American Made

Photography.

Most Thursdays I bring you photography of Doors from places I’ve visited. Today is no exception. However, in today’s series, the doors are more of a subject of viewing than the subject of my words.

Or put more simply, if you’re here for only the photographs, feel free to scroll through the photos. It won’t hurt my feelings. In fact, I won’t even know that you didn’t read my words unless you feel compelled to let me know that fact. Also be sure to pop over to Norm’s blog to see more amazing doors.

I have a lot of thoughts rolling around about topics that are practically unrelated and for some reason feel like sharing these discombobulated thoughts.

If you’re curious, the photos are from the ferry ride from Ft. Fisher, North Carolina to Southport, North Carolina. The first two photos are chosen because I’ll be talking about things that deal with “breaking the rules of conventional society” (to put it mildly). The third because I like its “uniformity”. The last is chosen because it has two of my loves…plus my jeep (which also has doors).

American Made.

In case you’re curious about my title, it’s because I watched the movie by the same name last night. One of my teens is sick. In fact, I will be taking them in to the doctor today. Likely that appointment will come prior to my finishing this post. The hubby offered to take me to dinner for Valentine’s, but I suggested we wait until the weekend. Instead we had some wine and watched American Made. I didn’t know what the movie was about, only that it starred Tom Cruise. The movie is supposed to based on the real-life story of Barry Seal, who was a drug smuggler with the Medellin Cartel.

South Florida.

While movies take many liberties with a film, it was rather strange to watch the timeline play out.  The early 80’s were a time of major drug running through Florida. If you’ve read my blog for a long time, then you know that I was born and raised in Naples, Florida. Which, in itself is a broad description. If you’ve read it for even LONGER, you know that I grew up inland. My dad converted a school bus into a home and drove it out to a piece of property in what is now considered Golden Gate Estates. There wasn’t electricity or hot water (I’ve written about how we lived in the highlighted post and others from my past).

 

Drug Runners.

However, the one thing that I haven’t talked about was the fact that it was well known that drugs were being run in this part of Florida. While I’m sure my parents have more stories since they were young adults and I was between 3 and 7, I do have vague memories. I suspect that these were large drug runs, maybe even cartels involved. It was said that if they saw you when they made their drop, then they would kill you.

Landing Strip.

One of the roads used to access other roads to our home was known as “the two mile landing strip”. I don’t know if planes landed on that road while we lived there. Perhaps my parents know. I do know that if we saw a small plane circling around at night, we shut off the lights to our home. I have a vivid memory of seeing one circling. This was probably sometime in the early 80’s.

Tales.

Once when my mother was coming home, she saw cars parked alongside the road, so she shut off her headlights to creep past them and make it home. She was certain they were drug runners. Years later, my dad would be conversing with a law enforcement officer who had been around the area a while. That tale would come up and he said it was actually law enforcement and they looked around forever for the car that had driven by with its headlights off, certain it was a drug runner.

I’m sure that I thought it was scary, but I don’t remember being overly worried. That’s not to say I wasn’t, I just don’t remember it. Looking back, I wonder how worried my parents must have been. My mother got pregnant with my brother in the middle of 1981. We lived in the middle of nowhere with the closest phone being about 10 miles away and they had little kids. It’s an adventurous story to look back on in hindsight, but I’m sure it wasn’t so thrilling at the time.

Okeechobee.

The part of the movie that made us look at each other was when they decided that he should fly the drugs into Okeechobee. After moving from Naples at the age of 30, we landed in Okeechobee. You can’t live in Okeechobee and have not heard of Frank Brady. Well, perhaps, you can…but I doubt it.

Frank Brady.

Frank Brady was a rancher who, according to this article, made the country’s most-wanted fugitive list by fleeing the United States around the time of his 1983 drug smuggling indictment. According to this article, the 13,000 acres of ranch land that the government confiscated was the biggest seizure in U.S. history at the time. Investigators linked him to the Medellin Cartel. I met a lot of wonderful people during my two years in Okeechobee. In fact, I’m still acquainted with some of them. Interestingly, I actually met Frank Brady. I had to verify that fact with the hubby.

The fact that it left no lasting impression tells me that in all likelihood, he’s just a regular person, and if you didn’t know about his past, you’d have no reason to suspect it.

Our Past.

I guess that’s a semi-segway into my next set of thoughts. Unless we share with someone about our past, they really have no way of knowing what it held.

I have been having a rough time this winter. I often do. Winter makes me miss Florida. It makes me miss all my family. It makes me miss my friendships.

Friendships.

I believe in being honest and real, which I am. However, there are also pieces reserved for those who have earned my trust.

And so lately, I have been missing a variety of friends who have traveled with me through important times in my life. Two nights ago I received a text from one of those friends. Its timing and message couldn’t have been more appropriate for what I was dealing with. Something she couldn’t have known.

Naples Tribe.

It made me also think about another set of friends who were my “tribe” when I was raising babies. Two girlfriends who were my neighbors and had littles of their own. We’d wander into each others yards while the kids played on the swings and maybe order up a pizza or have a glass of wine.

They kept me sane when I rarely had adult contact.

And then I moved away.

And then another moved away.

We met for a girl’s weekend once and then as happens drifted somewhat farther apart. I still meet the one for coffee when I return home. I love to catch up with her and we text sometimes. The other I see through Facebook, but I no longer have her phone number. I realize this is entirely my fault because friendships take effort.

Yesterday, the one still in my hometown sent me a text. She was asking if the other friend still lived in the town to which she had moved. I was sitting on the couch talking with my oldest about his school day, future plans, life in general…as we often do when he comes home. I had not seen the news that she mentioned.

A school shooting.

I said “Yes, that she lived in Parkland and that “Child” went to “X” school.” Meanwhile, I was trying to check the news to see about the school shooting. I saw that it happened in Parkland about the same time that my friend sent me that text saying that it happened in Parkland, but at a different school. The town is small. Often you know people who go to different schools. I checked her Facebook, but she hasn’t posted anything. I’m sure that she is processing the horror that happened in her town.

My heart breaks for all those affected.

This morning there was an increased police presence at Miss Sunshine’s school.

After tragedies, I wish that I could wrap my children in a cocoon and keep them there forever.

To protect them from the ills of the world.

But just as I cannot control their choices, I cannot control the choices made by others.

Where do we go from here?

I have no perfect answers.

 

Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it. -Kahlil Gibran photoquote

Let your light shine!

Amy

A Recycler’s Journey

Recycling.

Recycling is defined as the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.

But you probably already knew that.

Recycling has become something that is a mainstream topic of conversation.

In the United States, the EPA uses the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle“.

And I think that we can all agree in the importance of recycling.

According to this article by recyclenation.com, the EPA estimates that about 75% of the U.S. waste stream is recyclable, but only about 30% of the waste stream is actually recycled.

You might be questioning why this is the case.

Recycler’s Journey.

I will share the embarrassing truth about this recycler’s journey and why I have not been a very good recycler.

I’m lazy.

When I started my #thisis40 challenges back on my 40th birthday in September, I chose one that would be easy for me. 30 days of no one-time plastic bag usage.

I hadn’t been using plastic bags for many years and knew there would only be a few moments of needing to say “I don’t need a bag”.

I also had stumbled across facts about the consumption of plastic straws (the U.S. alone goes through 500 million straws per day) and began to work on limiting my usage. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, it should come as no surprise that I devour knowledge. One of my past career dreams was to be a research scientist. Instead, I read articles and try to sift out reality from bias. My love for facts is why I try to find credible sources before sharing with you.

So where had I become lazy?

Well, when I moved to Virginia from Florida in 2013, curbside recycling was not part of the county’s trash collection. I had been spoiled with having owned homes with curbside recycling for the prior 14+ years. After the move, I found the local recycling drop-offs and was pretty good in the beginning. Those drop-offs didn’t take glass, but I figured I was still doing pretty good. However, most times that I would load up my car and drive to these drop-offs, the bins were so full that people had left their recycling on the nearby ground (I’m not even sure that gets recycled as the drop-offs are giant trailers that get hitched to a truck). So I’d end up just taking it back home and collecting more. Then I noticed that I slowly began to just throw it away.

It bothered me that I was choosing to do this because I felt like I was living completely outside of my personal principles. You know that whole brain-gut connection? Well my gut was making me feel guilty.

Curbside Recycling.

I knew that I could hire a private company to pick up my curbside recycling. I just didn’t. Why? It came down to needing a paradigm shift.

I remember the first time that I ever heard the term paradigm shift. I was 16 and was a senior in high school. It was in a class called advanced reading (which we got college credit for… under “introduction to college” and “speech”). We did pretty much that… read books and analyzed them, gave speeches, and practiced college interviewing (I’m sure there’s more, but the introvert in me remembers speaking in front of the class).

Paradigm Shift.

A paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. His simplistic example was when you are vacuuming and you go over and over the same spot, hoping that it will pick up the paper on the floor, when if you just changed your thinking, you could bend over and pick up that piece of paper and move on with the rest of the vacuuming.

My resistance to curbside recycling in Roanoke County was because I had to pay a separate company to do something that for years had been handled by the county in which I lived. However, in Florida, I was still paying for curbside recycling. It just was part of my property tax bill. While I’m not going to delve into the ridiculous taxes that they collect in Virginia compared to when I lived in Florida, most people are familiar with the fact that Florida’s property taxes are not low. So ignoring the other taxes I pay and just focusing on the property taxes, I was able to justify (not everyone has this issue of needing to justify their spending. Yay you!! You are so lucky! However, I work with the personality I was given) hiring a curbside recycling company.

Shift Complete.

And that’s just what I did! I hired a company at the beginning of this year. Already, there is noticeably less trash going out on collection day. He also takes glass (so those wine bottles aren’t ending up in the landfill!).

Reusable bag from Publix grocery store. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. - Native American Proverb

Progress.

Part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to share this blog is because even though I’ve made changes, there are still many areas of recycling or reducing or reusing in which I fail. My existence is still spoiled and I often make choices that go against my environmental desires. I would not want anyone to think that I have managed to completely change in all the areas that are possible in creating a smaller footprint.

I still consume…a lot.

However, as I learn more and more, I find it hard to ignore the facts.

According to the article that I shared, recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for up to three hours. The EPA  shares that recycling 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for 25 hours.

Natural Life pouches made from recycled plastic water bottles

Pollution.

This article from National Geographic states that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. Much of that plastic ends up finding its way into the ocean. Research published in 2015 estimates that amount of plastic at 8 million metric tons EVERY year. This is the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline around the globe.

Many of us have heard about the garbage patches in the ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that the term “garbage patch” doesn’t paint an accurate term about the marine debris problem because there is more dispersion throughout the ocean than just in the “patches”.

I do think that much more information is readily available than in the past. However,  I still stumble across information that I didn’t know. Such as the fact about plastic straws, but also recently learning about the existence of plastic microbeads. According to this article on the UN Environment website, as many as 51 trillion micro plastic particles (500 times more than the stars in our galaxy) litter our seas. Some estimates state that by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Accountability.

I think that far too often it’s easy to think that “what kind of difference will I make? I am only one person.” But going back to recyclenation.com, it’s estimated that the average individual creates four pounds of trash per day, which adds up to 1,500 pound of trash per year.

Obviously, 1 person can make a difference.

As I continue to gain knowledge about environmental problems, I have a responsibility to accountability. It can no longer be thought that my actions and choices don’t make a difference when the facts point otherwise.

I will continue to fail and to make poor choices, but I will also continue to make even more good choices and gain victories.

If you’ve learned some facts, I hope that you’ll progress on the journey as well.

If you have any tips or knowledge that you’d like to contribute to the commentary, please do.

Look closely at present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming. -Alice Walker

Let your light shine!

Amy

The Thing About Silence - a view of freshly fallen snow

The Thing About Silence

Silence.

I wasn’t going to post today.

Silence.

I’m having a melancholy day. It happens to me sometimes. Usually when things are racing along at too frantic of a pace, or one of my teens is causing me internal angst, or it’s winter (sometimes all of the above). As is often the case with melancholy, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly the reasons…if any. I suspect SAD (seasonal affective disorder) may play a role, as well.

Silence and withdrawing are my tendencies on melancholy and high anxiety days.

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The Thing about Silence.

The thing about silence is that sometimes it’s best to speak.

This space with my blog is to spread love and kindness, to share the beauty of the world through my words or my photos, but it’s also a place for me to process. A place to pour out the reality of me. I am often able to look through a lens of gratitude, to focus on the beauty, to remind myself that this too shall pass.

Then there are days when this process of growth on the journey is a little harder.

So today, I write.

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Memories.

After running some necessary (and semi-unneccesary…I discovered bathing suits are in stores …and I have an upcoming trip to Aruba) errands, I decided to pop on Facebook. My nephew’s birthday was yesterday and I had left a message over there. One of the things (and there are really only a few) I do like about that social media space is when it brings up past memories.

One of the memories that Facebook shared for today was actually an Instagram post from two years ago.

This one in fact:

Blog.

I wondered which blog post this was referencing. It was interesting that the post that I wrote on this day two years ago should be about silence. Not only, silence, but the silence brought about by a freshly fallen snow. If you saw my Silent Sunday post, then you know that my take on the weekly photo challenge theme of “silence“, was our most recent snow.

Sometimes I cringe when I read my older posts, but this one was a perfect read for my melancholy spirit. I thought I’d reblog it, but that button seems to have disappeared for the moment. If you’d like to read my post, Silence is Golden, just click on those words.

The post was a reminder to me to search for the beauty in the midst of chaos, to stay in awe and wonder at the gloriousness of it all, to smile along the journey…because this is life.

I hope it offers the same reminder for you.

So, if you are too tired to speak, sit next to me, because, I, too, am fluent in silence. -R. Arnold

Let your light shine!

Amy

Two years of blogging on bedlam and daisies

Two Years of Blogging

Today I celebrate two years of blogging on Bedlam & Daisies.

It’s still hard for me to believe that I’ve been coming to this space and blogging for two years. I’ve been sharing my thoughts and you all have been kind enough to show up to read them and comment on them. I’ve been sharing my photography and you all have journeyed along as I began to learn a little more about the process. I have been seeking my voice and you have listened.

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Blogging.

Those facts alone never cease to amaze me. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that my niece was the one who encouraged me to go ahead and start this blog. I first considered blogging back in 2009 because my youngest was starting kindergarten. In the end, I was too fearful to put my voice out there in the public. Fast forward 7 years…and I was ready…another two years and here we are. I feel so blessed that my voice has been received amongst you all and met with kindness.

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

Evolution.

As I approached this two year mark celebrating the birth of this blogging process, I perused some of my older posts. If you’ve never seen my first post, here it is. In it I state the fact that I’m sure the blog will evolve, just as I am evolving. I read those words through the lens of having done just that. I am reminded that one of my favorite mantras from my challenge of 30 days of meditation is “I am committed to my personal growth and evolution.” I often find myself repeating that in my mind on those occasions when I want to give up because the challenge seems to hard.

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Photography.

After my introduction, my next post was about my love of photography. I had no experience. Just a love. That love has grown over the past two years. I’ve learned a few things about capturing the beauty that my eye beholds. I still have a tremendous amount of knowledge to gain about the process, but when I reflect back to two years ago, I can see that I am moving forward. This was a helpful recognition because I still struggle with comparison. Struggles around the loss of Instagram followers. Struggles around the fact that my skills aren’t growing as quickly as others. Reflecting helps me stop and realize that this is a personal journey. I am not everyone else. My growth may be slow, but it is growth and that is good.

The hardest step she ever took was to blindly trust in who she was. -Atticus

Comfort Zones.

A big part of creating the blog was to force myself outside of my comfort zones. Placing my words out into the public was one of those beginning stretches. I had so much anxiety and fear over that process that after I hit publish, I went into the shower and cried. And yet, as I reflected on the journey in this post written at the end of 2016, I see that pressing outside of my comfort zones was exactly what I needed. That journey of testing comfort zones was the catalyst for having me finally secure a passport and decide to travel outside of the United States.

It’s still amazing to me that receiving my passport was a recent highlight that I spoke about on my celebration of one year of blogging. 2017 would see me traveling to Amsterdam and Paris with my husband and children. Six weeks later I would travel to Edinburgh and Glasgow (and stops in Stirling, Shotts, and Airdrie) with my mother and aunt. While I only took two trips, I am eager for more and found a love for travel.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions"

Going Forward.

I remember talking in this post about how I was a work in progress. Truly, I am still a work in progress. In that post, I mentioned 2016 being a year of seeking clarity and saw 2017 as a year of becoming more focused and disciplined. Honestly, I see 2018 as a mix of those both. I am still seeking my passions and discovering my voice. Part of the goal of my 30 day challenges during this year of being 40 is to continue to find who I am below the expectations placed upon me. Going forward, I plan to do more seeking. I plan to continue to press outside of my comfort zones.

And going forward, I plan to evolve.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. I hope that you will continue on with me in the coming year.

I’d also love to know what topics you most enjoy on my blog! Be sure to let me know in the comments! As I continue to tweak the layout of the blog, I want to be sure that you are hearing about the topics that drew you to my blog.

Sending all you much love and light on my second blogiversary!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

Forging through life's curveballs

Forging Through Life’s Curveballs

 

Forging Ahead Through Life’s Curveballs.

Sometimes life is messy. Sometimes you’re cruising along and think that life is wonderful and you are following the path that you were called to follow…then life throws you a curveball. What can you do when this happens? There is only one thing to do. Keep forging ahead through life’s curveballs.

I have dealt with many of life’s curveballs during my 40 years on this planet. But this story is not about me. I don’t often share other people’s stories, but am making an exception because the woman behind the story is my niece. And also because she has publicly spoken about parts of her story.

My niece, Azalea, amongst the many hats that she wears, is a vlogger on YouTube at Way Crunchy. Like me, her online journey has shifted over time. She originally wrote on a blog.

She is the person who helped encourage me to move past my fears of rejection and start this blog. Also, like me, she considers her role as a mother to be one of her most precious jobs.

Divorce.

About 5 months ago, life threw her a curveball. Divorce. It was not how she saw her life going, but it was the new reality. She did share on her Instastories that she was going through some heavy stuff, but it wasn’t until her YouTube video last month that she was prepared to share that she had spent the past 5 months as a single mom. I had been aware of this before she was ready to share it publicly and my heart hurt for her. Watching the YouTube of her announcing it made me ache with sadness for her again.

I have no experience in single motherhood. I do know that the two times that my husband traveled ahead of us to begin new jobs, the time on my own was hard.  Raising children is hard. I have had plenty of hard moments in raising teenagers. She does have a support system, but that doesn’t make the journey easy. She was a stay-at-home mom for the most part and suddenly found her life being upheaved.

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Another Curveball.

Even though life kept throwing her curveballs, she kept up her spirits and kept forging ahead. I’m sure she had her moments… who wouldn’t? Then life decided to throw her another curveball. Her vehicle died…needed the engine replaced and wasn’t worth the repair. She felt like that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That no matter what she did, things kept going wrong. A friend of hers set up a go fund me to help with the car situation. This is her most recent YouTube video.

I’m sure that her stress is exacerbated by the fact that her daughter will soon be going through some major medical things. As a mother, I know that alone is enough to make the waters rise and threaten to engulf you. When you add all the other things that she is going through, I can’t begin to fathom the overwhelm.

Learned lessons.

However, I did recently speak with her and while I’m sure she would never have wanted to walk this journey, she has been able to reflect and find learned lessons. One of the lessons that she mentions in the video is learning to accept help. This resonated deeply with me because I am so reluctant to accept help. In this realization, she became open to possibilities she wouldn’t have considered. Being open to accepting help is why she asked that her YouTube video be shared. If you have a media channel that you’d like to share it on, please do.

It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story. -Iyanla Vanzant

I admire the strength that she continues to show as she walks along this new journey of single parenting.

I have do doubt that all of the lessons learned will be very helpful as she continues her journey as a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Have you ever been thrown one of life’s curveballs? Did you find strength that you didn’t know you had as you forged through the curveball? Do you had advice for navigating life’s curveballs?

Let your light shine!

Amy

Christmas Tree and Traditions

Christmas Trees and Traditions

Christmas Trees and Traditions.

I shared with you in this post that this was our first year traveling to a Christmas Tree Farm to choose our tree.

Our family tradition has always been to pick out a tree together as a family. Big Mr. heads off to college next year and the other two teens won’t be far behind. As the nest empties, some traditions may remain the same, but others will fall away, and during the process new traditions will be created.

I cherish these moments because I know they are finite and I can see the finish line on a horizon that is not too distant.

I shared that quite a few of the ornaments that we hang from our tree hold a special place in our memories and promised to share a few of the ornaments we hold dear. Last year I wrote about one our most special ornaments, the one placed first upon the tree.. the Christmas Nail. You can find that post here. I thought I’d share a few more precious ornaments.

And what better time to do that than the week before Christmas?

The Grinch.

The Grinch is one of my favorite characters. My first Christmas with the hubby, I found this stuffed Grinch at a Hallmark store. We didn’t have many ornaments and we definitely didn’t have a tree topper. I decided to remedy that by placing the Grinch beside the crown of the tree and wrapping his arm around. The following year, he would lose that place of honor when I found an angel to place on the top. However, he has always held a prominent spot on the tree.

In the beginning, his remaining on the tree instead of a shelf was so that babies and toddlers wouldn’t lick him or eat him or spit up on him. I treasured him and didn’t want him ruined. As time went on, that space on the tree just became his home and our tree wouldn’t be the same without him.

MOPS ornament.

MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. As a stay-at-home mom, this organization was a tremendous sanity saver.

That time in my life was my first journey into pressing outside of my comfort zones. The meetings followed the school year, September through May. I started attending when Big Mr was 2 and Mr D was 6 months. Miss Sunshine was born toward the end of 2003 and when that season of MOPS came to an end, I was asked to be on the steering committee.

To accept was well outside of my comfort zone, but I did. I worked in hospitality that year. We handled the organization of the buffet brunch. We kept fresh coffee flowing. When I accepted the position, I did not know the woman with whom I’d be sharing the job. We discovered that we lived on the same street. We became the best of friends and even took some family vacations together. We remain friends to this day.

She gave me that ornament to remember our time together in MOPS. I thought it was such a perfect theme for that year and still applies to my life today…”growing a life that matters”.

Photos with Santa.

Our tree wouldn’t be complete without our series of photos with Santa. I started with Big Mr.’s first Christmas in 2000 and we have them up until we moved away from Naples.

I chose to share this one from 2004 because this was the year Miss Sunshine didn’t like Santa. The boys never had an issue with him. In 2004, she’s almost 14 months old and she did not want to be near Santa in his chair. I am reminded of the one photo my mother has of me with Santa. I am close to Miss Sunshine’s age and am crying to get away from this scary person. Miss Sunshine wasn’t hysterical, just leery. It was his idea to sit on the floor since she didn’t mind being in the chair with her brothers. I thought that was awfully kind of him.

Countdown to Christmas.

This is our official “count off the days” ornament. I wish that it counted down, but his belt buckle twists from 1 to 25. We used to have a wall hanging that you changed the tabs each day, but one of the dogs ate it when she was a puppy. The kids used to take a turn each day being the person who got to twist to the new day. Another sign of time flying by is that Miss Sunshine solely has the job this year (and probably has for a few years).

1975 Bradford Novelty Ornament.

This is a plastic ornament with a plastic decal wrap around it. The other side has a boy and girl playing with toys. My grandmother used to have this ornament and I loved it. One day she gave it to me and it has been mine ever since. Truth be told, the other side was my favorite. However, when our Golden Retriever was a puppy, she took it off the tree to chew (2002 or 2003). I was devastated when I found it on the ground because I had owned it since I was a child. I was relieved to find that she hadn’t chewed the entire plastic wrap off, there are just a few gouges in it.

Now as I hang it on my tree, not only do I think of my grandmother who passed away in 2013, I also remember my first dog, Nikki, who we lost to cancer in 2015.

Painted Angel.

My tree wouldn’t be complete without the handmade ornaments created by my children. This painted and glitter-trimmed angel was a masterpiece created by Big Mr. when he was 4. There are decorations throughout the tree and about the house that have been created during all those early years.

Imagine peace…and love.

I don’t often add new ornaments to the tree. I made an exception our first Christmas living in Roanoke. We moved to Roanoke, Virginia in the summer of 2013. We closed on this house less than a week before Christmas. I’ve shared extensively that leaving my home state of Florida was very hard on me from a mental health standpoint.

That winter we spent a day in downtown Roanoke. While there, we visited the Taubman Museum of Art. I can still remember the first time I came to visit Roanoke. The hubby had already moved up here and started his job. I was coming up to hunt for a home. I drove past downtown and the architecture of this building had me like “woah, what is THAT place!”. But back to the winter of 2013. Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace” was on exhibit and that was one of the exhibits that I wanted to see. After walking around the galleries, we popped into the gift shop. This decoupaged ornament called my name. I almost talked myself out of it, thinking I didn’t need any new ornaments.

In the end, I’m happy that I added it to our collection. I would walk through a hard winter that year and slowly emerge. It is still a conscious effort each winter to stay in that space where I don’t find myself drowning. But love is a tremendous aid in keeping me there. Each day my husband opens the blinds. When the skies spend days in gray, he will text reminders that the sun is peeking out and I should let it shine upon my face.

I am better at seeking those things I need… sunshine, fresh air, tall trees, evergreens…

…but love reminds me in the moments when I forget.

Other Traditions.

We have a few other traditions around Christmas as well. On Christmas Eve, I prepare hors d’oeuvres as our meal. It started when the children were young as a way to fit in our Christmas Eve traditions and still get them to bed at an early hour. From there, they asked about it the next year and a tradition was born. We have a variety of cheese and meats and crackers. There is also fruit, meatballs, and cocktail sausages. When you’re little, eating with a toothpick is something new and exciting. It stuck.

We also go to a candlelight Christmas Eve service. I pick from the variety offered in town. We don’t have a church that we consider home, but there are a couple that we like.

The kids began the tradition of watching Polar Express. Pausing happens right before the “Hot Chocolate” scene so that hot chocolate can be made and had along with the movie (…there’s only one rule…never, ever let it cool).

In the past, they’ve also always opened one present on Christmas Eve, a tradition that stems from my childhood.

Some of our traditions were brought from our childhoods and some were ones created by the children. It’ll be interesting to see which they carry into the future.


 

How about you? Do you have any holidays that you celebrate during December? Do you have traditions, new or old, that surround your holiday?

 

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Gratitude challenge prompt of music

Gratitude + Music

Gratitude for Music.

Today is Day 11 of my December challenge.

I have pondered each daily prompt of gratitude. I have taken photos. I have shared little snippets on my Instagram story. I have journaled. I collected ideas and thoughts and felt gratefulness for this amazing thing called life.

When I came to today’s prompt, I knew that I wanted to make a post about this prompt… this word… music… because really music embodies so much more than a word.

Playing the guitar plaid blanket

Playing music.

I have always loved music.

My father taught himself how to play the guitar by ear. His father played the banjo and his grandfather played the fiddle (aka, the violin). My dad used to serenade my mother on the shore of the beach back in their dating days. During my youth, whenever a family function would come around, my father would load up his guitar to take with us. As the evening wore on, the adults would crowd round in chairs and the children would lounge on the floor or the ground and my dad would play and my mother would sing. I remember feeling so proud that everyone loved to hear them.

My dad’s record collection was huge and I was forever listening to them and delving into my mom’s box of 45’s. When I’d saved enough money, I started my own music collection. I still remember days of taking my 45’s and trying to find the groove that I’d just removed the needle from as I wrote down the lyrics to the songs (not all music came with the lyrics and you couldn’t just google it).

If you’d think that I got the gift of music, you’d likely be wrong.

I can strum a few cords on a guitar, but I can’t play an entire song.

Singing.

I grew up singing (not solos) in the church, but had no training. I don’t know how to maintain my key when they are playing the high notes on a piano. There came a point as a pre-teen when I just couldn’t hit those notes and resorted to singing falsetto (I didn’t even know that was what it was called, just that it didn’t hurt my vocal cords) or moving my mouth to the words, but emitting no sound.

I took chorus in both 7th and 8th grade. I did have to sing the scales for my teacher in 7th, where I learned I was an alto (kind of obvious). In 8th grade, my chorus teacher had an opportunity to take one alto and one soprano on a field trip to the University of Miami. I was chosen as the alto (Not because I was spectacular. This was a different school than 7th grade and chorus was a new program there. I was chosen because I’d already spent a year taking it.) Our teacher was listening to music on the bus ride over and she let us pop on the headphones. It was scat music and I’d never heard anything like it before. I had never visited a University before. I remember it feeling quite overwhelming (I was 12). The only thing I remember were the warm-ups where we sang “be by be, be by bo, be by bicky, bicky by bicky bo”.

I had no dreams of grandeur as I still probably couldn’t carry a tune. I spent four years of high school in drama where we did musicals aplenty. I took the leftover roles (I loved drama because on stage I played somebody else, but trying out for a part was “me” in front of my peers, something I was highly uncomfortable with and so avoided) which meant the singing was done in crowds.

But long before I sang out tunes, I listened to the words.

Song writing.

This was the first song that I ever wrote. I cringe when I read it, but hey, I was only three or four. We still lived in the school bus  and my brother hadn’t yet been born. We were listening to music and I told my mother that they just kept repeating the same thing (the refrain) and that I could do that. I asked her to write down what I said and this is apparently my genius. There’s a little more on the back, but it’s equally as cringe-worthy.

I remember a time in that 7-10 year-old range when I thought that I’d become a songwriter. I thought that everybody had those type of dreams. It was until recently in a conversation with my husband that I realized musically based dreams are not universal childhood ambitions.

What about you? Did you have any dreams of creating music?

If you’re curious about the inspiration behind my song, given that I was born in 1977 and the lyrics I’ve written, my guess is Baby Come Back by Player.

I can see the similarities. Can you?

 

Cadence.

I have sometimes felt that if I could just crawl inside certain compositions, I could be happy living there. Music calls to a space deep within my soul.

I had a recent conversation with my mother-in-law about my writing. She is the English major that I am not. I was telling her that in certain pieces of my writing (usually my introspective pieces), I try to convey my feeling through a certain cadence.

That is the only term that I can find to explain how the words move through my head.

Cadence is defined as a rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words.

I think about how I would speak the words in a way that would have you journey along with me in the emotions that I am experiencing. Sometimes as the words pour out, they feel like a rushing stream, gliding over rocks and sweeping around bends. At other times, I can’t find the exact words to sweep you along the journey and I recognize that there are  spots where the stream is broken only to pick up again. I think of these moments like the skipping of a rock. Each splash creating a ripple and yet there is a space before the next.

Each concept beautiful in its own way.

Ways that I can’t do justice in trying to describe.

Perhaps this is how I express my music.

With this flowing of words, this spilling of thoughts…

Today, I am grateful.

 

 

Art washes aways from the soul the dust of everyday life - Pablo Picasso

Let your light shine!

Amy