Inspiration Is All Around You

It’s funny to find myself writing a blog on a Sunday morning. I mean, we all should be sleeping in or going to church or going on a bike ride. I have plans for later but for now I have what everyone looks for on a Sunday Morning — inspiration.

Inspiration is all around you.

Having had a crappy end of the week and too much to drink Friday night (I don’t drink so it didn’t take much) and the body hangover of a 64-year-old, it’s easy to be cranky and crabby on this cool morning. But over the weekend I came across two people that truly inspired me to be a better person.

To be a better me.

My first inspriation was my 16-year-old niece. Always on the chubby side, I worried about her. Things may have changed in high school since I went 150 years ago, but teens are still teens, and it’s still easy to make fun of someone who looks different. Being made fun of in junior high, I looked at her through my own insecurities.

Yesterday at a family party I saw the girl again, and she had changed. She was still the smart, funny adolescent girl I’ve come to love, but she was 30 pounds lighter.

I almost didn’t recognize her.

Being a granny-aunt, I feared she did something really drastic. I probably would have. But she is smarter and more grown up than I. More salads, less treats, lots of water. She told me all about it.

And I am so proud of her.

My second inspiration is my sister-in-law. We lost my brother a few years ago, a heartbreaking experience. Not a day goes by where I don’t miss him. His wife took it as well as she could. We all move on, she along with her two awesome kids.

I saw a pic of her and her family on FB this morning, and it looked like she dropped a ton of weight. A ton. She looked like a totally different person. I haven’t asked her yet how she did it, but whatever she did had added 30 years back onto her face. I see my brother in her children’s eyes, and I see a content person in hers.

And I am so proud of her.

My son is another one. He used to be a skinny in track and field in high school. 10 years of marriage and two kids later, he was thicker than he wanted to be. It was as if a lightbulb went off in his head and he turned to healthy eating. 25 pounds later he’s in the gym all the time, an inspiration to me and his kids as well.

I have been on a weight thing myself since January. I have lost a bit of weight, but because I always wear big clothes I don’t think people can tell. It doesn’t matter. I eat healthier now. I walk more, I’m not really into junk food. I eat what I want but I eat one or two bites, not one or two portions. We all work on weight loss our own way. I know my niece did, I know my sister-in-law did.

We all want to live longer. We want to be inspired. We want to be around for our grandkids and our friend’s grandkids. We want to live and love and be able to walk up the stairs without our chests hurting.

Find inspiration in your life. Let it touch your own heart. Whether it’s to lose weight to be healthier or to start writing the novel you’ve always had in your heart, look around you. There is plenty of inspiration around you. Take that first step.

Trust me. You won’t fall. Keep walking. Be your OWN inspiration.

2017 Starts With a Whisper

As I sit on my sofa this first day of 2017, smooth jazz in the background, dogs sleeping on their doggie beds (along with Tom the cat), I am surprised at the strange swirl of thoughts that have threaded through my brain the past few days.

Many are glad 2016 is over — a lot of stress and bad juju last year. Others are building on the positive bridge they started last year. A lot of different ways to go for this supposedly first-day-of-the-rest-of-my-life.

I’ve spent the last several days reading the blogs I subscribe to through WordPress. I feel bad I can’t read people’s thoughts and emotions the day they are published, but I make it a point to sometimes just sit and read. Not glaze through the posts, but really read them. And I found myself responding to quite a few of them.

Some pledge to write every day. One blogger just popped up after a six month absence. Some write poetry, some write tragedy. Some talk about cats, some talk about painting. It’s an amazing mix of talent, and I enjoy getting to know all of them.

I’ve learned to reply with questions if I don’t understand something, or comment that I can’t find the right words to comment. It’s all encompassing — there are bloggers that pop up every couple of months, and I find myself so excited to read something new. Others write every day, and I find myself looking forward to their next view of life. I even go back into the “manage” part of the Reader and click on names I haven’t seen in a while to see what I’ve missed.

This type of diligence makes me wonder about my own blogging. Why do I do it? Is it to achieve fame? Popularity? Do I write to test out my own verbal prowess? Do I do it to share my view of middle age and beyond?

I think we all go through identity crises … all the time. Rarely do I meet someone who has been whole from the very beginning and knows the cosmic truth of inner peace. We all look for approval. For validation. For the acknowledgement that we do exist. In all worlds. As an office worker, as a mother, as a friend — we all try to make the other person proud. We all want that “best of” medal to show that all our mistakes and missteps didn’t mean a thing, because we ultimately turned out to be the “best.”

We all may or may not have natural talent. Most of us just go through the daily grind of work and bills and driving through the snow, telling ourselves that tomorrow will be better.

Well, here it is, 2017. A new year. Is it better?

I hope I am hearing a “yes” from all of you. The more we learn, the more we grow. And the easier it is to circle back to our own soul for affirmation.

My daily job has…is…changing. I have been tapped to be a social media writer, which means that my rhetoric and vocabulary needs to be top notch. It’s a lot of work — much more than I thought. But it is also a chance to show that all my hours of writing blogs and novels and poetry and short stories has paid off.

Anybody can have big numbers of followers on their blog. I am still scraping off the notion that more is better. What is really important is how many people stop and say something afterwards. How many really get what you’re saying.

Take the time today to go into your Reader and read something you missed before. Take a minute to step into their world.

It will truly help you in your own creative journey.

Listen to your Body

GIF By George RedhawkDoes your reality often get in the way of your creativity?

I am certain every creative sprite wishes they had more time. More time to write, to pick out beads, to carve, to crochet. To practice the piano or the guitar. And perhaps that desire to “have more time” is what keeps the creative juices flowing.

But what if reality gets in the way?

Not being able to create on a regular basis can cause more physical problems than you already have. Anxiety, depression, frustration, all can lead to higher blood pressure and a host of other maladies. Having a creative outlet is like poking a hole in a blister: it vents the pressure and allows the healing to begin. Or continue.

There are a number of circumstances in my life at the moment (none of them bad), that are preventing me from getting to the writing/editing/publication of various projects.

And I’m not okay with that.

Yet I have to be okay with that. Because if I don’t take care of the body, the mind will be the next to go.

I truly believe that creativity is useless if the vehicle you’re using to express it is working under par. That you need to take care of yourself before you take care of your sculpture. Otherwise, you’ve only given a part of your essence to your project. Not all of it.

Working full time, my only “free” time is evenings and weekends. Add cleaning, cooking, shopping for necessities, paying bills, and paying attention to family and friends, and the wind of creativity shrinks to half.

And half of not much is not much.

One of the problems I’m dealing with is insomnia. It might be because of age, medication, schedules, one or all of the above. Nonetheless, while that initially sounds like an opening for “more” time, it really is a stab in the cortial and subcortial network (Research  Uncovers How and Where Imagination Occurs in the Brain, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/imagination-brain_n_3922136.html). The less sleep you get, the more tired you become. The more tired you become, the slower the synapses connect. And, of course, the less synapses connecting, the duller your creativity.

While I’m finally off to the doctor to work on this, I realize that, for now, If I want to sleep longer I have to get to bed earlier. Which means less stimulation before bed. Which means…you get my drift.

The point of this blog is to encourage you to listen to your body. Really listen. Take care of what ails you now. Being burned out, over-stressed, lethargic, hyper-active — or worse yet, in the hospital — does little good for anyone.

Especially for your Muse.

Deny if you will, but we all have a muse, a spirit guide, an angel, who opens our hearts and heads and minds and helps us tap into that never-ending waterfall of creativity. Once you accept that, you have to learn to take care of that muse. Which, in the long run, is taking care of yourself.

Your craft can wait. Not stop — wait. Instead of planning it by big steps, plan it by baby steps. A little today, a little tomorrow. Along with dealing with insomnia, heartburn, diverticulitis. Deal with your body so you have room — and time — to deal with your Muse. And your creativity. Never give up your dreams — just adjust them to fit your schedule.

Once you achieve balance, you can hit the easel/notebook/kiln once again, pulling your hair out, biting your nails, wondering if you’re ever going to create anything worthwhile.

But that’s an over-reaction of a different color.

Thanks for the Blogging

Thanks

Thanksgiving.  That time of year when we eat too much, watch too much football, and sleep away the day. It also is the day we give thanks for friends and family and our life, such as it is.

This Thanksgiving I want to put an extra thank-you out there. A thanks to the wonderfully fun, entertaining, and sometimes poignant blogs and bloggers that I follow.

I know there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there; millions reading, billions thinking about the whole process. Like you, I don’t have a lot of time to read — I, too, have a bizillion other creative paths to walk down. (Think of how tired we all are!)

But I’d like to thank the following bloggers for keeping my dream alive. I know there are some that I have missed, some who have taken a break from blogging, and many that I should be following, but in my heart I love you all.

Check them out, and, if they tickle your fancy, give them a follow!

 

The Return of the Modern PhilosopherVery funny blog about aliens, vampires, gargoyles, and love and life in Maine.    https://moviewriternyu.wordpress.com/

Everyone Has a Story.  Strong stories about divorce, recovery, and discovering life again.  http://everyonehasastory.me/

Maxima.  Love poems that cannot help but stoke the flames in your heart.  https://hillsofherchastity.wordpress.com/

Not Quite Old.  Funny, uplifting blog about finding the balance between growing old gracefully and staying as young as possible.  https://notquiteold.wordpress.com/

Live & Learn.  Uplifting blog dances across all topics, with perfect pictures to match.   http://davidkanigan.com/

Leaf and Twig.  Gorgeous images accompanied with the perfect haiku.       https://leafandtwig.wordpress.com/

Catwoods Porch Party.  Art, cats, nature, animals, weather, and whatever.    catwoodsporchparty.wordpress.com

Dawn Whitehand.   A wonderful Australian artist, making unique mixed media sculptures from clay, found objects and textured materials which are based on organic natural forms.   dawnwhitehand.wordpress.com. (She also has a kickin’ blog of poetry and images at apoemandadrawingaday.wordpress.com.)

gwenniesworld.  Marvelous photography with an eye for nature.  gwenniesworld.wordpress.com

The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally.  Combines personal memories, physical hardships, and a plethora of images reflecting her everyday life.  annkoplow.wordpress.com

ImaginePublicity.  Motivation and marketing savvy.  imaginepublicity.com

The Beauty Along the Road.  Discovering Beauty in the small details of our lives through scenery photography and heartfelt words. beautyalongtheroad.wordpress.com

Glorialana’s Blog.  An uplifting, sensitive blog that also slices gently into your heart and soul. glorialana.com

Breezy Books.  Encouraging advice and personal stories for those who love to write.  breezybooksblog.wordpress.com

Victoria K. Gallagher.  Flash-Fiction with a cup of Re-Ali-Tea, as she so aptly puts it.  victoriakgallagher.wordpress.com

Carol Balawyder.  Writing about justice, mid-life dating, grief, inspiring blogs, and  awesome writing workshops.     carolbalawyder.com

Andra Watkins.  Best selling author and traveler who explores family and life relationships.   andrawatkins.com

The Write Transition.   A medical thriller author, physician, public health advocate, and writer who believes every experience is worthwhile, even if our paths deviate from where we started.   carrierubin.com

Jillian Maas Backman.  Best selling author and motivational speaker, a creative muse who ties intuition to success on all levels.   www.jillianmaasbackman.com

Cats at the BarFunny adventures of a boatload of cats.   catsatthebar.org

Figments of a DuTchess.  Creative thinker and a successful participant in Weekly Photo Challenges.  drieskewrites.wordpress.com

Booksphotographsandartwork’s Blog.  Great eye for photography, with a book review now and then.  booksphotographsandartwork.wordpress.com

gwenniesgarden.  Some of the most unique and gorgeous flowers and garden photography I’ve seen.   gwenniesgarden.wordpress.com

Friendly Fairy Tales.  Fairy tales and poetry celebrating magic and nature for kids of all ages. http://www.friendlyfairytales.com

hugmamma’s MIND, BODY and SOUL.  A mother’s love for her daughter and her life is reflected in her heart-warming tales.  www.hugmamma.com

Please Pass the Recipe.  Original and traditional recipes and the stories that go with them.  www.pleasepasstherecipe.com

A Journey Called Life…  Everything from poetry to fantastic images to stories about life.  www.architar.wordpress.com

The Procrastiwriter.  A motivator (and procrastinator) who shows how to be a successful writer around a full-time life.  www.theprocrastiwriter.com

And last, but not least, Sunday Evening Art Gallery.  An online art gallery featuring unique, fantastic art and artists.  www.sundayeveningartgallery.com

HAPPY TURKEY DAY!

Cats and the Strawberry Moon

catI had a case of the crabbies today, par for most who have to work a whole week after only have worked 4 days the week before and none the week before that. It seemed a number of people I encountered today were a bit “off” as well. I would blame it on MR (can’t say…I promised), but I think it’s just a case of I-wanna-be-anywhere-but-at-work syndrome.

Tonight is/was the Strawberry Moon. You’ve undoubtedly have heard of it — a full moon, close to Earth, makes for one giant strawberry in the sky. So me and my adventurous self took a walk down a wooded path to the back gate which faces a huge corn field, and waited for the moon to appear.

I always think myself a bit weird to begin with, but pacing up and down the tractor road along side newly sprouted corn, waiting for a moon that could show up anywhere across the horizon was plenty weird, too. I’ve waited for moonrise before — I even blogged about one incident (Moonlight at Sunset, http://wp.me/p1pIBL-4e, if you want to go back that far)  eleventy twenty nine years ago (that’s how my grandson counts).

There was a tractor plowing/planting in the field, and I’m sure he caught sight of me once or twice. I didn’t want to have to explain what I was doing tiptoeing around his field (even though he’s a good guy and wouldn’t mind), so I occasionally ducked in the hedgerow lining the path. What a weirdo, too.

But all my weirdness was well worth it when the moon rose. It was indeed a strawberry color, huge and ripe and round and lovely to behold. It was at that moment that the crabbys disappeared…who could hold a grudge against the world with something so awesome in the night sky?

It’s these moments that make me feel so small, yet so immense. If there is no heaven, I want to be able to absorb these cosmic moments as often as I can. For nothing is as holy as a phenomenon in space.

I used to be an astronomy buff; I took classes at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and even bought a telescope. My scientific side melded with my fantasy side, and a true appreciation of science fiction was born. I think it’s true for all creative people. Thinking of places you can go, things you can invent, spaces you can fill, all overwhelm the senses. Creativity isn’t pidgeon-holed into science fiction realms — I have seen pottery and jewelry and wire sculpturing that escape all dimensions. And all that creativity makes me wonder — what’s next?

When you see the immensity of the moon, something real and bright and ever changing, how can you hold a grudge with the world? Get out of your house, out of your room, out of your car. Go out and experience the Goddess in her every changing glory. Then bring Her energy into you and let it turn your imagination into reality. Be inspired.  Be creative. Be whole.  If the moon isn’t your thing, try the sun. Let the warm rays fill you with hope and strength. Or Mother Earth. She’s a phenomenon all unto herself.

Let go of the crabbies. They never helped anyone get anywhere anyway.

Since my thought earlier today was of writing a blog about cats, I leave you with the image above. Cats and Strawberry Moons have the makings of a wonderful story. Or necklace. Or painting.

Don’t you think?

Squirrelly

Today has been one of those “squirrelly” kind of days. You know those kind — I’ve misplaced more things today than I have in the past week. I suppose it’s because I’m always in a hurry. Sagittarians never seem to finish their current project — they always find something more interesting to do, and leave things half-way done.

I decided the best therapy was to either come home from work, eat, and head straight for the bed, getting up only to let the dogs out; or to come to the library and use their WiFi to work on my blog’s photo gallery. I kidded my friends on Facebook that I’m always tired, achy, ready for bed (even at 10 in the morning), and yet  all I can think about is writing and researching and brainstorming with friends. They all told me it’s Writer’s Syndrome.

I wish I could say I was in the middle of my breakout novel — that I was working on an article for work or for my friend’s website. But it’s not. I’m kinda done with the novel thing for a while; I’ve thought about working on getting my Gaia and the Etruscans  published, but here in the middle/end of January that just seems like too much work. So I spend my time with ways to enhance my blog.

There is no doubt that that ambition leads to quite a bit of squirrelly-ness.

I come across dozens of articles a week that promise to help me build my reader base, get picked up by search engines, make money by blogging (or writing in general), enhance my blogsite…enough to fill Dumbledore’s Goblet of Fire. There are a million blogs out there; a million ways to build/entice/share/follow — so many that I’m dizzy talking about it. I follow about 30 blogs, and could easily follow 30 more, but with a full-time job I barely have time to read my own writing.

This past year hubby has gotten a new job that is from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Bad for him — great for me. You would think. It is turning out that he doesn’t mind these hours, and I don’t have enough of them. Ah, you say — hours and hours of alone writing time! Peace and Quiet! Inspiration! Musing! Researching!

It’s a nice thought, but for someone like me who can’t sit still for 20 minutes, it’s a circus.

During the day I’m busy entering data, my Muse coming and bugging me now and then with new ideas. She is an Irish Wench, you know, and has no problem speaking her mind. And often times her ideas are great. But not when I’m entering HTML code. So we make a date to meet after hubby goes to work.

By that time I’ve been up 13 hours, let the dogs out three times, washed the dishes, thrown in a load of laundry, wiped the dust off the TV, and set up my writing corner on the sofa. By then my ambition has waned. My energy level slips minute by minute, and what seemed so exciting at 11 a.m. now seems like a mountain I’m too tired to climb. I manage to get a little work done so that pulling out my laptop isn’t for naught, but most times my mind is a blank.

Then about 9 p.m. I get my second wind.

Now, I have to get up in 8 hours, and old people like me are supposed to get at least 8-10 hours a sleep at night. But the great ideas of my Wench sneak back into my consciousness and I’m up writing and researching and downloading until 11:30 at night.

No wonder I’m so squirrelly.

I’m really trying to get into a schedule, a pattern, where I can do a little of everything and still get to bed at a decent time. But it doesn’t seem to be working. I escaped to the library this evening just so I wouldn’t have to let my dogs out three times and give them cookies and push the cat off my lap and look at the dishes I didn’t do or walk around the laundry I conveniently forgot to do.

Sometimes all I want to do is write.

But sometimes wantin’ ain’t gettin’.

How do YOU do it??

Sunday Evening Art Gallery Blog — Water Drops

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans;

in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.

The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.

20140413-img_2867_1000px_1000

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.

And if you would know God, be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.


And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud,  outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

Kahlil Gibran

For more breathtaking water drop photography, you MUST visit Water Drop Sculptures by Martin Koegl  http://waterdrop-photography.com/.  You will not believe your eyes.

http://awesomenator.com/

http://www.liquidsculpture.com/

Creative Cooking Lessons

mcI am happy to say that the elections are finally over. Ballots have been cast, candidates have been turned into winners or losers, and life goes on. There was a lot of nastiness on television these last few days; a lot of sour grapes both before and after the polls closed. I know that politics is a serious world, but I think that candidates and pundits alike could take a cue or two from some of the most serious — and competitive — people on the planet.

The kids on Master Chef Junior.

Some of the kids are as young as 8 and have to stand on a stool to cook. Some are 12 and tall and lanky and move around gracefully. Some are articulate, others talk just like an 8-year-old. They are chubby and tiny and skinny and of all nationalities. They come with glasses and pigtails and braces. Yet they are alive and excited and they love what they do.

Now I know you say that’s TV and those kids are little prodigies and they don’t have to deal with unemployment and underfunded schools and brow-beating bosses. And you are right. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure isn’t on in their little world. They are competing for a lot of money and a lot of publicity and, of course, bragging rights. They are competing on a stage that they’ve been on for only a few years (after all — how many years can a 10-year-old have been cooking?) and are cooking things without a printed, written recipe.  They are digging into their little brains and coming up with things like chicken liver pate on a crostini, Brûlée pears, chicken wings with a Vietnamese marinade, Yuzu salad, and Chicken Parmesan.

But you know what else they do? They high-five each other. They congratulate each other. They share their ingredients and hug each other when they fail. They say things like, “I kinda feel bad for Isabella; she’s really nice, and no one wants to see her cry.” They aren’t there to hang each other out to dry; they aren’t out to sabotage or fight or scream at each other. I’m not saying they’re not competitive; it’s just that there’s not a bad attitude in the bunch. Their downers disappear in the freshness of their attitude. They are an inspiration to the curmudgeons among us.

There’s a lot of apathy in the world these days. A lot of frustration and impatience and intolerance. A lot of people hate their jobs, their family, their situations. They are fed up with the leaders and the followers, the policies and the politics. Lest you think I point a finger at you, I, too, am guilty of the “hate” rap at times. My patience is thin, my understanding of the world, thinner. Everyone around me has an attitude; often ~I~ have an attitude.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have no idea what the lives of the competing chefs are like. I have no idea about their living conditions, their families, or their pressures. What I do see is an attitude of lightness. Of being in the now, working towards tomorrow, and having fun doing it. These kids blend their innocence with their love of cooking and food, making them the competition of the future. These are the kids that will make our work place a better place. Kids who will find enjoyment in the stress of a world they love. They will have hard times ahead of them, but they’re starting life out on the right foot. The foot of fun. The foot of creativity.

We so have to dump this defeatist attitude, this “I hate the Republicans/Democrats” mentality. It’s time to get over whatever it is that bugs us. If something in your life doesn’t “do it” for you, find something fun to do that does “do it.” Don’t let those bad feelings about the way of the world fester into something that, left unchecked, turns into a disease you can’t escape. Trust me. It’s just not worth it.

One of the kids from MCJ said it best:  “My dad’s favorite saying is:  Number one rule: always have fun.”

Perfection

tchaikovskyPerfection.

We all seek it.

Yet it means something different to everyone.

The perfect sunrise. The perfect smile. The perfect chocolate soufflé. One person’s perfection is someone else’s faux pax.

The great thing is it doesn’t matter what someone else’s perfection is. You can have unlimited perfection in your life every day.

Take music. A great rock and roll solo. A sweet, tear-jerking melody. A choir that sounds like angels. All stir emotions deep inside; emotions that want an outlet. Need an outlet.

And sometimes music is just the thing to bring you out into the light of day.

I was listening to the following piece this morning, through earphones, simply sitting and being.The 1812 Overture by Pytor Illyich Tchaikovsky was written in 1880 to commemorate Russia’s defense of its motherland against Napoleon’s army in 1812. It has been used as fireworks fodder and cereal background.

A cliche of classical proportions, it takes forever to get to the finale, building, teasing, then pulling back. Cannon fire is in some scores; a choir at the beginning in others. But Tchaikovsky knew dynamics. He knew how to tell a story through music. The struggle of the peasants. Their heartbreak. Their struggles. Their war. Their victory.

Do me a favor. Put your earphones/headphones on and take 4 minutes and listen to this finale. Let your emotions build with the music. Don’t think — just feel. Just for 4 minutes.

And tell me it’s not perfection.

Oh — and P.S. — Turn it UP —

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u2W1Wi2U9sQ

Symphony for a Friend

jillianEvery now and then I like to recommend other blogs, websites, books and music that have touched me in some way. I am not a walking advertisement, for my likes are not always yours. But now and then I enjoy sharing things that have made me smile more than once. My sphere of connections is quite limited, but now and then I luck out and find a friend that is more than that. My friend, Jillian Maas Backman, and I have been buds since our kids were in 1st grade (they are now both 24). She was my first friend when I gave everything up in Illinois and moved to Wisconsin to open a bed a breakfast, by my side when we sold same B&B, listened to my griping about all my jobs since, and fueled my love for Writing and the Arts. She also is an intuitive life facilitator, radio show host, and book author.  What is an intuitive life facilitator, you may ask? In a nutshell, she has the uncanny ability to connect with your heart and soul and see what’s really going on in your life.  I believe we all have that ability, but most of us don’t either see it, feel it, or pay attention to it. Jillian just is one of those people who have “IT.” Now you all know about Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).  Everyone has checked out this site for book suggestions, reviews, and just great chit chat about the world of Books. Jillian’s book, Beyond the Pews: Breaking with Tradition and Letting Go of Religious Breakdown, has been a recommended read for almost three years.  To thank her loyal followers, she is running a contest through Goodreads. It’s simple, straight forward — no strings, no sticky glue. Three lucky readers will win a FREE  signed copy of her book, Beyond the Pews, along with a FREE one-half hour private intuitive consultation.  To be eligible, all you need to do is sign up through the Goodreads GIVEAWAY program! I’ve already read the book (which really made me feel good about myself), and Jill and I are the kind of friends who skip the deeper, cosmic, one-on-one side of things to deal with more mundane things such as kids out of college looking for jobs and retro designer shoes. But I know if I’m ever hung up my “bigger picture” she will always be there for me. Go on and check out Jillian’s website (www.jillianmaasbackman.com), read her book ( http://jillianmaasbackman.com/book), enter the Goodreads contest ( https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/96961-beyond-the-pews-breaking-with-tradition-and-letting-go-of-religious-loc).  The deadline to enter is July 16, 2014. If you can’t get to check any of the above out, it’s okay. Find a best friend, share a glass of wine or orange juice, and love them for who they are. Listen to them, offer words of encourage when appropriate,and nod when words aren’t enough. Here is a bit from one of Jillian’s earlier blogs…once again, she’s on the mark… The phrases “live your life” and “follow your soul” have been blooming around us like a field of clover lately. Everyone has their own idea on how to “move forward”. Everyone has “insight” or “advice” to share with whomever will listen. On one hand that is wonderful. It is the beginning of an enlightened movement that encourages us to entwine our paths with others along the way. Some of us need a little guidance. Some of us need a little company. And truth is the only light we have to follow. But whose light do we follow? Is there a glow that is stronger down one path than the other? One’s word that is more spot-on than others? That is what the journey is all about. Finding your true path, your true direction in life, should not be one that frightens you with eternal darkness on one side and  blinding light on the other. It should be the path that glows with your own footsteps. It’s the path that  twists and turns and goes up the hill and down the crevice and still allows you to see your footsteps ahead of you. That’s why the shadowed feet behind you are nothing more than a means to an end. Where you have been is only a shadowed footstep. Nothing more.

Great Balls of Thunder

thunderstormThere is something about thunderstorms that brings out the creative muse in me. The rumbling, bumbling, rolling approach of a storm, the electricity in the air, all make my senses dance. I know there is a practical explanation for the physical changes an impending storm brings…but we here with the Goddess don’t always want practical. We want mystical! We want magical! We don’t want explanations — we want make believe.

The power behind thunderstorms is magical all by itself. Combined with wind and pounding rain, thunder and lightning can destroy trees, people, and property. But I’m talking about the romantic side of thunderstorms. I live in the country, and I often can watch the storm approach. The scent of rain reaches out to touch me, water hitting dirt somewhere in the distance. The towering cloud tops in the distance sky slowly make their way towards my deck, their churning full of promise of the melee to come.

Thunder begins like a dog’s soft growl, but each growl gets louder, longer. Lightning begins to dance across the sky, its timing closer to matching the explosions in the sky. The storm  makes its way across the field at a slow, steady pace. I once sat in the barn and watched the wall of rain make its way across the field, eventually making its way to and over the building. Once the rain hits, the atmosphere changes. Sometimes the rain is steady, the lightning and thunder steady as well. Other times the rain pours so fast you can barely see your hand in front of your face, lightning crack and lights the night sky, and thunder shakes the walls like an earthquake. Those are the storms history is made of.

So here is this majestic storm making its way across my home this evening, and here is me, running around closing windows. Then it stops. I open windows. Another wave makes its way through the countryside. I close the windows. It stops. I open windows. I don’t move as quickly as the good old days, so there’s a lot of mopping up from Mother Nature. Suddenly this creative muse is a bit crabby because the storm blew over the plant in front of one of the windows and bent the screen on the patio door. The storm blew over the plastic chairs on the deck and I hear the flooding of the fields are incredible.

So goes the romance of thunderstorms.  I guess it just  depends on the storm. And the clean up.

Blank Brained

face-coloring-page-03I feel like I haven’t been here forever. Between escaping for Labor Day Weekend, football drafts, and visiting children, the world has curiously slipped around me.  My fellow bloggers Ittymac (http://ittymac.wordpress.com) and Hugmamma (http://hugmamma.com)  and Coochie Mama (http://andrawatkins.com) and the Philosopher (http://moviewriternyu.wordpress.com)  have fortunately carried on the ways of the world, but I feel I have a lot to catching up to do.

I often talk about my Muse. She’s a feisty Irish lass that pops onto my shoulder at the most inopportune times with ideas and opinions and story lines. So where was she when I was in Wisconsin’s Door County for four days?  DId she go on vacation too? Why is it that often when I find myself with a big chunk of time, all I want to do is sit and listen to the wind blow through the treetops or zone out on TV?

Sitting at a campground. The hubby and family went off to the beach. I stayed behind to watch the dogs. They were tied up, quiet. I was full from a slice of sub, it was peace and quiet. There were even sporadic clouds to break the summer sunlight. I was ready. OK — so there wasn’t a lot of phone signal near the Lake Michigan campground. No problem. And my laptop’s keys were sticking and the computer was slow. And the spiral notebook I put in my bag was a little damp from a bottle that leaked water. Minor setbacks to a woman who has a list of engaging, entertaining, mind blowing things to write.

Yet there I sat. Blank brained. Blank faced. The dogs lazily spread out sleeping, and the sound of distant campers tinking in their tent stakes filled the stillness.  Before I knew it I was either dozing, staring into the woods, or doodling on the page that was supposed to hold my future writing.

Does this happen to you?

Do you get all snuggly and cozy and ready to read a great book and wind up staring at the blurred pages? Do you pull out all your jewelry making stuff and arrange it all and get ready to create something extraordinary and just stare at your beads?  Do you have an idea for a blog, short story, or poem, and when you get to the blank page your mind is blank as well?

Do you have an explanation for this — other than old age?

Tell me your stories. Tell me your solutions.

Now….what was I writing about?

Madness Feedback Time

thCACKVOVZI really love my Goddess followers.  I may not have readers that rack up into the hundreds or thousands, but those of you who take time to read these middle age ditties (or tell someone else about them) really help keep the magic alive.  Some of you I know personally; others I have the pleasure of reading your blogs. Some of you merely peek in now and then. I hope all of you “get” something from these posts and use them to make your own magic.

I don’t know if it’s the “getting older” thing, or the “being in a hurry” thing, but lately I feel the stress of not having enough time to do what I want. Oh, you say, join the crowd! The whole world is like that! And it’s so true. But there is something lurking deep in the deep recesses of my subconcious cerebral cortex telling me I’m running out of time. Not in the most direct sense, mind you — I plan on being around another 30 years. But that’s not the same as being around another 40 years. Or 50 years.

I try not to live by the “If I only knew then what I knew now” motto, for, obviously, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been there.  It just seems that my NOW is a lot more crowded than it used to be. During the birthing babies stage, my life was split between work and children. Outdoor activities? Soccer or baseball games. Moving up the corporate ladder? More like moving up the playground ladder.  Dinner parties? Hot dogs on the run. I didn’t know what I was “missing” because there was no time to “miss” anything. Back then I really wanted a career. I did spend a number of years working in downtown Chicago, but to me it was more of a job than a career. (Like there is a difference).

Now that I’m suffering from middle age madness, I feel a second wind coming. But that’s just it…it’s somewhere around the corner, behind the neighbor’s barn, stuck in the bushes with empty frito bags and dried fall leaves. I keep thinking that as soon as I catch up with the dishes or mowing the lawn or organize my dresser drawers or reading my favorite blogs that my time, my body, and my life will be “organized” enough to be expanded.  

But it’s just not happening.

So I’m looking to my Goddess followers to give me a few tips. I’m serious. In a funny way, of course. How do you choose? 5:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. is taken by the Big Boss. But what next? How do I find time to sit down and write (my favorite past time) and cook great meals (I love to cook) and clean up from said great meal and vacuum every other day (with dogs and cats it should be three times a day) and spend time with my family and wash and put away laundry and mow the lawn and catch my favorite TV show and take the dog for a walk and clean out the basement and write a blog and do research on the Internet and….

Okay. You get it. Do I let housework slide to do the things that I love (and who knows..maybe make me money in the future)? Do I get on the hygene horse and get super organized in my house so that everything is always done (so we don’t have to call the health department)? Do I record all my favorite television shows and leave them for  one snowy day when I’m 88 years old?

Give me your thoughts. Help me not feel guilty about being Superwoman. Give me an idea on how to get that second wind blowing straight into my living room window. I promise not to stand there naked to catch the breeze.

No one should have to go through something like that.

Dogs are just Dogs and Cats are just Cats…Right?

rennieAlright. Sad news first. My yellow labrador Renaissance Faire passed away yesterday. She was 11; a great huntress who was sweet and quirky and always knew when it was 7 p.m. and time for her 7 o’clock B(bonie). I was by her side to help her transition to the land of open fields and T-bone steaks; a daunting task, unnerving to say the least. We buried her under a tree next to my favorite cat Jasmine and my father-in-law’s dog Indy.

(Thanks for the good thoughts, btw)

Now the humorous part.

Here I am, 60 years old, walking through tick-infested grass and doggie mines not yet picked up with bare feet to give Rennie her final, eternal 7 o’clock B. Crying, wiping my snotty nose on my shirt, my mind taking over and remembering all slights and hurts real and imaginary, piling them together on top of my loss, fueling the fire that burned out of control. I was whispering baby doggie talk to the grave, babbling nonsense that only a dog would understand.

To the dog.

Not a child, a family member, friend or distant relative. A dog. Dogs and cats are dogs and cats — lower rungs on the food chain that do such innocuous things as lick their butt or eat other animal’s…well…you get my drift.

How many of you have done this?

I’m not sorry for my over reaction — I can stand back and chuckle at myself. For what is life but knowing who we are? Yet I ask…How do dogs and cats become our 1st or 2nd or 3rd child? And where do they get these…personalities?

I know one person whose cat looks at him and poops right in front of him every time he comes home from a long vacation. Another person’s dog won’t go outside to do her duty when the grass is wet. Another person’s cat talks on the phone along with its owner. My own Rennie had the uncanny ability to know when it was 7 pm no matter where we were and what we were doing. Where do they get these quirks? And why is it us that has to do the adjusting?

I know humans tend to anthropomorphize (give animals human traits). We give them personalities and assume they understand what we are saying. Why else would we talk to them so much? Many stand firm on their belief that animals think and feel and react as humans do. And on many levels that is true. I am not here to debate the validity of such things. What I will say, however, is that it is amazing how one little canine or feline can change your life.  They listen without complaining; they don’t hold a grudge when they come to sleep with you at night, and want to be with you all the time. They listen while you go on and on about your crummy day at work or your overbearing mother-in-law or the barking dog down the street.

I’m also not saying that pets are for everyone. Cleaning out kitty litter boxes and scooping up lincoln logs are not for everyone. Often it’s easier to spoil someone else’s dog or cat. Why not? Their love is universal.  Their devotion and energy should say something about how the world should work. They don’t care about the color of your skin or how fat you are or what religion tickles your fancy. Their needs are basic — love, food, and pets.  Something the world should take note of.

The moral of this little ditty is to just love your pets, or your family’s pets, or the pets at the shelter. Treat your fellow humans that way too, and you’ll never be sorry.

Just make sure you always make time for your 7 o’clock B.

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

Losing My Mind and My Keys

Why is it that every time we forget where we put the keys or to call someone back we fear we are heading into that cobalt abyss that does not return to sender?

We live our lives as fully and carefully as we can. We work hard, marry, raise children, and find a little spirituality along the way. We don’t waste time worrying about things like memory loss. Not when our jobs and our families take over our every moment. Yet, as we approach middle age, we find ourselves scrambling a lot more. We call home and leave messages for ourselves; we make notes to remind ourselves to make notes. The squares on our calendars are larger, our checklists longer. Why is that? Why are we so afraid that what we might forget might be something important?

They say there are many things we can do to keep ahead of the age curve that suddenly shoots downwards at about the age of 50. Baby boomers are refusing to go quietly into that bleak future: we are the leading market for Botox and Viagra, Sudoku and GPS. We don’t want to get wrinkles, lose our sex drive, soften our mental edge or get lost. We take Vitamin B, eat tofu, start jogging and begin a new career. We stop smoking, drinking, and eating fatty foods. We have plastic surgery, laser surgery and liposuction. Yet there is an inevitable truth following our every footstep. We are getting older. We are getting slower. What was important to us when we were 20 and 30 doesn’t correspond to our cosmic truths at 40 or 50 or 60. More body parts are starting to hurt, more facts are beginning to slip through our minds. Our color schemes are softening and our tolerance for bright light and cold weather is running low.

I suppose, in some cases, that’s a bad thing. I used to be able to spew out names of presidents and lines from Shakespeare like I was making a grocery list. Now I’m lucky if I can remember what I had for dinner two days ago. My husband says I don’t listen and I swear he needs a hearing aid. My kids say I am drunk when I’m merely relaxed, and I can’t drive anywhere without writing down the directions. I need bifocals to read and take my glasses off to read the fine print.

Yet there are good things about not having to be a sieve for every fact and figure that passes by. I don’t have to memorize speeches or do calculus or speak three foreign languages. I don’t have to pass tests, write research papers or explain the gross national product. I learn something new every day, and don’t worry about the things I don’t understand. What I can’t spell or pronounce I can still understand, even if it’s on some sub-atomic level.

But I do worry at times at my overly cautious behavior. More than once I have turned around half way to work to make sure I turned off the stove. My husband will swear he has explained something to me ten times before, yet I swear I’ve never heard a one. I don’t remember if I’ve taken my meds in the morning or in the evening or not at all. I feel my heart pound and I wonder if I’m having a heart attack. My leg feels a little swollen and I wonder if I have a blood clot. A migraine is an aneurism and a toothache is oral surgery. Adversity seems to be hitting those around me more frequency these days, and I don’t want to be stupid and ignore warning signs of something major in the works.

 As the second half of my life begins, I can’t help but worry that my future will be over before I know it. Children and grandchildren. Watching a sunset in Cancun or snowfall in the Northwoods. Weddings and graduations. Retirement. Sleeping in late. Conquering Mount Everest. Buying a scooter. There are so many things we want to do before we pass on to the next world. So many places to see, things to do, people to love. We fear not being able to remember the sights and the people we’ve spent our lives experiencing.

It is a challenge to live in the moment, to live each moment fully and completely and not constantly look over our shoulder for the Grey Shadow. We have no control over what diseases may take over our bodies and our minds. But we do have control over how we live our lives today. How we love, whom we love. How we spend our spare time now.

So the next time you forget your boss’s wife’s name or the name of your favorite team’s quarterback, know that who they are is never as important as what they mean to you. You will remember the important things, the things that have always mattered to you.

 The rest — are probably in the same place as your keys.

Nothing to Write About — My Life is a Bore

            Fifteen hundred words.  One thousand, five hundred words.  That’s what the contest rules stated.  Surely I could come up with something to write about in fifteen hundred words or less. I sat at the kitchen table, spiral notebook open, pen poised.  But my pen stopped after the word “Someday”, the “Y” becoming an ornate doodle of Elizabethan proportions.  What could I write about?  My life was so ordinary, so mundane compared to the experiences of those around me.  I had no juicy stories of divorce to share; no exotic locations to describe, no secrets to expose. 

            I sighed, looking at the fancy “Y” on the paper.  What about humor?  I thought about some of the funny stories I’d heard through the years.  There was the one about my husband’s childhood friend Meathead who built a go-cart out of a lawn mower engine and a ladder and some old wheels.  It was direct drive, no brakes, no steering wheel to speak of — all it did was go forward.  Meat took off, drove down the alley and right into a telephone pole, splitting the ladder by its rungs, the scene unfolding like something out of a cartoon.  Or the time another friend tried to be George Washington on the point of their fishing boat, standing strong and proud as it came to shore.  The boat slid onto the sand bank, hitting a sand hill just a little too fast, and he went flying into the air, making a perfect mud angel.

            Naw, I wasn’t good at humor.  What else?  What about drama?  I thought about tidbits I could turn into an entertaining yet meaningful short story.  I thought about my father, a proud man who fought in World War II.  He remembered the war as if it were yesterday, yet when he died at 85 he could barely remember what he had for breakfast.  I remembered the story he told about being in a foxhole with a couple of his buddies.  He turned to grab his thermos and pour a cup of coffee; a shell landed in the foxhole, exploded, and when he turned around his bunkmate was gone. Or the story of my friend’s daughter and her struggle with cystic fibrosis.  The beautiful girl who died at twenty-eight because her lungs just couldn’t support her body anymore. It was the first funeral service I had been to where I’d had seen a “life” board; a bulletin board filed with pictures that spanned the girl’s entire life.  I couldn’t believe her board could be so full at 28 years old. Or something sappy about family illnesses or faithful pets.

            No, those weren’t the kind of stories judges wanted to read.  Not in a mere fifteen hundred words.   Surely there was something extraordinary I could write about.  Oh, there’s my friend Ari — she’s wild and creative and just a bit eccentric.  She talks to spirits and ghosts, and is delightfully in tune not only with her psychic powers but also her business sense.  What about the friends I made at the Renaissance Faire?  There was the gypsy wench from Germany and her artistic husband who created medieval magic from fabric. And there was the short, hairy artist with a beard that ran half way down his neck that worked marvels with pewter.  Wild people, great people.

            Or my family members.  Loud and burly Uncle Bill, balding and boisterous, a loving man that enjoyed a beer or ten as much as burgers and brats; or Uncle Scott on the other side of the family, the one with the heart of gold and a passion for aqua shoes.  Then there was Grandpa, the fishing guru and legend, someone who knew everybody and everything that happened in his little town.  And what about my kids when they were little?  Rooms so messy we’d need a bulldozer to clean them, or paintball wars, or wrapping Christmas presents while eating shrimp at midnight?

            I kept doodling on the empty page.  What about all the friends I’ve made through the years? I’ve known farmers and writers, mechanics and truck drivers.  I’ve come to know special education teachers and helicopter pilots, football quarterbacks and massage therapists.  Surely there were stories scattered throughout their lives.  Well, I had friends, but no one extraordinary to write about.  No one who spent time in prison or traveled through Africa on safari or had lunch with the President of the United States. No one that broke any records or invented something that changed the face of America.  All I knew were people who worked for a living: ordinary people that fished or painted or watched movies on the side of a barn or made jewelry or delivered pizza or coached soccer teams.

             I tore off the top sheet of paper, crumbling it into a tight ball, and started on a fresh, clean sheet.  The black ballpoint rested on the thin blue line of the paper, ready.  Yet nothing would flow.  Not an “E” or an “S” or anything in between.  I looked outside the window at the emerald green fields and weatherworn barns in the distance.  The sky was electric blue, and the pine trees appeared as arrows pointed skyward.  The chatter from the birds was almost deafening as cardinals, blue jays, and a handful of other serenaded from the edge of the woods.   For all I knew there could be elves and fairies just on the other side of the sumacs, unicorns mingling with the horses at the farm next door, and aliens making crop circles in the field on the o]=her side of my house. There could have been CIA agents or ex-Nazi criminals posing as salesmen at the store in town.  There could be a meteor heading towards my little town right at that very moment, or treasure buried under the lopsided oak tree at the edge of my property.

            But I would never know, because I was convinced I lived in a vanilla-coated world.  There wasn’t one single person to interview, nor one inspirational vista, nor one slice of comedy to fill my empty sheet of paper.  There was never anything interesting going on in my life.

            At least not fifteen hundred words worth.

Sprinkles

          The past few weeks have been the bottom of the roller coaster ride for me. After a bit of a medical drama, I am well, back into whatever groove middle aged women get into, trying to build my energy back up to see what trouble I can get into. How much trouble can a goddess like me get into? We won’t go into past details, but there have been times in the past that I have stepped over that preverbal line, most times with no consequences, other times being dutifully chastised and set back upon the straight and narrow.

            The funny thing about my misadventures is that, in the eyes of the world (especially to those under 40), the things that I’ve gotten in trouble for are powdered sugar compared to what others have done. I have never hung with the “wild” crowd, never gotten arrested, reprimanded by principals, or been asked to leave.  I’ve led a pretty vanilla life and stayed fairly happy and clean cut. I try not to compare my life, my ups and downs, with others. For, as you know, you will always be overblessed in one way and underblessed in another.  My dirty laundry is someone else’s humorous fluff.

            Going in and out of the hospital changes your perspective on a lot of things. Suddenly losing those last few pounds doesn’t seem so important. Or finally losing weight to get healthy rises to the top of your list. Your family becomes a priority, along with your health, your pets, and your pastimes. You sit and wonder why you’ve wasted so much time setting unrealistic goals and then were so hard on yourself when you didn’t achieve them. Your desires and your timelines seemed to have gotten crisscrossed, a Celtic design that has no beginning or no end. You will do A as soon as you accomplish B. You will buy outfit C as soon as you lose D pounds. You’ll go visit someone as soon as you (fill in the blank).

            I know you’ve heard this story a thousand times a thousand different ways. Don’t wait until trauma and tragedy arrive at your doorstep before you learn to live your life.  Well, what do you do if that dynamic duo arrives at your door and you’ve already been living your life? Are you supposed to go further off the deep end? Are you supposed to  throw away the restraints of society and be a wild and free sprite?

            I was lucky, not only to have a good prognosis, but to have wild and fun things to come back to. Our Polish Sausage Making Party has been going on for 14 years, an annual madhouse that seems to be growing every year. I had a laptop, waiting for me to create another fantasy, another out-of-the-box story. I have kids to bug and a grandson to spoil and friends to compare drinking stories with.  I have a room full of second-hand books waiting to be read, sweaters that need sparkles sewn on them, and sushi that  needs to be shared with girlfriends.

            I decided long ago that I was tired of being on the outside looking in. I was tired of being vanilla in a rainbow world. I’ve always respected my bosses and the law, always been polite (sometimes to the point of nausea), and given money to charity or to my kids (sometimes the same thing). But I also found out that if you want something in  your life, you need to be the one to go for it. You can’t wait for those things to come to you. That goes for friends, restaurant reservations, and health issues. Sometimes “going for it” makes you a little more aggressive than you usually are. Succeeding at “going for it” makes you feel stronger and smarter.  It makes you raise your own bar a notch or two higher. And you have yourself to thank for it.

            Going through a health predicament only reinforced the importance of finding out who I am and what I want in life. That what I wanted in my life is nothing more or less than anyone else wants. I just make sure I made lemonade every time I can. I make a point of getting together with friends often, and family birthdays become family reunions a  dozen times a year. I don’t want life to pass me by and at the end be filled with thoughts of why I didn’t do this or that.

            You are never going to be rich enough, thin enough, smart enough, for A to really ever meet B. So take the victories you make along the way and celebrate them. Don’t spend days and months and years waiting for the “payoff.”  The payoff is here and now. If you pass up picnics on the beach with the family because you want to lose weight first, you’ve done nothing but miss a great picnic. If you wait until your kids are in college to go away for the weekend you’ll never get away, for most of the time they come back to haunt you. Turning down an invitation to walk through a festival with family members because you need to clean your house does nothing but toss another fun time into the twilight zone.

            There is always room in your life for adventure. To cross some lines. To speak up. To stand up.  There’s always time for you to change your direction, your health, your dreams.  To be proactive. Not inactive. If the jester hat fits you, wear it! If bling is your thing, bling!  Always wanted to try and cook Thai? Go for it ― even if you’re the only  one who will eat it. Don’t wait for someone else to initiate a pizza night or drinks after work ― call, plan, and do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to “take their turn.”

            This is the only turn you’re going to get. Don’t let anyone else take your turn for you. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla, but just think of how much better it is with hocolate syrup and whipped cream.  

            And me?  I think I’ll try rainbow sherbet with multi-colored sprinkles. Can’t get enough of that color thing…

May the Horse Be With You

          A friend of mine works at a wild animal sanctuary.  The work is hard and dirty, and the pay non-existent, as she is a volunteer.  At first glance you would think she scrapes out stalls and washes animals mostly because she is a Good Samaritan; because she wants to help animals who have seen better days. While this is true, she also works with the animals so she can give them space to share their stories, often sharing ones of her own.

            Nash is one of her favorites. He is a cougar who was used by a gang for protection, much like a guard dog.  Chewie is a camel, donated because he was to be slaughtered and fed to the wild cats as he had severed rear leg tendons.  And RC, her favorite, is a blind horse. RC came from a place that forced her to live in filth, which was the eventual cause of her blindness.  My friend listens to their stories, working with them to bring a bit of peace and comfort to their world.  And she swears when she look into their eyes she can hear them talking back.

            There is no hocus pocus here— there is no run away imagination or desperation for someone to talk to. Sue is a down-to-earth, hard working, funny friend that just happens to listen better than a lot of us.  You hear animals too – you just don’t realize it. How many times has your cat looked up at you and meowed, and, without thinking, you ask, “What do you want?” as if you expected an answer?  How many times have you gauged what your dog wants by the speed of their wagging tail or the perkiness of their ears? How can you figure out the difference between wagging for food and wagging to go outside and wagging for pets?

             Like Pavlov’s Dog (no pun intended), many interactions are learned through repetition, through action and reward. Animals don’t have the capacity to think at the same level as humans; they merely remember what gets them fed or pet and repeat these acts over and over again so that you, in your personification, believe they are thinking and speaking. But regardless of all scientific explanations, there are still plenty who connect with animals on all sorts of levels.  Some are upfront and obnoxious about their rapport; others never admit to conversations with anything lower on the food chain than themselves.  But there is something about the presence of animals, domesticated or not, that touches us in indescribable ways.  The connection is on an energy level that cannot be detected by scientific methods. You have to admit, the moment you look into the eyes of your dog or cat or the lions at the zoo, they look back and you feel something deep and primal.

            Oh, we say we listen — to our friends, our spouses, to our bosses and our kids.  But do we?  How often do we stop and really listen to what they’re saying? How many times does someone start to talk and, before you know it, your mind has slipped forward to what’s for dinner or a song you can’t get out of your head? How many times do we look into each other’s eyes and feel what’s truly there? Experience the unspoken energy?  Not as often as we could; not as often as we should.   We are too busy, too stressed, too tired, to stop the chatter in our head and listen to what’s being said, both verbally and non-verbally, by those around us. We don’t mean to not listen —we do care about others.  We care about how they feel, what they think, what they do.  But we have forgotten how to slow our lives down and listen —to feel the cosmic energy being sent our way.  There is no place we need to be so quickly and desperately that we need to cut off the current between another who is trying to connect.  We don’t have to connect forever — just long enough to make a difference in their lives.

            I’m not saying we should try and communicate with every chicken or cow we see, or every butterfly that passes by.  But who’s to say there’s not a basic need in all life forms be understood? To be accepted?  Even if for a nanosecond? Maybe it’s not a conscious thought; maybe it’s more primal than that. Maybe it’s just instinct. The instinct of comfort, of the instinct of contentment.

          In the long run, it really doesn’t matter if communication with animals is real or not. What matters is we need to think of others besides ourselves. We need to slow down and not over-think and over-analyze everything. In their simplicity, animals remind us of who we once were.  Of where we came from.  We came from a world that was quieter, simpler than the madness we experience these days.  And slowing down, communicating with animals, and each other, is worth the time you take.

           When my friend nuzzles RC, the blind horse, she may not be looking into his eyes, but she is feeling his energy, his story, his gratitude.  He thanks her for taking the time to brush him, feed him, to nuzzle him. She doesn’t care if this exchange can be measured by scientists — all she knows it that she is making the horse feel better, and in the act of listening, feels better herself.

            Not too long ago my cat of 18 years passed away. It was a gradual thing, old age and kidney shutdown all part of the cosmic circle. I spent a lot of time talking to her those last days.  I told her stories about our younger days, reminded her that I was there, and that we’d always share our energies in the form of memories. I don’t know if I made her passing any easier, but in listening to her breathing, I heard her story, I shared her life. 

            My life is better for it.  Yours will be, too.

Cosmic Chatter

              Do you sometimes have a hard time concentrating?  I don’t mean pay-attention-to-your-driving duty or don’t-cut-your-finger-when-chopping-onions duty.  I mean concentrating on spiritual things.  Ethereal things.   The airy-fairy connection between us mere mortals and that famous ‘higher power’.  Do you ever wish that your mind would shut up for five minutes while you try to summon a spirit from the Great Unknown?

            You know how it goes. You clear your schedule, get rid of the kids, feed the dogs, and hide the cell phone in the silverware drawer.  You make an effort to visit your special place, your sacred altar.  This can be your garden, a spot deep in the woods, your kid’s sandbox, or your living room sofa.  You tell yourself that today you are really going to connect with the void and what lies on the other side.  You have read books on angels, faeries, ghosts and extra terrestrials, and figure it’s about time you connected with one. So you get into your sacred mode.  You breathe slow and deep.  You close your eyes, rest your mind, and say a prayer.  The atmosphere is perfect for communicating with whatever is the source of your power.  You feel the tingle of something larger than life not too far away. And suddenly, there it is.  That nagging thought.  That idle chatter.  That empty gossip.  And the more you try to tune it out, the louder it becomes.

            Monks in monasteries found salvation kneeling on stone floors.  Buddhist priests found nirvana contemplating a blade of grass.  Priestesses found the secrets of gods and goddesses tending fires.  So surely you could find what you’re looking for right in your own back yard.  After all, you have a whole ten minutes!  But your mind won’t cease its aimless prattle.  Your thoughts wander from your need to buy a shirt to match your navy pants that are just a bit too tight to the price of gas to trying to remember the name of the movie star that played that crazy professor in the movie you watched last night.  You snap back to the center.

             Block those thoughts!

            You close your eyes, trying to drown out the stray thoughts with the repetition of a prayer or a mantra or the alphabet — anything to bring structure back to your concentration. 

            Wham!  You forgot to mail the check for the phone bill! 

            Stop it! 

            Bang!  Did I unplug the curling iron?

            Pay attention!

            What should I make for dinner?

            SHUT UP!!

            You continue with a dogged perseverance.  You pray harder.  Louder.  You try to summon the angel, the sorcerer, the alien.  This being is a member of your guidance team, a pointer towards self awareness and universal peace.  A very important part. Yet your mind won’t stop trying to chat with you.  You think about your boyfriend, your job. You wonder about what the dog is doing now that you’ve tossed him in the back yard without supervision. You think about things you should have said, things you shouldn’t have said. And you suddenly become conscious of your outer-self nagging your inner-self to be quiet.

            Why can’t your mind just sit still for a while?  What is Archangel Michael going to think if you let everyday distractions get between you and him?  How can you have a direct cosmic connection with Cleopatra when all this blah blah is tainting your aura? You were so serious about this connection when you planned this escape!  You are a good person, a pious person.  You’re the sort of person that stops for squirrels crossing the road and kisses your kids ten times a day (even if they’re 27) and takes only ten items to the ten-items-only checkout aisle.  You are kind to old people.  Or you are an old person who is kind to young people.  So why is it so hard to quiet your mind long enough to connect to the spiritual?

            Maybe it’s because you’re already interacting with the spiritual.  It’s all around you.  Connecting with angels and prophets and faeries and ghosts of the past happens all the time.  We just don’t slow down enough to experience it.  The innocence of children, the memories of parents and grandparents, the words of sacred texts and of simple poetry all connect us with the ethereal.  We just have to learn how to recognize it.  The wild world of faeries can be found in the unbounded energy of a puppy; the music of the angels can be heard in the morning chatter of the birds.  God speaks clearly to us through our own conscience. We just fail to heed the advice we’re given. 

            What has this got to do with all this mindless chatter that drives you crazy?  The thousand thoughts that run through your head are nothing more than your own spirit cleaning house, sifting through all the garbage so that it can get to the heart of the matter.  In the peace and quiet of the sandbox or your front porch you can safely sift through your thoughts and emotions, finding clarity in reasoning and understanding in reflection.  Your mind finally gets tired of rambling and lets the purity of your intentions come through loud and clear.  You figure out where you are going, what you want to say, what you should do.  And that’s what you came there for in the first place, isn’t it?

            So don’t worry the next time you look for a cosmic connection and find static on the line.  It’s just the faerie queen telling you that you left the check for the phone bill on bathroom counter next to the unplugged curling iron.

It’s Not Just About Humoring My Goddess

I know how time consuming it is to follow blogs, twitters, titters, tidbits, and all things electronic that fill your mailbox. The world of the Internet has opened doors we could never have imagined. Suddenly you can read other’s thoughts, rants, secrets, research, links and more with a touch of a button. It is easy to lose your way through this mesmorizing maze of information, spiritualization, and gossip.  I know first hand how easy it is to follow one person’s link, only to follow another and another and another until you find you have spent three hours chasing your tail, searching for one more bit of validation, one more line of information that can make you complete.

While I am thrilled at the thought of your sharing my quirky stories, my astro-astromony goddess sort of philosophy, I want to make a point to encourage you to make your own way through these worlds. There are unlimited versions of reality in this electronic cosmos; unlimited hearts opening, unlimited opinions to choose from. Any thought you want to Google you can. Any ancient philosophy, any current political opinion are available at a touch of a keyboard.

What I want to caution you about, though, is not to fall prey to everyone else’s angsts, discoveries, awakenings, and pain. For after a while, if you are not careful, their experiences will become yours.

What I want to make sure is that you are taking the time to form your own  opinions. I know I’m a writing fanatic; I find that writing brings out all sorts of feelings and thoughts and repressions to the surface, and, somehow, I feel others may benefit from my stumblings. I want to assure you that there are plenty of other ways to grow spiritually as well.  Religion, philosophy, fine arts, reading, working with children or adults or the disabled, all are ways to tap into your inner spirit, your inner muse, to find out what makes you tick. What tickles your fancy. What encourages you to move upward, forward, into the cosmos and beyond.

The road to the next level of cosmic consciousness is right in front of you. Don’t rely on others to show you the way. After all, some roads are pretzelly, others straight and sleek. Some tell you you can’t get there without blood, sweat and tears; others tell you it’s a piece of cake. It is up to you to choose your own road. It could be rocky or asphalt or muddy. It can run uphill, through the woods, through the slums or up mountains. What you need to understand is that the path you follow is your choice. Don’t leave it up to other bloggers, websites, published books, classes, or any other media that portend they know more than you do. Trust me. They don’t. They are voyagers on the sea of life, just like you.

Listen to your heart. If you need to get it out, find an outlet. Write, paint, garden, train for a marathon. Exercise. Babysit. Read. Research. Take notes. Learn a new skill. Make a quilt. Learn to cook. Become a gourmet cook. Stencil. Macrame. Share your skills with others who want to learn.

Don’t be afraid to share your dreams with others. Remember — everyone has dreams. The catch is that most are just afraid to share them.

Let that be their problem. Not yours. Don’t be afraid to follow that little muse that whispers in your ear, dances on your shoulder, or, in my case, bop me in the side of the head at the most inopportune moment.

Visit my blog when you have time. Create your own world when you can’t. And have fun every moment you can.

See What You Have Missed??

While everyone is enjoying this holiday weekend, merely peeking in at their various inboxes, I thought I’d share the fun and enlightening titles you may have missed in this irreverent blog:

My Muse is an Irish WenchWhat to do when creativity dances on your shoulder ― and on your head

Chocolat and the Tuscan SunOpening up an oatmeal cookie boutique in Europe

Feng Shui in the Cubicle — Trying to find harmony and flow in the office cubicle

Paint Who’s Wagon?Defining the generations by the songs we sing

Real Lists vs. Fantasy ListsWhy making “to-do” lists is a matter of one’s point of view.

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst — How our weekly lives run from the optimistic, ethereal beginning of the unicorn, through the dumps of life, back up to the raw, spicy optimism of sausage.

Moonrise at SunsetEven the Moon can fool you.

Dinner With the QueenHow far does your unpredictable meter go?

Middle MagicHalf empty or half full? In reality we just need a bigger cup.

AND YET TO COME

What Is Role Playing and Can I Do It By Myself?Inspirational messages from dwarves and gods.

Cosmic ChatterConnecting to the cosmos through life’s everyday static

Paranoia Writings ― Beware of what you write when you’re pumped up.

Hot Flashes and Cold FeetWhat did I ever do to my hormones to have them treat me this way?

Sex ― What Is It and Where Did It Go?By the time the floor is free the well is dry.

Everyone’s Life is a Best SellerSurely you have an oddity or two hanging from your friends & family tree

Come! Join the Party!

Dinner With the Queen

In the mundane throng of your very predictable life, don’t you now and then want to just break out of the box and do something different? Now that you have the experience of all those years behind you, don’t you want to make that experience mean something? Don’t you ever want to be bigger than life? Just for a day?

Oh, you say, I am happy being just who I am. Of course you are. We all try and walk that fence between selfish and selfless; between modesty and bravado. But admit it. There are many times in our very predictable life that we’d like to do something unpredictable. Of course, unpredictable varies from person to person. Bungee jumping is one way, as is impulse buying a Hummer. More low key, there are times when we want to guffaw aloud instead of snickering quietly. We want to dance naked in the living room and wear chuggy boots with a sundress. But most times we settle for eating Thai as a means of excitement. While that sounds fairly adventurous, I assure you, the dreams of the experienced are filled with possibilities never imagined by the inexperienced. In other words, the older we get, the looser the parameters of our dreams become.

There was a time in my life that I worried about what others thought of me and my opinions. A time when I tried to fit in, vaporously reflecting their ideas on religion, child rearing, and employment. It was important that I pulled my own weight, never rocked the boat, nor raise the hackles on someone’s neck. I was (and still am) respectful of others.

But eventually I got to a point in life where I wanted the river to flow where I wanted it to flow. I wanted my own boat, my own crew, and my own destination. I found that the further I wander down the road, the less I’m concerned about what I have done and more about what I can do. The thought of being no more than a passing blush in the cosmos makes my selfishness bubble to the surface. So I find myself wanting to be bigger than life: a heroine to all, someone who makes a mark and leaves it for others to decipher. That doesn’t mean I want to be an assassin or a movie star or a nuclear physicist. But a motivational speaker, a middle-aged trend setter, a famous author — what’s wrong with that?

Maybe that’s not really “out of the box,” but for me, it’s peeking out from under the lid. I’ve been a loving mother, a great wife, a dedicated friend, and all-around good person. I have dotted all of my i’s, crossed my t’s, and given to the United Way.

But now and then I feel this little quiver in my reality that makes me wonder what it would be like to leave the cookie baking and office typing to someone else and find something different to do with my time. How cool it would be to become a fashion maven or a world traveler. To stand before a crowd and sing like an angel. To be the next Food Network Star. To be asked to be on the next “Tour of Homes” because my house and garden are so incredibly fantastic that the world ― or at least the citizens of Whitewater ― have to experience them. To nosh with Stephen King at lunch and have dinner with Queen Elizabeth. To design a line of clothes that would knock the socks off Calvin Klein or raise enough donations to build a new wing on the local hospital.

All right — maybe not the “Queen Elizabeth” part or the “wing on the hospital” part ― but to create something new, something eye-catching, something memorable, would be a trip I would never forget.

We love and appreciate the little things in our life. Our friends, our family, all are a part of who we are. We work hard and, if we are lucky, play hard. Being famous would take us away from all that we worked so hard to create. And, after all, celebrity does have its price, privacy and anonymity being the first two privileges to go.

But while those platitudes make perfect sense, every now and then my daydreams take a cosmic swing to worlds just past my fingertips. Writing a best seller that becomes a movie lover’s dream, people paying $200 a ticket just to have lunch with me, opening a boutique that splashed between the covers of famous magazines ― what a thrill that would be! Who wouldn’t like to be a travel reporter visiting small European towns or American homesteads and talk about their cuisines and cultures? Who wouldn’t want to have their art on display at at the Art Institute or the Milwaukee Art Museum? Who wouldn’t want to be the one person the President could come to for advice?

Aspirations breed inspiration. Not being afraid to follow the muse within your heart brings freedom to your soul. Feeling positive about who you are enables the world to mold itself around you. Most ― if not all of us ― will never get a chance to live out those kinds of dreams. Not on that grand of a scale. But that doesn’t mean our inspirations can’t be grand. That our forward movement can’t be grand. Understand that grand is all in one’s point of view. Don’t worry what any other point of view is but yours. Dress up for any or all occasions. Paint a mural on a wall. Start blogging your most outrageous ― and delicious ― recipes. Grow an exotic garden, take pictures of it and enter them into photography contests. Design jewelry. Show horses or dogs. Enter your prized whatevers at the State Fair.

Don’t be afraid to break out now and then and have a good time. What others think of you is not nearly as important as what you think about yourself.

Besides ― I’m sure the queen made other dinner plans anyway.

Moonrise At Sunset

The crispness of the evening crackled around me as I sat on the rustic bench at the edge of the harvested cornfield.  I was on a mission; I was determined to watch the moon rise over the horizon. I had toddled down the path through the woods behind my house, laptop in hand, hoodie tied tight around my head.  There was rustling about — shuffling and shifting somewhere in the distance as creatures large and small began to find shelter for the night.  I sat quietly, laptop on my legs, waiting for the crest of the moon’s edge to peek over the farthest boundary line of earth.

There was more shuffling through the skeletal bushes as the shadows grew around me.  I pushed away flashes of monsters and rabid raccoons and embraced the thought of it being a bird or squirrel.  Little, gentle things. My query was soon answered in the form of a large black bird that appeared on the branch of the tree in front of me.  Her beady eyes blinked at me, her head tilted slightly. “What in the world are you doing here so late?  Go home! It will be a cold one tonight!” she scolded. I agreed with the bird, watching her shimmy and shake before disappearing into the woods.  She was no fool; it was indeed getting chilly.

My fingertips began to numb as my eyes kept watch through the barbed wire fence, across the harvested cornfield, past the ridge of trees and farms to the horizon in the distance. As the evening sky turned from lavender ribbons to purple shadows, thoughts of previous generations ran through me. Who knows what our ancestors thought when they looked up at the night time sky? I knew that the Andromeda Galaxy glowed in one of the legs of the W of Cassiopeia, and the right side of the cup of the Little Dipper pointed upwards to the North Star.  But the locals had taken their own spin on astronomy, leaving me wondering about my long-held beliefs.  Does Apollo ride his steeds through the Wisconsin sky just as he did in Greece?  Is the constellation Orion actually the outline of a football player getting ready to throw a pass?  Does the pointer star really always point towards a tavern?

The crow returned, landing very near on the post beside me.  She wondered what I was still doing there.  I was an alien here.  That, and I probably smelled like garlic from my spaghetti dinner.  I tried sitting very still, but the bird had never seen a wild woman hanging around on this bench at this hour, and squawked that fact to anyone who would listen.  Finally, after making her point, she took off in a huff. Point taken.  Yet this stranger in a hoodie still hung around. Sunset gave way to darkness, moonrise only minutes away. Anticipation grew inside of me.

Where was the full round beauty that taunted mere mortals with her presence?  Where was the crest of her silver hair above the horizon?   She was the goddess of the night, the seductress in the midnight blue wrap.  Her dark cape sparkled with distant flecks of existence; yet in her full glory there was no star that could match her brilliance. How silent these woods had suddenly become.  I sat in vigilant dedication, my shivering the only noticeable movement.   I could not see my fingers, my letters, my writing.  A subtle numbness started to creep down from the tips of my gloves, yet still I waited.  Darkness had covered the wilderness, forcing me to pay closer attention to everything around me.

Suddenly, a loud crash and shuffling came from my left.  Bigfoot!  Hodag!  Tyrannosaurus Rex!  But, no! Too light-footed!  It had to be a deer crashing through the bramble.  The hoofed steps stopped on the path, listening.  All was silent. We both held our breaths, she in the woods, I on the bench.  My heart exploded, leaving me wanting to turn around just for a peek. Turn! Just turn! But I couldn’t. Wouldn’t. What a dip! The moment stretched into an eternity, until finally the doe walked the other way, crunching the leaves in her wake.  She must have been making her way to the cornfield, circling away from the soft glow of the computer screen and the odd scent of garlic. I can’t say that I blamed her.

Finally the moment had come.  The first pinpoint of light in the distance — She appeared!  But gasp upon gasps!  What was this?  Her crown was not the color of ghosts or spider webs — the Lady’s mane was red!  My Goddess of the Night was a crimson-haired tart!   Full and round, she rose majestically through the black distance, the world stopping for a moment to honor her presence.  Her red mane radiated over the valley and poured across the landscape, Her round orb was breathtaking! Sassy!  The Moon Goddess watched over that magical night with the grace of a queen with her crown of rubies.  She was beautiful in her new outfit — proof that women could change their appearance whenever they wished.  They could be feminine and pure and complex and naughty with merely a change of color — or thought.  It was the delight of being female, the magic of the power within.

Eventually I closed my laptop, extinguishing the last remains of my human presence.  Her aura slowly turned back to haunting white, glowing enough to light my path back home. I promised to come visit again, not only when she was at her fullest, but also when she was merely a slice rising in the distant dark sky,

And in return, I heard her say that she’d come to my house for garlic spaghetti any time.

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst

   The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst. This is one of those ethereal, out-of-body titles that try to connect the cosmic to the ordinary, the magical to the mundane.  I was hit by this title some time ago, not having a clue as to what it meant or what I would eventually write about.  Even now, as my fingers hit the keys, I have no idea where this storyline is going.  But isn’t that so much like our everyday lives?

We start out the week with the most noble of intentions.  Perhaps we have a satisfying experience meditating Sunday morning, or are able to sleep in a couple of extra hours.  Maybe our football team finally won a game.  Nonetheless, our day is delightful, and we end the night feeling satisfied.  All is right with the world, with our dreams and our desires. 

This is the power of the unicorn.  It is the magical sensation that connects earth and sky, dreams and reality, kids and parents.  In this hazy-yet-authentic state, the world is a soft, mystical place, offering rewards and blessings at every turn.  Our children clean their room without being asked; the washing machine doesn’t screech when spinning; even the movie we choose to watch had one of those feel-good endings.

In the unicorn state the world holds unlimited possibilities. You could actually lose those ten pounds or finally clean off your desk, or even finally start reading that novel you bought five months ago.  You are still based in reality, but the remnant good feelings are enough to move you towards the light and find satisfaction in the simplest things.

 Monday comes along, a tough day for many.  A majority of us will drudge our way to work, blinking at the shortness of the weekend, and find our nine-to-five groove again.  Tuesday seems to be a lot harder than Monday.  Our failure to go to bed early over the weekend now is catching up with us, along with laundry that has mysteriously piled up and the bills we swear we mailed yesterday.  Our favorite TV show is coming on too late for us to watch with any coherency, and the last tape we saved to record said-TV-show was used to record a football game that everyone knows we lost.

 Wednesday is hump day and we wonder just who is doing the humping.  Our resolve not to eat ten chocolate chip cookies in a row is weakening; our commitment to walk a mile or two after work is being thwarted by thunderstorms or ice storms or plagues of locusts.  We can never get our hair to do what our hairdresser did; our plans to cook Coq a Vin has gone by the wayside, seeing as the chicken is still frozen and we don’t have any red wine in the house to cook with anyway.

 Thursday creeps into our lives with a thread of hesitancy.  After all, school has scheduled your son’s basketball game at the same time as your daughter’s piano recital, both of which are at the same time as your bowling league, which is at the same time your other favorite TV show is on, which you would have recorded had the football game not taken up the whole tape.

By Friday your resolutions are out the window along with that novel you can’t choke down anymore, and your thoughts try to center, not on what has been, but what will be.  The weekend is coming; that means a thousand activities shoved into a mere 48 hours. 

It means going to visit your mom on the way to dropping off your kid at the mall, fighting the Saturday morning free-sample crowds at the grocery store, and coming home to an overanxious dog who just dumped the garbage all over the kitchen floor.  It is hoping the video store still has a copy of that brand new movie that everyone is talking about but you, and trying to decide whether to cook a gourmet meal or just throw sausages on the grill.

 This is the bratwurst part, the raw-meat-of-reality part. Bratwurst is a wonderful German sausage, filled with flavor and spices and grilled to perfection.  How metaphoric that little pocket of meat and fat is!  It is the answer to all the cosmic questions in life! It fulfills the need for sustenance (it is a food group), it nurtures your creative side (sauerkraut?  Mustard?  Hot or German?)  It is available in abundance (you can buy them in a pack of six or three pound boxes), and it affords you the freedom of choice  (10 minutes on the grill; burble them in beer and onions for 15 and grill for five; slice them up and fry with potatoes for 20).

How clear it all becomes!  This little sausage is the answer to all metaphysical speculation, the answer to who we are and why we are on this planet.  It is tasty and filling, satisfying those inner child needs and outer kid bravados.  It ties the madness of the week up into a link that goes down easy and can be burped out in a satisfying form later through the night.  It is the spice of life.

I never thought of unicorns and bratwursts as the symbols for Life; I always thought that symbol was that little stick person with the big egg head.  Now that I have been enlightened, I can see that symbol does look like someone celebrating the bratwurst of life, arms out, joyous and all encompassing.

 And the unicorn part?

I’m not quite sure, but I will ask the one standing behind me after I find out if he wants sauerkraut on his bratwurst.

Real Lists vs Fantasy Lists

            Everybody makes to-do lists now and then.  As we get older, our nows seem further back in history, and our thens become obsolete.  So to keep track of the void between the two we need a list to keep things straight. But what kind of list do you make?

            My husband is very fond of making lists.  When he gets ready to go fishing or hunting, his list fills up two pages of college-lined paper.  There are things to bring, things to pack, things to sort, things to find.  I must admit that part of the length of his list includes things to bring/pack/sort/find for everyone else, too. But that is another story.  His real “to-do” list reads more like an instruction manual, all bullet points being checked off before he takes off to the wild blue yonder.

            I make my share of “to-do” lists as well.  Mine usually consist of mundane things to remember:  take ground beef out of the freezer for dinner, call Teresa tonight, write a check for my son’s lunch fund.  Practical, important things that I need to remember to do so that my day — and life — runs smoother.  My real list also extends to calling work or home and leaving voice reminders to myself in case I misplace my physical list.  I can’t help it if my list barely fits on the back of a sticky note; my real list is limited by energy and time and the phases of the moon and how many sticky notes I have.

            But what exactly is a fantasy list?  How is it different from a reality list?

            A real to-do list has tangible edges.  They have beginning bullets and ending periods.  Real lists can be scratched off one line at a time.  Progress can be made and seen through ledgers and spreadsheets and check marks on college-ruled paper.  Real “to-do” lists create deadlines and goals, culminating in that “feel good” sensation when you cross off a task that has been completed.

            A fantasy list, on the other hand, is as wild as clover in the field.  Each task reproduces itself every time you turn your back, manifesting into a half dozen more fuzzy bullet points on your list.  Fantasy lists are things you dream about, things that may or may not come to fruition.  Fantasy lists may have a foot in reality, but often it’s a child’s size 2 shoe, something that, for all practical purposes, couldn’t hold you in a mud hole if you tried. If you are able to check off one line on your dream list you are doing good.

            Fantasy lists can include a wide diversity of ideas and ideals.  Lose weight often tops a lot of lists.  Variations of this task are:  lose five pounds in three weeks so that you fit into your jeans, or lose 25 pounds by next summer so that you can fit into a bathing suit.  Pull weeds is often another chart topper.  It doesn’t matter if you have mums in a pot or a vegetable garden on the hill; weed pulling is often an arduous task that takes forever and seems to produce no long-lasting results.  Fix the squeak in the (fill in the blank) is a good one, too.  How long has that lid or chair or washing machine door made that high-pitched, irritating noise?  How much longer can you endure it before you finally take care of it?

            There are other bullet points on a fantasy list that are full of good intentions but most times get lost on the sidelines:  sew the falling hem on your pair of brown pants; give the dog a bath; call your sister.  Sometimes the list is full of ideas triggered by others:  find a recipe for a spaghetti squash, something like Emeril’s but with not as much garlic; look up how many Academy Awards Tom Hanks has won; call Jill to see if she wants to go to the café for coffee or to the pub for a burger, and if she wants to do it next Thursday instead of tonight because your son has baseball practice at five and the café doesn’t serve alcohol and a beer would really go great with that cheeseburger.  These are innocuous-looking thoughts that have the intention of being done, but somehow never get checked off the list.  This is most likely because a few points from the “real” list sneak onto the list, taking precedence over the more drawn-out ones, and we never seem to get back to the ones that were triggered by our wandering mind.

            Once we step up to the next level of a fantasy list, the bullet points look more like a doodle than a black dot.  The list gets more complicated in an ethereal sort of way: find out how much a flight to Cancun would be in February versus July; check out the price of cottages in the North Woods, say Eagle River or Sturgeon Bay; research the difference between inter-galactic space flight by nuclear fusion and nebula-to-nebula propelled travel for that science fiction story you are writing.

            The edges of the “to-do” list may get a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean that these ideas aren’t earnest.  These tasks are just as important as calling for a dentist appointment or making sure we pack aspirin for the trip.  They are just a little harder to maneuver; they are not weighed as heavily as the ones on the “real” list, and are scoffed at by those whose bullet points are five words or less.

            I just don’t get it.  Fantasy lists are just as important as real lists.  And I’m sure that if my husband sat down and made a fantasy list with me, he would be able to move that hunting trip to Alaska right up there to the top of the list.

My Muse is an Irish Wench

            Everyone has a Muse in their life — a spirit guide, an angel, who nudges them forward; an invisible energy who inspires us to be something more than a slug on the couch watching TV or a potato chip-eating machine.  I have one friend who insists his guardian angel travels with him wherever he goes; I have another who contacts one spirit guide for meditation and a different one for balancing her checkbook.  I know one woman who never leaves home without St. Christopher, and a fellow writer who swears he consults Shakespeare’s ghost every time he gets stuck writing his novel.

            St. Christopher and Shakespeare are fine and dandy, but what do you do if your creative muse is an Irish Wench?  The stories of leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day are bad enough, with their drunken rowdiness and stealing of gold for their pot at the end of the rainbow and all that.  But what if your Muse turned out to be a woman with a heart as green as the Emerald Isle who hangs around with those drunken leprechauns?

            A Muse is supposed to be your inspiration, your guide, through whatever creative endeavor you undertake.  Venus inspired Michelangelo; Cleopatra inspired Marc Anthony, Athena inspired Odysseus. The original Muses were daughters of Zeus, who presided over the arts and sciences. It just so happens that my inspiration is a fiery Irish barmaid who comes complete with cleavage and clover.  She pops up at the most inopportune times, standing and dancing on my shoulder or steering wheel or computer, rattling off in thick Gaelic who knows what, hoping to jumpstart my creativity.  Dressed in her flowing gauze dress with the girdle that pushes up her breasts in the most obnoxious manner, my little sprite demands attention right then and there.  And I’d better stop and acknowledge her, or she will turn everything upside down.

            For instance, one of my favorite short stories popped into my head while I was at work.  The push to get this written came across loud and clear – write me now.  Couldn’t my Muse have at least waited until lunchtime to rattle off her idea?  I tried to stall my creativity until noon, but it only got worse.  I’m sure some of my creative metaphors got mixed up in whatever I was typing.  Or how about the time that one of my book’s most romantic interludes hit me right in the middle of my son’s soccer game? It was pretty hard to make mental notes when I was screaming encouragements to his high school team.   And what about the poem that hit me driving down the highway at 65 miles per hour?  Or the full-blown idea of a murder mystery that hit me while  I was mowing the lawn?

            I am all for inspiration.  Sunsets are wonderful inducements to creative arts, as are walks through the woods or lying on a sunny beach.  Classical music or mellow jazz or even mind-numbing hair band rock can fine-tune one’s creative edge as they sew, paint, crochet or design.  How can you sit still and concentrate when her Celtic jigs blast through every thread of your body, forcing you to bob your head along with the tempo or sing along with the oh-so-familiar lyrics at the top of your lungs?

            Don’t get me wrong – my little wench has brought me much pleasure through the years.  She has encouraged me to write some really intense interactions and deeply emotional poetry. Her Wild Irish Rose attitude inspires me to write out of the box, to reach deep inside for feelings and fears that normally don’t see the light of day, and to let those feelings influence my writing.

            But I have to admit her timing needs a little work.  Driving a car or typing numbers in a computer is not the most opportune time to become inspired.  I can’t be pulling over to the side of the road every other block or flipping the light on in the middle of the night just because she throws an idea towards me that I cannot resist. 

          I do appreciate her help ― I really do.  But I have to teach her to work on her impulsiveness.  There is a time and place for everything ― even inspiration.  Great ideas often have to ferment in one’s psyche before they become full blown masterpieces.  And there’s no doubt that you have your own muse dying to catch your attention.  All you need to do is listen.

            Now, if she could serve me one of those Irish brews as often as she jumped on my bandwagon…on second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea.  If she served me beer as often as she demands attention, I’d be drunk before I started.