Dream or Direction?

I’m back in the recliner today. But I have a very good excuse. It is a very damp 39 degrees outside with an 11 mph wind. The skies are gray and a drizzle of rain is still falling. I know that compared to other parts of the country this is nothing; but, weather is relative and for me this is nasty. That damp cold just cuts right through my body and all I want to do is stay inside under a nice cozy blanket. In fact…no wait, I can’t do that. I have a mess to clean up today. And that mess is precisely why I am back in the recliner.

The Closet

The closet in my whimsy room is far from whimsical. In fact it is downright frightening. This is where I shoved everything when I decided to make the room magical for Christmas. Opening the door invites bodily harm, possibly even suffocation by wool.

I finally went to work. I pulled out plastic containers of yarn, partially finished projects (WIPs: Work In Progress), odds and ends of crochet and weaving that I collect because I just know that I am going to create some magnificent fiber art masterpiece one day, a couple of boxes of leftover product from my retail days that I fully intended on selling at fiber art shows where I was going to be a vendor (another business idea gone bust). Nearly every encounter with the stuff from the shop owning experience leads to longing and a dream.

Before I knew it I had my beautiful little room cluttered with so much stuff I was overwhelmed. So I ate.

I did not go back into the room after dinner. And that is why I’m in the recliner. Here we are, a brand new day, and yesterday’s mess is still staring me in the face. I have a choice. I can close the door and wait for the fairies, elves, and gnomes to come make it cute, pretty and functional, or I can get up off my ever spreading rear end and go take care of business. The jury is still out.

Continue reading “Dream or Direction?”

Mondays With Maggie: Where It All Began

August 26, 2012. I was home with a sick grandchild and grieving the passing of my dog Cleo when this sweet face entered my consciousness.

Cleo came into our lives because I stopped on a busy farm to market road near our home to be sure the beagle I saw running through the drainage ditch would not get hit by a car. I got out…she ran up to me and then hopped in the car. The rest was history.

When Cleo died, the second dog we lost in a fairly short period of time, I vowed I was going to just be a cat lady. My cat, Munchkin was now our only pet. File this under famous last words.

I had secretly been looking at dogs on PetFinder for a few months. I knew Cleo would not be with us for much longer and I dealt with that sorrow by looking at other canine faces who promise several years of fun and love. There were lots of cute faces, but none that tugged at my heart. Until this day in August.

Shining Light

Chey and I sat on the couch that morning, scrolling through pictures of cute dogs. I had let her in on my secret and she reveled in the privilege. I don’t remember how many pages we looked at when an amazing thing happened. To this day I contend the experience was divine. It is absolutely the only explanation. I’m not sure that I can do justice to the moment, but this is what I saw.

Everything on the page disappeared except one face. It was as if a light shined on this one photo like the red dot of a laser pointer on a screen. It was saying, “this one, choose this one.”

I was smitten. There was no turning back.

Convincing The Husband

My no more dogs stand lasted eight days. So much for strength and determination. I could have persisted but why? I love dogs. I love cats too, why should I have to choose? Each pet brings with it their own contributions to the family; the relationship and the joy is different yet both add quality to life.

When the husband came home that night he was greeted by both Chey and myself running up to him with computer in hand showing him this face. How could he possibly say no? He tried even though I think he knew it was futile.

What he didn’t know at that moment was that I had already contacted the rescue group and the foster mom. I couldn’t let this pup slip through my fingers by hesitating. Something inside of me just knew, this is the one. She is waiting for me.

After sharing the full story with him, all he said was, “Well, the no dog thing didn’t last long.” He knew there was no point in arguing. My heart belonged to this scruffy little dog who needed a home.

Walt Disney Dog

We have both always loved the wiry mixed breed terrier type dogs so often used in Walt Disney movies. No further description was needed. Mention Walt Disney dog and we had a mental image. While not as scruffy as some, this little dog certainly was in the category.

I emailed back and forth with her foster mom and got all the important background information.

She had been picked up by animal control in a field. From there she went to the shelter. Like so many groups, this rescue organization goes to high kill shelters and rescues dogs. Their members provide foster homes for them while spending weekends trying to find good and loving forever homes for these cast off animals. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes.

At the shelter she was examined by the vet and determined she was likely nine months to one year old. During the spaying process, they found out she was pregnant. What had this sweet little girl experienced in her short life thus far? I don’t know, but I suspect there was not much good.

Her foster mom told me she got along well with her other dogs, loved to go on walks, and was quietly submissive. She had been to a few adoption events, but while the other dogs excitedly jumped, played, and looked cute for prospective families, Sugar (as she was known then) curled up in a corner of her crate. She turned her back to the crowd and tried to disappear. Life had been cruel and she wanted no part of people. Haven’t we all felt like this?

Life Lessons

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was standing at a junction in my life. There is no way I could fully understand the impact this dog would have on our lives. The things we would learn, the fun we would have, the absolute devotion that would be headed our direction.

But, that is a story for another day. Each and every day we all have an opportunity. The key is slowing down long enough to look and being sensitive to what is happening around us. The modern catch all word is “mindfulness.” While this word is generally attached to meditation and new age philosophies, there is something really important about the concept of mindfulness that we should not just dismiss as a new lifestyle trend.

Be quiet. It is a scientifically proven fact that when one of our senses is not used, all the other senses become more acute. If we stop talking, we listen. Not just hear, but really listen.

But what voices are you listening to? Turn off all the electronics. What do you hear now? Whose voice do you hear? Are you really listening to the voice or just hearing background noise? Is it critical? Is it loving? Do you just hear a scrambled mess?

Since Christmas I have been using an app on my phone called Calm. I have never meditated. I have practiced something called centering prayer which shares some similarities, but is different. I blend the techniques of each Daily Calm meditation with centering prayer. The narrator guides me in focusing the mind on breathing to help quiet all those random thoughts. As thoughts creep back in, we are to acknowledge them then return the focus to the breaths.

I use a “mantra” during the meditation that keeps my focus on breathing in the things of God and exhaling the noise of the world. On the inhalation I will “say” something like, “In with God,” “God’s love,” “God is love,” “I am God’s,” “Jesus” or a combination of these within any one session.

On the exhalation, as the air leaves my lungs, I release negative words and thoughts. So much junk enters our minds as a result of living in this messy world. It is ugly and dirty out there and if we aren’t careful our hearts become stained as well. So, I pray before I begin my meditation and I ask God to show me the things I need to release. Each session has not only guided breathing, but also a themed message. I have found that often that theme contributes to some of the prayerful releases that occur. Thus, my nightly meditation becomes prayerful purification of my mind and heart. Just like seeing Maggie’s face illuminated on a computer screen, it is no coincidence that the topics on any given day are also things I need to work on in my life. All things work together for good for those who love God. He uses everything, we just have to pay attention.

Following the Daily Calm thought for the day, gentle nature sounds continue to play. I lay in my dark room not wanting to move. I don’t even open my eyes, I just stay in this blissful state of calm connectedness.

However you choose to be mindful, I challenge you to slow down, hear, listen, and connect. It will change your life.

Until tomorrow…look up, embrace today, and go have some fun!

Skill Building & Life Lessons – We’re Never Too Old

It’s not just about crochet…

…the second half of my crochet post from last week will get written later today on my new crochet blog, Sheryl’s Crochet Life. Here’s the link but it is also in the menu at the top of the page. I decided that I could blabber on and on about crochet, but not everyone is as interested in that subject matter as I. Finished items and how I use hand made in my life and home will still get shared from time to time; however, I will reign in my crochet geek tendencies for the rest of the non-crochet world.

New Generation

I have shared my love for words, typography, calligraphy and all things that bring them together. Traditional calligraphy is a fairly rigid skill. The perfection of the strokes, spacing, and angle are all crucial to recreate the work of old world scribes. No matter how hard I worked, I always fell short of perfection. Being self taught, I was my only critic, and a harsh task master.

At that time I didn’t understand about the brain and muscle memory. Had I known practicing just those pieces builds the brain’s ability to do a task automatically I probably would have approached many things differently, including sports like tennis. Maybe I would have not been so anxious to jump into writing words and quotations…walking before I could even crawl.

I put up my pen and ink many years ago and moved on to something new, or returned to the familiarity of the crochet hook and yarn. I re-learned to knit by taking the necessary small steps and practicing to the point of comfort before moving forward. But still I didn’t make the life connection.

Then Pinterest and Instagram came into my realm. People all over the world posting their wonderfully new and modern ways of using calligraphy in their everyday life…and making a business out of their skill. This is one of my ultimate fantasies…make something amazing and get discovered and become rich and famous. The down side is that then I’d have to keep making that same thing over and over again. I think I need to rethink that fantasy!

I really wanted to do the cool, modern lettering like all these talented young folks were doing. I looked at You Tube videos, Instagram videos, IGTV, and nothing ever clicked. Then I found a class. Not just any class, as I didn’t have to drive to the other side of the fourth largest city in the country just to learn lettering. No! I just had to drive across the river, 3.5 miles, to The Guild in Richmond, Texas. My “home” town.

I have lived in Richmond for thirty years. I actually live in a subdivision east of the Brazos River which, according to the old families in the area, means I’m an outsider. I don’t know how prevalent that notion is anymore, but I suspect that it is alive and well within certain circles. A mindset that is quite typical for many small communities. Change is uncomfortable. But, Richmond is changing and it is because of a younger generation of people coming in with a vision to bring life back into this historic little town. I’ll share more about Richmond a traveling post some Tuesday.

Baby Steps

Emily always has everything set up and looking beautiful for her guests.

No surprise, I chose the pretty pink floral folder that was carefully filled with all the supplies we would need to relax and practice the small strokes that would later become letters.

Some strokes came easier than others…

And then we got to try putting things together to make letters, then words, and before I knew it I was able to do it!

It was a wonderful day of meeting people, learning something new and doing it all in an absolutely gorgeous environment. If you live in the greater Houston area or certainly anywhere in Fort Bend County, Texas, you owe it to your self and maybe a friend, to come here for a class, a dinner, or any of the other events hosted at The Guild. Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen is just a few steps down the sidewalk. Nothing like delicious coffee, food, fun and creativity all in one place. More about Blockhouse in the future.

Emily works with an amazing artist at The Guild, in fact she is the Artist in Residence there and the creative energy of these two women is breathtaking. Phaedra Taylor is, among other things, an encaustic artist who shares her skills in that as well as block making, water color, acrylic pour painting and as a creative business partner with Emily. Next on my class list will be the linoleum block printing class. Another item on my 2019 creative bucket list.

Life Lessons Learned

Crawl before you walk, much less run. Focusing on how to make the individual strokes allowed me to make beautiful letters. In life, if we learn to cherish the small and mundane, we are training ourselves to understand the whole. There is a joy found in a clean, tidy house, but who loves scrubbing a toilet? No one. It is not the doing it is the attitude. I need to get better about this where my home is concerned. I don’t often have a good attitude about housekeeping. But what a gift my home is and I need to work on finding joy in caring for it. Take care of the small things and the big things fall into place.

Practice does not make perfect. Perfection is not the goal. Get over yourself, you are not perfect. What practice does is it teaches perseverance; and perseverance develops skills that add flavor to life. No matter what the hobby, past time, artistic endeavor, or sport brings you fulfillment, practice is key.

You won’t know if you don’t try. Just like we were told and most of us told our children, you won’t know if you like a food unless you try it. The same holds true for leisure activities. There are lots of things I think I would love, but I’ll never know if I let self doubt or insecurity get in my way. I think this is why I don’t take more classes; I am afraid of failing publicly. And by failing I mean making a mistake or looking stupid.

My personality wants to do things the perfectly the first time or I give up and move on. If you ever get the chance, just ask my mom about learning to sew. There were many tears shed over the frustration of not being able to do it as well as she did. I transferred out of a high school drawing class after two weeks because I couldn’t sketch as quickly or as well as my friend. I went back to the ceramics class where I knew I could excel. I had already proven myself there.

This mistake was to be repeated throughout my life. I’m just now figuring it out. That’s the thing about life. We may only get one shot at this life on earth, but we are in a constant state of change while we are here. I always thought that “old” people – anyone at least twenty years older than me – had life all figured out. I thought, I’m the weirdo who is nearly sixty one and still learning things that I thought I should have conquered a decade or two ago. I’ve come to know that God allows us to learn at our own pace. He doesn’t force us to change. No, He just allows us to stay in a certain place until we’ve learned and then we move on to the next item. We are moving towards perfection but while here, we will never fully achieve the goal. He showed us what perfection looks like when He sent us His Son, Jesus Christ as our role model.

So see, it’s really never too late to learn and grow. I hope you find a new skill to learn, or tackle something that has always made you uncomfortable because in that you will learn so much more and your life will be richer for doing it.

I may have jury duty tomorrow (I have to call this evening to see if I will be needed) so I’m not sure what time a post will be live. In the meantime, keep looking up, embrace today, and go have some fun!