Category Archives: Random Thoughts

G is for Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” –Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.” –Charles Dickens

It’s difficult to maintain a positive attitude when we are constantly bombarded by negativity. Just watch the evening news. It’s enough to make anyone depressed. Social media isn’t much better. Since I’ve been trying to adopt “an attitude of gratitude,” I now limit the viewing of both of these sources. Appreciating the gifts we’ve been given isn’t always easy, but creating a gratitude list is an effective way to develop and sustain a positive outlook on life.

I’ve started a “30 Days to Happiness” challenge, and the first thing that’s required is to list three things I’m grateful for every day. By day five, I’m finding it harder to do. I trudge on. My brain benefits from searching for the good in life.

So today, I’ve decided to give thanks for my five senses, which are so often taken for granted. The older I get, the more I realize how lost I would be without the ability to see, hear, feel, smell  or taste.

My eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I no longer have 20/20 vision. I need reading glasses for fine print. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without being able to read a book, watch the next season of Game of Thrones, or immerse myself in nature’s vibrant colors and beauty.

I’m grateful I still have my hearing, even if it is a bit damaged from listening to loud rock-n-roll during my youth. I need music to lift my spirits, to energize me or lull me to sleep. I would be as frustrated as my father without his hearing aids if I could not follow a conversation or hear birds singing in the distance.

I recently became a grandmother, and let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than the feel of a baby in your arms. I just want to kiss all over her soft, smooth skin, rub her baby Buddha belly, massage her little legs, and caress her tiny fingers and toes. Doing so calms my nervous energy. There’s also something soothing in petting a puppy or kitten, or curling up with a silky blanket or lounging on cool bed sheets.

My sense of smell has always been strong. I can spot a foul odor a mile away. If it’s coming from within my house, I hunt it down to eradicate it. Before I leave town, I clean my house so that upon my return I will be greeted by fresh scents. I use essential oils, incense, and scented candles to cheer me.

As for the sense of taste, mine has never been overly picky. I’ve always been a fast eater, never lingering on what my taste buds might have to say. I know I need to slow down and savor each bite, but eating always seemed to be an inconvenience to me. I used to wish there were pills I could take to bypass the whole process. Now I know I’m missing out on what the French have always treasured: making mealtime a pleasurable indulgence. A glass of red wine with cheese or chocolate are some of the few treats I truly cherish.

Yes, I am thankful for these gifts. Not everyone has use of all five senses. As a child, I was fascinated by Helen Keller. I read every book I could find about her. For a woman who was deaf and blind, she accomplished more than many of us and appreciated what life had to offer her. I would like to be more like her. By acknowledging my blessings every day, I hope to shift my mental state and respond to life from a place of strength and sensibility.

Be grateful for the good in your life.

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F is for Family and Friends

“Love your family. Spend time, be kind and serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised and today is short.” –Unknown

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating  virtues of humans, are created, strengthened and maintained.” –Winston Churchill

“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” –Alex Haley

I think of my family and friends a great deal. They are what either boost my morale or knock me back down to reality. They can break my heart or fill me with joy. Friends come and go, but family remains until death do us part. People often talk about dysfunctional families. When I was younger I thought my family was abnormal, but soon realized there is no such thing as normal.

Many years ago I interviewed my mother long before she began showing signs of dementia. I wanted to discover what made her tick, and in doing so, find out who I am. I learned through deductive reasoning why she became who she is, but I am still trying to see how it links to me. Her memories of her birth family are vivid even now when she is half mad, but she cannot recall events of my childhood. Was her inner life so unbearable then that she blocked it all out? Did having three small children drive her insane? Her mother died when I was three years old, and for many years to follow there were hints and murmurs among adults that she lost her mind with grief. Now, she calls me six or more times a day looking for her long dead mother and sister, crying for someone to come get her and take her home. She also reverts back to the time when my youngest daughter was small. My mother and mother-in-law took turns watching Morgan while I worked. Those were happy times for us all.

So it is only the happy times she recalls. I don’t blame her wanting to go back. If only we all could go back to happier times and relive them with relish. I want to be there for my mother, even though we are miles apart. I wish I could comfort her while she waits to return to the family she lost so long ago.

As for friends? Few stay. I rarely let go of a friendship, unless they let go first or die. My grandfather once said, “If you have one good friend in life you’re damned lucky.” I have a handful who have been around for many years. Will they be there in a flash when I’m in desperate need? It’s doubtful. Mainly because their families come first. I understand.

Instead of allowing my mother’s grief and my longing for friends to drive me insane with depression, all I can do is try to remember something I once heard: we are the memories we keep in our hearts.

As for you, dear reader, cherish your loved ones. Never waste an opportunity to let them know how much you care. Those moments will become the memories that sustain you.

“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life–to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” –George Eliot

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” –Confucius

 

 

 

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E is for Excuses

“Your will has to be stronger than your excuses. Your will has to be stronger than your fear.”
― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Yes, I have plenty of them.

My excuses for not writing are endless. I’m going through a letting go process right now and it hurts like hell. I’ve spent the last several months sorting through years’ worth of stuff (I’m hesitant to say “junk” because not all of it is or was) as I prepared for a garage sale and putting up my house for sale. Talk about stress. I reread old journals, short stories, and love letters I either wrote or received before tossing into the trash. I cried as I uncovered my children’s old toys and baby clothes, pining for the time when they were little and I was young. When I told a friend how I missed the days when my girls were babies she laughed and said, “Hell, I don’t. I’m ready for my kids to graduate from college and start supporting themselves.”

The garage sale is over and the house sold before it ever went on the market. So, what’s my excuse now? I’m packing and preparing for the big move. Even before all this, I had been feeling stuck in a rut, questioning my abilities, my purpose. Now fear and guilt lurk over my shoulder whenever I allow my mind to wander. What if I’m making a mistake moving now? I’ve lived in the same house for 25 years, filled it with love and memories. I’m only blocks away from my aging parents. I can be at their house in less than five minutes if they should need me. My sister resides in the same town so they won’t be alone, but still . . . Three years ago, when my husband and I made the decision to move once he retired, my parents were doing fine. Now their health is declining and I’m filled with guilt. Lyrics pop into my head and haunt me while I sleep: “Should I stay or should I go?”

But now there is no turning back.

With these thoughts swirling around my brain is it any wonder I have trouble concentrating and thinking about what to write? Which leads to my excuses for continuing to smoke.

I’ve quit smoking so many times I’ve lost count. I quit for two years when pregnant with my oldest daughter. Back then, my excuse for starting back was my divorce from her father. The longest I’ve stopped was six years, before and after my pregnancy with my youngest daughter. Why I ever started again is beyond me. I have no good excuse. I quit recently for two months but a mini-breakdown drove me to the store to buy a pack and puff away. My daughters have a saying, “Mom doesn’t quit smoking. She just takes breaks.”

I have excuses for pretty much everything in my life. I guess we all do. At least these excuses led to me writing today.

There is always a perfectly good excuse, always a reason not to. The hardest freedom to win is the freedom from one’s excuses. ~Robert Brault

“The trick is not how much pain you feel-but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain.
Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses, excuses.” Erica Jong

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A is for Aging

Back in March I mentioned the April A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a post every day except Sundays starting with the letter A and ending with Z. I knew then I couldn’t write 26 posts in one month. So I’m challenging myself to use the alphabet to motivate my next 26 posts. Of course, this may take more than a year or two. Who knows. So here it goes:

  A is for aging. It’s something we all go through if we don’t die young. We notice it more readily in someone we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s amazing to run into an old high school friend after twenty or thirty years. We think, “God, he’s aged.” Then wonder if he thought the same about us.

What I find mysterious is how it sneaks up on you. The inward aches, pains, creaks, and groans grow on you. But the outward appearances? You don’t realize something’s different until it has changed drastically. While doing yoga a few years ago, I remember glancing at my legs as I performed a downward dog. The skin on my thighs hung loose around my knees. Did that happen overnight? What happened to the muscles residing there? I never heard them say good-bye. And I didn’t notice my jowls or turkey neck until looking at photographs taken during Christmas shortly after I turned fifty. How long had those been there? Why didn’t someone warn me? I used to pluck stray gray hairs poking from my head until one morning there were too many. If I continued plucking I would go bald. Did I cause the gray to multiply? Was the old saying true that if you pluck one gray many more follow?

Bette Davis once said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” Boy, was she right. No matter how resilient you think you are, the signs of aging are shocking when you gaze in the mirror and find them staring back at you. Worse still, it’s knowing you can’t do some of the things you used to take for granted, like squatting down and being able to get back up, or opening a jar of jelly, or reading fine print.

Harder still, is watching loved ones go through it first, especially your parents. To watch my father, a once tall, strong, football player, shrink in skin that bruises easily, his hearing aid not doing its job. and see my mother, once a beautiful cheerleader, shuffle her feet as she walks, forgetting what day it is, brings tears to my eyes. I cry every time I leave their house, knowing their time here is limited. Where did the time go? How did old age get here so fast? I have to keep slapping myself, saying, “Stop crying. They’re not dead yet. Cherish what time is left.”

I guess I’m crying for what’s been lost: my childhood, my youth, the days when I could go to Mom and Dad for answers, to fix things. I cry because I’m helpless to stop time, and I’m frightened. I’m afraid of what’s next. I can’t imagine my life without my parents. I know, people survive the loss of their parents all the time. Some even survive the loss of a child. But how do they do it? What is their secret? Maybe I’m just a big baby. But I’m also scared of what old age will do to me. Will I lose my memory? I’m pretty forgetful as it is.  My mother used to joke about the saying, “Live long enough to become a problem to your children.” Seems only fair especially after putting both of my parents through hell during my teen years. Will I become a burden? I don’t want to do that to my daughters. Watching your parents fade away is painful enough.

All I can do is plan ahead. I’m weeding though junk, especially papers, trying to organize documents, so when the time comes my kids will be able to find what’s important and have less of a mess to sort through. In the meantime, I’m trying to control my emotions. If I allow sad thoughts to consume me I become crippled, paralyzed with pain, no longer living in the present, wasting what precious time remains. I need to hold on to the memories and release the sorrow, and relish each moment I have with the ones I love.

To keep me in a positive frame of mind, I post affirmations throughout my house. Two on my bathroom mirror remind me: “Don’t wait for a crisis to discover what is important in your life” and “Be thankful for the past, have courage for the present, and faith for the future.”

A is not only for aging, but also for affirmations. Affirm what’s good in your life, everyday, for you never know when it is your last.

What are your thoughts on aging? How do you deal with your own mortality or that of a loved one?

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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From A to Z

If you’re interested in joining the A to Z Challenge, check out Damyanti’s blog Daily (w)rite. She’s a co-host to the A to Z Challenge.

I considered the Challenge, but knew I couldn’t write about twenty six subjects in less than a month, a year maybe, but never a month. I’m lucky if I blog every three months as it is. The motivation is gone. Where it went is beyond me. I should have named this blog Brain Fart instead of Brainstorm. I’d go ahead and change it, but I’m not sure how to do it. Who knows, maybe it’s too late. What can I say? I’m still technically-challenged (though I did finally buy a smart phone and am slowly learning how to use it). My brain doesn’t function the way it did when I was younger. It’s slowing down. Yours will too one day. Enjoy its brilliance while it lasts.

I’ve read so many different people’s ideas on what a blog should be. Most people pick a topic and stick with it. Not me. I’m random. And I don’t care if others say that’s not the way to do it. I don’t want to write about writing all the time. Plenty of other writers do that already. The subject is well-covered; I don’t have anything else to add. Besides, I’m still learning. I’m no expert. I’m an expert of nothing.

Even though I’m not joining the A to Z challenge I think I’ll try the basic concept. I need to blog more just to keep it from dying. My next post—and I have no idea when it will be, not that you’re holding your breath or anything—will be about something that starts with an A.

If anyone even reads this post, if you have any ideas please feel free to share. I need all the help I can get.

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March 22, 2014 · 8:46 pm

When to Cut and Run

No, my blog isn’t dead. At least, not yet. I haven’t written in quite some time. My excuses are many.

First, it’s the holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that jazz. I know, I know, I haven’t written since April, I think, so I can’t use the holidays as an excuse. But I do sincerely wish everyone all the best and a happier New Year.

I have been writing, just nothing worth sharing yet. I’ve started on three short stories, none of which have a decent beginning or ending. I used to write short stories all the time, many years ago, but they kept growing longer and longer. That’s why I switched to writing novels. But it seems I need to publish more short stories in order to sell myself as a novelist. Frustrating.

I’m editing my thesis novel Daughter of the Bride (again) and have been for what seems like a very long time. Well, since graduating in June. It would be helpful if I trusted my own instinct, but I don’t. I hired an editor who made many valuable suggestions. I didn’t use all her ideas, but most. So I added and deleted scenes and wound up with over 95,000 words. I asked my writer friend Marla to read it. She had some great advice, too, some of which helped me remove scenes my editor had already advised cutting, but I had stubbornly refused. Now, after struggling with what many writers call “killing my darlings,” I’m deleting more scenes. I’m searching for overused words, too, which is enough to drive anyone crazy.  {Little side note of trivia: the lesser-known Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the term “Murder your darlings” in his 1914 lecture “On Style” (slate.com)}.

The following is a sampling of words and the number of times they appear in my manuscript:

was-733, were-199, when-180, adter-115, once-72, while-102

turned-91, stood-65,went-37, moved-39, seemed-30, appeared-30,

looked-178, glanced-75, stared-58, gazed-29, watched-62, peeked-15,

peered-19, squinted-7,just-81, well-53, oh-46, sighed-39, shrugged-23.

I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you with numbers. But you get the idea. I could go on and on with the word search and count, too, and drive myself insane! Or in my case, further insane. It’s addicting, playing with words, finding ways to replace them with something better. What I want to know is when do you stop the searching and thumbing through the thesaurus? How many times do you have to use a word before it is considered overused?

I’m down to a little over 82,000 words. I wonder. Is it time cut some more or run for the insane asylum? What would you do?

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