“The Road Less Traveled” is Sometimes the only Way

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"Looking Outward" 3-D painting in an actual window frame

“Looking Outward” 3-D painting in an actual window frame

My life has taken such twists and turns, I scarcely recognize it. Events and circumstances have turned out differently than I expected. I made choices that changed the direction I was going, the people I interacted with, and caused a complete 1-80 transition from my familial and spiritual beginnings.

I once had visions of me herding a bunch of “grands” and living near my own children so that I could enjoy the fruits of motherhood. As it is, my six children and their children are scattered to the far winds. They rarely if never take vacations where I live. I manage a few trips, but because of their numbers it’s usually only once every three years or more that I see any one of them.

"Day Dreams" 11 x 14 oil on canvas

“Day Dreams” 11 x 14 oil on canvas

They inherited my aversion to telephones, so we don’t talk as often as we should. But thank goodness for Facebook and email or I’d never learn a thing about who they are and what they do.

One of my children hasn’t spoken to me since he left to live with his father at age 15. I expected that he’d get over it in time, but he hasn’t. He now has two children (one I only heard about from his sister). I saw the first one when she was only one years of age, and then again at three. Now she’s somewhere between eight and ten years of age, and she doesn’t even know me.

I’ve traveled long and far. My journey has been difficult and painful. The peace I’ve found along the way has been hard-won. The missing pieces in my life leave a large hole that only my children can fill.

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“Through her Eyes” sketch of live sitter

When I titled my blog “Artwork and Musings from my Dancing Heart,” I truly meant that because down deep inside, I’m an optimist. But in the normal course of living, for all of us, there is a wearing down, day after day, and it’s bound to have an effect.

In my first marriage, whenever I was “up” my husband was “down” looking sad and morose. When he could ignore me or bully me into a corner that’s when he’d feel the control he needed to breakout into a smile and dance around with pleasure. For some strange reason, my playfulness and laughter was his nemesis.

If I was happy that meant I had something over on him. Perhaps I’d spent too much money. Maybe I wasn’t burdened down with the cooking and the cleaning for our large family. If it was too easy for me, then I probably wasn’t doing my job. For whatever reason, we were never on the same plane of joy or the same wave length.

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“Moody Blues” mixed media on canvas

Today our pathways seldom cross. When they do it’s usually for a wedding or special occasion. Then he’s on his best behavior. He smiles and interacts with the children in a demonstrative way I never saw when we were together. His current wife and he seem to have “the perfect” relationship.

But when the festivities are over his facade dissolves into the sad and empty expression that I remember. It doesn’t reveal itself too often. The smiley face is the mask he wears to deal with the world. I hurt for him. I would love to see peace and contentment spread over his face as a permanent fixture not just when other people are present.

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas

We all wear masks at times to hide the humanity we’re ashamed to show to those we don’t know. It’s important to have a close confidante you feel comfortable with so you can vent some of that anger and resentment. My release came from an art teacher and her weekly class. When I was involved completely in painting, I was in another sphere; free, alive and soaring. I forgot about my problems. My deep sadness slunk into the shadows, and the weight lifted from my shoulders.

Today I don’t regret that twisted rocky path I traveled on to get from there to here. Sure the sadness lingers, memory doesn’t wipe the slate clean. My journey has brought me to a place of confidence and well-being that was not possible in my former life. I took the path “less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20

By Robert Frost

Interludes of Happiness are the Underpinnings that Strengthen the Soul

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“Americana” acrylic on canvas

Just when you think your life is on an even keel, something or someone wipes the gloat off your face and you’re down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: Change is inevitable. Unpredictability is the norm.

The in between times when love seems never ending, when peace pervades your universe and you think nothing can go wrong that’s just when it does. Those prime times are short and fleeting. They come and go like breathing in and out. They arrive just before or shortly after a crisis.

Make the most of these tender moments because they never last. They are what memories are made of when we have nothing else to live for. These heavenly highs help relationships weather the uneven tides of emotion and anger. They give life zest and nourish a heavy heart.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Think of these pleasant pauses, these cherished nanoseconds as seeds. They can’t be saved or stored except in memory; but they can reside within us and provide a web of interconnecting fiber that can give our life structure and continuity. These interludes of happiness “relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Like a flickering light in the gloom of darkness, these seeds of joy gives us hope, sustain us, and keep our feet planted on solid ground even when all of life is crumbling around us. This kind of strength is what makes heroes out of common men. When a tragedy happens, they respond. They just do it, never thinking about the risks to their own mind or body nor their inhibitions and weaknesses.

Human capacity is never fully tested on this earth. Knowing that somewhere within us is the action needed to meet our convictions is reassuring. Manufacturers and engineers know all about tensile strength when it comes to machinery and materials. Tensile strength is all about the ability to be stretched or pulled out of shape before breaking. Even though human beings are not machines, they are still resilient and capable of super human fetes when necessary.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

These seeds of hope, faith, happiness and joy that grow to fruition within us make us stronger, more teachable, and more bendable. This ethereal structure helps us to endure sorrow, pain, anger, hatred, envy or the loss of a loved one, the failure of business or marriage. This foundation is what helps you get up when you fall, and why you take one step after another even though you don’t feel like walking or going anywhere.

Savor the good times. Remember them in the bad times. Make more of these moments every chance you get. This is the web or safety net that will give you courage when you need it the most and the resiliency to hold on a little longer when your heart is breaking.

Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Change comes to all of us. Nothing stays the same. Ride the waves, my friend. Your life’s journey will sometimes lift you up and at other times slap you down in the grit of despair. Don’t give up in the heat of the moment. Coast and surf until you gain some traction. You will survive.

(This blog was delayed by the unforeseen, but it also gave me my subject matter.)

How NOT to get Snookered — are your Vulnerabilities Showing?

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“An Open Book” 16×20 mixed media on canvas (SOLD) PRINTS AVAILABLE

Young couples typically want what’s best for their children. As far as reasonably possible, parents will fork over the cash to provide their children with the best. I must admit I’ve done the same thing over the years and learned the hard way that not every salesman is honest, nor is every purchase a smart one.

After going through several “duds,” I finally told my children they could ask for anything at Christmas time except those nasty toys they saw on T.V. Why? Because I’d learned that most did not deliver what they promised. A few items were not only unsafe, but downright scary.

Unfortunately, I have a soft spot for learning. If there’s a toy or a tool out there that promises to help my child tell time, tie his own shoelaces or eat his peas, I’m there. Convince me you have something to shorten the time it takes to potty train, and I’ll shell out the necessary bucks. Even promises to “equip my child for the future” may widen my eyes and indicate that I’m ripe for the kill.

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“With these Hands — Love” oil on acrylic under painting

I had on that sappy face the day an encyclopedia salesman rang my doorbell and greeted me with his eager enthusiasm. At the time, I had a one year old and a two year old. He drew them in and praised me for wanting the best for them. He showed me my children’s future turning page after shiny hope-filled page of his illustrious, illustrated leather-bound set.

I pulled my husband into the decision making, and he, too, crumbled like a cookie. We both swallowed the Rep’s spiel hook, line, and stinker. Too late we realized that by the time our children were old enough to use them, the books would be outdated.

With the advent of the internet, the whole encyclopedia business was a washout. I had to smile when a recent T.V. commercial showed an encyclopedia CEO telling his staff: “We’re back” while the camera cuts to a toddler punching a chubby finger on the “Buy” button of his parent’s smart phone over and over again. The camera then zooms out and pans the encyclopedia company workers boxing and shipping hundreds and thousands of books.

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“Through her Eyes” original sketch of live model

Most women are insecure in their own worth and beauty. Constantly on a diet, or trying out different kinds of makeup and skin care products is the norm. I myself fell into the hypnotizing web of Dr. Oz and ordered a “free sample” of one of his recommended products. In order to get the “free” sample, I had to give them my credit card information. Before I knew it, I was being shipped the product, without asking for it, at $100 a pop!

Although I was told when I complained: “There are many satisfied users;” their endorsement in no way made me smile. I had broken out in a red rash and pimples while using their product for only a few days. I’m still working to stop the shipments and block payments, even though I never ordered a single product. Again, I was told that “somewhere in the fine print” was a time limit for complaints. Sneaky!

Weight loss is another gimmick for selling products that don’t work or that may actually do more harm than good. Many products interfere with medications you may be taking. Herbal products often interfere with your metabolism and neutralize thyroid or heart medicines prescribed by your doctor. Be wary of all promises. You may end up like I did with an expensive bottle of weight loss meds that I couldn’t take.

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Art and Collectibles Display at show

I once was a salesperson myself, showing Avon products door to door in a time when it was much safer to pound the streets. Young and naïve, I thought that most people were pretty much the same. I learned that you never know “what’s behind closed doors.” What I saw, heard, and witnessed made me realize how different we all are in the way we choose to live our lives.

Selling is challenging, difficult, and disparaging work. Every time a sale’s “pitch” is made the seller’s reputation is on the line. This is the main reason I chose not to make this my full-time occupation. I simply could not sell what I did not believe in or trust myself.

“Buyer Beware” is not only sound cautionary advice, the reverse is also true: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Living in the Present and Letting Go of the Past

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Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Today is all you have. If you’re future focused, you may miss out on the blessings right under your nose. If you dwell on the past, you may end up with a heart full of regrets and sadness. No matter how much you would like to go back, the past is out of your control. You can’t change it. Ever!

Tomorrow is not yours, either. Predictions are foolish. Wishes are senseless, unless they’re backed up with action. Concentrate on today’s duties and obligations. There may be pain. There is often unhappiness; but if you’re honest, there are also priceless moments of joy: sunlight coming through the window and landing on a sparkling glass; the smell of peanut butter; birdsong in the quiet of afternoon; drawing a warm bath; a church bell in the distance, slipping tired feet into fuzzy slippers. You just have to watch for these mini-miracles. Savor the few and let the rest go.

Sea Breeze

“Sea Breeze” acrylic on 30×24 canvas

My mother used to say “If you want to retain your sense of humor – read the funny papers!” She was right. Even online jokes and funny stories can change your day. I received one that gave me a huge belly laugh when I finished reading it. What if I’d skipped that email, thinking I was too busy and had no time to waste? I’d have stayed down in the dumps and perhaps been impossible to live with for the remainder of the day. Don’t miss out on a chance to laugh!

Turn up the music and dance. Never wait until you’re in the mood. Do it now! It’s good exercise. If you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you may end up casting those bad feelings aside in a whirl or a jiggle. It’s hard to keep frowning when you’re jiving to the rhythm or swaying with a child in your arms. Go on – gyrate! Get those feet tapping to the music.

Connect with someone. Loneliness hurts! Pick up the phone. If nothing else, turn on the T.V. and listen to other people’s complaints. Hold your pet. Hug someone! Get out of the house and do something. The more you nurse your aloneness, the more alone you’ll feel. Stay connected until you feel better. People need people. You may still feel alone unless you share your grief with someone else. Sharing makes others feel better, too.

Sea Nymph

“Sea Nymph” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Go for a walk. Yes, I know, you don’t feel like it; but do it anyway!  I walked ten miles one day and still didn’t feel any better than when I started, but I managed to sleep well that night. If that’s all you get out of your walk, at least you may feel better in the morning. Walking gets your blood moving. Sometimes depression may be as simple as lack of adequate blood flow to the brain. A sedentary person ages faster because the muscles and bones are starving for the life blood that stimulates and feeds them. On your walk, count the number of people you pass. Try to remember their faces. The next time you see them, greet them with a smile and a friendly hello.

If you earnestly try to do the above and you still feel like you’re stuck in a deep dark pit, get help! After my divorce, I was confused, lost and completely alone. My former friends had disappeared. My neighbors turned their heads when I passed. New friends were mostly users who took advantage of my vulnerability. I sought out help. A psychologist prescribed Prozac and I began to feel like a new person. I could think clearly, gauge my surroundings more realistically, and I regained my usual optimistic personality. Never try to go it alone. Give yourself every opportunity to get well!

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on 11×14 Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Concentrate on your own needs for a change. You’re having trouble helping yourself. This isn’t the time to change the world. Focus on you. Don’t worry about the past. Quit fretting about the future. Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Get help from a professional, and by all means, follow your doctor’s advice. If he or she says “Don’t drink” that’s what they mean (alcohol and medications don’t mix). If they say you should stay away from negative friends who pull you downward, follow their advice.

Whether you sink or swim, the job of wellness is yours. If you continue to thumb your nose at those who offer help and disregard sound advice, you will be playing the “poor me” game for the rest of your life.

Yes, you can do it! You were made for joy and happiness. Quit comparing yourself to others and start noticing your own progress. Rejoice in simple achievements. Don’t allow others to take you back to that dark place. If that means leaving certain people behind, do it! You are on a journey of health and wellness. You have a right to be happy. You are “divinely and beautifully made.” Reach for what your own heart cries out and yearns for. Don’t look back!

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“First Daffodil” mixed media on canvas

Illness always reminds us of our Fragile Humanity

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Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

I was bitten by a brown recluse spider one Christmas; a near fatal experience that increased my faith. I had severe bronchitis one year that ended up being the turning point for change in a long and difficult marriage.

This year it was traveling by plane to a wedding. Somewhere along the way I picked up a virus (no wonder when the plane was filled with crying, coughing children and barking dogs). I vowed I would never fly again during the holidays, but how could I miss my grandson’s wedding?

The festivities brought my three daughters and me together for the first time in years. Since all of us live great distances from each other, the wedding gave us a welcome chance to share stories and laughs.

The reunion also brought back treasured memories of my own mother who always shared her joy of life through laughter and tears. Relationships are the glue that heals all wounds. Without them, we would shrivel up inside.

During a difficult period in my life, my friend Alice gave me a prayer plant. “It will remind you of where your strength comes from,” she said. Sure enough, every evening as the sun went down, the prayer plant extended its leaves upward. I was reminded to turn to God more often, and I also remembered my friend.

When a move across country forced me to leave the plant behind, I photographed it. Sometime later, I created an oil painting of the plant sitting beside a garden glove and a trowel. The painting still hangs in my kitchen. Whenever I look at it, I remember my friend and her reminder to reach up in times of need. Her priceless gift of love was simple and inexpensive, but never forgotten.

My dear mother died of lung cancer and I will always regret not being there for her when she needed me most. I was working full time and would have lost my job and my home if I’d taken six months off to assist her. Looking back, I wish I’d have done it. I lost precious time being with her. Like my daughters, I was separated from my mother by time and distance.

Sometimes the things that matter most suffer by the things that matter least. What seems important at the time loses its value on close examination. People always matter more than things. Our possessions tarnish with time. Everything wears out with use. Love and the relationships that grow out of unconditional lasting love endure and weather the ups and downs of turbulence and trouble.