Saturday, July 30, 2011

Going with the Flow Revived - Florida Day Three

I awoke the morning of our third day in Florida, our only full day in Miami to discover it was raining. Not a little rain that would go away in twenty minutes, but the kind of rain that hangs around all day and messes with your plans. I was determined to live in the moment and enjoy each moment regardless of my struggle the day before. Okay, I still really wanted to go to the beach, but I was willing to just see where the day took us.
First things first, find a place for breakfast. A Google search directed us to The Front Porch (see review on my review blog.) in Miami Beach.

We made the short drive to Miami Beach and found a parking place. In the process, we saw a bunch of stage lights, large cameras, cabling, and a few 1950/60s cars (I think. I'm not good at placing cars in the right decade.) staged on a couple of closed off streets with police officers directing traffic around them. There was no indication what was being shot, but my curiousity was piqued. So much so, I would've gone back and checked it out, but we had parked quite a distance from the restaurant and it was starting to rain harder. I decided it could wait until after breakfast. After all, don't video shoots take hours and sometimes even days?

Waiting on Breakfast - Front Porch Cafe
We arrived at the restaurant grateful the outdoor seating at The Front Porch was covered. We were seated and quickly realized we could hear every word the couple at the next table said which meant they could hear us, too. The tables were close enough together, we could've been dining together to the passerby!

We struck up a conversation. After some advice on places to eat including their advice that we "must" go to David's Cafe (review available at Reviews with TLC), talk about the Miami Beach/South Beach area, and family, conversation turned as it inevitably does to careers. We learned more than we should have, I do believe. Turns out he (no names just in case) is a retired Marine sniper (she told us when he stepped away to take a phone call) who now does "things" mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan for the US goverment through his work with a private contractor. She is a teacher. They've been married a really long time and all their children are grown. They seemed really interesting. I would've liked to have spent more time talking with them, but I think I put my foot in my mouth by asking him about his work. He responded  something to the effect of "I do things writers like to write about." to which I replied something to the effect of "But wish didn't have a need to really happen." He got really quiet after that. Oops! My stupid mouth strikes again.

Shortly after our breakfast companions left the restaurant, we finished eating and left ourselves. We'd discovered during breakfast that the video shoot was for a music video. Okay, so it wasn't some movie or television show, but I was still interested in seeing the process. Don't ask why. I just like seeing things I've never seen before. By the time we walked back over to the shoot area, they were wrapping things up. I think I overheard someone say the incessent rain had halted production for the day. (Or perhaps I pieced this together from a smattering of different conversations I was eavesdropping on.) Darn! I didn't get to see any of that after all. And, here I was thinking since it was too rainy to go to the beach, this would make a nice alternative activity for a little while. See, I really was trying to go with the flow.

At this point we opted for a short walk around town with hopes the rain would let up, and we could go take a walk on the beach. I think deep down I'd known even before we left the hotel, this was unlikely to happen because I hadn't bothered to bring my swimsuit. Of course, buying a swimsuit on the spot would've really have been a costly venture... Apparently, swimsuits are much cheaper in states where it's hot year round than in states where it rains most of the year. Go figure!
Cool Tree in Miami Beach

Anyway, after purchasing an umbrella, we began our walk heading in the general direction of David's Cafe. While we were wandering through a little neighborhood - you know houses and apartment buildings instead of hotels and touristy stores - I  pointed out an interesting looking tree for my husband to take pictures of. I couldn't believe he missed it!

Cuban Coffee -
David's Cafe


We made it to David's Cafe. It was easy to find. The large men at the entrances surprised us. I giggled. I couldn't help myself. Bouncers at a coffee shop. Were they trying to set some kind of atsmosphere? I didn't get it if they were. We ordered Cuban coffee. Our breakfast companions had also suggested we try the pastry there, but we were both too stuffed from breakfast, so Cuban coffee it was. This was our first experience with Cuban coffee. I loved it. My husband found it too sweet. The waiter replaced his with an unsweetened version but told us that Cuban coffee is traditionally served sweetened. Honestly, I wanted a second cup right then and there, but as it was my second cup of coffee for the day opted to abstain. Apparently, quite a few celebrities have dined at David's Cafe as they have walls of photos of celebrities. I had to take a look. If you're wondering, yes, I did recognize a few faces.
 
Photo Wall -
David's Care
As we walked back to the car, we started to feel annoyed with all the restaurants trying to get us to eat. Every place we passed someone tried to thrust a menu into our hands. Enough already! After some stops for pictures, we made it back to the car and were happy to find that we didn't have a ticket as our meter had run out a few minutes before we got back.

I guess I wasn't meant to visit the beaches at Miami Beach because every time we tried to go there, another downpour hit! Oh, well next time.

Walking on beach in Key Biscayne
Sea Turtle Nest -
Bill Baggs State Park
We left Miami Beach and headed over to Key Biscayne to see the Cape Florida Lighthouse. The rain let up, so I was finally able to walk on the beach for a bit!! There was a sea turtle's nest taped off. Of course to the naked eye it just looks like sand, which is why they tape it off. Wouldn't it be cool to see baby sea turtles hatch?

Cape Florida Lighthouse
 My husband took lots of pictures of the lighthouse. We spent some time walking around the Bill Baggs State Park staying close to the lighthouse. We even had a little fun shooting "trick" photos of the lighthouse and me.

Gotta love camera trickery!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to shoot some more potential photos for the cover of my collection of poetry. It's amazing how many shots it takes to get just the right one, but that's coming in another post.

All in all, as I let myself not get caught up in what I was missing and just enjoyed what I was doing, I found it much easier to just have fun. My fear that I might not get to do what I wanted to do during our entire trip melted away. I was in Florida! Time to stop whining and just enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Going With the Flow Tested - Day Two in Florida

My second day in Florida seriously tested my resolve to go with the flow. When I say seriously, I mean grit-your-teeth, plant-a-smile, pull-out-the-Southern-charm kind of serious testing. Let's just say "That's nice." popped into my thoughts more than once and many of you know exactly what that means.
In my husband's defense, he did warn me before we even left Oregon that he might need to work a little while we were in Florida. I nodded and told him I understood. I did understand. The week before we left had brought some complications at work, so it wasn't a big surprise.
Plans for day two were something along the lines of the following. Awake early, eat breakfast, and take a nice lesisurely drive down the coast to Miami arriving in Miami some time in late afternoon. Late afternoon but still early enough to go to the beach - at least for a walk.
Actual day two in Florida bears little resemblance to this plan. First we slept much later than planned. Then my husband informed me he needed to work for a little while. I smiled and asked how long. When he said a couple of hours, I suggested we go to an outlet mall we'd passed the night before. He could find wi-fi in a coffee shop there, and I could shop for a couple of clothing items I needed. Yes, needed, I underpacked including packing a pair of shorts with no matching shirt. We decided to skip breakfast since neither of us felt hungry and just grab coffee at the outlet mall. We started our drive to the outlet mall and promptly took a wrong turn. The GPS took us a really long way to get back to the outlet mall, but I was still trying to go with the flow.
On the way to the outlet mall, we passed a Walmart. My husband suggested we stop and get some bottled water since I hadn't drank nearly enough the previous day (actually neither of us had). So we did. Then the "while we're here,we should pick up..." statements started. Now, in stores like Walmart, I'm focused and speedy otherwise they'll trap me for the whole day. My husband tends to move too slowly in those kind of stores for my taste, so I began to get testy.
Finally, we were out of Walmart and back on our way to the outlet mall. For some reason, my husband decided we should do my shopping together and then go find a coffee shop. That would have certainly defeated the purpose. The whole point was to give me something to do other than watch him type email. I tried to express this nicely but felt my intent wasn't getting through. Finally, I found the coffee shop for him and sent him to do his work.
Eventually, after I bought two shirts,  he sent his work emails and I checked my email, we were on our way to Miami. By the time we left Orlando it was early afternoon. My "go with the flow" attitude got lost somewhere at the outlet mall. I was irritated because my plans for the day were shot. There was going to be no beach for the second day!
Okay, now to be honest, I still thought I was going with the flow. I thought I was being little miss understanding and supportive; however, my husband disagreed. The more I tried to figure out how to adjust our plans, the more annoyed he got with me for being so negative. Perhaps my tone belied my frustration or perhaps he was feeling sensitive... I don't know.
At first he was convinced we could still get to Miami in time to take a walk on the beach. I pointed out that food would have to come first. The scone and coffee I ate at Starbucks wasn't exactly a full meal and stopping for lunch would only delay our arrival to Miami. Finally, I just shut my mouth and stared out the window. It felt like every word I said made things worse. There was probably a bit of pouting, too. So much for going with the flow.
By the time we arrived in Miami the sun was starting to set. At first I thought we might still make it to the beach for a short walk, but then my husband remembered he needed another memory disk for the camera. So, it was off to find another Walmart... Oh joy! And, there goes the beach for sure...
New plan: Let's enjoy Miami's nightlife. That's my plan anyway. My husband isn't big on bars, dance clubs, or other night life to be perfectly honest. And, I've kind of resigned myself to that. I rarely even suggest we try those kinds of things anymore as it usually leads to disappointment. Still, I wanted to salvage the day.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the scenery while we drove. It just wasn't... well, what I'd planned.
I went to change while my husband called the front desk to inquire about some place for dinner and some place to listen to music or dance or something. He was trying to accommodate my request. I have to give him credit for that.
I wanted a restaurant where I could look out at the water while I ate. My husband wanted to stay within walking distance of the hotel. Well, the hotel staff sent us to a place where that was supposed to be possible. Uh, not quite. Oh, well. After dinner, we took a quick walk along the bay. That worked - sort of. Then we headed to another place for a little "nightlife". If by nightlife, they meant open late, well, there you go. It wasn't my definition, but it turned out okay. We sat outdoors, ate dessert, drank coffee and chatted with the waiter... and chatted with the waiter... and chatted with the waiter. Oh, and my husband took some photos of the street - playing with his new camera, or as he put it learning to use his new camera.
I finally let myself relax while we were sitting at this outdoor restaurant/club. As soon as I started just enjoying the moment instead of focusing on what I didn't get to do, I found my smile and even laughter again.
We ended the night in the hotel room taking pictures for hours of scenes that might work for the cover of the book of poetry. And, while it wasn't what I'd envisioned yet again, the results held great promise...
Will I ever get the hang of going with the flow? I have no idea. I think I have a fear that if I go with the flow, I'll be a pushover and never get what I want.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fears, Distractions, and Going with the Flow

The plan today was to continue sharing my Florida experience and experiment of going with the flow with you, but I can't concentrate on that right now. We'll return to that program tomorrow. That said, I guess this interruption is in a sense another exercise in going with the flow.

Meme eyeing her new bed...

Today, my cat, Meme, is having a full mouth teeth extraction. My heart is aching. I miss having her jump on my lap and knead the hell out of legs leaving me looking like I have little pin pricks all over my thighs. I miss her meowing just to let me know she's in the house. I miss her pushing my keyboard away from my hands, so she can sit on my lap. I miss her jumping on my desk and swatting my screen. Okay, yeah, she's my naughty, self-centered, little diva, but I love her for it.
Meme on my desk searching for treasure
If you're reading this without knowing the story, here's the background. Ever since Meme came to live with us as a kitten, she's had problems with her mouth. Infections, refusing to chew, bleeding from her gums, terrible breath, etc. She pushed her mouth against things including my hands in odd ways. She dug at her mouth with her claws. She refused to clean her butt and didn't groom herself well. Eventually, we figured out it was because her mouth hurt. After antibiotics she would groom like a normal cat, stop the incessant digging at her mouth, etc.until symptoms of infection returned. After going through several attempts at treatment for various things, our vet, Dr. Eric Glaze, a the Albany Animal Hospital diagnosed her with a genetic condition that means she would continue to be in pain and have frequent infections in her mouth for her whole life. The only treatment is a full mouth tooth extraction. We sought a second opinion from a specialist. She agreed with Dr. Glaze. We discussed the implications of her no longer having teeth. We watched her improve slightly on the meds but not enough to have a normal life. We tried desperately to find another option but couldn't. So surgery it is.
Now, Meme is in surgery having all her teeth removed.
I fear, irrationally, that she will see this as punishment or will hate us for it. I fear she'll lose that "me me me" attitude that earned her her name. I fear she'll not understand that this is to make her feel better and improve her health and quality of life. I fear she'll miss having her teeth. I fear I'll do something to mess up her recovery. It occurs to me that I'm playing all the "what ifs", and that sometimes "what ifs" are simply fears that drive us to distraction - and perhaps a little crazy.
Then I stop for a moment and remember. This is a cat who wakes me up every morning with hugs of a sort. She pushes her head under my hand for pets over and over. Then presses her little face against me and looks up at my face not once, not twice but repeatedly. If I try to get out of bed before she feels her snuggle time is over, she gently places her paws on me and pushes. She knows exactly what she wants and she's never afraid to go after it. You have to admire her tenacity.

Todd grooming Meme
 She and Todd, one of our other cats, came to live with us at the same time. I noticed today that he's looking in all her hiding places. He took me to her feeding place and meowed. He demanded to be let in the garage where of course he saw me take her and then come back without her. I can't seem to get him to understand that she's at the doctor and will be home later today. Go figure!
Meme and Kit Greeting One Another
She and Kit, our oldest cat, have a bit of a love/hate relationship. What do you expect? Two females fighting for dominance. Yet, on occasion, I catch them being nice to each other and even sleeping in the same general vicinity.
Funny how quiet the house seems today. Yes, Meme is a bit of a talker, but it's something different than that. It's like the energy in the house is somehow quiet, subdued. Maybe that's just my mood reflecting back at me...
So as I sit here trying to write about Florida and going with the flow, my thoughts are on Meme, her surgery, and her after-surgery care.
I've already called to check on her once and am resisting the urge to call again. I know they'll let me know when she's in recovery and if anything goes wrong. Still, I hate not being able to do anything. That's the control freak in me screaming for attention. I'm trying to quiet her.
Occasionally, a few doubts arise. I'm sure we did the right thing, but tooth extraction is not reversible. Once this is done, it's done. And, even as I write this, it's too late to turn back. I have comeplete faith in my vet and his staff, so my doubts have nothing to do with them. It's just a reminder that some decisions in life can't be unmade...ever...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kennedy Space Center or Going with the Flow...

It was our first day in Florida. We got off the plane around seven in the morning, grabbed a quick and disappointing breakfast at a restaurant whose name I can't remember, located the hotel we couldn't check in to yet, and bought a few supplies. Then we decided the intelligent thing to do was determine exactly how long it would take us to drive to the Astronaut's Hall of Fame in Titusville where we would watch the shuttle launch on July 8th, so we made the drive.
So far, this was exactly what I'd expected for the morning, but, I wanted to to find a beach and stare at the water for a while. Maybe take a little dip in the ocean, but I was still undecided on that one. I really wanted to do something where there would be no photos taken, I wouldn't feel selfconscious, and very little energy would be required. When my husband suggested we see if the Kennedy Space Center was open, I took one look at his excited face and decided not to remind him I wanted to go relax on the beach. So the Kennedy Space Center it was. Remember, I'm practicing at going with the flow...
I looked down at my sleeveless, coral t-shirt. Somehow it had gotten so stretched out on the plane, it looked a bit indecent. I looked in the mirror and rolled my eyes. My hair looked like... well, like what it was - unwashed and unbrushed... I didn't quite have the courage to sniff my underarms... I groaned. People and pictures looking like a wreck. Oh joy!
We pulled in the Kennedy Space Center parking lot. It was open but not too crowded. I decided it might be okay after all. I looked in the mirror again and adjusted my shirt yet again. This just wasn't going to work. A few minutes later, I stood at the trunk of the car, opened my suitcase, applied fresh deodorant and brushed my hair. Yes, standing in the parking lot. I pulled a shirt out of the suitcase and stared at it for a minute trying to decide whether to just risk it and change right there or find a more secluded spot. I ended up doing something I haven't done in years. I changed my shirt in the back seat of the car. I pulled off the stretched out t-shirt and sat there in my bra and shorts feeling... well, rather free... Then I pulled the fresh shirt over my head, ran the brush through my hair again, and stepped out, smiling. "I'm ready."
There's a lot of the stuff you would expect at the Kennedy Space Center. Displays of shuttles, rockets, cardboard cutouts that look like astronaut suits you can stick your head through and look like... well, like you're sticking your head through a cardboard cutout, a ride that "simulates" a shuttle launch from inside the cockpit (yeah, right!), and a bus tour of the space center. There are also a couple of other tours that sounded pretty interesting but neither was available that day. Oh, and let's not forget the multiple gift shops...
We signed up for the bus tour and headed in. My husband was anxious to start seeing things.
I shook my head and sighed. My energy was positively drained, so I bought a cup of fake energy - that's right folks, coffee - well, a latte to be precise. Then we noticed the next bus tour was about to leave. They leave every fifteen minutes, so we rushed over to catch the bus.
I settled into my seat on the bus and started sipping my coffee. Honestly, I was disappointed. Air-conditioned car to air-conditioned bus. When was I going to get to enjoy the heat and humidity. (I see you rolling your eyes. Go ahead. Done now? Can we return to our regularly scheduled programming?) And, the latte wasn't so great either, but it was caffeine. Caffeine that was badly needed at that point. I stared out the window while my husband played with his camera. He got a new one for this trip...
The bus driver told us something. Huh? Oh, well, missed that. Then a video started playing telling us about... the space program, what we were seeing, etc. etc. Honestly, I wasn't paying much attention. I was daydreaming - or as we writers like to call it, imagining story ideas. :-)
My husband took pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building which apparently is one of the largest buildings in existence by cubic footage and apparently is where things are assembled. God, I'm as bad as a child. All I saw a building with a huge American flag and the NASA symbol painted on it. Now, if they'd let me go inside... but, well, that wasn't going to happen.
We reached the Observation Gantry where a crawler-transporter was parked nearby. Now that was cool! It's huge and looks like it can actually do something! Well, it does. It transports the shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad at a very slow but steady and safe pace. I wanted to ride - or at least sit - on it, but it was behind lock and key. All the fun stuff was off-limits...
There was  a Space Shuttle Main Engine in the Observation Gantry. It projected a certain artistry and beauty in its design, at least to my eye. (and, no, I don't know who the guy in the pic is.) From the Observation Gantry we could see the launch pad and views of the surrounding area including the Vehicle Assembly Building and other launch pads. Placards along the way described what was visible from a given area.
The view of the launch pad from the three levels varied slightly. Atlantis was already on the launch pad but wasn't visible though the top of the external fuel tank (the orange thing) and one of the solid rocket boosters (the white thing next to the orange thing) was. We spent a lot of time at the Observation Gantry. They had those little observation things you put a quarter (is it still a quarter? I didn't check.) in to see the shuttle launch pad better, but we used the long lens on the camera to get a better view instead.  
The second stop on the bus tour was the Apollo/Saturn V Center. This started with a video and moved on to another video. The second was in front of the command center. It was interesting. I hope this stuff is taught in history classes but wondered based on some clueless faces I noticed. After the second video, we were released into a musuem where much Apollo memorabilia was on display. Exiting through the gift shop was a requirement.
Back at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, we decided to ride the Shuttle Launch Experience... Okay, it seemed like an interesting change of pace from taking pictures. Here's the gist of it. They give you a lot of warnings, a narrator talks through abbreviated launch procedures, and you shake a lot. Let's be honest, it's designed for children at least 44-inches tall to be able to ride, so it's not going to rock an adult's world by any means.  Still, it provided a silly break in the day.
In the Visitor's Complex, visitors are on their own to browse the Memorial, the shuttle, the rocket garden, and so on. So we wandered around and posed for pictures. And posed for pictures. And posed for pictures. Oh, and did I mention we posed for pictures.
There are some really cool things to see at the Kennedy Space Center, and I'm glad we took the day to spend there if for no other reason than the view from the Observation Gantry, especially through the camera lens, made not being able to see the launch pad on launch day a little easier to handle.
And, to think I wanted to waste the day sitting on the beach...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Florida! Could You Be My New Love?

Okay, I love Florida. It's official. After a week there, I was ready to move. Yes, it rained and stormed two solid days, but guess what, it was still warm out. I didn't have to find a sweat shirt or a coat or go buy long pants. I wore my shorts and my sleeveless shirts. I wasn't freezing. Yes, it was hot and humid the other days. Yes, the sun was even punishingly hot at times.  Yes, forgetting to put sunscreen on any part of my exposed skin was a huge mistake and resulted in a sunburn in a short period of time in the sun. And, yet I felt free, comfortable, and happy.
As soon as I stepped out of the Orlando International Airport at somewhere around seven o'clock in the morning on July 4th, I smiled. The rush of heat and humidity felt like coming home. I know. I'm weird. It's okay, you're not the first to think so. Now, I have to admit not being able to check into the hotel until four in the afternoon started to wear on me fairly quickly after flying all night. After all, my last shower was hours before we boarded our flight. I felt like I needed a shower, to wash my hair, and to change my shirt...
I went to Florida looking for the sun and the heat. Oregon tends to be very rainy and it's a cold rainy. As much as I love rain, the cold rain begins to wear on me after a while. I miss my summers in the South. That's just the way it is.
While in Florida, I visited the Kennedy Space Center, spent a day and two nights in Miami, took three walks on the beach, posed for photos for the cover of my upcoming book of poetry, watched the last shuttle launch, met some nice people, and got to see three fabulous friends. Were there things that would've made the trip better or more perfect? Sure, I can think of a few, but those are just reasons to go back!
Over on my reviews, blog, Reviews with TLC, I will be reviewing the hotels and restaurants from our visit over the next several days. If you're interested, check there often in the next couple of weeks.
I will also be posting a few more blogs here about the trip, my observations, my thoughts and feelings, etc.
And, in the process I'll be looking for excuses for a return trip to Florida... Feel free to make suggestions.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Past Invades

Once there was a girl who was best friends with a guy. She told him he was like the brother she never had. She told him she loved him like a brother. He told her he was in love with her. She laughed it off. He said he was just kidding. She wondered which was true. She told him her deepest secrets. She told him her secret pain. She told him her dreams, even the outrageous ones. She told him everything. He told her his ambitions. He told her how he envisioned his future. He told her he'd always protect her. She trusted him like no other.

Then one day he betrayed her in a way that crumbled her foundation. He turned her trust in him back on her and destroyed her ability to trust her own judgment. He hurt her more than anyone ever had and told her he did it for her own good. She cried. She hid. She tried to disappear. She became self-destructive. She dreamed about ways to die. She dreamed about ways to punish herself. She lost herself and everything that made her her. She looked in the mirror and saw simply a shell of who she had once been. She knew no one else could see there was no longer anything in that shell - just emptiness. She rejected anything good that came near her. She ran from anything kind that approached. She hid from any offer of love. She embraced that which would inflict pain because feeling pain was better than the numbness and the emptiness she felt.

Slowly, she began to realize she wasn't responsible for his actions. He chose his behavior. In hindsight, maybe she shouldn't have ignored some things, but at the time they hadn't raised any alarms. People who said "I could've told you" were also speaking from hindsight or else they really weren't friends. She wanted to say "Why didn't you?" but instead let them make her feel like she was an idiot for missing what others saw.

Eventually, she began to heal. She began to open her heart to the world again and not just for show. She began to build a future again. She began to let people back into her inner circle. She began to reach out to others. Always slowly, cautiously and not necessarily steadily but forward motion nonetheless.

Then one day she sat on a bus in a faraway town looking out the window. She heard a voice that sounded just like... his. Her heart stopped then raced. Her fists clenched. Her crossed legs squeezed together as tightly as possible. She had to remind herself to breathe. She unclenched her left fist and pressed the nails into her leg until it hurt. She slowly turned. The face wasn't his, but that voice. She stared a little harder than she should have trying to convince herself her mind wasn't playing tricks on her. No, it wasn't his face. She could see that clearly. Still she felt her gaze move down to the man's shin and calf muscle looking for the nasty scar that would identify him if it was. She couldn't remember which leg, so she checked one leg and then the other. Right leg? No scar. Left leg? No scar.

Still, that voice.

She willed her breath in and out, her heart to beat normally, her hands to unclench, and her legs to relax. The man spoke to the young girl with him - his daughter, she presumed. She listened. There was that sound in his voice. But the more he talked the more differences she noticed. Yet, she couldn't help staring every time his voice hit one of the similarities. The memories flooded her for a few moments. She tried to force them away. It took several attempts before she was successful.

As she convinced her mind of the reality that the man wasn't him, she felt a need to apologize for thinking even for a second he could've been. She knew that was ridiculous. The man would think she was crazy yet... There was no way he even knew what his voice had triggered in her mind and thrusting that knowledge upon him would've been unfair, possibly even selfish and almost certainly misunderstood.

So she kept quiet. She told no one. She kept it all inside where it belonged. It was her problem just as it always had been. Yet in that moment she knew she wasn't as free of her past as she wanted to believe...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perfect If...

Let me start by saying as a writer I rather enjoy playing the "What if..." game sometimes  - well when I'm in control of the game and it doesn't take control of me - because it often leads to some pretty awesome story lines. Thinking what if I'd made that decision instead of the one I made. Thinking what if I run into a friend I haven't seen in years. Thinking what if I run into that person who not only broke my heart and ripped it to shreds but set it on fire and urinated on it before handing it back to me with a sly smile that said you'll never forget me now will you. I've played these what if games and used the different scenarios to generate stories and poetry.

The mental exercise I often tend to not like is "This would be perfect if..." or "The only thing missing is..." Now, don't misunderstand, these can also be great exercises to find story ideas or to fix scenes that aren't working. The problem with these scenarios is they tend to take us out of wonderfully enjoyable moments to focus on what's missing. As a writer, it's a useful tool. As a human being, it's often distracting and sometimes even destructive. Okay, so you might be thinking, can't the what if game have the same pitfalls? Well, probably, but I find the what if game easier to control. It usually comes in quiet moments not in the middle of having a fun time or exploring a new experience.

Recently while I was in Florida, the second mental exercise kept interrupting my fun. I became quite annoyed with myself because before we arrived I vowed to myself that I was going to live in the moment so I could just enjoy each moment as it came. For the most part, I did. When these fleeting thoughts would interfere, I'd mentally ask them, "Really? It seems fabulous right now. Do we really need perfection? And would that really bring perfection or just a whole different set of circumstances to ponder?" Usually this worked to bring me back into the present moment.

I had one full day in Miami. It rained the entire day. Now, at first I was bummed. Then I stepped outside. Yes, it was raining, but it was warm out. I wasn't freezing like I would've been in Oregon. Yes, I would've preferred to see the sun and feel its warmth on my face, but rain what was I got. I could whine about how the day would be perfect if only the sun would shine or I could embrace the moment and enjoy it. I chose to do the latter. Okay, it took me a few minutes to get there. After all, it wasn't what I'd planned. Did that really matter? No, it didn't. I had two choices, enjoy what was in front of me or mope about what wasn't.

There were other "perfect if" moments throughout the week, but I let go of them more easily than I have in the past. So, while it's not perfection, I'll take it. Hopefully, it'll be even easier next time to just enjoy the moment and stop worrying about what would make it perfect. I plan to practice every day.

Every time I have a "perfect if" moment, I'm going to pause for a moment to figure out if I'm just sabotaging the moment or if there is really something that needs changed. I've found that most of the time, the answer is that the moment at hand is "perfect enough" if we let it be.

So here's to "perfect enough" moments and the smiles they bring!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Year of Gratitude: The Halfway Mark

Yesterday marked the halfway point in my year of gratitude project.

At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to live in a more positive place. I wanted to focus on the good in my life, fix the fixable bad, and let the rest go. I thought one way to do this would be to focus more on the positive things in my life.

In the 1990s, I kept a gratitude journal of sorts. I would write in my journal and then at the end of that, write down a list of things for which I felt grateful each day. It helped me see that there were lots of things in my life to be grateful for, many of them very simple things. Over time as I journaled less, I also quit keeping the gratitude journal.

I found myself growing more negative and focused on the problems instead of the solutions in life and in my writing. Last Fall I decided I needed to do something to change this focus, so I started keeping my gratitude journal again.

By January 2011, I had some thoughts in place on what I wanted to do. So I made a plan.

I would begin each morning with a gratitude meditation. I would sit and simply think about all the things in my life about which I have to feel grateful every morning. Okay, good start, but it wasn't enough. I then decided to make my gratitude public to a certain extent. I decided that each morning I would pick one item from my gratitude meditation and make that my first Facebook status of the morning. I also decided to challenge myself because I wanted to go deeper than surface gratitude - the things we can be grateful for easily and without thought. So I decided every day for one year that my gratitude status would have to be unique. If it hit a theme from another day, it had to have something about it that made it different than the previous one. The other rule was that if I stated I was grateful for certain things that are easy to be grateful for, I had to state why. For example, I couldn't just say I was grateful for my house. I had to figure out why I was grateful for my house. I didn't do this to make being grateful difficult. I did this to push myself to really feel the gratitude and understand the positives behind the gratitude. I wanted to find deeper gratitude. I wanted to find gratitude that could serve as a foundation for positive living. I didn't want my gratitude meditation to become rote, a task to mark off a list, or to feel like a chore.

I also decided to resume my gratitude journal. Since I no longer journal the events of my day, this would be purely a list of things from that day for which I felt grateful. This list could include the mundane with no explanation. It could be as long or as short as I chose each day. It could be as silly or as serious as I wanted. It could be the place where I included the things I wanted to keep private.

Yesterday marked the halfway point - six months of beginning and ending each day with gratitude. I only missed six days posting a gratitude statement on Facebook. In addition, I did post the one for January 1st on January 2nd. Four of the days I missed, I was sick. I'm guessing that gratitude was in short supply, but I know I felt too bad to log on to Facebook. The other two days were a weekend when I opted to take a break from my computer. On those days, I did my gratitude meditation, I just didn't post anything.

So you may be wondering if this has helped me feel more positive. So far, yes it has. It helps me to remember what's good in my life even when life is difficult. Or maybe especially when life is difficult. When I begin my day by going to a place of gratitude, I find it easier to see good in the rest of my day. When I end my day with gratitude, it reminds me that no matter what trials I faced there was some good in there. I find I smile more easily and laugh a little more readily.

Now, I'm not turning into some kind of a pollyanna or little miss susie sunshine. I'm still me. I've not lost the analytical or the slightly cynical me. I'm not blinding myself to reality. I'm just no longer dwelling on what goes wrong as much. I feel more open to possibilities. Okay, I still question the hell out of them, but I'm more open to them. I'm allowing the good things to hang around without looking for some crushing blow to end them. I'm seeing beauty in more things. I'm accepting my life in the moment even while I strive to change the things I don't like.

Don't get me wrong there are days when I sit down to do my gratitude meditation and my mind goes completely blank. I can't think of a single thing about which I feel grateful. I stare at the wall in front of me. I close my eyes. I start going over events from the most recent days. And, nothing. The worst day I had was when I finally ended up being grateful that when I didn't feel grateful I knew I would later. Some days it almost feels too easy. I'm flooded with moments that elicit gratitude. And, some days I wake up with the things for which I'm grateful listing themselves before I'm even fully aware I'm awake. I rather like those days yet I'm appreciative of those days when gratitude is hard to find. It makes me appreciate the good that much more.

My focus on gratitude has helped my writing because it reminds me that I'm grateful for inspiration, for the words I write, for the readers who read my work, and for the buyers who buy my work. I'm grateful I get to share my experience with others and hopefully help them find something to make life a little better, even if it's just a smile or a moment of empathy for others.

So I'll check in again at the end of the year and let you know if my year of gratitude changed my life. In the meantime, I encourage you to give gratitude a try. If you do, let me know if it changes your life.