Pause.

I have a bump out room off my kitchen. We call it the sun room. It’s about 10 feet by 12 feet. It has a sliding glass door on the front wall and a deck attached. On the left wall is windows. My desk and writing space sits up against this wall. I can open up the blinds and gaze out the window when I write during the day.  My husband’s Ikea Poang chair sits in the corner between the sliding glass door and the left wall. The right wall has a futon and a television. We have a throw rug on the floor and the walls are painted with a warm oatmeal color. The roof is slanted with sky light windows. In the sixteen years and six months I’ve lived in this house I’ve watched plenty of bad weather through those sky light windows.

Tonight while watching an old season of Top Chef, I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed that the sky was gold. I asked my husband to pause the television and we rushed outside the front door to look at the sky. On the left, the sky was dark and grey. On the right it was yellow. In the middle of the yellow sky was a patch of clear sky as if the other side of our neighborhood was experiencing a sunny evening. It soon began to rain hard and we went back into the house.

I returned to my futon and continued to watch television. I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed sky was now completely grey and it was pouring down rain. I listened to the rain hitting the glass. One of my favorite sounds, especially when I am home. At that moment it occurred to me that there was no place on this earth that I’d rather be than cuddled up with my dog watching a storm through those windows. An intense feeling of gratitude embraced me.

I’ve learned to pause what I’m doing and observe in silence moments like this. For me, they help me experience gratitude at a deeper level. Sunrise, sunsets, nature, weather. These moments come to us for a reason. Stop. Be silent. Enjoy.

 

 

The Overthinking Perfectionist

Today I did a paint night with my mom. I had purchased these tickets as a Mother’s Day gift for last year but the event was cancelled and we finally got an opportunity to use the vouchers we were given. I looked forward to this for two reasons: time with my mom and a chance to nature my inner artist as a writer by doing other forms of creative activity.

My mom and I had a nice lunch with poor service at the restaurant the paint night was being held at. The poor service at the restaurant had me a little worried. Sometimes when I get bad vibes about something that annoys me before a writing session, my writing session ends up being crap because it throws my ju ju off. I was having fun with my mom though and that was the positive thread that held this together for me.

There were only six of us, all women and we sat in tables of two. Almost immediately, one of the women stated she would not be painting the painting that we would be doing, instead she’d be painting a picture for her girlfriend of twelve years sitting next to her. It wasn’t the relationship that annoyed me, it was the fact that she had to draw attention to herself. People who have to be the center of attention in a group annoy the shit out of me. Every relationship is meaningful in some way. I don’t indulge information about my personal relationships in public to a room of strangers. She frequently interrupted the flow of the painting lesson to ask which colors to mix up to get the color she wanted. At one point the hostess artist came around and asked her to tell her about the painting and it’s meaning to her. Everything in the painting represented an aspect of their relationship. The painting was symbolic to her, ok. I can accept that, but I still didn’t want to hear about it.

The selected painting is wine glasses . We began by making a basketball sized circle with white paint in the center of the canvas. Next we mixed blue and white together to make a blue circles around the white circle in the center and mixed a little blue in the middle. After that we began to draw the wine glasses. We started by drawing the oval shaped opening of the glass, followed by the body of the glass and the stem. I quickly became frustrated with how my strokes were looking how my wine glasses were shaped. The painting wasn’t coming together for me and I couldn’t envision what the end product would look like. I was on the verge of a temper tantrum and this painting was headed for disaster.

The hostess artist came around and made some suggestions and also said something that resonated with me. She said, “you are over thinking your strokes”. That was it. That was my problem. I’m a perfectionist who was over thinking her paint brush strokes and trying too hard because I’ve never considered myself artistic and I wanted to make a pretty painting. I had lost the essence of the activity. I looked over at my Mom. Her painting was awesome and she was having fun. That made me happy. Here I was about to act like an ass and throw a fit because my wine glasses didn’t look right. So I quickly regrouped. I used a few tips that the hostess artist had showed me and I fixed my wine glasses by outlining them with black paint using the smallest brush. The strokes I outlined the glasses with in black paint came more naturally and I added some of my own color to the top. The painting came together nicely and in the end I was pleased.

The other added bonus was that we had a short intermission where we went outside to take one shot at Corn Hole. Whoever got their bean bag in the corn hole won a free ticket to another Paint Night. When it was my turn I took my time, aimed for the hole and swung my arm in alignment with the hole the same as I do when I play Skee Ball. I won myself a free ticket to Paint Night. Even better than that though, this hostess is at this restaurant every Sunday. After football season ends my Mom and I agreed to come back again. I look forward to taking the time to nurture my relationship with my mother and my inner artist. If you haven’t tried a paint night, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you don’t consider yourself and artsy artist, you’ll surprise yourself.

It made me happy to look at this painting as I was writing this blog post. I am also proud to announce that I am on a writing streak. I have written sixty five days in a row. I journal and practice gratitude. I am nurturing my inner artist and getting to know myself again through my writng. Today was perfect.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow I have to be nurse.

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 2

Okay cool, the blogger I follow who’s doing a 30 Day Writing Challenge has posted Day 2’s question: Write something that someone told you about yourself that you have never forgotten.

Here we go. Circa 1997 I was a few years out of nursing school and working on a coronary progressive care unit. I was taking care of a little lady who I’d taken care of frequently. I enjoyed taking care of her. Her condition caused her to tire easily and she always needed help with her ADL’s-Activities of Daily Living. Helping patients with their ADL’s was always a perfect time to talk to them, get to know them and tidy up their rooms. So I helped her bathe and afterwards I helped her walk to a chair so she could sit while I made her bed. As I helped her back into bed she looked me in the eyes and said, “I was talking to Jesus about you the other day. We agreed that you have a gift, you don’t know you have. You need to figure it out”.  My little newly wed 27 year old self told her that my husband and I were hoping to soon start a family, maybe the gift was me being a good mother. She said, “you’ll be a mother soon but that’s not it. Think about it”. I couldn’t wait to talk to her about it more but I got busy the rest of the day and I didn’t see her after that. I later learned that she’d passed away at home.

Those moments with that patient and that conversation will live in my memory forever. I remember what the hospital room looked like and I remember what room and bed she was in during that admission. I remember her face. The image of me bathing her, making her bed and talking to her is still there. The image of her looking into my eyes to tell me about my gift still there. For awhile I racked my brains trying to figure out what the gift is. I know in due time it will present itself. If the gift is being a writer, I’ll dedicate my first book to her.

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 1

Tonight while scrolling through the blogs I follow, I came across someone who was doing a 30 day writing challenge. I’ve never done one of these before. I have no idea where he got this from but hey what the heck let’s try it out. Hopefully he’ll do one everyday because I don’t know where to find this.

Make a list of 10 things that make you really happy.

These are not in any specific order.

  1. Morning Coffee
  2. My dog
  3. Reading a good book
  4. Laughing so hard I can’t breath
  5. Hiking
  6. Family and Friends
  7. Driving a stick shift
  8. Comfort food
  9. Listening to the rain when I have no where to go
  10. Music. Music on the radio, music my children play.
  11. Blog followers

41 Books and More

A few years ago I downloaded the Goodreads application onto my iPhone. Goodreads allows readers to track and rate books with other readers. I used it for a few months but found it tedious to to try to remember all the books I’ve read in my lifetime of reading, search for them and put them on my list of read books. Eventually I got bored with it and stopped using it. I had considered deleting the application from my phone but I never did.

On New Years Day I noticed on Facebook that a Goodreads friend and coworker of mine had joined the 2017 Reading Challenge. “Hmm, why not”, I thought so I joined the challenge and committed to reading 41 books this year. Two days ago I finished my first book of the 2017 reading challenge.

The book, “The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton was selected for my book club’s January meeting. If you like books with secrets from the past, this is a book for you. Like every good book I read, I found myself thinking about the book during my work day and looking forward to evening reading time. I savored every chapter and the way the author kept me guessing until the very end. As I always do at the end of a good book, I felt a sense emptiness because I had completed the book. Ironically, I’d been thinking about reading this book for a few years but never really committed myself to it because the summary kind of interested me but didn’t dazzle me until someone in my book club suggested it. That’s the benefit being part of a book club. My book club has nine personalities. Eventually you’ll read books you may not have thought about reading but are really happy you did.

The second book of my 2017 Reading Challenge is “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shutterly. I went to see the movie last weekend at a historic movie theater in my city which was the perfect place for this movie. Ordinarily I’d prefer to read the book before seeing the movie but when my husband found out the movie would be at this really cool old theater, we jumped at the chance to go. Once the movie began I knew immediately that I wanted to read this book. One of my book club friends joined us at the movie that night. A few days later we were both owners of the book.

I’ve owned a Barnes and Noble Nook for over four years now. I’ve enjoyed the convenience of carrying multiple books on one device when I go on vacation and instantly, sometimes impulsively downloading a book the minute I decided I want to read it. Some people fly by the seats of their pants. I read by the seat of my pants. When I want to read a book, I want to read it right now, not when the library or bookstore has it available and not when I can find time to get there to go pick it up. Sometimes I miss holding a book though. Holding a book, studyng the cover and touching the pages feels more personal to me. So lately I’ve been going to the library or buying the actual book instead of downloading it.

Hidden Figures is sitting to the left of me on my desk as I write this. It is in paperback and I enjoy moving my fingertips over the smooth surface of the cover. The colors appeal to me. I hate to judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes it’s the cover of the book that draws me to the book when I am in a bookstore. I look at the faces of the women on the cover of the book. These actresses did such a wonderful job portraying the women this movie is about. I look forward to opening the book, reading the words, putting myself into the time period of this book and losing myself.

For all you lifetime readers out there, which book will you read next?

Holiday Series Part 3: Music

The stage was decorated with poinsettia plants. The auditorium was dark. The band wore Santa hats. People who know this band and have kids who’ve played in this band look forward to this song each year. The audience sat quietly as the band prepared to play it’s final selection: Sleigh Ride. I’m listening to the video I filmed during the concert as I write this. I can’t help but to smile. My son was a member of this band during his junior and senior years of high school. My daughter is a freshman member of this band, this gifted and talented band.  I smile because I’m so proud of the preparation my daughter put into preparing for this concert and playing this song. She was delighted to have been given second trumpet music. One day, several weeks before the concert, she admitted to me that she lost her place in class while rehearsing this song and that when she made contact with the band director he knew she’d lost her place too. She didn’t like that feeling so she took the problem to her private music teacher. Together, they tackled it and she learned to play the piece with confidence, without difficulty and without getting lost. The following evening we attended the Guitar Concert at the high school and a few days after that I attended the Christmas concert at our church, where my daughter performs in the Youth Band.

Music by far puts me in the holiday spirit, especially music that my children are playing on their instruments.  I don’t need to hear it 24/7 but when it’s on the radio I do enjoy it. I prefer songs related to the birth of Jesus but I do have a few other favorites.

Here’s my list, in the order that I remember.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Sleigh Ride

Silver Bells- Motown Version

Ave Maria-don’t all Italians like this song?

Christmas Night

What Child is This

Away in a Manger

Silent Night-the Stevie Nicks version.

Little Drummer Boy-Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band version

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Happy Christmas- John Lennon

Joy to the World

Christmas Is the Time to Say I love You-Billy Squire

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Chipmunks Christmas

White Christmas- I’m from Buffalo, NY and I like snow on Christmas!

Christmas All Over Again-Tom Petty

O Come All Ye Faithful- ok I’ll admit it was the Brady Bunch season 1 Episode 12: The Voice of Christmas that got me into this song at a young age. Carol Brady had just miraculously recovered from Laryngitis to sing this song for her church on Christmas morning. Listen to the words though: O Come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant. O come ye. O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold him, born the King of Angels. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord. I have no musical ability what so ever and I have to get really drunk to even consider singing Karaoke. This song however makes me just want to stand up and belt out a song during Christmas Eve Mass. So I sing and try not to kill the people in the pew in front of me with my off tune voice.

Here’s my least favorite song of all time: Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. This song agitates me so much it makes me want to throw myself out of a moving car.

That’s all that nurse has to say for now. Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Series Part 2: The Gators bring it in

Despite the cold winds and low temperatures, the streets were lined with a large crowd. Families and friends bundled up in coats, hats, scarves, mittens and blankets. People standing, sitting in chairs or even sitting on the ground, holding coffee or cocoa to keep warm. People of our community watching each group march by. Finally, Santa’s sleigh arrives and the crowd began to cheer. I didn’t come to see Santa though. The highlight of the parade for me was the last group to march down the street.

I spotted her immediately. The Santa hat was secured to her head, allowing her hair to flow down. Her clear blue eyes were focused forward. She looks so sharp in that navy blue uniform. Her lips were pressed to the mouthpiece of her trumpet. The trumpet, decorated with red and white tinsel was aimed high, demonstrating discipline and confidence. Last year my daughter refused to even go to this parade. She said she needed a break before it was her turn. I think she just didn’t want to walk in my son’s shadow.

Walk in my son’s shadow in this marching band, she has not done. This was his marching band for four years. Yes’s she’s marched with some of his remaining friends but this is her marching band now. This year, this marching band marched in five field show competitions and scored higher than they ever have. As the underdogs, they competed against twelve other bands for the state championship and came in second place putting the band, the band parents, and the band directors on a huge emotional high. The following week they went to Mid Atlantic Regional Championship and became the first band in our county to qualify for the final round. I’d say my daughter has blazed her own trail in this marching band. My son, the awesome big brother that he is, simply showed her the way to the field and stood on the sidelines to cheer her on and enjoy her triumph.

Each year, this parade is the final event of the marching band season. By this time, the band’s competition season has been finished for a few weeks. The kids enjoy decorating their instruments with cheer, playing holiday songs and letting their hair down for one final march of the year. This is the fifth consecutive year my husband and I have had a child march in this parade. For us, it hasn’t gotten old. Standing in a shopping center in the cold with my husband and our band parent friends waiting for our kids to round that corner to complete the parade after Santa passes by always makes me smile.