Years ago my sister-in-law gave me a big wooden box filled with old oil paints. It had belonged to her grandfather who was an avid painter. It was also one of his many boxes of paint taking up room in her garage. Needing space to make a rock wall for her husband and a video game area for her boys she gave this particular box to me knowing it would be well-loved.
The box is full of character and I adore it, but oil painting and ceramics being the only two forms of art I didn’t study in college, its vintage tubes of color remain unused because I am clueless as how to paint with them. I’ve often thought of creating a display case to show off the cool labels and crinkled foil, or setting it up on some table as a decorative display but time seems bent on running away from me so the box hides under my husband’s side of the bed.
This year I am going to make an honest effort to write. I’ve been talking about it for years, blogging for longer, but I really haven’t anything to show for it. My excuses have been plentiful and well crafted – life is crazy and I don’t have enough time, too much is going on for me to get inside my head and heart, I don’t have a creative space to sit and write in, my health is a mess and I need to get that figured out (that was actually legitimate) I only have my Note 5 phone to type on and it’s just too small, my hand can’t keep up with my mind and it all comes out chicken scratches, blah, blah, blah.
All my excuses are gone now. Life has finally slowed down to where I can think and breathe, I’m planting a garden to write in, my health is finally sorted out, and most importantly I have a tablet and bluetooth keyboard to type on (did the whole laptop route but the $$$ just kept increasing so I said screw it and basically bought a giant smart phone.)
The truth behind all the excuses? I’m scared to death. There is a big wooden box in my head. It was handed down to me from many different people who filled it full of rusted tubes of memories, ideas, characters, places, and ruins that I have no idea how to paint with. And worse yet there are tubes of mystery paint. I don’t know what colors they hide, if the oil and pigment have separated resulting in an ugly sloppy mess, or if the paint is just dried up and useless. What if the things I really think about myself are true staining my fingers if I touch the old vessels?
It is so much easier to keep the damn box under the bed and make excuses to keep it there. But it claws at me, it’s angry and tired of the dust. It won’t let me be at peace and my stubborn resolve is wearing thin. Therefore, 2018 will be the year of opening the box and learning to paint stories with its contents. I’m scared. I’ll probably suck for a while. I might come out looking ugly or incompetent, but I have to try.
So, 2018, take my hand and be gentle with me as I gather courage to move, and create within your timeline.
The beginning of this summer found me full of ideas and motivation. I had a plan all laid out to make a decent monthly income working from home, had a story I was determined to finish by the end of the summer, bought one of those HITT work out plans to get my legs in shape enough to wear shorts without feeling self-conscious. I was finally going to get stuff done.
Then, unbeknownst to me, my Ferritin levels began to tank. Do you know what Ferritin is? I didn’t either. In layman’s terms it is a protein that stores iron – not enough Ferritin = not enough iron. The normal count should be anywhere from 50 – 150. Mine was 5. When Ferritin stores are low the body does really fun things like racing heart beats, headaches, dizziness, restless legs, serious fatigue, insomnia, dry skin, and hair loss. Well, at least that’s what my body did.
The insomnia got so bad that I was afraid to drive at times because I felt almost drunk. And at my worst I could accomplish little tasks, then have to lay down: vacuum, then lay down, clean the kitchen, then lay down. It was infuriating. I felt like such a lousy mom and wife. When I wasn’t exhausted I was grumpy and on edge.
Over the next three months of Dr. visits and blood draws – a ridiculously long, drawn out, and frustrating process – we discovered the low Ferritin levels and I was treated with five IV bags of Iron within a two-week schedule. This week is the first week in maybe a year or so that I’ve felt relatively normal. I think the lowering levels began a long time ago and I just chalked my fatigue up to being lazy. But the last stages of my Ferritin decline were fast like my body was screaming at me to do something about it.
Needless to say I did nothing all summer but survive. But summer is just about over now and Fall is close at hand.
A wonderful thing about the change of seasons is, even though we are still in the middle of the year, they provide a new beginning of sorts. I could really use a new beginning. So, as the chapter of Summer closes with its constant waves of heat and frustration, I turn the page to Fall’s first day with its promise of cool air and hot coffee.
Because of the new season and some renewed energy I have a few projects I’m excited to delve into. Being a chronic starter with a horrible close rate I’m trying to limit myself to only three projects. I plan to write a post about each so I’ll just briefly touch on them here.
1. Inktober. The premiss is to create 31 ink drawings in 31 days. I’ve always loved seeing people’s creations but never attempted it myself. This year I want to dive in.
2. I have a growing collection of old books (1880’s – 1940’s). A few of them are holding onto their bindings by threads so I’ve been repurposing them. So far I’ve made a wine journal, a book of pressed flowers, and a drawing journal.
3. In college I dabbled in watercolor but due to being poor (what college student isn’t?) I could only afford student grade paints. The cheaper pigments just couldn’t match the vividness in my head so I switched to acrylics. But now I that I can afford higher quality paints I want to try it again.
I’m excited for all the goodness of this new season and hope you’ll check back to see what I’ve created!
It is 106° right now as I sit on my back porch listening to the spray of the misters trying their best but failing to cool me off. A pre-storm wind has come up blowing the masses of tiny droplets away from me. It’s alright, they would evaporate the second they touched my skin anyway. One of my Little’s arm floaties rolls across the patio like a tumbleweed across the dusty plains as a desert dove coos in a nearby tree. The heat somehow feels very lonely.
106° actually isn’t that bad. We hit 117° not too long ago and I remember as a child when the temps reached 122°! The grocery stores sold tee-shirts boasting, “I survived 122°”. They were usually found next to six packs of commemorative Phoenix Suns Coke bottles. I’m pretty sure my mom still has some of those bottles still tucked away in the back of her hand-made china cabinet. She loved collecting things she thought would be of value someday – every newspaper about Princess Diana’s death, Beanie Babies, those painted plates that were big in the 80’s – the problem was she never knew when to sell them, so she just kept them all.
The clouds on the horizon have deepened from a cheery fluffy white to one ominous mass of cobalt blue. I’m still skeptical. “They” have been saying it’s going to rain for days now. It has not.
I was surprised at my bitterness over the lack of precipitation as my husband, Little, and I wandered around an antique store today. We were walking past a booth filled with perfect specimens reflecting the Shabby Chic era when my husband heard the weather forecast over a near by radio, “30 percent chance of rain!” Without thinking I snapped, “Which means it won’t! They forecast 50 percent chance and it doesn’t rain!” He smiled and just kept walking.
What is it about the rain that I so desperately need? I read an article saying INFJ’s get overwhelmed by outside stimuli easily, maybe the sun is too bright or too many people have talked to them in a short period of time. But when it rains it’s almost like there is a ceiling on the sky, a blanket of sorts we can wrap around ourselves and tell ourselves everything is going to be alright.
Being an INFJ I feel all these things. The sun gets so bright I can almost hear it buzzing in my ears, I can only handle so much social interaction before I just want to crawl under my bed and cry, and sometimes I can’t stand under the vast open skies of Arizona for fear that I might just float away lost forever in their brilliant blue.
Life has been a bit of a struggle lately. For various reasons I feel like my quality of life and livelihood are in other people’s hands. (No, it’s not my husband. He’s awesome, an occasional butthead, my very best friend, and our Little’s hero). It’s waiting on the Dr. to hear if I have an iron deficiency meanwhile feeling like crap unable to do much of anything. It’s waiting to hear if I’ll have a client to work with in August because we need the income but no one is returning my emails. There are a few other things compounding my unease.
I’ve done what I can and now I’ll just have to wait. I hate waiting.
But if it rains? If the thunderheads rumble above my house shaking the windows and make my cat skittish? If the lightning flashes danger and brilliance across the purple sky? If the rain falls hard and heavy soaking the dead grass in my yard, beating against the gritty shingles on my roof? Then I’ll somehow be able to wrap that blanket around myself and say, “It’s all going to be alright.”
I just heard thunder.
My husband and I are piecing together a two-year plan to sell our house and buy a new build. Right now we are patching and painting. A fresh clean coat of paint always makes me feel good but it also accentuates the old things in our house – the old doors, the old lighting fixtures, the old faucets, the old bathrooms that really need to be remodeled. Like I said, we are at the beginning of the plan so a double remodel really isn’t an option. But clearing out the clutter is.
It is amazing to me how much stuff we accumulate through the years. As a child I was taught to never throw anything away. Birthday cards from ten years ago? No, you need to keep those because someone who loves you gave them to you. Smelly old shoes. Nope, you need those because some kids don’t have any shoes at all. Pay check stubs? Well, your social is on them so you need to keep them or go outback and burn them so no one can steal your identity.
Okay, funny side note. Shortly after my husband and I were married he found me one day in the back yard burning a pile of pay check stubs (because this is what you do, people!) He just stood there dumbfounded not knowing what to say and probably thinking, “What did I get myself into???” We bought a shredder shortly after and I haven’t burnt anything since.
But back to my own house and the stuff. I got sick of it all – piles of mail, stacks of books we were never going to read, grease covered kitchen appliances we didn’t use any more, old t-shirts that were white a very long time ago – and began the arduous task of throwing things out. It felt like I was stuck in massive piles of taffy. It was hard to move and sometimes hard to breathe. Why was it so hard to simply throw crap away?
Guilt. Shame. Regret.
These feelings were deeply intertwined into the useless items and I had to face the feelings in order to fill the trash can.
The throwing away process has actually been going on for sometime now but I had a moment of absolute clarity the other day that has changed the way I approach almost everything now.
While searching through a giant box of photos for my California vacation photos I wanted to include in my last post, I came upon a familiar thick envelope. The memories flooded back in a second. A group of my friends in our early college years decided to do a roundabout trip to California and invited me to go. I was aching for the ocean and really wanted to go but – for reasons that are stupid and that I don’t want to get into – I told them I couldn’t go. A friend took a bunch of photos during their trip and gave them to me when they got back. It was a sweet thing for him to do but it brought up feelings of anger every time I looked at them.
I realised I didn’t go on that trip because of fear. Considering my living situation at the time – think Rapunzel asking mother Gothel to take her to see the floating lights – it was going to require loads of courage to go. Courage I couldn’t muster at the time. Sitting there, feeling the anger and regret seep back into my bones, I asked myself, “Why do I still have these stupid photos if they make me so angry?! I am not the same girl I was back then. This is shit and I’m done.” I stood up and promptly threw each and every one in the trash. Then began to breathe again.
Do you remember that Switchfoot song, This is Your Life? Jon Foreman asks, “Are you who you want to be?” I ask myself that question all the time because I can’t stand who I used to be – small, afraid, easily controlled, filled with guilt and regret. Today I’m not who I used to be but I’m also not everything I want to be.
I still need to face uncomfortable emotions tied up in the junk around my house. I still fight to quiet my vicious inner critic when I sit down to write. I still drag my feet when it comes to working out and eating healthy. I still wrestle fear when there is something I need to tell my husband I know he won’t want to hear. I’m still terrified to go on new adventures.
So the question I ask myself when I’m throwing things out, or procrastinating on writing, or ordering food, or approaching an argument with my husband, or contemplating foregoing an adventure because I’m terrified something is going to go horribly wrong?
Is this going to help me become the person I want to be or is it going to hold me back?
Now I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution or that it is easy. It is not easy. But it is a good place to start.
What about you? Are you who you want to be? What do you need to throw in the trash? What do you need to do to be able to breathe again?
I’m sending you strong and courageous thoughts, friends.
Pardon my upcoming French but let’s fuck that old moldy shit, stand up, and be who we were ment to be.
Peace and strength to you my friends!
Ah, summer. The season of road trips, iced tea, and adventures is officially here. The climbing temps always get my heart aching for California and the beach. Visions of Reef flip-flops and Coconut Lime Verbena lotion begin to creep out from memory to the forefront of my mind. My Jack Johnson station on Pandora is played on a daily basis and Mango iced tea is always by my side.
In my late High School and early college years my family would visit the San Diego area every summer. Those were happy times. My brother and I became best friends with the shared mission of surviving mom and dad’s embarrassing displays of tourism taking pictures of every seagull we came upon, metal detecting on the beach, and riding the giant blue harbor tour floating bus thing. From the tide pools at Point Loma we’d watch the surfers perfect their craft. My mom had to go into every tacky souvenir shop filled to the brim with preserved alligator heads, shot glasses, and tee shirts. We ate freshly baked cookies at Seaport Village and I bought journals from The Upstart Crow.
But my fondest memories are of all the diners we ate at. My parents always loved going to Denny’s. When we were little my brother and I collected the baseball cards they gave away with every kids meal. So in CA we naturally gravitated to the familiar diner. One trip we stayed in the Hotel Circle area and discovered The Waffle Spot; a cute little diner attached to the Kings Inn. The decor – purple and blue with medieval themed breakfast food characters – was hopelessly goofy and I loved it! They served plate sized waffles with great melted blobs of milk and white chocolate. Their icon, Sir Waffelot, smiled up at you from the coffee cups glad that you took a sip of the freshly brewed goodness. I still need to get out there so I can buy a mug with Sir Waffleot on it!
In honor of summer and all the good memories it brings back I’ve decided to focus on my story about the diner with the abandoned baby and the WWII vet. The diner is largely based on The Waffle Spot. I want to give it all my warm sparkly feelings about California and create a setting of glowing light and hot coffee poured from pots with brown handles for regular and orange handles for decaf. To inspire creativity I’ve been gathering all the items that remind me of those days, writing down as many memories that will allow themselves to be conjured, and Googling all the places we visited.
Here are some photos of my inspirations! Hope you are having a great summer creating new memories! Peace, Love, and Surfing!
Last week and part of this week were pretty much a creative waste. I wasn’t able to write anything because my mind was consumed with worry about things I truly have no control over. While procrastination and worry are nothing new in my world, I was struck by a distinct contrast between the times I do create against the times I don’t.
When I was posting consistently I felt happy and free, empowered, somehow beautiful, feisty and unique. This last week I’ve been quiet and agitated, fearful, short-tempered, eating Advil like candy, and obsessed with aging – just an all around joy to live with.
How can I swing from one extreme to the next so easily? Please don’t say it’s because I’m a woman. Please, just don’t. No, it’s because writing is me and when I don’t write some deep part of me is starved.
I needed to investigate this a bit more so I wrote this list.
Why do I write?
* Because I feel the most comfortable in my skin when I’m writing.
*Because writing is the only thing besides falling in love with my husband that feels like breathing.
*Because a lot has happened to me that I don’t understand and writing gives me a room I can sort it all out in.
*Because there are dear friends and vicious enemies living inside me who need to become a reality each speaking their own voice.
*Because I get bored if there is no puzzle to solve and storytelling provides the ultimate puzzle.
I’ve also been worrying about not posting a lot and if my content is relevant to anyone. I greatly enjoy getting Likes and Follows (thank you so much!) But is that the purpose of what I’m doing here? So I had to ask myself who this blog is truly for.
It is for that lonely girl I used to be who believed she was useless and stupid with nothing of any importance to say. It is to give her the voice she wasn’t ever allowed use.
Thank you for walking with me on this journey of mine! I’m glad you’re here.
Can I be totally honest you? I have no idea what I’m doing.
I went to school for Fine Art and failed English 101… twice. I can’t organize or prioritize to save my life. There are bits and pieces of stories scribbled on scraps of paper shoved into journals all over my house. There is no map for where I want this blog to go and I should probably post more than I do.
When we were working with the High School group at our church my husband gave me great advice just before I left to help on one of their missions trips. He said, “Nothing is going to go as planned. Nothing. You just have to go with the flow.” He was so right. But that’s a whole other story.
It was great advice and I actually use it a lot. I’ve given up trying to push my brain into a mold it wasn’t created to fit into. Instead I’ve learned to go with its flow. Yeah, it’s messy and scattered but at least it’s free.
For instance, I’m working on three separate stories right now. Logic would say focus on one at a time. But I’m excited about them all. So I’m writing three stories at the same time.
Would you like to know a little about them?
The first is about an old house that sits behind a large iron gate at the corner of Ash and 34th. Roses bloom brightly along the north gate. The sun is warm here and it heats up the leaden paint of the grand Victorian issuing a scent of age and forgetfulness into the air. A lonely girl who creates people by drawing them in her sketchbook lives here. She’s the only one in her family who isn’t afraid to climb the ornate staircase to the floors above even though the house has forbidden it, or so she has been told.
The second story takes place at a small diner in Hotel Circle, San Diego. The mornings are always misty here due to the fog that rolls in during the night. Gravel in the parking lot crunches beneath tires as sleepy-eyed tourists park their cars for breakfast before a long day of sightseeing. The hostess always wears a starched white shirt and a flower tucked behind her ear. Waffles puddled with white and milk chocolate are the diner’ s best seller. An abandoned baby was found in the lady’s room here making a WWII vet a hero once again. The regulars drink black coffee and give 95-year-old Clive a hard time for making his poor caregiver sit in the corner while he eats at the bar because, “Dammit, I flew a fighter jet over Germany. I can damn well eat breakfast by myself!”. Everyone loves Clive.
The third story begins in a small Irish fishing village. The locals here don’t speak of the mysteries that dwell in the crumbling castles dotting their countryside. Drew laughs at their superstitious ways. Yes, he’s a seasoned fisherman but he never bought into the ghost stories. Little did he know the girl that just arrived in town who is plagued by seizures at one o’clock everyday holds the key to the ghosts in the ruins. And she has no idea of the comfort she’ll find in Drew’s kind eyes, gentle smile, and arm full of mysterious tattoos.
Hope you’re like what I’ve got brewing so far! Stay tuned for developments as I continue to go with the flow!
Featured Image credit: Astrid @blackpoppies