43 Years have gone by so quickly

September 17th, 1975. I was living in Austin, Texas. I was barely 20 years old.

I had been released from the Air Force just two months earlier, which was something that I did not want. But at that time, under the circumstances, that’s what happened.

I also had been married 17 months earlier to someone I only knew for 25 days. It had been a stupid, impetuous decision, and one that I wish I had not made in my life for reasons that I will not discuss here today.

Labor was very tough. In 1975, we certainly were trying to be better-equipped for the birthing process with Lamaze classes, but that assumed willing partnerships with the coaching father, and also with the medical team.  There was little support from either, so it made it even tougher, but when it came down to the actual birth, I remember other women rallying around and helping me through it.

When I look back on my life, there have been a lot of struggles. I don’t remember a lot of easy or good times. Birthing a child was one such struggle, as it is for many of us.

But the one thing I remember that gave me great joy was at 3:03 p.m. Central time on September 17th, 1975, is when I heard the doctor say, “Congratulations! It’s a little girl!”

Happy birthday to my dear daughter, Dawna Marie.

X is for Xenophobia

It has been 7 years since I wrote this piece on Xenophobia. I wish that I could say that we, as a nation, have become kinder where differences are concerned, but I think that we have lost some ground recently.

I invite you to read my thoughts from 2011…

BEYOND THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE

It was in 1971.  I was 15 years old and in the 11th grade.  My English teacher, whose name escapes me, gave us vocabulary words each week.

It was in this class I first learned the word, “xenophobia”—hatred or fear of strangers, foreigners, and their customs or culture.  Though the word was new to me, the concept was not.

With all of changes we faced in the 1950s and 1960s, and as media coverage became more prevalent, there were daily reminders of the challenges faced by so many people as inequalities in human rights were exposed.  The leaders of the time were no longer willing to sit on the sidelines and remain silent.

At home, there were family members who perpetuated the beliefs that were taught to them decades earlier—people who came from a different culture, ethnic background, or skin tone were to be looked at suspiciously, avoided, feared…

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Six years and counting…

It was six years ago last night that I was going to take my life, hearing two weeks earlier that I had only six months to a year to live.

There was a telephone call a few hours earlier asking for my volunteerism with an American Cancer Society walk in the autumn. I knew the coordinator calling, and told her about the “Carcinoid Cancer” (now NETs) diagnosis.

I ended the call with, “I’ll see you next weekend at the Relay,” and hung up. Because I was true to my word and figured she was a mandatory reporter anyway, I suspended my plan until after I saw her.

The following day, May 29, 2012 I had an appointment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with Dr. David Byrd, the surgeon who performed my mastectomy and node biopsy in 2007.  I learned from Dr. Byrd that there was a much different possibility than what I heard from Lt. Col. Dr. Tommy Brown two weeks earlier.

Dr. Byrd shared that there was hope for life beyond that year. A good portion of the rest of the story can be read in my “About the Author” page, and in blog posts in April through July 2012.

What I want to share here is this…

We must question what we hear.

Living in fear to the point of worry robs us of LIFE. Worry is the lie that fear tells to us.

So, it has been six YEARS thus far…and I am looking for six years times two or three. Here is to living life, one day at a time!!

 

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Do art galleries make us artists?

If something that someone has created is hanging in an art gallery, does that make someone an artist?

I am not certain of the answer to this question, but I am feeling a bit accomplished for having shown two of my pieces at a show that opened this afternoon at Olympic College Art Gallery.

There were so many artists whose work was displayed during this show.  There were classic-style drawings and paintings, abstract work of all kinds, and much more.

The painting of the two faces (on the right of the featured image) is a piece that I call “Warrior Sisters–People Heal.”

In the photo below, my “Untitled” piece (acrylic elephant on wood) is displayed with the cardboard elephant sculpture peeking through the photo on top.  I love that view, and might have never noticed it had I not been learning to view things from different perspectives in the sculpture class I am currently taking.

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I am excited for this stage in my life.  I am learning now to be comfortable with creativity, and for showing my work to others.

I have been been a bit nervous about calling myself “an artist,” because I tend to compare myself to others and minimize what I do create.  It is why I put these two pieces in the show from an last-minute call for art.  It was non-juried, so it was not rejected.

I figured that it would give me the chance to dip my toe in the water of the art world. I will have my own wall at a local shop at the upcoming local art walk in July. I am nervous about that, but will have a few more people viewing what I create. I will also be able to tell my story to more people about reaching beyond the fears of life.

I truly know nothing about art technique, the differences between good and bad supplies, how to use supplies properly,  shading and highlighting, complimentary colors, or anything else that one might learn by going to art school. I am simply learning by playing with the things that I never had much of a chance to do as a child or teenager.I am learning to share of myself through creativity.

What you get from me is raw, childlike, and genuine.  That means that I will color outside the lines. I will also scribble. I have been like this for 62 years, and I doubt that I will change that part of me much.

I am still not convinced that I am much of artist…but maybe I am.  After all, I have the pictures of the art show to prove it!

 

There’s a war in my brain…I think…

“You think too much,” a friend of mine said to me recently.

I responded, “You think this is the first time I have heard this? It’s been the story of my life.”

I do not ruminate about things intending to keep myself awake all night (as I did last night). Nor does it mean that I live in negativity by rehashing things in order to make sense of all that goes on in my life or the world, in general.

Yet, there is a war that seems to rage on in my brain…because I think.

For some reason, dates are important to me.  These timelines are reminders to me to celebrate events and people. They offer me joy, keep me humble, and remind me of how much there is to live for. However, they also hold memories of struggle, fear and pain, as well as to remind me that some things do not change.

Therein lies the biggest struggle.  I continue to ask, “Why? How? What?”  and the sleepless nights begin.

This month is the anniversary month for many of the things that transpired with a diagnosis of stage 4 Neuroendocrine/Carcinoid cancer six years ago. I remember all the dates. I am grateful for having life, but the events that took place are not something that I can seem to remove from my brain.

May is also the month for Mothers’ Day.  I can no longer call my own mother, though I continue to think of her with good memories.  I have nowhere to mail a card to her or to send her flowers.

Then, I wait for a phone call that does not come with consistency. This year, nothing. My logical mind reasons that one is busy and dealing with more important things.  My emotions argue with my logic, trying to convince me that I have somehow done something wrong to prompt the silence.

Good or bad. Wrong or right. This or that. One way or the other.

What to choose? Which will be better? How can it improve? What can I do?

These are just some of the conversations that I have with myself on nearly a daily basis.  I never quite come up with the solutions, as once I do, I am asking the same questions.

Maybe I do think too much.  But that prompts the questions, once again…

“Why?  What can I do about it?”

And the war within my brain rages on…

 

 

 

 

The Best Gift

I could not go without sharing this post from five years ago that I wrote for my mother. Two re-posts in one day…but I think she is worth it. Happy Mothers’ Day to all who are mothers…

BEYOND THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE

It seems like yesterday that I turned 18 years of age and could not wait to leave home.  That’s what children are supposed to do, right?

And there were many bumps and bruises along the way as I maneuvered (sometimes) aimlessly through this maze of life, unaware too late that time is limited.

I know others who also lament that time passes too quickly, while memories of better times fade.

Yet, the dense fog of hurt, sadness and pride seems to roll-in and hover endlessly. And when that fog finally starts to lift, it is often too late.

Too late to say what needs to be said. Too late to say, “I’m sorry.”

Too late to say, “I love you.”

I am so grateful to have spent Mothers’ Day 2011 WITH my mother. There were far too many other years that I simply sent cards and/or flowers. Oh, to be…

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Mothers’ Day Without My Mom

There isn’t a year since my mother passed away that I don’t fight the urge to pick up the phone to call her. I wrote this post three years ago, and I feel the same today, wishing I could hear her voice again.

BEYOND THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE

It has been (what feels like) forever ago since the last time I saw my Mom. Yet, it is difficult to believe that it will be four years next month since she passed from this earthly world.

On the eve of Mothers’ Day, I find myself thinking about the last Mothers’ Day that she was alive.

I flew down to California to spend a few days.  She was still in a rehab facility, and we were trying to come up with a plan to get her back to her home.

I do not remember a lot about that day. In fact, my memories might be inaccurate, as I was making the trip down every couple of weeks to do what I could. Some of the details (below) about who was there and what all transpired is now a bit fuzzy for me.

I do remember that several of her friends and family…

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Shaking off the funk and stepping out

I am just as guilty as the next person of not following through with what I say I want or will do.  It is not easy to admit the truth of this, especially as I become irritated or “butt-hurt” for others doing the same. I suppose when it comes to others and how I react, it is directly tied to those experiences from many years ago.

Now, I can immediately hear some of you out there yelling, “Get over it already! Stop living in the past!”

I get it. I am yelling it with you.  I do not always understand how the circumstances of the past can rear their ugly heads and grab me when I least expect it.  Or maybe it is that I really do expect it?

I have vacillated throughout life between “ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away” mode and “look-at-it-dead-in-the-eye-and-take-it-on” mode. It is classic all-or-nothing behavior.  And yet, it irritates me when I behave this way or I see it in others.

I believe that our past does not define us, but that it does influence us in ways that we do not always see or understand.  But the beauty in being aware of our past is that we can choose to look at our own patterns of behavior as we relate to others and what we decide is important in our lives.

In these last few months, I have allowed myself to fall into a bit of a funk. I have allowed what certain others feel, think, and do to affect my own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

One of my automatic thoughts (of which I have been unaware) has been, “If they don’t care enough to (fill-in-the-blank), as they said they would, then why should I?” 

What I now recognize is my reaction that I learned in my formative years.  It bore deeply into my core, which has given me trouble throughout the years in feeling valued, and has transcended into a limiting belief that value comes from others and whether or not they treat me a certain way or follow through with me in a way that they say they will.

The worst part of it?  I do it, too.  Guilty. I have done it to others.  AND I do it to myself.

Life is a series of lessons and awareness. Understanding our past, and taking responsibility for our current thoughts and behaviors will give us more tools and knowledge to help us as we move forward in our lives.

I am at a stage of life that I am growing weary of having to revisit some of the same lessons.  If I am going to get “butt-hurt” at anyone for not doing what they will say they will do, I might as well look in the mirror.  But even this guilt-move is fruitless.

Today is a new day to consciously follow-through with what I say that I will do. 

And today starts with shaking off clouds of funk,  taking a good look at what I have neglected, and getting showered, dressed, and out for an early morning walk.

 

As I continue to explore the creative me

It was just about three years ago that I painted on my first canvas. The result was raw.  I continued to allow myself to learn to “play” and participated in several more events at Artful Dreamers Studio in Tacoma, Washington.  (The new website is beautiful!)

Last year I went to the “Warrior Goddess” event, and created the canvas you see on the left. I actually hung it up on my wall. The black and white stripes on the face were representative of my “zebra stripes,” as I continue to live as a zebra (person diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors [NETs]/carcinoid cancer.)

Life is and always has been a journey. The process of getting through and going beyond any challenge takes some chance–a risk–and it is not comfortable.  Expressing myself through art has been just as uncomfortable as any other challenge I have had in my life. Some day, I will tell more of that story.

Yesterday I took the warrior goddess off of my wall, and decided to spend a couple of hours working on this painting at Open Studio hours. For some reason, she was calling to me, as never before.

Two weeks ago, I started spring quarter at the local community college taking a Sculpture class. In these past two weeks (four sessions), I have begun to see things through a different perspective, as we have worked on a clay-sculpting project of a live model’s head. It has required me to view the world in much different ways.

So, Warrior Goddess made the trek with me to Tacoma, and she has evolved into what you see on the right. I still have a couple of things that I want to add, but I am pleased with the changes, and I will finish soon, and then glaze the piece.

Creativity is within me, though it’s taken many decades for me to take the risks to tap into what there is to discover.  But discovery is also exciting and I am learning that I am beginning to see some things through a more discerning eye.

Why I dislike these cute little kitties

Cute kittens are my enemies. I really don’t like them very much because they are insidious in the way they creep their way into my heart.

They do everything in their power to make me want to like them, acting as if they want me to adopt them. They offer humor, playfulness, occasional cuddling, and so many other things that make them so appealing.

But then… the evil little creatures prick me with their claws, they will rub all over me with their fur, they will sometimes lick my face or hands.

If these things happen I swell up with large bumps from the little claws, my eyes swell shut, my lungs decide to overreact, and I can end up in the hospital.

It’s easier if I just could learn to hate these little devils. Being allergic to them is my hell.

Otherwise, I would have a dozen of them!!

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain