PAREIDOLIA

One of my favorite things to do on a warm, breezy summer day, is lie down in the grass and watch clouds pass overhead. I watch for those that remind me of animals. Sometimes a turtle, an elephant, or dragon. They change quickly as they move across the sky and it’s interesting how the things I see dissolve into something else or nothing at all.

I’m not alone in being a person who sees images and especially faces in inanimate objects. There are many of us  and it’s called Pareidolia. This capability has been with me since I was a child. My mother also saw these images and I suppose it could be that I learned it from her or it might have been passed down to me genetically. A new study in Japan found that those you see faces like the ones I see in the photo above are neurotic.

What? Me neurotic? Well, maybe. Aren’t most of us? If you look up the definition of neurosis you’ll find that it’s defined as “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.” So maybe it’s true that I am neurotic. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, after all. But thankfully I’m in recovery. I’ve slowed my pace and do a lot of self-care … taking naps, meditating, writing, walking, gardening, reading, and listening to music. My stress levels have greatly diminished and I’m feeling like a new woman.

Do you see the rabbit in this one?

But thankfully those creatures and faces I see in the tiles on my shower wall are still with me. I think of them as my “shower friends” and have always enjoyed seeing them. They remind me of cartoon characters and I see them as happy and funny.

I’ve always attributed this ability of mine to my creative bent and what helps to make me an artist. I’m a very visual person. Give me written directions on how to do something, and it will take me forever to figure it out. Show me how to do something, and I’m there with you, ready to go. That’s how I learned to knit, weave, spin sheep’s wool into yarn, paint, and cook delicious food, among other things.

So, neurotic or not, I’m glad for whatever causes me to be able to do this. How about you? Do you see faces or animals in inanimate objects? What do you see in photographs of the tiles I’ve included here?

What? Me Worry?


If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway.
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I’ve always been a worrier. I’ve worried about almost everything including what other people thought of me, what would happen if I didn’t do what I was told to do, and how much snow would fall overnight rendering the following day a disaster because I couldn’t get to my doctor’s appointment or my yoga class. I seemed to think that worrying would make the bad things I was expecting to happen disappear, never to be seen again. Fortunately, worry is no longer my constant companion.

It seems to me that worrying has a lot to do with control issues and fear. As a child I felt there was nothing in my life that I could control. I never knew when my parents were going to be mean to me or when they would give me a hug and tell me I was a good kid. From the beginning I had the imagination of a creative and could come up with the most amazing, wonderful stories in my head or the most terrifying. The scary tales were often encouraged by my grandparents who told me that if I didn’t eat everything on my plate, the wolf that lived in the pump house across the street would come and take me away. For a long time I believed them and ate all of the disgusting spinach that was piled on my plate and the extremely overripe banana that made me want to puke. I watched as my grandfather cracked raw eggs into his coffee and then drink it. I worried that he’d make me do the same thing as soon as I was old enough to drink coffee. Thankfully I was never forced to follow his lead.

I slowly discovered that worry was caused by anticipating what was ahead, fearing that I would fail and/or get into deep trouble. When I made the earth shattering discovery that I have little or no control over anything I figured out it was a waste of time. I would never be able to stop my father from being in a rotten mood, or keep lightening from striking my house. The world was way too huge and chaotic to fret about. Why waste my time feeling anxious and watching my back, which always ruined gorgeous, sunny days?

Being mindful is my goal these days. Sure I still worry about things when they feel wobbly, but once I realize what is happening it is fairly easy to let go, labeling my thoughts as fear or expectation. Surely there is no problem hoping for the best outcome of any situation, but letting it direct every moment of our lives is being wasteful of the gift we have been given. And fearing the worst is even more destructive.

Sam, my fourteen year old dog is getting very old, is deaf, and having difficulty with his rear legs. But he is happy and I can’t worry about how much longer he will be with us. I can only enjoy having him with me right now and the moments when he is feeling exceptionally chipper and can run up the driveway, chasing Lilli, his cat. I’m having too much fun right now getting up each day and smelling whatever flower is opening up for me. If the end of the world comes along while I’m at it I’ll deal with it when it happens. Why waste even a minute of this wonderful life?

R&R And The Free Newsletter I’d Like To Share With You

What I see when I open my eyes in the morning,

What I see when I open my eyes in the morning,

I’m on vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’m staying on Currituck Sound this time around. It’s quiet, peaceful, and absolutely gorgeous. Besides some Canada geese there was a Great Blue Heron fishing next to the dock early this morning. Evenings are filled with killer sunsets that change by the minute and seem to last for hours. The ocean is an easy six minute trek away, where I walk at least twice a day; the first as soon as I get up and put some clothes on and then a late afternoon walk as the shadows begin to shorten and the heat of the day is on its way out.

I have only four more days here. I wish I could stay another week.

But the main point of this blog post is that I’m joining the ranks of those who put out a newsletter as a way to expand my horizons and those of my readers. My blog is usually story driven with contemplations on how to live a rich and fulfilling life.

My newsletter will have different content and will be published monthly on the first day of each month, beginning on October 1st. It will cover many of the themes and issues I write about in my book, including compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, aging, PTSD, and caring for an aging parent.

Some Enchanted Evening

Some Enchanted Evening.

I will also write about how writing my memoir and making visual art have helped me to find my center after years of wandering across an emotionally viscous sea of confusion and what AA and ALANON both call, Stinking Thinking.

There will be links to helpful articles on all of the above topics as well as books and movies that I have found to be of particular interest.

Each newsletter will include an image from one of my visual journals, for your enjoyment, as well as a way to encourage you to start one of your own. Everyone is an artist. By keeping a journal of your own creations you’ll find that being an artist does not mean you have to show your work in a gallery or share it with the rest of the world.

I will provide an occasional excerpt from my memoir along with updates as it makes it’s way to bookshelves in 2016.

Please use the sign-up form at the top of this page on the right to let me know you’d like to receive this new offering. Please take note that I will never share your email address with anyone else.

I’m very excited about sharing my newsletter with you and send you wholehearted THANK YOUs for signing up in advance.IMG_1563

How Do You Know When You Need Some Downtime?

DSC01745.JPG“Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don’t believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.”
Margaret Roach

I finished the third rewrite of my manuscript on Wednesday afternoon. I was cross-eyed, had a headache, and felt like crap. I emailed it to my writing coach, Kevin. Then sent a note to my developmental editor, Dave, telling him I’d have one more look-see in the morning before sending it off to him the following day.

I woke up the next morning, still feeling awful. My eyes were crusted over, glued shut, and when I thought about taking another look at my manuscript, I got nauseous. I’d had a weird dream in which I didn’t know where I was. Though the place I was in wasn’t a prison, I felt imprisoned. I sat around a dining table with a bunch of other women. They were all smiling. Conversation was nonexistent. And there was no food on the table. The dream made me feel scared and very vulnerable.

I ate breakfast, took a quick walk, and sat down at my computer, intending to just glance through my “finished” draft. When it popped up on the screen, I knew I couldn’t do it. I was sick of it. Tired of rewriting, rereading the same-old, same-old, I’d been working on all summer long. Even the two brief “vacations” I ventured on hadn’t been enough to keep this excruciating burn out from happening.

Overcooked, like a stingy pot roast, I simply attached the draft to an email and sent it off to Dave, too exhausted to give a %#$@ about it. I had to get rid of it. I desperately needed time to simply be, without trying to be the perfect writer. A chronic overachiever, I had done myself in again. I cried some, argued with Bill a lot, and was a general pain in the butt, even to myself.

When Bill took off Saturday on one of his long planned theatre trips to New York, I went out into my garden and started deadheading faded blooms. I pulled weeds, tore out a whole section of dead, sun loving perennials that had been overtaken by dense shade, and thought about what to plant in their place next spring …  more ferns, lenten roses, and shade loving hostas.

After lunch, I took time to read a novel I’d been enjoying, then had a nap. When I went back into my studio, my head was much clearer. I started going through the long list of old emails on my computer that I’d been meaning to reread, but now found uninteresting. I deleted many of them. After a dinner of yummy left overs … locally made kielbasa and my fabulous potato salad, I finished the novel and tucked myself into bed at nine-thirty.

I’m on my way back to being my old self, again, but I need more rest and a lengthy break from the mind boggling material I’ve been writing about.  I hadn’t noticed how exhausted I’d become. Or how obsessed I’d been with my story and getting it right. I had just kept on rewriting, forgetting to take breaks when I couldn’t see the computer screen in front of me any longer.

I still need a real vacation. I’ll finish out this week without Bill, by doing as little as possible. Maybe I’ll go to a movie. I’ll start  reading a new book from the huge pile next to my bed, and perhaps sit in the garden in the evening, watching the night come on, listening as bird song is overtaken by the rattle of cicadas, crickets, and tree frogs. I’ll make myself some lucious rice pudding, and take long, lingering naps every afternoon.

Even the things we love doing, like writing, can become overwhelming if we don’t remember to provide ourselves with downtime.

As for perfection … there is no such thing. No matter how many time I rewrite my story, it will never be perfect. And it might actually begin to lose its sheen as I dab away at its yet unseen glow.

Yes, there will be at least one more rewrite, but before that happens, a little self-care is in order.

How do you know when you need downtime?

Be Grateful, Stay Sane

DSC00487.JPGIt’s the time of year when all of us start looking forward, wondering what the new year will bring our way.  Though I prefer to live on a day to day basis, I’m  preparing for the big renovation we’ll be doing here in January.  I’ve got things to pack up and sort out. I need to figure out how I’m going to handle certain problems like continuing to eat the healthy way I do while not having a fully equipped kitchen available to me.

For part of the time we’ve decided to get a room at the nearby Residence Inn where we’ll have a small kitchenette and our dogs are welcome.  I’m making double recipes of things like soups and freezing the left overs so that we’ll have some good quality food while we’re there. But if the project takes longer than they say it will, we’ll need to move back home, rather than spread our budget to its breaking point.  It’s all going to be costly, and we don’t want to go overboard.

While part of me excitingly deals with details like paint colors, choosing a new bathtub, and lighting fixtures, another part of me is freaking out. “Everything will be a mess. How will I organize the things I ‘may’ need on a daily basis? How will the cat adjust to the noise and invasion of her space?  Will I be able to keep my cool without living with the debilitating anxiety that often overtakes me when I’m living in a transitional space?”

I’m easily triggered by what is happening around me and having my house torn apart will not be an easy.  I was a building contractor’s daughter and have lived this kind of life many times before. The idea was that once a house my Dad was building was under roof and halfway finished we’d move in and work on finishing it up until it was done and the buyers took over.  We’d move on to the next unfinished home often living without doors on bathrooms, cooking on a camping stove, and once again waiting to move on the next site. I also know that projects like this usually takes longer than first expected. We’ve been told it will take four weeks.

I’ve come a long way in recovering from my PTSD and I think I’ll be fine.  I can easily recognize triggers and change the direction of where I’m headed quickly. I’ve learned a lot about patience and the things you can’t do anything about like ice storms, power outages, getting the flu, or simply feeling sorry for myself. What ever happens, I know I’ll get through it and will learn a few lessons along the way. New life lessons are always a given.

I’m preparing by designing a plan that will help me focus on being comfortable throughout the project.  I’ll get back to meditating on a more regular basis, make a few artist dates with myself, keep working on my book in my studio, which is over the garage not in the house, move a cot up to the studio for an occasional nap, and just do the best I can. I may wipe out once or twice, but I’m only human and know I won’t fall as hard as I used to.

I plan on staying mindful and somewhat balanced by sharing things that I am grateful for on my Facebook and Twitter pages, on a daily basis, until the project is done and I’ve moved back into my house. I’ll start on January 1th  in preparation for the the first day of work which is scheduled for January 6th, when the slate tilesd floor in the kitchen will most likely be demolished.

I’m calling it, “Be Grateful, Stay Sane Month.” It will hopefully be a way for me to keep my attitude positive during a possibly trying time. If any of you would like to join me please do.  Simply post things you are grateful on my gratefulness posts on Facebook or Twitter.  It will be a great way to start the New Year.