Color Me…

Good Day, Dear Friends!

I hope this message finds you healthy, content, and staying inspired today.

I’d enjoy your messages in the comments this go…I always care to hear from you!

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Our usual eclectic post here on Inspired By Venice today? My brain is uncollected and molasses after a long week, so I think random will work best. Often, that’s more fun anyhow!

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First, for all you readers of my tales…I have signed my contract for the 2021 Bristol Renaissance Faire. God willing, I will see many of you again at The Quill and Brush, a year from now.

I miss sharing my works. I miss the fellowship and conversations. I miss the magic. I miss you.

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I of course, don’t know what will happen. No one does. Progress to slow the virus is backsliding, and I can’t say when large gatherings will even be sound or permissible again. I personally hope, for a safe and effective vaccine soon.

Only time will tell. But for today, let us do our best to stay inspired

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I have decided to start a new collection. I am collecting feathers. No, I’m not worried about bird germs. I’m tired about being worried about germs. I’m going to pick up all the pretty feathers. And keep them. And collect them. And look at them.

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So if any of my friends or family find something special for me, please collect it. I will be delighted. And perhaps you, my friends here on Inspired By Venice, can help me identify some of them? The blue jay feather is my particular favorite so far…

The feathers will be joining my other passions for jumping spiders, lake glass, and found coins…

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I’m also at present, taking an interest in sidewalk animal prints.

I’ve discovered I know nothing about identification, as aware of nature as I thought I was. They all look like raccoon or black bird prints to me. Perhaps you can help me identify those too?

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My interests go to show that you don’t have to spend a penny to entertain yourself. I believe this to be a gift of being an only child. Inventing one’s own amusements.

I also believe in small delights, and taking simple, yet good care of myself. Here are some of my other current favorites…

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My closest know, or have at least observed over the years, that I can exhibit some sensitivities. It’s really just in recent years however, that I’ve even begun to acknowledge and explore this. I think sometimes, it isn’t until we are older, that we are more fully able to understand who we are, and how best to live our happiest and healthiest selves…

I was recommended the book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron. I have not completed reading it yet, but I’ve found myself in the pages. On the checklist for a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’, I meet many.

For instance, noise. It has always jarred me. Consistent and loud noises are the worst, and can quite untangle me.

Further, I used to believe that I favored one-on-one conversations, because I could make a deeper connection communicating that way. I’ve never preferred getting together with a group of friends. I now understand, it’s because when a whole bunch of people are talking, I get terribly overwhelmed. My feathers ruffle. I begin to exhibit impatience and irritation. Oh no!

Of all things, I thought this for certain, was an outcome of being an only child. That I wasn’t accustomed to cacophony. I’ve even been sometimes shamed, called selfish, for being less than easy going. Understandable response, sometimes warranted, at others unkindly.

But the truth is, God made me this way. I naturally do better in quiet, and that’s okay.

All of this to say…one of the beautiful gifts in life are the moments we can better understand and love ourselves. This also helps us to better understand and have patience, for others.

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Yet, what’s the favorite right now? Of course, the notion of growing in wisdom and grace. But also, these Sleep Pretty earplugs by Hearos! 32 NRR (noise reduction rating).

Let me tell you friends, a mouse could sneeze in the other room, and I will wake up. And this woman needs her sleep. A baby bird could peep outside the window, and stir me from fruitful writing. Construction noise? Well, that would simply be end game. Let’s just say, I’ve tried many earplugs. I sleep every night in earplugs. I’ve ordered special earplugs. And I wonder how they still haven’t invented the ultimate, and most comfortable earplugs yet. Most, aren’t all that effective.

C’mon, you inventors, you!

But the Sleep Pretty plugs…excellent. Best I’ve found.

Are you like me? Buy them. Hearos, I’ll be your spokeswoman…

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I’ve also recently discovered a favorite candy bar. Chocolove‘s peppermint in dark chocolate.

I’ve said it before…my mama must have been eating mint chocolate chip ice cream when I was in her belly, because I’m bonkers for mint and chocolate. This bar is good. Perfect, actually. This brand, very good. The salted almond butter in dark chocolate…heaven.

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What’s even sweeter? Their packaging has words of love inside.

Oh Romeo! I swoon…

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But a gal can’t live on chocolate alone. She must have her fruits and veggies…and her electrolytes!

Evolution Fresh organic cold-pressed juices have for years now, been one of the loves of my life. A green juice sets me right. When I need greens right now, a bottle of Green Devotion is a gift from Eden. Good stuff. The best stuff.

I’ll be their spokeswoman, too!

Love my veggies.

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And of course, nature will always be my favorite. Look how pretty…

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And precious…baby bunny…

Other current favorites?

Have you seen The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix?

Amazing!

Love, love, love it! If you need some magic in your life, it is so special. And, so exciting! It actually took my breath away, I was so concerned for the gelflings!

Side note; my mom called me a gelfling when I was little. She said I looked like one.

And that’s why I write fairy tales. Because I’m secretly part gelfling.

My mom said so. And moms always tell the truth. Like, about Santa, and the Tooth Fairy and stuff…

I also recently watched the Lenox Hill series about Lenox Hill hospital in New York City. This show humbled my heart so deeply, there are no words. Thank you, to our medical workers. Thank you.

I was also, so very touched by the documentary series, Love on the Spectrum, about individuals on the autism spectrum out in their search for love. This program was beautiful!

And of course, there is always the beauty of music. I ever enjoy classical, or electronic music that is emotive and atmospheric. Makes me imagine. Makes me feel. Like I’m running through a vast field of grass, or sailing a troubled sea, or floating into deep space, or peering out from a castle way up high, into a dark forest…

There are a handful of artists that I watch for, for moving new gems. Active Child, is one of them. Song Johnny Belinda makes me envision riding into medieval battle! Love it.

But today, I wanted to share Active Child’s Color Me.

Why? The lyrics.

Essentially, ‘color me’ any way you will, but I’ll always bleed red. For me, the song just captures the notion of being human. Beyond everything, we all just need love and compassion, and to be known for who we are.

Love that.

Stay Inspired.

 

In A Gentle Breeze…

Good Day, Good Friends…my every well wish to you today!

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Just now, I am enjoying a gentle breeze. After many days of very warm weather, it is welcome. My unit has been called ‘the tree house’, owing to the level I’m affixed amidst the trees. At certain hours, the sunlight beautifully goldens the walls. And on a temperate day, the wind carries through every room, the birds sweetly larking just outside. This is just one of those particular moments, that I especially appreciate my nest. We must all have a place to call our own…

I took photos before walking down to an appointment with a new stylist yesterday. I’ll post the cut soon. My hair is short again, but not very. Technically to my collar bones. However, my locks have a mind for waves and curls when the weight is cut out, so it appears even shorter.

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Let us just say, I am…as happy as a ridiculously happy clam. Though long hair can be pretty, and an accomplishment considering the time it takes to grow to that length…I was at my wit’s end with the tangles and heaviness. Most appreciating the stylist’s scissors! Somehow, I’d managed the patience not to cut half of it off myself in advance…

This was becoming a genuine consideration.

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As I posted last time, I had been ill. Unfortunately after writing, things worsened, ending in a visit to immediate care and antibiotics. I feel I’m still recovering. It is, and I’ve been here before, a reminder of how fragile we are. Obviously, the pandemic has us all remembering this. Yet often, it isn’t until our own health is tested, that our natural vulnerabilities manifest.

How thankful I am for modern medicine, and for my doctors, and for the insurance I am even lucky enough to have. Insurance, and enough money to pay for a doctor and medicine, is certainly never assured. Especially these days.

I revisited the reality that, even a relatively common infection, seemingly innocuous, something your immune system will overcome, can turn down a dark road. My mind wandered more than once to…had I lived in another earlier century without antibiotics.

I don’t like to think about that.

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In everything these days, I am reflective. And in everything now, I see God. He who made me. Me, so temporal and fragile. Me, so human.

I wish more now, for others to be happy and laughing. And I feel more now, compassion when others are hurting. I was not always this way. Or as much, this way.

Sometimes you have to first be humbled…by life. By your mistakes, your weaknesses, your hardships, and even your deepest joys…

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I feel God every time I am in nature…

In every little buzzing life and precious petal.

And all I have been thinking, and feeling, and believing, is that God is all there is. Is all there ever was. All there will ever be. And I am content.

I believe that I, we, are in His hands. And that when we suffer, or are very happy, it is all so that we can feel the life we were given, and live more in awe and reverence of it, and with more grace toward ourselves and others.

I feel this, even in a gentle breeze…

Stay Inspired.

 

Cranberry Love…

Good Day, Dear Friends!

I am wishing you my very best today!

Unfortunately, I am writing to you this afternoon, not feeling so good. Yet, my spirits are spritely, however woozy I’m presently feeling. Let’s just say, thank the Lord for cranberry juice. Perhaps you can guess? I’ve a UTI. Nope, not at all embarrassed to share. It’s just human stuff, and I’m getting too old to be embarrassed about human stuff.

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In fact, on account of this unfortunate event, I want to offer you a pinch of wisdom. Drink your water…drink, drink, drink. It is summer in my neck of the woods, and I overdid it in the heat without hydrating appropriately. Though that isn’t the source of a UTI, I feel absolutely certain that had I properly hydrated, this unpleasantness could have been assuaged…

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Yesterday morning, I slowly trailed my way to my local Whole Foods. I knew it was the only store within walking distance that would have unsweetened cranberry juice. It was so very warm, and I wasn’t so well. Unfortunately, because of Covid, it was required to stand in a line outside the store, waiting on the monitored head-count, to get in. There in the sun, patient in line, I began to feel faint. Oh Lord, please don’t let me pass out on the sidewalk in front of all these people.

 I apologized to an older gentleman in front of me. I didn’t mean to crowd him, but I needed to stand in the slip of shade. He kindly took off his hat and displayed his bald head, and said he understood. He was prone to sunburns atop his head. He made me smile.

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Between last summer, and already in this one, I’ve been more affected by heat and hydration issues, than I ever have in my entire life. Unseasonably hot and humid? Or am I just not a kid anymore? Last summer, I took some severe heat sickness that I pray I never experience again. Let’s just say, hydrating fruits and veggies, electrolyte water, and now apparently cranberry juice, are my best friends. And if you think you can’t get dehydrated in the middle of winter, oh yes you can. So, go guzzle an extra glass. It’s good for you…

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It is so strange a time. Though we adapt, because we must, it never seems quite comfortable. As I looked at my masked self in my smoky antique mirror before my walk this morning, I wondered who that stranger was…

Yesterday, two ladies were ambling on the sidewalk in front of me, and one looked and sounded strikingly like a friend of mine. But because of her mask, I could not determine if it was her. Truly believing it was, I called out her name. Even looking directly into the woman’s face, as she paused to address me, I still thought it was her. I apologized, and said, I cannot see your face. She pulled down her mask, and alas, it was a stranger. The ladies were very sweet and we had a nice little exchange. But funny how, I could not know if it was my friend…

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The lilies have been so beautiful this year.

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 This one takes my breath away. It is her moment…

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I passed our rare books store here in Evanston, Amaranth Books, and noted a title I was intrigued to read. Alas, they were not open. Our big bookstore has just permanently closed in the neighborhood. But, we still have our charming Bookends & Beginnings, and Amaranth. They are just a few blocks apart. If you are ever in Evanston, stop and take a peek inside. Though sadly, no guarantee of the hours of small businesses nowadays…

Books. Beautiful books.

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Walking home, I spotted a half-shell from a bird’s egg. It was speckled, and delicate. Did the most precious, fluffy-headed tiny, hatch from that shell? Was he peeking out at me, from above, in his nest?

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Life is good. Even when it is as tart as a cranberry. Just look around, and you will see it. I know I do…

Stay Inspired.

A Man Pulled Up On The Side Of The Road…

Welcome All. I hope this message finds you full with good health, safety, love and light today…

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I am well. Though, it has been another few unusual and tense weeks. There is civil stress, both locally, and throughout the nation. And there is Covid. It hasn’t gone anywhere. As with everyone else, it’s just one day at a time.

God, please bless, heal, and keep us in your hands.

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As some of you readers are already aware, being revelers, vendors, and employees at Bristol, the Bristol Renaissance Faire (and my book shop The Quill and Brush) will remain closed for the 2020 season. It was announced earlier this week. In my view, it was most certainly the right decision, for the health of all…

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Of course, there is disappointment in it, for many. Bristol is a beautiful, magical outlet. The festival (and all of the hundreds of other canceled events around the nation) are also basic income, for thousands. As I packed my costumes away yesterday, and simply sat with all that has happened these last months, this closure was harder to swallow than I’d anticipated.

My Mom mailed me masks, which she made, and which I make use of every day. I am thankful. My Dad mails me books, which in reading, have been a recent escape. I am thankful. I am thankful to have family that think of me. It is a reminder to pay it forward, with small gestures that uplift others, when I have the opportunity…

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Yet today, I want to share something personal that happened this week. For whatever reason, I normally wouldn’t. I try after all, to keep things light here on Inspired By Venice. But I feel compelled. Perhaps because what I am going to say, may be important to even one reader here, someday, somehow. God works in mysterious ways…

A man pulled up on the side of the road, as I was walking with my groceries on the sidewalk, a few evenings ago. He offered me a ride home in his car. A stranger. I said no. He encouraged. I said no.

I need not offer more detail on the happening, but this…

It quickened my heart, the way a deer must feel when it knows it needs to run the other direction. I watched nervously when the car drove away, until I could not see it anymore, and then I wove through an alleyway home, to be sure I wasn’t being watched for where I lived.

This is not the first time. And maybe it won’t be the last. I’ve a few stories that will turn the hairs up on your neck. Was this individual a bad person with bad intentions? I don’t know. But what I know is, a stranger has no business offering me a ride in their car.

I shared this to say, when your instinct alerts you, listen. This may apply, in many other ways, than this. But if your gut is telling you something, listen. And carry yourself, the other direction.

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Have I mentioned I’m eating Chuckles for stress management?

Love one another, lift one another. Love and take care of yourself.

Stay Inspired.

I Wish Above All Things…

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 John 2: KJV

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[Image by Aleksey Kutsar from Pixabay]

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, Oh Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

Psalms 94: 18-19: KJV

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[Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay]

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

Isaiah 41: 13: KJV

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[Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay]

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Isaiah 41: 10: KJV

Milwaukee Public Museum Part II.

Having my first exploration of the Milwaukee Public Museum last Saturday was a wonderful adventure! I had a few favorites from my visit, but the collections that will be bringing me back to take a little more time, were all the bugs!

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I have a serious love for insects.

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Had I known I would have felt this way growing up, I might have studied to be an entomologist…

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As you may have read here before, I took a natural field science class in college long ago, where each student had to pin their own collections. I’d always been intrigued by insects, but that added a generous amount of fuel to my fascination…

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And if I had extra time now (don’t we all wish we had more time for our special hobbies), I would pin my own collections still…

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Though, I have to tell you, my heart is so ridiculously tender these days, I’d have a hard time dispatching a single creature just to show it in the stage of a glass box. I can’t even kill a spider, and when I do by accident, I feel sad…

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I believe these little beasties deserve to live their lives, as whisper short as they may often be…

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…except for ticks perhaps. I’ve no comprehension for why God included them in His plan. Baffles me everyday. Why ticks, Lord? Why?

I just shivered imagining a tick on my neck. The horror.

Thankfully, I didn’t see any ticks on display at the museum! But I did see…

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Lots and lots of butterflies!

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Live butterflies! Baby newborn butterflies birthing from their chrysalises!

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This brought me back to grade school, when our class eagerly awaited a butterfly to be born from a chrysalis. A lesson about life and nature. That was so special.

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At the Milwaukee Public Museum, they have a room of live butterflies, that you can amble through as though walking in a dream…

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What I found most interesting, was that I observed that different kinds of butterflies have unique flight patterns. Sort of like how a goldfinch, a swallow, and a sparrow, all fly quite differently. This is probably common sense, but I enjoyed noticing it on my own all the same…

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I enjoyed too, observing all the color combinations and patterns of butterfly wings, when gazing at the pinned specimens…

IMG_5166I could spend a lot of time pondering before these displays.

Is not the butterfly, the very epitome, of the fragility and beauty of life?

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If I were a butterfly, I would like to be her, the one with the cream and pink-tipped wings.

Precious little souls…

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And now you have taken a walk with me, to see all the insects at the Milwaukee Public Museum! I sincerely can’t wait to go back, to take more time to view them!

Best wishes dear friends! Take good care of yourselves! And for those of you in the same northern climate as I, think on spring! It is not so very far.

Stay Inspired!

 

Every Day With Grace…

I woke up egregiously exhausted this morning. And when I am that tired, I am also for a spell, a mite melancholy. I have days where I feel like I’ve been taken out by a tranquilizer. Today, stress is to blame. If I was someplace warm, I would go have a lie down outside, by the sea, or in a garden, read a book and listen to the birds. There is no better restorative, or inspiration…

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[Little Miss Michelle]

According to the reports here however, it is only 9 degrees outside. To the skin, it will seem even worse, on account of our icy winds. The other night even, I had to use heat packs in my gloves (thank you mama), to keep my poor fingers from freezing. The world outside, is glacial…

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A touch forlorn, I opened a box of photos over my coffee. I shouldn’t do that. I become too wistful every time, even when I find myself smiling. My eyes were tearful just about immediately, remembering all the places I have been. All that I have already lived. And wondering, what is next?

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Looking back, even memories I had nearly forgotten are still so powerful, both sad and happy. I wondered if the broken pieces in our hearts ever really mend, in spite of the strengths we forge, or if it just sits quietly with us…

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And, I wondered how my mama did it, and my grandma, and my great-grandma before. How they met challenges, and stress, and worry, with grace

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Am I meeting life each day, with grace? If I am, then why do I always feel like such a wild, rebellious, rip-roaring, crazy-pants? Mom? Grandma? Did you feel that way too? Goodness. Goodness gracious…

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If you have ever seen the movie Chocolat, you’ll recall the wind that draws up and makes the main character pack up her bags, sensing that it’s time to move on elsewhere. Sometimes, I feel that way.

But…what is here, will be there. I’m old enough to know that now. And as a friend once described, what’s inside, you take it along like a turtle shell on your back.

As for all the elements outside of yourself, frustrations are found anywhere you go…

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Now, a change in scenery can be an incredible adventure! Moving someplace new might even be the right thing. It’s just that any notion of running away, well, it’s never really running away.

So, what is the key?

Listening to what you need, and arranging it as best you can in your life. Work toward it, wherever you find yourself. Contentment, happiness, and wellness, is different for each of us. If you listen, you know what’s important…

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As for me, I progressively desire more peace, and quiet. Further, the demands to ‘keep up’, are becoming increasingly a challenge. Part of me loves an urban energy, but I don’t know that I can continue to digest the noise, and expense, and speed of it…

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That mystical wind might soon blow me toward a hidden acre in the woods. With Sasquatch, and ticks, and dead silence and darkness at midnight. It’s days like today, when I’m so very tired, that I wish I could go right now

Fun fact: I believe I’m more terrified of ticks, than I would be if I bumped into a big foot. I know God made all creatures, but I’m wrestling with why He included ticks in His design. Why God, why?

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Well, I’m going to keep a quiet day in bed today, and write. And ponder just how I’d still be able to put food on my table, and pay my taxes, and my health insurance, when I run away to the woods…

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Life really is a crazy adventure. Sometimes, it really wears me out.

But don’t worry. I have a knack for staying inspired…

 

Merry, Merry Christmas To You All!

On this beautiful Christmas morning, I wish each and every one of you…

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…all of the peace, love, health, and happiness in the world.

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Merry Christmas to you all! May your hearts be filled with good cheer!

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 KJV

Don’t Save Anything For The Swim Back

This morning, ready to begin a full day of writing, I will share with you that my heart sunk. You know those days? The ones you look in the mirror and aren’t sure what you’re going to do with yourself. How will I accomplish what needs to be accomplished? Where will I find the inspiration? How will I find the focus? How will I have the energy? 

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For me, right now is the time to dig right back into my sole passion. Writing. Faire has ended, summer is done, my little book shop is now all closed up until next year (I will try not to weep…this season was incredible). And if I want to keep growing and sharing new works as a writer, I need to return to my focus. But in the last few weeks, I’ve been exhausted, fretful, distracted. Rest isn’t coming easy and writing not at all…

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Some might say, some do say, ‘just take a break’… ‘just take it easy’. I wish I could, but more and more in these last few years, I feel that writing for me is everything. It is, what I am. And if I’d like to continue to challenge myself in the ways I hope to, well then…the clock is ticking. I feel it, a big clock hanging over my head, and it is ticking loudly

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This blog, it is about inspiration. It is about what inspires me, with hopes that some of my words might inspire you. Now this particular post might not be meaningful to everyone, but for those of you who have ever wanted to achieve some goal very badly, I think you will quite understand…

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So where did I find my resolve today? To carry forward with what I had set out to do, even though I would rather just go lay down in a grassy field somewhere and sleep until next week? I reminded myself that I just have to do it, and that if I want to walk with my ambitions…no matter how unfocused and weary I am, I’m going to have to push myself to dive right back in, and swim hard. “And if you really want to reach your goals Michelle, then you’d best not save any of yourself for the swim back…”

But this self-talk comes from an inspiration from long ago. Back in 1997, then a young woman, there was a movie that inspired me so greatly that I was quite literally stunned when walking out of the theater. Gattaca. In this futuristic film, babies are designed for perfection, and anyone who is born naturally, are considered flawed and afforded few opportunities. The main character is naturally born, but aspires to be an astronaut, a position which only ‘perfectly’ engineered people are allowed. This ‘imperfect’ man must go to extreme lengths in order to achieve his goals…

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There is a scene that seriously struck me. The main character Vincent competes in a swim against his stronger, ‘perfectly modified’ brother. He wins in this swim, even though physically it should be impossible. And when his brother, incredulous at how Vincent has done this, asks him how, Vincent tells him, “I never saved anything for the swim back.”

Incredible. I remember thinking then, and I still believe it now…so that is how it is done. If you want something badly enough, you have to give it everything.

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In any case, I leave this post to focus and write…or should I say, swim.

Stay Inspired.

Devil At The Door, Prayer On My Lips

Let me begin this post by saying, all are well and not one is hurt. Thanks be to God. I cannot speak for everyone’s nerves however…

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Yesterday, I happened to be home. With my busy summer, I am rarely at home during the day, but yesterday I was. For that, I am thankful. I had been about to go out for a walk, had even been contemplating a swim. I delayed however, when I remembered that my father’s birthday is coming up, and I needed to sit down to write out a card. For that I stalled to go out, I am also thankful…

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Just as I had sat down in my kitchen to write out a card, the fire alarm went off in my unit. It was intensely loud. Not your annoying little fire detector screech, but the mother of all fire alarms sounding out in warning. I had not been cooking, I wondered if one of my neighbors had burned something? I stood and hurried to my door. I didn’t see anything out in the hallway. I closed the door. However, I knew that I could not remain in my house…

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When you hear an alarm like that, you do what you have been taught to do since you were a little kid. You get out of the house. Yet still, in the back of my mind, I wondered if it wasn’t false. I knew it was not a test, or else all residents would have been notified in advance…

So, I know I need to go outside, but I don’t want to leave my cat. Tiddo has to come with me. The noise was already terrifying him. I hurried to peer out of my door one more time. This time, the scene was different…

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My next door neighbor was now at the end of the hall before one of our other neighbor’s doors. He yelled out that there was a fire inside. I now could see the smoke. I could also smell the smell, like burning wires. I knew right away that this was serious. I hurried out into the hall and immediately cried out whether anyone had called 911? Should I call 911? This may sound like a stupid question, but it was rather a I-sense-that-we-are-in-danger-and-there-is-little-time-to-waste-for-phone-calls-if-someone-has-already-dialed-911. In reply, I heard a voice say that one of our other neighbors was on the phone…I don’t know whose voice said this. Just at that moment, said neighbor rushed down the stairs from above with her phone to her ear. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor pounded on the doors of the imperiled unit, and then hurried out the fire escape…I didn’t see which way my neighbor on the phone went…

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What went through my head? This moment is real. I must make haste. I must get Tiddo. I must get out of the house…

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I ran inside my unit to the closet. Where is the cat carrier?! If I don’t find that carrier in one second, the cat is going out in my purse. I find the cat carrier, I snatch it out and run to Tiddo in the kitchen. The sirens are so loud. The cat is panicked. The cat will not go into the carrier. Struggle. Force the cat into the carrier, zip him safely in. Cat begins to yowl in terror…

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Snatch up my purse, throw in my MacBook, throw in my passport case with all of my important identification, throw in my hard drive. Time to go. Please know, I do not advocate pausing in your house for any items when there is a fire. The seconds I spared to grab these items should set no example. What was going through my mind? My MacBook and hard drive contain all of my written works, both published and unpublished, hundreds of hours of work, and were easily within reach. After me and my cat, that hard drive meant the most to me of anything I own. I may now officially call myself a crazy writer…I’m also lightening fast on my feet…

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I realized as I snatched these items from my writing desk that this might be the last time I ever saw any of my things, or even my new home. I immediately reconciled to this. What do things matter? Only people matter. Shaking from the fear of the devil of destruction that was just down the hall, Tiddo and I were soon flying down the stairs, another neighbor just behind, covering his ears…

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Out on the grass on the lawn, the fire trucks were just arriving. Firemen began heading up to our beautiful building, a historic building, some saying aloud that they did not know just where the fire was. I shouted and pointed. Another fireman did not know, I shouted and pointed again. It was then that I began praying, the words silent but fast over my lips. God, oh God, let them hurry! The fire will spread! Let them hurry!

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Though visibly concerned, all the neighbors convened on the lawn were calm, gathered together in twos or threes, watching attentively. The fire hoses went in, firemen went in, residents were sent to the opposite side of the street. Glass began shattering from windows, water began spraying out. Firemen were seen in windows, opening them, smoke pouring out of ones in or near to the troubled unit. When I saw a fireman in the windows of the unit just above mine, I was sorely afraid that the fire might be spreading. I also knew that if they had gone into that unit, they were in mine too. Oh God, oh God. Someone said the firemen were breaking through doors. Oh no, oh no! They might also be hosing down walls, to make sure the fire doesn’t spread? Oh, the damage! My hand flew up to my mouth more than once. Though chatting calmly with my neighbors, I felt terribly nervous inside. Tiddo chilled quietly at my feet in his carrier. I was so glad that he was outside, with me.

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To truncate this tale, the initial unit will one day be right again, but was last night upsetting to behold when it was permitted to reenter the building. Yet another unit is greatly damaged by water, and at least one other was said to smell heavily of smoke. Doors were indeed forced in for safety measures, water soaked the halls and there is damage to walls and paneling. I am so sorry for this. I am so sorry for my neighbors, and for the damage to this historic building. Praise the Lord, no one was hurt and all will be mended, it will just take time…

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No one was in the unit that caught fire. It was having some work done and it seems an extension cord might have been the culprit, though I can not attest to the facts. When standing within view of that apartment last night, the smoke stinging my throat as an officer took account of what had been witnessed in the hall that afternoon, I felt a terrible surge of anxiety, fully understanding what could have been. As my door was being temporarily repaired, as Tiddo safely yowled from the bathroom, as I swept up shards of wood and paint from my floors, I knew that I would write this post today. And this is what I want to say to everyone who reads it…

Please take fire prevention seriously and keep an eye out for potential hazards in your home. Know the risks of using extension cords. Please go check the batteries in your fire alarms and your carbon monoxide detectors…today, right now. Make sure to have an emergency exit plan from your home, and talk about it with your family. Further, home owners insurance is always a wise idea. Love thy neighbor, and never forget the power of prayer.

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Stay safe friends! And as always, stay strong, stay inspired.

A special thank you today to the Evanston Fire Department. Thank you for putting out the fire, and saving our homes.

 

The Merriest of the Merry!

I captured this video on the closing day of the 2015 Bristol Renaissance Faire season, while standing just outside the gates. When I watch it, my heart is filled with joy! The singing, the dancing, the frolicking, the laughter, the happiness, the merriment…

And this is just one reason of many, for why I love this festival so much. I wanted to share this inspiring scene with you. I hope it makes you smile!

Don’t Worry About A Thing…

This is how I thought yesterday would be. A blissful night’s sleep followed by an exciting view as I rode through the streets of Jamaica. Then, an awe-inspiring zip-line over the jungle, followed by a soothing swim in sparkling falls…

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This isn’t exactly how things went. I woke up around 3:30 am and did not fall asleep again. Every trip I’ve ever taken into a new country has delivered at least one such night. The kind where you wake abruptly to the darkness and the noises outside are not familiar, and you realize you are very far away from everything that you’re sure of and you feel a bit frightened by that…

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By sunrise, I was exhausted. However, the sun was shining and I was going to be a trooper. Onward with the adventure! Only, I had to make a quick call to the U.S., and it proved more difficult than expected, taking a chunk of time to connect. This made me feel again, a bit far from home…

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Handsome kept me on track with positive motivations. Let’s go! Breakfast time! C’mon baby! Though breakfast was comforting and the Blue Mountain Jamaican Coffee reinforcing, I was still feeling fretful and tired. But, I was determined to carry on with a good attitude. Only, once inside the steamy vehicle that would take us to a remote falls in the jungle, all positiveness went out the window. You see, Jamaica is mountainous, the roads thin and twisting, the driving fast and furious. You zoom through villages at intense speed, and the fear of a crash is at the forefront of the mind. I was quickly car sick, just as I was on the way to our lodgings from the airport upon our arrival last week…

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But let us pause for a moment so that you can zoom into this photo of this adorable little lizard. They are everywhere (and seemingly not afraid of my shockingly bright pink nail polish)…

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But to continue…No, I did not lose my breakfast by my car sickness. That would have been humiliating (however, not much more humiliating than what happened next). When we arrived at the falls, I thought I would faint. Remember too, it’s a tropical climate. This Chicago gal is more accustomed to cold temperatures. I was splashing cool water on my face and neck and asking for something mint (a local woman here told me that mint works well on their twisty roads). A few mint confections were procured and it was like a miracle. Mint really does help abate motion sickness! Things were looking up…

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That was, until I looked up. I am not afraid of heights, but something overcame me when I looked up. My danger radar was screaming! I kept silent until we were being geared up to zip through the canopy, high above the rushing waterfalls. It was then that tears began to fall out of my eyes in copious amounts. The tears would not abate. My hands began to shake and my heart started to race wildly. I…was…terrified. Though I would never have selected zip-lining in general (seemed risky), I was taking one for the team. I certainly wouldn’t have suspected that I would be overwhelmingly afraid…

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Once finally climbing high up to the top of the trees (sweating, winded and seriously considering turning back), I realized there was no way down except by the zip-line. More heart-stopping, there were five lines to fly across/down, not just one. My tears began to mimic the waterfalls. I wasn’t whining loudly, or scaring the wildlife with sobbing. It was just silent, unstoppable tears (and possibly the strongest look of apprehension ever seen on my face). They wouldn’t stop flowing out of my eyes. The jungle was a blur. What can I say? However, with each lockdown upon the line, the Jamaican men who were safety guides greeted me with a smile and said, Sista, don cry. Every-ting will be alright! Don worry! So I’d take a deep breath, and fly

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I can’t say I overcame fear. I just pushed it aside and did what I had to do. And even though zip-lining might be easy for some, I’m not ashamed by my tears or how afraid I was. Yesterday didn’t go as smoothly as I’d anticipated, but in the end, it was so much better. I gained strength from it…

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The blessing in travel is that you learn things about yourself you never expected, and are challenged and awed in ways that go beyond what you might have ever imagined.

If I wake again to the darkness while we’re here, I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to let the tree frog songs sooth me back to sleep. They’ll be singing…Don’t worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be alright! 

What Life May Bring, I’ll Bear The Sting!

I’m a vivid dreamer in my sleep. And usually having no problem remembering my epic-like dreams after I’ve woken, I’m regularly amazed by the places I visit, filled with unimaginable detail. It makes me baffled of our brains. How can they produce such landscapes?

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My dreams tend to be tangible too. Places that could be real places somewhere, nothing psychedelic. It’s like I’m making visits to new destinations. This week, I dreamt of an island with beautiful white sand that my feet sunk into. There were tropical waters, sunlight and open sky. Green, craggy peaks rose up out of the water at a distance…

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I went wind sailing over the waters. My feet were bare and the salty water was spraying. It was beautiful, adventurous and warm. But lo! As I crossed over the water, I spotted a single jellyfish floating just below the surface…

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Just a bit further along, I see three or four bobbing together under the water. As I skim along into deeper depths, there is soon to be seen a bloom of jellyfish below the surface so expansive, that there isn’t a spot of water where no jellyfish undulates. My vessel gliding fast through the waves scoops some up, and my feet begin to sting. Zap. Zap. Zap. I become nervous that I will topple into the blue. Falling into the water is unthinkable…

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Just then, I woke up from the dream. Handsome was on his way out for work and had planted a smooch on my face to say goodbye. The jellyfish were gone. As I later poured a cup of coffee in the kitchen, pondering those creatures of the deep, it made some sense why I’d be dreaming of a stinging swarm in the blue…

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We are soon to embark on another trip into the tropics, amidst sprawling acres of wildlife and endless blue waters. These excursions are exciting beyond words for we room comfortably, but also embrace adventure. Walking a sleeping volcano, sweating though the jungle, mountain climbing (never again), swimming, snorkeling…

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My obsession is watching for wildlife, and swimming. I can swim hard, up and down to the ocean floor for a good span of time. I love it. I’m crazy about it. I get into the water and I forget that I’m a vulnerable human. I start believing I’m an invincible sea dweller, a crafty mermaid scouting the ocean floor for colorful fish and treasures…

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Nothing will coax me to swim cautiously (not even handsome’s sweet and concerned finger-wagging), and nothing can get me out of the water until I’m good and ready (not even those sirens and helicopters once overhead while a mild earthquake rumbled. I thought those waves seemed a little turbulent)…

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Nothing can pull me out of my water dance, except jellyfish. Have you ever met with a jellyfish? It’s mean. It’s shocking. It stings. It’s like lemon in a wound, and a bee sting, and an electric shock, all at the same time…

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The worst I ever got were some tentacles to the thigh. It was not only painful that day, but some weeks later I experienced delayed hypersensitivity reaction. Though most jellyfish touches are shocking, they’re common and rarely serious. Zip, zap, ouch!! (I’d just be wary of swimming in waters known for the most dangerous variety or when high concentrations in general are about)…

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On our last tropical snorkel, I found that I was having a rough time. It was more challenging than past swims. I felt strained, not as strong a swimmer as I know myself to be. I wondered if I just don’t have the stamina for more adventurous swimming anymore. Did I need to stick closer to shore?

Handsome acutely pointed out that it might not be physical. Hadn’t I been anxious swimming with the jellyfish? Yup! During that swim, little ones were having a sting fest on my exposed skin. They were just tiny little dudes, tiny little stings. Nothing to cry in my snorkel about. However, there were big jellyfish where we swam too. The size of salad bowls, with unique markings…

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When one was detected, it would look to be many feet away. But in an instant, it would be floating right past. Way too close for comfort you jellyfish, you! Keep your tentacles away from my flesh! (Those were not the words I uttered underwater, but this blog is PG rated)…

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The dream I had is clearly my subconscious working. Likely our upcoming trip triggered the tropical setting. I know I don’t have a jellyfish phobia (though they certainly make me uncomfortable). So perhaps more than a potential injury, that previous swim with the big bad jellyfish reminded me of vulnerability. That something can and might sting me in life, catch me unawares. My dream is the product of that simple worry. A worry we all have from time to time. That’s my best guess anyway, for I am no diviner of dreams…

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But why share my jellyfish dream with you? To remind you, as much as myself, that no one can predict life’s stings. You can’t stop dreaming. You can’t stop swimming. You’ve just got to keep diving in! Enjoy your adventure!

We Are All But Buds And Berries

Some autumns ago, just as the leaves were turning and the summer was fading away, I went on a forest walk with a gathering of my family. It was the perfect day, and there simply isn’t anything so pleasant as a nature walk…

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These particular woods have a sprawling forest of pine trees that I am very fond of. I’ve always appreciated the lack of thick underbrush there, and the soft crunch of pine needles underfoot. And of course, the fresh scent of pine. I ran through that wood often as an itty bitty little

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On this particular family outing, I carried along a basket and scissors to cut wild flowers and other natural decorations. I decided that I wanted to make a forest wreath to place upon my head, for no particular reason but that it would be a pleasant activity…

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With wire and floral tape ready, I snipped up flowers, plants and berries, and bound them together into my wreath. It took far longer to construct than I expected of my whimsical craft, and I was dismayed at how much of the dried bits, seeds and petals fell away as I worked. This also caused a bit of sneezing, for I and hay fever are bound in this life…

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But the time spent working with such little snippings of nature, while chatting the time away with my closest, made a memorable afternoon. I thought the wreath turned out lovely, as fragile as it was. The circlet didn’t last for long, quickly falling away bud by berry. But I suppose that that was a reminder to cherish each precious season, and those that I love, for we are all but buds and berries…

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel

I’ve just completed A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Matt Richtel. This book tells of the moving aftermath of a very serious car accident that occurred in Utah in 2006. Early one September morning, a young man was texting in his vehicle on the way to his job painting houses…

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With each text while negotiating slippery roads, the young man’s car veered into the oncoming lane and back again, as witnessed by another driver. It was during one of these moments of inatention and moving into another lane that the young man clipped an oncoming vehicle…

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Within moments, two men from this other vehicle lost their lives. They were both husbands, fathers, scientists and had many years ahead of them…

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Richtel’s book was not only emotional to read, but it also challenged me to ponder such things as the process of lawmaking, society’s differing viewpoints on policy, technology, and the human brain’s ability to keep up with our very fast-paced world…

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Ten years after that terrible accident, we have laws in place about texting and driving, as well as for the general use of phones in a vehicle. It now seems too, common sense to put your phone away while driving. But most of us would be telling a fib if we said we hadn’t broken these laws now and again (checking a text, taking a call), if not perpetually. Further, this accident was only one of many that has been caused by distracted driving while using a phone. People continue to lose their lives, over a text message…

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Deadly Wandering illustrates with more than emotion, but also science, how using your phone while driving isn’t the same as changing the station on the radio. It distracts attention on a whole other level, with risks comparable to driving while intoxicated…

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I’d encourage anyone to read this book for its applicability to our daily life. Not only does it take us through one story of family and loss that helped forge important driving laws, but it is also highly enlightening while discussing our adaptations to a world of technology. Alternate chapters will require either a tissue in hand (the personal story part), or your thinking caps tied on tight (the brain science part)…

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Whether or not you pick up a copy however, the main point of this narrative is to remind each of us to put our phones away when we drive. Be good to others, be good to yourself. My dinosaur-aged flip phone will certainly remain at the bottom of my purse with the spare bobby pins and pennies while I’m on the road; Richtel’s tale has certainly seen to that!

Be Like The Vine

As I look out into our secret garden from the kitchen window in summer, I always notice the vines. They climb a fence and then aspire to grow out into the very air and make their way across…to somewhere. The next solid object they find, I suppose…

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They can be a nuisance when you want to walk the stone path but get thwacked in the face with one. Those vines are quite thick and hearty! We tend to keep them trimmed back, though they grow back with an urgency towards life…

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Today when I looked out that kitchen window, the vines inspired me. No matter that we trim them, no matter that the space between their fence and any other solid thing is vast for such a plant, no matter that gravity is pulling them down, they still reach…

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I thought, “Well if those vines can continue to be so darn tenacious, and keep striving for what seems like the impossible, we all can!”

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So today, whatever you might be striving to achieve, whatever place you wish to get to that seems so far away, whatever your goals and wishes…just remember to be like the vine. You’ll get there!

Beds Bequeathed, Linens Lost

Take a moment to imagine something special that you own, something that you’d like to pass along to someone close to you after you’re gone. Is it a precious piece of jewelry or a fine watch? Is it an antique car or unique collection that took you years to build? Well, if you lived in the Renaissance, one of the things at the top of your list would have been your bedding

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I have a bed sheet that’s just worn through from regular wear and washing, gaining a large rip beyond repair. In this case, what can be done but to put it on the shopping list that a new one is needed. This got me thinking about some research I’d been doing lately…

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As I’ve been doing a little writing about settings within noble Renaissance homes, I needed to be careful not to assume that the beds looked anything like the fancy ones I would dream up for a wealthy lord and lady of the 16th century, or the humbler nests I’d assume their household slept upon. I had to ask, what were beds really like?

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If you were indeed very wealthy, a large and sumptuous bed might have been a reality. Mattresses filled with downy feathers, soft sheets and a bolster (liken to our pillows but a long tubular one to be shared). Richly fabrics might have hung around it (used to keep out the cool draft and give the sleepers some privacy).

These beds however, and the linens and hangings around them, would have been considered one of the finest things you owned. Further, the area where this bed would have been displayed was far more likely to be viewed publicly, in a room where your guests might look upon it. You would have been proud for others to see these luxurious furnishings. Further still, an honored guest might even sleep in it so that they would be comfortable during their stay…with you. Further, further still, you and multiple family members might sleep in it altogether. And in your will, scribbled out with your quill and ink, you’d be certain to pass these goods on to the most beloved of those near to you. These items were regularly passed along through multiple generations.

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The household (servants) of those affluent families, had a different reality, one much like cottage dwellers. You might all find a place near the fire in the kitchen, sitting or laying where there was a spot to be found, on a handful of grasses or hay. You might have had a pallet (thatched grasses and hay). Or quite often, you may have simply slumped where you could find a seat, snoozing upright. You were fortunate to own a good cloak, or covering of that nature, for you weren’t likely to own a coverlet and it would act as one.

This would of course, not have been very comfortable at all. Vermin were rampant (and historically speaking, this was even true for the nobles’ bedding, no matter how fine). So, you’d have fleas, bedbugs, little mice too. If you lived in a cottage, leaks and bird excrement and insects would drop on you as you slept (and at all hours of the day), for all of nature would have lived in your grassy roof. Things would have been damp, drafty, dirty, uncomfortable…

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Knowing my own temperament, I can say that I would have been miserable living during the Renaissance as concerns this topic. My need for 8 hours of undisturbed, comfortable, quiet sleep each night, would have been foiled. I’d have been one grouchy lady.

Researching the topic has been fascinating however, even looking back at different centuries. For instance, during the 18th century in Europe, affluent people regularly treated their bedrooms like meeting rooms. Sit in bed, have your meal, with all your visitors hanging around. Venice’s treasured 18th century artist Pietro Longhi documented such scenes on canvas…The Morning Chocolate:

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I was very intrigued too, when I read Casanova’s memoirs. They told of his day-to-day dealings and during these memoirs, you see how quickly people fell from money into complete destitution. People commonly sold their belongings as a means of survival and when bill collectors came calling, there was always the possibility that they’d act upon the law to collect a few of your furnishings to settle what was due. Casanova repeatedly sold his belongings, regularly linens, for his own survival.

Nowadays, I couldn’t get hardly a dime for my bedsheets if I needed to. Things have changed. Unless you own priceless art or gilded furniture, in most cases the public doesn’t look upon your furniture (and especially not your bed and linens) as a part of your ‘estate’. No, it is more likely land/house/cars, that show what you’re *worth*.

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If I lived during the Renaissance, I’d march my butt upstairs right now and pull out a needle and thread and start fixing that sheet! There would be no tossing it out, and running down to the store for a new one. For its worth, would have been viewed very differently.

Check out my previous post about people’s relationship with their things in history. I twitter about how acutely different our reality is from those people of the past, as regards to our stuff. It makes you think a little differently about why and how we value what we own.

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When I lay my head down on my pillow tonight, and snuggle up beneath the soft sheets and blankets, I’ll be taking a moment to remember how very rich I am, for once upon a time, these items were considered the greatest of luxuries. Even to sell them during hard times, might have delivered me and put food on the table, when I needed it the most. I may not live in the tempestuous times of the Renaissance, but for all the comfort these items give me today, I value them still…even if they’ll only give me a penny for resale!