I started to write a new post on 10/15… Really, I did. But then life kind of got away from me.
My best friend’s brother passed away, and then my brother-in-law had a medical emergency, and then I learned about the death of a fellow classmate, and then there was homework and housework and work work…
Have you ever noticed how that happens? Your life is going along, busy and maybe slightly stressful but not super stressful – not funeral and ICU stressful. And WHAM!
It’s like the universe wants to remind us every now and again to really count our blessings. To sit down and shut up about all the little niggly things that drive us crazy and make us complain about why our life is so stressful and hard. To just sit down and realize how very quickly it can all disappear.
Tell the people who matter to you that you love them. Don’t put it off because you are too busy or because you are scared. Make amends, reach out to others, apologize if you need to, and if someone else needs to apologize to you, let it go. It is not that important in the grand scheme of things. Learn to accept the apology that may never come and move on.
Because life is short, people. And it should not be wasted on ill feelings and bad blood and grudges. It should not be wasted complaining about long lines, traffic, being busy or anything anyone else does or does not do.
Let it go.
And realize that life is full of magic and wonder and love.
Last night, we celebrated my great niece’s birthday. She is two.
While watching her approach the festivities with joyful abandon, I couldn’t help but compare her reactions to those of most adults. She squealed with delight over the new fairy costume (wings and all!), the pint-sized hockey equipment, the hop-n-pop blow up whale that spews plastic balls out of its blowhole. (The giant rainbow-hued gorilla that we gave her made her a little nervous, but I think she will come around. ) She grinned ear-to-ear as we sang “Happy Birthday” and clapped her hands when we finished. She dove into the pudding-filled cake and licked frosting off her fingers. She enjoyed being the center of attention for her big day and celebrated with two-year-old spontaneity.
Now contemplate how most adults approach the concept of birthdays. Yes, we do enjoy the presents, but the singing embarrasses us. We don’t like people to make a fuss. Hell, I hate being the center of attention. Most women I know have started counting backwards when it comes to birthdays by the time they reach 40 if not before. They dread the passing years and refuse to mark them with anything but a grudging bite of cake and maybe a bottle or two of wine.
With kids, we celebrate every milestone – first tooth, first words, first steps, learning to tie shoes, graduation from kindergarten, every picture they draw goes on display and we ooh and aah over every story they tell. Yet by the time we are adults, we aren’t celebrating or even acknowledging our accomplishments. We get so caught up in the stress of our jobs and the dramas playing out around us with our friends and families. Months can pass and we see no reason to treat ourselves to a special indulgence. Years go by and we find ourselves living for the next day off, the new job, the next big thing.
The sad thing is that we miss out on all the ordinary moments in between. The mundane day-to-day living that actually makes a life.
We should celebrate each day, each sunrise, each rainstorm. We should treat ourselves to a cookie or a movie or a nice meal when we accomplish something – even if it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, even if it is something that we have taken for granted in years past.
A small raise? Woo hoo!
Aced a new recipe? Salut!
Found your missing car keys? Awesome!
Finished painting the bathroom? Congratulations!
Time is going to pass whether we acknowledge it or not. If we spend our years, wishing them away, always planning the next big thing and then jumping to the next without enjoying the one we are in, we will miss everything. Because life is not about milestones. It is about moments.
That being said, I think we all need to agree right here and now that we will no longer dread birthdays. We will embrace each added candle and shout our new age for all to hear! No more counting backwards. No more telling people not to make a fuss. It is your birthday, darn it! It is not to be looked at as a year closer to death (something that I think a lot of people do subconsciously – why else do they dread birthdays?) It is a celebration of a year well-lived and a launching pad for another year of adventure.
I am not saying you have to age gracefully. Personally, I am not about to stop dying my grays! But, we get what we put into this universe. And if we greet each birthday with quiet dread instead of unrestrained joy, I fear we will face a year of the same.
Most of all, I think we all need to eat cake – big gooey slabs of it – as often as possible, but definitely on our birthdays. Diets be damned! Life is too short!
I have been trying to focus on my class and the work load that goes with it for the last five weeks. I kept telling myself it is only twenty weeks out of your life, Cheryl; you can do this. Focus and don’t get distracted and it will be over before you know it. You can wallow in fiction when the dust settles and you don’t need to tear yourself away from a good plot…
I have done this before…
During NaNoWriMo, I cannot read for fun. I am one of those readers who gets swept away by a good story and will not be able to put the book down and get back to work until I turn the very last page. I know this about myself and so to combat it during those crazy Novembers when I was writing a novel, I just didn’t allow myself to start a book.
Not so simple.
I am also one of those readers who feel completely adrift when I am in between books. I generally have a few going at once – one nonfiction, one fiction. I cannot sit down to watch TV or eat a meal without a book to flip through. I have been like that since I first completed Go, Dog, Go on my own all those many years ago.
It’s an addiction, I know. And the withdrawal symptoms are nothing to joke about.
I know during NaNo I start to get a bit squirrelly toward the end of the month. Not so much from the pressure to complete 50,000 coherent words, but from my palms itching to go into that beautiful room where I keep my books and just start browsing, lifting one book and reading a page here, pulling another to read a synopsis there. I start to feel decidedly incomplete without having a story to fill my waiting time, quiet time, potty time, before-bed time, and so on. TV is fine, but it can only take me so far. I need the flick of the pages, the sound of paper, even the tap of the screen when I am using my Kindle.
So, how in the world did I think I would make it 20 weeks without fiction?! Obviously, I was delusional. Obviously, I had a momentay lapse of reason. Obviously, I had a moment of panic at the start of this class when I realized the sheer volume of work involved. But now, five weeks in, I am getting a swing for the workload. I am slightly ahead of the game where reading and manual prep are concerned. I have spent every free moment for the last five weeks reading my text book and attacking my coding books with multi-hued highlighters trying to stave off a panic about the board exam that awaits me at the end…
And quite simply, I can’t take it any more!!
Last night, I visited the book room. I lovingly ran my hand along the spines and reached for one of the densest books on the shelf. What can I say, I really need a hit of fiction!
Stephen King’s The Stand. One of my favorites by the master of the macabre. Excellent characters, just the right level of creepiness, and most importantly a large sprawling plot that about the ultimate battle between good and evil… yes, I think this will do the trick! Sprawling plots and characters so real you could sit down and have a beer with them are key when you have been without fiction for any length of time.
It doesn’t matter that I have read it a few times before; the story is one that will sweep me up in its momentum just the same. I am actually hoping that having read it before will help me when I have to force myself to set it down to focus on homework. We will see…
How long can you go without reading? Does it make you feel snippy? Do you feel your creativity or mental acuity suffer when you deprive yourself of a good story?
This was posted on Facebook by Higher Self Network, a page I follow for the inspirational quotes they share daily. This particular one has stuck with me since I saw it.
Have you ever noticed how we can be so kind to those around us, but so mean to ourselves?
I don’t know when it starts, if there is something in the water in grade schools across the country, or if there are subliminal messages broadcast on TV and radio programs that plant the seeds, but somewhere along the path toward adulthood millions of people learn how to mentally bash themselves.
“I am such an idiot.”
“I really hate my thighs.”
“I am terrible at sports.”
“I suck at math.”
“I can’t get anywhere on time no matter how hard I try.”
The list of potential areas for finding fault is endless. Everything from hair color, BMI, fitness level, smarts, fashion sense, artistic ability, musical talent, decisions, and so on – nothing is sacred and nothing is safe.
Yet, our words become the house we live in.
Yikes. I would think that the words we speak to ourselves would be especially important to building our house. And yet, we can’t say a kind word about ourselves if we try! If we are not talking down to ourselves out loud, we are whispering insults silently to the mirror. If we are not speaking with barbs directly pointed at ourselves, we are tossing out these comments in a more boom-a-rang approach which hits their mark just as well.
This is evident in how we accept compliments with qualifying remarks- “I love you hair!” is met with “Oh, gosh, it’s such a mess today.” “I like that shirt” is answered with “Really? I think it makes me look fat.” I have caught myself doing this on more than one occasion. Why is it so hard to just say thank you and accept that someone likes some small part about us? Where do we learn this sometimes subtle, sometimes aggressive self-loathing?
The importance of positive self-talk really struck home for me when I was in class the other night. I am almost a quarter of the way through my first certification class for my job. It is a very small class so there is a lot of interaction amongst the students and teacher. One person in the class seems to really be struggling with the material. Every week she says she can’t get anything right; she will never understand this; she is not going to be able to pass the board exam.
I realized that she is probably right. She won’t do well if she keeps saying those things. She is setting herself up to fail – a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have never been a huge proponent for affirmations. I always thought that books and motivational speakers who would have you post sticky notes around the house spouting uplifting and positive statements were a joke. As I get older, I realize that you get what you put out there. I believe the universe has a weird cosmic balancing system of matching the vibes you give off. And nothing speaks louder than your words.
I have been very careful to not speak negatively when it comes to my studies and my ability to pass this certification. Call it not wanting to jinx myself if you want to, but I don’t think it hurts to think and speak positivity. If nothing else it is bolstering my mental energy to tackle all the material.
Now if I can only practice speaking kindness to myself in other areas of my life as well.
What words have you been building your house with lately?
What words will you change?
Last night we tried a new recipe that had a lot of promise – chicken and dumplings casserole. Talk about the perfect comfort food. The picture on the recipe showed what looked to be a bready topping over chicken and gravy filling. Yummy! I followed the directions precisely and after 40 minutes in the oven, the dish was still soup – no bready anything in sight! We had a brief brainstorming session at the oven and cranked up the heat for another 20 minutes.
I am pretty sure it did not turn out exactly as it was supposed to, but despite the still somewhat soupy consistency, it was delicious. We just had to clear our minds of the preconceived ideas of what it was supposed to look like and think of it more as a stew or stoup as Rachel Ray would call it.
I think this is an important life lesson that is worth sharing.
No, not how to read a recipe, or how to cook like Rachel Ray.
The lesson that I took away was that it is important to let go of expectations. If you expect life, or love, or your job, or your next project to go a certain way, you will most likely be disappointed. Because I have learned that life often has some curve balls in store for you when you least expect them. If you get so bogged down in how it supposed to work, you don’t enjoy the process with all its bumps and hills.
If you are so worried about perfection, you lose sight of creative spirit in each adventure. Perfection is highly overrated and way too subjective to set your sights on. Reaching for the perfect is a good way to set yourself up for a lot of stress, anxiety and self-loathing.
But if you allow yourself to take it as it comes, always striving for progress but never so caught up on the final product or following the steps exactly, you may discover something even better.
(Next time I will use a bigger pan and plan on an hour for baking. )
I haven’t been around WordPress as much as I would like and I apologize for some slow blogging on my end. Not only have I been trying to get over the loss of my two cats, and introducing some new kittens into the fold, but it seems I may actually be crazy after all, which is something I always suspected.
After much consideration, I have decided to pursue Practice Management Certification (for my day job). There are some steps along this road that I need or want to accomplish before the big one though, beginning with Medical Coding Certification. Class starts tonight! Some people may think that taking on extra work and stress when it won’t affect my job title is a bit crazy, but I have always been a geek when it comes to school and classes and learning new things.
Now most of you know my love of back to school and all the pens and notebooks that it brings. And this morning was no different. I was downright giddy as I packed my new books into my new backpack and opened up packages of pens and highlighters. (It’s an addiction, I know.)
Upon hearing that I am about to embark on an 80 hour journey, some people have asked, “how do you have time for that?”
I think it is the same as with my writing. If something is important to you, you make the time. You juggle your other responsibilities and shift some priorities around temporarily and you just do it. I am not naive enough to believe that I can pull off this class AND NaNoWriMo this year. So sadly, that will have to wait for 2014. I also know that I will need to focus on this class and my board exam before I can focus on the self-publishing journey again.
But the beauty of having a lot of goals and dreams is that one does not necessarily preclude the other. There is no rule written in some ancient stone somewhere that says you can’t chase many dreams. Isn’t there a saying that says if you want something done, ask a busy person? Or, how about objects in motion stay in motion?
A friend and fellow blogger, Bee, said to me in an email that her day job grounds her in her writing. I have given this a lot of thought since she wrote it and I have come to understand that I agree with her.
As artsy as it is to moan about my day job cutting into my writing time, or keeping me too busy and brain-dead by the end of the day to even think about sitting down to play the violin, I like my job. It not only challenges me and gives me the opportunity to work with some great people, but it pays the bills and helps me really appreciate the time I can set aside for creative endeavors.
I know me. If I had 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to write, not a lot of writing would get done. I would find a lot of mindless tasks to fill my days. My day job keeps me pretty structured. I like the fact that I don’t have to travel for it, and for the most part, I can leave it at the office when I close the door at 530pm. That leaves me time to focus on other pursuits.
But I have also realized that after 20 years in the medical industry, I need to continue to challenge myself, and certification is a great way to do that. (And I can’t begin to tell you how old that just made me feel — 20 years? Seems like yesterday I was working retail fresh out of college!)
I will still be here – posting once or twice a week. I won’t be writing outside of here or working on my book again until after my class ends in late December. Wish me luck!!
We have known it was coming for a few months now. Sometimes your pet is so sick you know there is no returning them to their previous health, and you start the process of making them comfortable and happy for the time you have left with them.
We have never had the luxury of this in the past. Our cats have thankfully always been either healthy right up until the very end and then Wham! or they have had a chronic illness that they bravely fought and in the end they were in the hospital and we were forced to make the call while they were hooked up to tubes and oxygen and so on. Neither way is easier than the other. It is always heartbreaking and it is always so very hard to breathe once you realize they are gone.
With Miss Shaina, we were able to draw the line in the sand. No more invasive tests and procedures. No, we don’t need to know if the cancer is in the spleen or in the pancreas, because the outcome will be the same. Leave our baby alone. So we spent the last six weeks giving her extra love, extra food whenever she would eat it, B12 injections and kitty prozac, steroids to help with inflammation, and we watched her very closely.
See, the thing that no one can tell you is when exactly enough is truly enough. How can you tell for sure that today’s lack of appetite won’t improve tomorrow? How can you tell when the accident outside the litter box is just an accident and not the start of a frustrating pattern of her trying to tell you that she is tired? How can you tell when she is worn out and has had enough? How can you tell when the pain is too difficult for her to bear?
The sad truth is – you can’t. Not really. Not completely.
Cats hide their pain and illness extremely well. By the time they are showing symptoms, it is often pretty far along. And we, in our burning need to keep them with us as long as possible, are very willing to overlook a small sign that something is wrong. This is when you have to sit down and really think about the pet that you have been head over in love with since you first met. Because keeping them longer at that point, is for us. And they love us so much they would do anything to make us happy, even if it is killing them.
We had to make the call again, not even six weeks after losing Lil Scamp. As much as this tore us up, we take solace in the fact that somewhere, Miss Shaina and her boy have been reunited in a sunbeam large enough to accommodate them both. They are snuggled together, purring to beat the band. For now all we can do is lavish her other boy, Shadow, with as much love as he will tolerate (and thankfully, he usually tolerates quite a bit!) We have other kitties to entertain us and hopefully they will keep their big brother Shadow from falling into too deep a funk.
We were blessed the day when Shaina wandered into our yard with her two kittens in tow. We were further blessed when she decided to trust us with her little family and become a part of ours. Because of that, our house has been filled to the rafters with kitten purrs and chortles, napping partners, and happiness. You will never be forgotten.
If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life,
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife.
I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.
And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.
From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee,
across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea,
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA,
Well, there’s pride in every American heart,
and it’s time to stand and say:
I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.