Adapting to Change and Accepting Limitations

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Egrets and Mangroves

Egrets and Mangroves, 14 x 18 acrylic on canvas, in barnwood frame

Life has a way of filling in the blanks. Or a better way of saying it: if there’s a void, something will come along to fill it.

In my younger days, it was children that kept me from going back to school and lack of money. By the time I was 25, we had one baby, a toddler and a preschooler. Two years later, we had one more, and four years later another.

We had children in elementary school, middle school (then called Jr. High) and High School. When the oldest two went off to college, we added another child. We were so busy paying for music lessons and athletic activities, in addition to college, there was still no time or funds left over for me.

Egret-Reflections

Egret Visits Goldfish Pond, Oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available.

So I began working to supplement our income. In the beginning I worked as a writing consultant and freelance writer. My empty hours were filled as quickly as each child left the nest. Eventually a divorce made full-time employment for health benefits mandatory. I still had two children at home so how could I go back to school?

Although, some people do, I couldn’t leave my children alone in the evenings when I was gone all day at work. Somehow we managed and my resume grew.

It is difficult to juggle schedules and the challenges that face us each day. The only thing in life that’s predictable is change. Nothing ever stays the same. We’re either going forward or backward. If there is a lull in momentum it is brief. A crisis, an accident, health problems, or a death jars us from our complacency.

Moonlight Magic

“Moonlight Magic” 14 x 11 Acrylic on canvas

How do you cope? You keep putting one foot in front of the other. You keep going. Whatever you do, don’t quit! In giving up, you allow circumstances or others to take control of your life, and your freedom, and things usually go from bad to worse.

As the arthritis in my hands worsened, my fingers will spasm and freeze up so I can’t type. How do I make up for lost time? I don’t. Of necessity, I simply have to give my hands a rest. Now instead of two blogs a week on each of my three blogs, I can manage only one each. I’ve lost some readership, but I still get to write and create.

Since my fingers are curved and swollen, my artwork and painting has suffered. I have difficulty making a straight line. But because of this I’ve been forced to make swift easy motions and more fluid compositions. When I do portraits, I leave a focused brush stroke and don’t fuss over it. This makes my work look fresh and invigorated, so either way it’s a plus!

This past year I’ve had other health problems: IBS/gastritis and gallstones. After surgery, I’m still having problems that have caused me to lose 15 pounds. Loss of energy and time has eaten into my creative hours. I won’t bore you with anymore of my sad stories. The point is that we all deal with problems.

You’ve probably seen the St. Jude’s hospital and Shriner’s hospital commercials. The obstacles these kids overcome each day and the mountains they climb just trying to feed themselves, to walk, to speak are enough to make our complaints and problems seem like child’s play.

What do these remarkable human beings do and with a smile? They adapt. They learn to use the parts of themselves that do work to do the things they can’t. A child born without arms uses his feet like hands. Another child, whose legs were amputated below the knee because of cancer, is now proudly walking with prosthetic legs. These children don’t see limitations. They see opportunities. Rather than whining and complaining, they have learned to adapt not to what was but to what is.

We can all take a page from their experiences. When all else fails – adapt, and adapt, and adapt!

The beautiful Limpkins were back at the lake this morning. Their habitat is being eaten away, but they will not be deterred. They are foraging at our pond and have probably found a new home. They readily adapted to change!

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Inspirational People and how they Effect your Life

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American Express publishes an online newsletter. The last issue was titled “Strategies of Highly Inspirational People.” As an artist and writer that grabbed my attention. Creative’s are always looking for inspiration.

The article made me think of all the people in my past who inspired not only my artistic endeavors, but made me want to become a better person. My sister Jean was one of those people.

She struggled with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) for over 30 years, yet she remained positive, bubbly and happy. Even when she could no longer speak or move without help, her bright eyes spoke for her. She chose how she would face her adversity. Every new day, she donned her internal attitude like a cloak that was visible to all who knew her.

When Jean finally passed away, she defied age. Her pristine complexion glowed. There were no wrinkles or frown lines to mar her beauty. Her hair was still thick and glossy. There were no telltale signs of gray.

Some people thought her appearance came from the cortisone shots she received throughout her ordeal. I believe her lifelong loveliness came from within. Her internal compass was focused on eternal things; an inner strength, which gave her an aura of joy and peace. Even before she contracted M.S., Jean’s outgoing personality attracted many friends. She built a successful business. She won golf trophies and art awards. She participated in life fully.

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Here is the American Express list of the 10 “Strategies of Highly Inspirational People.” Note how many of these traits the people you admire share.

Inspirational people:

  1. Make permanent connections “I care and thought about you today.”
  2. Bring people together – introduces to others
  3. Believe people are good
  4. Welcome people who disagree – authentic, comfortable in their beliefs
  5. Act fearlessly, even when afraid
  6. Give back to the community
  7. Show gratitude
  8. Tell a good story and share personal ones that turn into motivational experiences
  9. Are responsive and dependable

People who make you feel good about yourself are the ones you’ll remember. Like skipping stones on water, they cast a ripple effect on others that extends outward. Their influence continues long after their gone.

My grandfather Allen had that kind of impact on my life. He was loving, but firm. His granddaughters, me included, wanted to please him and make him proud of us. He taught us how to dance. He put books on our heads and showed us how to walk straight with our heads held high.

He encouraged us to be unafraid. As a biologist and science teacher, he explained how things worked in nature and demonstrated there was no need to fear. He allowed a green garden snake to wind up his arm and a huge garden spider to creep softly over his skin. He kept a pet tarantula that seemed like a fuzzy friend after he handled it so adroitly.

Because of him, my love for nature grew. I gained respect for conservation and preservation of all living things, including human life. How can you reverence life and at the same time destroy it?

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(Great Grand Baby) Dexter learning how to feed himself.

We are the caretakers of the earth; the stewards, if you will. The balance of nature must be respected and ensured if we are to be healthy and happy. What my grandpa taught me changed my life forever and formed my interests and personality.

Every life we touch has an influence on us either for good or evil. Cherish the people and friends who make lasting imprints on your deepest self and those who positively change the course of your life’s direction.

Building Memories and Constructing a Future – What do you Leave Behind?

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Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” 30×24 acrylic on canvas

Thanksgiving always conjures up the past: My large family of six children, each sneaking alternately into the kitchen to satisfy a craving before dinner; sweet mini-marshmallows awaiting their place on a pan of sweet potatoes; a slice of American “peel” cheese to satisfy a hungry stomach; a triangle of sugar and cinnamon pie crust leftover from an apple pie; a swipe of frosting from the annual birthday cake that became a part of our festivities.

I not only cooked Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends, but we had a birthday party in the late afternoon. There was a turkey cake, a train or animal cake, depending on what Chris, the birthday-boy, had requested. One year there were even pilgrim hats and collars for both adults and children.

The lively celebration helped to fill the empty spaces caused by our parents, brothers, sisters and cousins left back home when we moved to the east coast. In their absence, friends became family. We treasured the associations and the memories.

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Kayla in the pumpkin patch.

Building a past is just as important as constructing a future. What you leave behind in the wake of life may, over time, turn into regrets or a blessing. The people you touch, the actions you take and the choices you make become the warp and the woof of your muscular and emotional fiber.

We shouldn’t just let life happen to us. If we’re being buffeted and battered by the winds of change or allowing others to manipulate or prod our “ship of sail,” we become victims of other people’s wants and desires instead of our own.

Building and constructing are positive activities that require planning and initiative. Similar to business endeavors, we build memories by consciously thinking of outcomes. How will this action or activity affect me and my family tomorrow, next month, a year from now?

Enjoying the finished product!

Amelia baking cookies.

Don’t kid yourself, words can kill, or at least wound. Once out of your mouth, they cannot be taken back and are seldom forgotten. They continue to hurt long after they’ve been said. Ugly or negative actions toward or against someone else, especially a family member, leaves scars that may last forever.

When you encourage and support independent behavior, you increase self confidence.  I tried to provide my children opportunities to choose for themselves whenever possible.

When selecting clothes, they were given two or three options, all of which were pre-approved by me. In being given a voice in what they wore, and in what we could afford as a family, they at least felt they had some say in the matter.

They chose their own pumpkins and Halloween costumes. They could choose to make their beds and go and play, or stay in until it was done. They could choose to clean their rooms or miss out on the fun later. Learning to choose and suffering the consequences of their actions provided opportunities for discipline and self-control.

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Kayla hiding beneath a coffee table.

Mom and dad always had the last word, but at least the children felt respected in their ability to contribute to family decisions. Harmony isn’t something that just happens. It must be planned. If one parent or the other is “scrappy” and negative, then the children will be, too. Happiness is catching. Giggles are contagious. Once the ripple starts it is hard to stop.

Negativity and complaining are also easily “caught.” They can spread like a wildfire and infect surrounding attitudes and feelings. These black moods are combustible and highly volatile. People fall under their power like dominoes.

A negative person’s aura can be felt the minute they walk in the door. Keep those enemies of calm at bay. Sometimes it’s as simple as filling a growling stomach or allowing someone a chance to be alone and unwind at the end of the day.

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Katy fixing her bridal sash with help from a friend.

Keep your home as a sanctuary where people feel safe and loved. When you desecrate that hallowed space, there is only one place to turn – the streets. Build yours and your children’s tomorrows by creating a peaceful environment at home. In that way, there will be no regrets later to tear your family or your loved one’s apart.