tolerance for heat. I'm actually allergic to the sun, and covering up for the sun makes me extra hot, so no, thank you. I need to live somewhere I don't feel confined to the air conditioning 6-plus months a year. Yes, there are pools (if you don't hate swimming like I do). Yes, you can drive out of town for cooler weather and green (but daily? um--no). Here I can walk outside for cool weather and tall trees. I can drive 10 minutes to a forest with ancient trees and ferns and - I'm pretty sure - some dinosaurs and fairies. I can get to beach in an hour and a half! There are four seasons here. Four! Did you know there are supposed to be FOUR seasons?! Phoenix has two: really nice and the pits of hell.

I also love the culture here. Yes, Phoenix has a fabulous culture scene. I actually miss some of the museums, like Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa. But Portland's culture is so condensed geographically. Even if you drive between venues, you can do two or three easily in a half a day. And there's a lot more culture that spills out onto the streets. It's constantly stimulating and inspiring.

Speaking of condensed, there is such a variety of landscapes in this area. Where I live, I'm ten minutes from the aforementioned forests of dinosaurs and fairies, an hour and a half from the beach, five minutes from farms, and twenty minutes from the city. That doesn't count even the mountains and wetlands. The only thing I really miss about Phoenix's landscape is the "monster mountains" (Papago Park), where Hole in the Rock is located. I love that little hill.

The bottom line is Portland is very me, all the parts of me. I've felt at home here from the very first time I set foot here. I absolutely love this town.

Now, ask me this when I live the Phoenix area, and you'll get a much different answer. Or maybe I let my feelings slip out a little...

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

365 Table Topics Day 9 Number 232

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 9

#232: "What makes love last?"

It's always wild to me how these randomly-selected posts often dovetail so nicely. This is the third post in a row in which I discuss choices: choosing to believe in success before it happens, choosing to believe I'm worthy of improving, and now choosing to love.

Love, joy, gratitude, happiness...they all have something in common: they can come and go like the tides, or you can choose them over and over, and then they are affixed to the shore.

When it comes to a partner, you have to choose to love your partner every day. Some days it will be so automatic it won't seem like a choice. Other days you'll have to choose to love your partner every minute of the day. It's not always an easy choice, but it's always the right one* and can be trained like a muscle. Just as easily, you can decide not to feel loving toward your partner and fall into a habit of apathy or even resentment.

I've had plenty of both habits. It's easy to slip into the second one when your emotional needs aren't being met, even if it's not your partner's fault. For example, my husband had very little of me when our first son was born ill, but he felt he needed to be strong for me (or at least I assume that's what he was doing...he's never been willing to discuss it), and he definitely felt he had little to no control over the situation. I wasn't able to give him what he needed because I was calling doctors and insurance and taking him to doctors and therapies and tests every day of the week. My husband's stress was real, and his aloneness in the situation was real, too. I always say that we wouldn't have survived that first year of our son's life if either of us believed divorce was a ready option.

There are times when we choose not to meet our partner's needs, usually because we are fatigued from stresses of our own or ongoing disagreement in the relationship. We can choose to be aloof, but our partner still chooses to love us or resent us. Relationships require everyone involved to choose to be involved. It's also easy to become indifferent to our partner even though we love them because we're not choosing to actively love them. I can love my husband and resent him. He can love me and be apathetic to my needs. That's not choosing to love our partner. Real love is active love. You choose to love your partner. You choose to feel love even when it's hard. The feeling of love is not permanent, but you can summon it if you choose.

There are many things in life that just happen to us, but we have a lot more control than we realize. Attitude is everything. Little choices and actions add up. What we tell ourselves becomes real. Grass grows where we water it.

Love lasts when we choose it every day.

*I would never suggest someone stay in an abusive relationship, or even fight for your relationship alone if you don't have to. Get help, whether it's to get out or to get counseling.

365 Table Topics Day 8 Number 228

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 8

#228: "What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?"

Oh, geez. Another hard one. I have no idea. Oh, wait! Yes I do! Another stream of consciousness warning...

The best decision I've ever made was to decide I was worthy of improving. I've always believed one must always be learning and growing, but I had such a failure mindset that I took every setback as further confirmation of my character. I spent years and years swimming upstream in the piranha-infested waters of my brain, unaware that I had a choice of rivers. It took a lot of people and self-help resources telling me I was worth if for me to stop brushing them off and actually choose to believe them. Once I chose a different river without man-eating creatures in it, the swimming upstream part seemed a lot less daunting.

So what finally changed for me? Instead of compartmentalizing doing it for me or doing it for someone else, I realized that doing it for me is ALSO doing it for someone else (kids, husband, etc.). It's not the old oxygen mask metaphor, because I'm not doing separate things. The improvements I make to my own ways of thinking naturally ripple out and positively affect those around me. I somehow never saw this. I never wanted to hear, much less believe, that "I was worth it" because that seemed selfish in its isolation. But once I saw the whole picture, I realized I am worth it, and my kids are sure dang worth it, and now we can all get what we deserve!

I don't know if I'm making any sense. I'm babbling, as usual. That's just my brain today. But my point is, sometimes you have to decide you are worth whatever it is you really want, and yes, it is a decision, and that can make all the difference. For what it's worth, my kids' sense of self-worth improved leaps and bounds when I made this shift, even though my words to them and feelings toward them didn't change. Never underestimate their powers of perception (except for empty toilet paper rolls...those they never see).

365 Table Topics Day 7 Number 164

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 7

#164: "What do you have trouble seeing clearly in your mind?"

I was legitimately busy the last two days and failed to plan ahead, but I think the real reason this post is two days late is because I don't want to write it. Warning: stream of consciousness ahead.

The one thing I have always had the most trouble seeing clearly in my mind is success. I can briefly glimpse an image of what it would look like to succeed at a task or a goal, but it's just a flash. I can't see the whole process, and I can't see past the flash. Even if I lay out a clear plan, I can't see myself successfully completing it. It's a very strange thing. I used to think I was afraid of success. Should I succeed, I raise the bar for myself (as if that's a bad thing). But I think it's more than that.

I have an internal voice that tells me over and over that I'll never accomplish what I want most to accomplish, that I shouldn't even bother to try. It's a very persistent voice. I tell it to knock it off, but it senses my every weakness. Did you know you can train your brain for failure by failing on purpose?

Blew your diet because you felt like it?
That's why you'll always be unhealthy.

Missed a day of writing because you were lazy?
You'll obviously never be a writer.

Yelled at your child because you didn't want to take the time to talk to them?
You don't deserve to be a parent.

It's not always this obvious. Seeds of self doubt are more like carrot seeds than avocado pits. But they are no less capable of sprouting. (Actually, I find carrots far easier to grow than avocados. I wonder if there's a metaphor there, about visibility or something...) I've told myself so many times that my failures are just another example of how incapable I am of whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish.

Or I convince myself that I shouldn't do it, whatever it is, until it's "right." Perfectionism is an aggressive parasite. Why do you think this blog has years with only two posts? And then there's its sneakier form: "until." You're not a writer until you're published (so you shouldn't get to prioritize writing every day). You're not an actor until you can live off your acting wages. (I've actually heard this more than once. Glad I'm not an actor; critics of writers are bad enough.) You're a cook, not a chef, until you become a head chef at a restaurant. (Seriously...I have heard this repeatedly.) Oh! You're not a salesperson until you have to work on commission. (I mean--SERIOUSLY??? I worked a lot of retail. I EARNED that salesperson title.)

The truth is, you have to believe you will succeed in order to succeed. It's a cheesy self-help line that is absolutely true. And I'm working on it. I restarted this blog, and I'm only a little sheepish about these two delayed posts. (The next one is a day late.) I've only-somewhat-hesitantly declared that I'm writing a book. I joined a writing camp this month, and I'm talking with other writers, amateur and published, about my book as if it's a "real" book because IT IS A REAL BOOK. Now, it may never be published, but I'm going to write it like it will because, dang it, I CAN PUBLISH A BOOK IF I WANT TO. It just might be a few - or many - tries down the line. But I won't know unless I give it all I've got.

So there you have it. A very small peek inside the chaos of my mind. I can promise I'm working on myself, but I can't promise I will ever control the chaos. Enter at your own risk.

SUCCESS IS MIIIIIIINE


Sunday, March 31, 2019

365 Table Topics Day 6 Number 307

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 6

#307: "What is the number one motivator in your life right now?"

Honestly? My top motivator right now is the ticking clock. I'm turning 39 in less than three months, and I realized I keep picturing myself as a 20-something. This time-speeds-up thing is no joke! (Plus, you really can't get your body back if you abuse it for long enough.) Instead of wishing I'd done some things differently, I just have to do what I can now!

It's amazing how much work it is to find your passions when you've been complacent for a long time. It's not that I didn't care, but I just kept thinking "I'll have time later." Guess what? You don't! But you can always find small moments to do something positive to move you toward your goal. That's where I am. Cheesy daily blog posts? They get me writing every day. Pokemon Go? It gets me walking at least a little on days I'm not feeling motivated. Ridiculously-large headphones? They enable me to finally whittle down my to-read list while I do other things. (Bonus: I look too busy for the kids to ask me a question every two minutes, and I don't snack.) I also set up a work space in front of the three windows in my bedroom, because I work best when I have lots of natural light, natural things to look at, and fresh air, but I'm not actually outside. (Apparently that's too much stimulation.) It's easy to get lost in productivity up here!

So while I have a lot of reasons why I do the things I do, the main thing making me do them is incessant tick-tock of the clock that never stops, never slows down, and only seems to speed up as life goes by!


Saturday, March 30, 2019

365 Table Topics Day 5 Number 16

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 5

#16: "Have you done anything lately worth remembering?"

Have I done anything lately that's worth committing to memory or that the world should remember? I'm going to go with the former because the latter would be a no. Perhaps there's an in between, but I kind of like this question in it's highly-personal form.

This is where a journaling would be a fantastic habit to have...

There are small, everyday moments I'd love to have visually recorded for posterity. Most of them involve my children. Some of them don't even involve me except for my observation. So I guess those don't count. I did restart my blog, and I'm 5-for-5 on daily posts, though I haven't made much progress on my non-daily posts. But I'm kind of doing a thing. I'll give that more time. I took a gorgeous photo of an American Goldfinch in my blossoming plum tree. That's a favorite accomplishment of late. I finally got around to writing down all the stories in my head. Well, many of the stories. One of them is actually gaining momentum and has enough meat to become a book. So I'm officially writing a book now. That's a thing. I definitely want to remember what it felt like to get out of bed twice to add to my story because it was just flowing. I think what I want to remember, what it felt like to have one of my ideas take on a life of its own. That's important for the future when I get stuck again, as I know I will many, many times.

So, yes. I have done something lately worth remembering. Who knew? About that journal...

Friday, March 29, 2019

365 Table Topics Day 4 Number 324

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 4

#324: "What is your favorite place on Earth?"

This is a hard one because I find so much joy in so many places. I don't have a specific favorite place right now, like the top of a mountain or a special vacation destination. I just haven't found "that place" yet. But I do have some favorite locations. Here are my honorable mentions:


  • Mormon Lake, Arizona, where I spent much of my first 10 years and made fabulous memories, especially with my cousin DeAnn and my late grandfather "Pampa"
  • Oceanside, California (north side of the pier, because of course), where I spent much of my next 8-or-so years and shared with my husband, who insisted it become a regular family vacation spot because it is just so perfect

My favorite place right now is Portland, Oregon. I have been in love with this city and its general metro area since I first set foot in it. This city speaks to me. It has everything I love except the ocean, but that's only an hour and a half away. I love being able to ride the light rail just about everywhere I want to go. I love wandering the city and discovering treasures. I love that there's always something artsy or weird going on. But the thing I love the most about Portland is the nature. There is never a day I go on a walk and don't feel, with every cell in my body, how fortunate I am to live here. It's positively tingly. There are small mountains to climb in the middle of the city. There are big mountains to climb just outside. There are old-growth forests right here in town. Just about every forest makes you feel like you've traveled back in time. I expect dinosaurs or fairies to suddenly appear. And the flowers! I love the flowers of the Sonoran Desert, don't get me wrong, but the spring flowers here are so plentiful they swallow you up! In fact, in the next couple weeks, we will drive across the river to Vancouver and sit among the cherry blossoms, just like we did last year. It's just magical.

I hope someday to have at least one spot that is "my" spot, but for now I'm happy to have a whole metro area be my favorite place in the world.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

365 Table Topics Day 3 Number 286

I've been on the hunt for a new 365-day blog challenge since my last resource for topics is no longer active. I found a few lists of questions, but they seem to be primarily for journaling. Then I found this great list from Toastmasters, and since they are "table topics," I'm not too worried about posting super-personal answers on the internet. I saw another blogger choose the questions randomly using a number generator, instead of going in order, and I think that sounds fun.

Day 3

#286: "Whom do you secretly envy? Why?"

It's probably not a secret, but my one true envy right now is fulltimers. Two of my friends recently sold their homes, packed up their things, and moved their families onto the road to live full time. I didn't know true wanderlust until I learned about this lifestyle.

I've always had a restless spirit. I love to learn and travel and try new things. (Admittedly, that last one is a more recent character development.) I grew up with traveling parents, and I saw a lot more of the world than many of my contemporaries in my adolescence. I married a man who likes to travel, too, and we have racked up some miles over our 20+ years together. But it's never enough for me. I have dreamed of having a mobile-ready job and a lot of money and traveling frequently. Neither the job nor the money appeared to be on the horizon, though. My husband and I developed a sort of travel routine once we had kids, and it was nice to at least know a trip was always around the corner, but between traveling to the same few places and having no spontaneity, I grew more and more restless.

Along my homeschooling journey, I stumbled across worldschooling, homeschooling with some variety of living or traveling around the world. This led me to fulltiming. Fulltimers either live a mobile life or never spend very long at a destination. A good generalization of a full-time family is a family living in an RV and traveling all over the country. Of course, that's not the only kind. There are as many flavors of fulltiming as there are full-time families.

As my husband and I developed our travel routine, we mastered the art of the road trip. As 14-hour days on the road and one-night hotel stays became routine for us on our trips, the possibilities opened up for me. We could definitely survive and thrive in a full-time life! But there's being able and there's being able. My husband's job is not mobile. At all. And he's far too much a homebody to be willing to sell everything and hit the road. The idea of living permanently out of a small space is not a comforting one for him. But a girl can hope.

For now, I take what I can get. And I plan for what I want. Maybe someday I'll get to taste the freedom of the full-time life. Maybe I'll get lucky and we'll be fortunate enough to at least worldschool for a bit. Only time will tell.

But I can still shop for RVs, right?