“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

Turn a Crisis into an Opportunity – Adapt and Survive!

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"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas

“Fish Market” acrylic on canvas

I’m working for a few weeks at my Church while our Office Manager is on vacation. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to another environment when you must. Reminds me of the time I was in charge of a Hawaiian Luau for over 100 people at a former church.

We were planning on barbequing the meat and eating outdoors. We had butcher paper laid out on the grass for tablecloths with colorful place settings and centerpieces. Bright flowered cushions and pillows were placed on the ground for seating. The charcoal was ready, a yummy menu was planned by a Hawaiian member; her husband had prepared our musical program.

Guests in colorful shirts and muumuus were given leis as they came in and directed to their seating. A short time later, the unexpected happened; Murphy’s Law to be precise. The Kansas City wind began to whip and in the blink of an eye a severe rain storm started dousing everyone into a frenzy. We ran for cover.

"Sunset on the Nile? acrylic on canvas

“Sunset on the Nile? acrylic on canvas

Guests grabbed what they could and took them inside. We did our best to reassemble our lovely décor on the floor of the gymnasium. Hair was blown, table runners were torn and some were wet. What we all did, especially me, was adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances. My only option was to accept this freak of nature and of God as gracefully as possible.

The barbeque grills were dragged under the dripping eaves of the church where they remained until the meat was cooked. Laughter and merriment ensued as people accepted this turn of events. It was a great lesson for all of us. When things go wrong you can cuss in anger and look for someone or something else to blame or you can carry on and enjoy the moment.

We all have crises in our lives. It seems like there’s “never a dull moment.” “Why me?” we ask. Where is God in all this? (Perhaps, he’s laughing, too.) We may feel picked on. We may whine and whimper, but that seldom does any good. When the “chips are down” we need to “roll with the punches” and accept every trite phrase that will help us get through it. Courage and integrity are borne of such moments.

Through the years, I’ve seen my share of road rage. I’ve been given the finger and had a swear word or two shouted at me through someone’s opened window. I’ve had to stifle a humiliating gesture in return. I’ve pulled back my inner reins and held in my own choice words of anger. Instead, I choose to believe that the person in the other car is having a bad day. Even worse, that he may be a “loose cannon” with a gun in his car.

"Wasatch Mountains" watercolor on rice paper

“Wasatch Mountains” watercolor on rice paper

I select to ignore his rant and to err on the side of safety. Soon my anger turns to pity at his outrage. I continue driving as if nothing happened. I proceed more cautiously, not wanting to offend him or other drivers in any way. I’m not only a better driver because of it, but I’m learning the secret of how to adapt. My response (or non-response) has made me stronger. Instead of reacting I have chosen to act in a way that preserves my dignity and integrity.

Every challenge or problem that comes into our lives is an opportunity to grow. We become the “captains of our own ship” as we pursue our lives, our goals and our dreams. If we allow others to upset us or to turn us into a mirror image of them, we slide backwards into the same old ruts.

There are people who simply don’t care. They would rather reduce themselves to the basest form of humanity and fight for their own selfish needs. They may feel it is their right to get what they want at all costs regardless of anyone else. Pity the world! These are the attitudes that pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and nation against nation. These selfish demands that we hold onto are the seeds of war. What kinds of seeds are you sowing? Your simple words and actions are more important than you think.