Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Shifting Gears and Re-directing

OK, I've decided that it doesn't make much sense to duplicate my efforts on two blogs, and since I have to have the Wordprss site to interact with Wordpress Daily Prompts, from today forward I will only be posting 365 Days of Writing at laf Writes.

I really should have named that url laf Writes, but I can't change it now. If you'd like to follow my writing for the sake of writing journey, please hop on over to laf Writes. and click the Follow button in the right navigation bar. Thanks for understanding and I hope you enjoy my stories.

I will continue to post more art related things here. For example, I want to tell the story behind "a rose is not a rose ...." So watch for that!

Until next time ...

Monday, September 28, 2015

365 Days of Writing | #4 Soulmate

Wordpress Writing Prompt: Ying to My Yang
How do you define the term “soulmate,” and do you believe in the existence of such a person — for you?

Sometimes a rose is not a rose ... it's an onion!

I know the common definitions of soulmate mostly revolve around romantic relationships. That in some time gone by one entity was split in two and they each searched until they found one other. I have lived quite a number of years now and upon contemplation of this prompt have decided soulmates come in many forms: lover, friend, former spouse. Yes, that's what I said, former spouse. I'll start there.

My former husband (not ex--because he's not an ex) of almost 30 years is still a soulmate for me. Two years ago when I got very sick, life-threatening sick he stepped up like no one else in my life. He went to my diagnosis appointment with me when my leukemia was confirmed. He went with me when I was immediately admitted to the hospital. He joined me in many decision-making appointments when I faced whether to have a stem-cell transplant. He was my consultant regarding medical power of attorney. He is the executor of my will. And he visited over the many weeks I was hospitalized. One would say that's a lot. But I was the lucky beneficiary of his financial assistance as well--he provided loan funds for all of my expenses not covered by insurance. All these things are behaviors that come with love. No, not a romantic love. Something far and away much more. I know there are couples who have crumbled under these circumstances. I am forever grateful to him for standing by me this way. All this while he has a second family of his own.

You might ask why he did this. My assessment is simple, he cares. AND he has been in my life all these years for a reason. He knows me better than anyone. We may not have be able to make a marriage work, but our love for one another is clear. We have two grown sons and our focus for many of those years was to raise them the best we could--together out of two households. To teach our sons that we both love them enough not to fight with each other.

Next, some friends can be soulmates. No, these relationships tend not to be romantic and certainly not sexual, but they last over time. It is these that connect through the soul. My friend, Jill, took my sweet puppy dog for a total of my 10 weeks in the hospital. That time was spread over months and every time I needed her she was there. Mind you, she too has a family of her own. Husband, two children, and a dog. But Kobi was welcome and very well taken care of. That removed any worry and concern for me while I fought the cancer battle.

Sumo and Kobi

In addition, I had many friends who stepped up to the plate and took care of things as I recovered. They visited me when I needed uplifting in the hospital and brought me things I needed there. Sometimes they even surprised me with unexpected gifts. They cleaned my house, made my meals,  or simply stayed with me during a three month period post stem-cell transplant. None of them ever asked for a thing. They gave from the heart. And I benefited immeasurably.

That leaves me with lover. The older I get the definition of that word changes. Most would think of lover in the context of sex. Not as important to me anymore as companionship. I don't have a lover currently, but I'm also not too old to remember what it's like to have one. One day, maybe--I'll be lucky there too.

So, do I believe there is a soulmate or soulmates for me? Absolutely! I have proof.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

365 Days of Writing | #3 Who knew ...

Sunday stories with Shirley: Who knew what the adventure would bring us.

I picked Sam up at 6:00 am wanting to beat the commuter traffic out of town. We had agreed we were leaving. Leaving for good. She had had enough of her husband telling her how to live her life. And I had no attachments. Not right now.

With the two hundred dollars I had made working odd jobs in my pocket I figured we could get far enough away not to be found, then find some odd jobs to keep us going. Sam had nothing except the clothes in her pack, a backpack holding her computer, and some water and Oreo cookies. We planned to pick up some breakfast on the way.

Heading north. That's all we knew. Glacier National Park? Maybe we could get an end-of-season job since Sarah worked there and said they were having trouble keeping people. Finally, we both felt free. Free to do whatever our hearts desired. What was that exactly?

"I don't know why I stayed so long," Sam said to Mandy knowing exactly why. She was afraid. She had lost herself in the relationship with Tom. He told her what to do every minute of every day. He called her from work to check up on her. He wouldn't let her see her friends. Mandy was the only friend she really had and she kept that a secret. Being isolated had made her paranoid and skeptical of what might be out there--out there in the world, but Mandy gave her courage.

"Well, it doesn't matter now," I told her. "We're on our way and we'll figure out each next step as it comes."

After two and a half hours on the road from Cheyenne and what seemed like a long silence, Sam startled Mandy. "There's a McDonald's. Let's stop for breakfast?"

We took the exit and pulled into the parking lot. Stopped into the ladies room first and were planning on placing our order when we noticed a man dressed in a suit and tie and ski mask pointing a gun at the service clerk. What was a respectable looking businessman doing holding up a McDonald's? Unfortunately, he notice our movement before we could get out the door and he shot a round in the air. We both stopped breathing and looked back with that deer-in-the-headlights look. Neither of us spoke. Hoping he would just get back to the business of robbing the place, we stood statue-like thinking once he turned his attention we could slip out the door. Not to happen. Not right now. We slipped down to the floor and sat.

Mr. Businessman ranted at the clerk about his french fries being soggy and that he'd asked for no pickles on his burger. It was like everyone was made of stone except him. In the distance we could hear sirens. They couldn't get here fast enough for our liking, but the sound of the sirens turned before they got to us.

Suddenly Sam realized she recognized the navy silk pinstriped suit. Could that really be Tom? We were in Casper. What was he doing here? He wouldn't hurt us, would he? Of course, he must have recognized us. But maybe not in his state. We had to get out. How? I looked back toward the ladies room. Maybe we could get to the side door without him noticing. Tom continued to rant. The clerk was speechless not wanting to aggravate him more. But the manager stepped up and offered to make him a new meal. "No," he shook the gun in the manager's face. "Just stand there so I can see you sweat."

Sam and I inched our way out of sight and kept low. Finally, we got to the side door, but when we pushed we found it jammed. What now?

"I'm thirsty. Get me a root beer you little bitch!" Sam wondered what had made Tom snap. He used to talk to her that way, but never ever in public. The clerk was slow and Tom hollered again, " Get me a fucking root beer!" Sam and Mandy looked at each other. If there was going to be a time to get out, it would be now. Sam pointed to a door with a sign, "Employees Only." They looked at each other again, quickly took off their shoes, and ran for the door. Thank god it was unlocked.

The clerk managed to get her cement-laden feet lifted off the floor and started pouring the root beer. She found her charm again too. "That will be on the house, sir." But Tom wasn't hearing any of that. "You bitch. The warm buttery smile of yours won't save you.  My wife has used that card for years and I'm just not taking it anymore." He fired. Screams. Shock. The manager dialed 911 on his cell phone, but he knew he couldn't talk or the scene would escalate so he left the phone on the floor with the volume turned off. Four other employees crouched behind the counter and fryers. Sam and Mandy ran out the back door with every ounce of energy they could pack into their legs.

Tom suddenly froze, still pointing the gun toward the manager. What had he done? This was not him. He never intended to kill anyone. He was just looking for his wife. She'd been threatening to leave him for months and when he called from work and she didn't answer he was sure she was headed north. She'd talked about going to Canada for years. She had to be somewhere on this damn highway. And McDonald's was her favorite stop. Egg sandwiches. Fish sandwiches. And those stupid fruity drinks.

The sirens blared. He realized they were close enough that he had no chance of escaping. He melted into the floor putting his head in his hands. It would be over soon. All of it. He didn't know what he'd done wrong with Sam, but he was always angry. And now he'd taken it farther than he ever had before.

Sam and Mandy hadn't stopped running until they heard the sirens and saw the "bubble gums" speed by. They sat down. Weakened. Tears streaming. "What am I going to do now, Mandy?"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

365 Days of Writing | #2 Must Not Fail

Wordpress Writing Prompt: Must Not Fail
What is the one thing at which you are the most afraid of failing?

Failure is one of those words that has a negative connotation before you even get out of the gate. But is it possible to turn it on its head and not be afraid of failure? Is it possible to redefine the word or at least question it?

Definition of FAILURE by Merriam Webster online
a : omission of occurrence or performance; specifically : a failing to perform a duty or expected action
b (1) : a state of inability to perform a normal function — compare heart failure (2) : an abrupt cessation of normal functioning
c : a fracturing or giving way under stress

a : lack of success
b : a failing in business : bankruptcy

a : a falling short : deficiency 

How could I really fail now? I've cheated death; I've survived 156 miles solo backpacking the Colorado Trail; I've visited Yellowstone and captured timeless photos; and I'll be going back to work soon.

In January of 2014 I had a stem cell transplant for leukemia. I am now disease-free, healthy, and pretty normal. I find myself relatively content even though I have failed to manage my finances which is really impossible given the circumstances of my last two years. But in this context have I really failed. I don't know many people who could have come through this experience without financial debt due to medical expenses not covered by insurance. Thank goodness I had that ... and a former husband willing to float me whatever money I needed until I can get back on my feet. He also seems to understand my need to have adventures as he doesn't criticize how I spend that money. It's all a loan, so I have much to manage when I get back to work.

At this stage of my life I'm learning to believe that failure by its definition is something we allow ourselves to cottle to. Somehow feeling badly about what we haven't accomplished, or fell short of doing, or hoped we could do. But it's really a lesson. Everything in this life is a lesson and should be taken as a sign that one could do better. Or maybe it's a sign that that wasn't the right path to begin with.

When I set out on the Colorado Trail my intention was to complete the entire 485-miles. It was not my path to complete. So did I fail? I don't believe so now. My first attempt was 92 miles in 9 days. After coming home to nurse some leg ailments, I was called to walk some more--feeling I had not finished. My second attempt was 64 miles in 7 days for a total of 156 miles. At that point I felt I had completed enough. I accepted that walking 485 miles was not my path. Many of my friends who watched my beat cancer were in awe. Many others asked if I would be going back for more. I am finished--at least for now. And I'm okay with that.

Furthermore, have I failed by not finding work by now? One might think that. Sometimes I think that. But having touched the doorstep of death, I found that I needed my adventures. I needed to go on the second one to Yellowstone where I got some amazing pictures of splashing springs, waterfalls, bison, and trumpeter swans. I visited a friend, Sharon Frizzell, who exposed me to "tiny living" in her 5th wheel trailer home. I believe I could almost live that way and have been exploring it. I'm not ready yet, but that doesn't mean I've failed that either. It's just not time.

I know I will find just the right job in just the right time. I've had some leads. I've had some interviews. Would one say I'd failed at those interviews that did not culminate in a job? I say it wasn't the job for me. I continue to search. And when it's time I will rejoice. I will not consider myself a failure. I believe the last two years have taught me this.

In summary, yes, by simple definition failure is a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be. Move beyond and look at the underlying story. Why you fell short? Why you failed to perform? What could you have done to change it? Or is it time to accept that the event was just a course correction?

Friday, September 25, 2015

365 Days of Writing | #1 Out of Reach

Wordpress Daily Prompt: Write about the one X that got away — a person, an experience, a place you wanted to visit. How much would you change about your life to have it within reach again?

Poem by Alfred Austin

She's spent a lifetime striving. Eight-two years to be exact. Reading and writing were not only her passion, but her escape. Many poems, short stories, and novels have gone unfinished and unpublished.

It still haunts her. "You'll never amount to anything if you don't come from behind that book!" her father would yell at her. He needed her hands on the farm. It was just more than he could handle alone. She knows she can no longer blame her father. She's an adult for god's sake. She's been an adult who has made decisions for herself for a very long time. But seeing her name in print and getting the applause for her work that she deserves seems forever out of reach.

Madelaine sits outside her 750 square foot home in her chair swing reading Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility for the fifth time, all 368 pages of it. She does that--reads and rereads. Escapes. Looking for the sense in her life and living sensibly--for the most part.

While in the garden that she lovingly nurtures, she conjures up characters, lays out landscapes, and has conversations. The herbs of many greens, tomatoes and eggplant, marigolds, trumpet vine, and dahlias all speak to her and she speaks back. Along with her years of varied relationships this is how her stories come to life.

The consummate editor and perfectionist Madelaine is forever pondering, is that the right word or phrase to use in this particular case. It seems the work is never finished. The light of the sun comes and goes as she often sits hunched at the cherry wood table in her sitting room. When she stumbles, she makes lists. Things she should add or delete. New ideas for projects unsung. Writing conferences she wants to attend. What she needs at the grocery store.

Yes, she is always writing, but facing an audience that could love her stories scares the hell out of her. She doesn't realize that though. When asked when are you going to finish those seven novels you've started, Madelaine always answers, "I'm working on them. I'm going to a writer's group this weekend to have the one about the dancers critiqued. I need to choose the poems I want to put into a collection. I have to finish chapter 8 of the historical journal about my great grandfather."

The research phase of writing fascinates Madelaine. She can get lost in a library, on the internet, and talking to people who lived in a period gone by although as she grows older there are fewer she can interview about the past.

As Madelaine contemplates the idea of publishing, she mostly thinks I better get busy. But ultimately she really just enjoys the process of writing. So, although being a published author may or may not be out of reach, her pleasure derived by setting ink to paper is always close at hand. She has friends with whom to share her stories, time to enjoy the outdoors, and a cozy home in which she feels safe. She is happy and has only a slight twinge of regret.

365 Days of Writing: Out of Reach--yesterday's Wordpress Daily Prompt.

365 Days of Writing Prompts Challenge

One day after I finished my 156-mile backpacking trip on the Colorado Trail my son asked me, "What's up?"--a typical way of greeting me as he came home. I said, "I'm bored" to which he replied, "What? You don't have a project to work on?" That was it. He pegged me so accurately. I don't think I realized it until then that I am project driven. Idea --> research --> plan --> execute. That's my process. Sometimes I get to execution, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I complete execution, sometimes I don't. Although I didn't complete the entire 485-mile Colorado Trail, I am proud of my accomplishment, but now I need a new project. One such project is finding a job, but while I wait for that to manifest I need something on which to focus.

On the Colorado Trail--a path of discovery

I'm challenging myself to 365 days of writing. And since I love to combine my love of creating images--both photographs and art--I want to combine the two. I'm not quite sure what prompts I'll use. It will probably depend on my mood and which prompt inspires me. I've been following Wordpress Daily Prompts and I also found 365 Days of Writing Prompts by Wordpress.

I hope some of you will join me as I travel this path ... a new journey of discovery.

Watch for new post: 365 Days of Writing: Out of Reach--yesterday's Wordpress Daily Prompt.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Facing Change

When I read Jan Phillips' poem from her Museletter September 14, 2015 I could totally relate as I seem to be in a new season of my life. I've cheated death. I've challenged my body. And I've traveled new paths. It made me want to create. So with my photos as a foundation and her poem as inspiration, I came up with this composite. I used my photo of a Yellowstone spring as primary and a close-up of rock at Artist Point in Yellowstone as background.

In addition, we are approaching my favorite season of change ... that in which petals wilt, leaves turn yellow, orange, and red, and the air cools. Yes, nature does this so gracefully. Why don't we?

Most of the people I know have trouble with change. I know I do although I've been a bit better.

The winds of change have blown my friend Sharon on to yet another new venture. She spent this summer in Grant Village at Yellowstone National Park in Camper Services. She called herself the Latrine Queen, cleaning showers, helping in the laundry, and dealing with summer campers. In a few weeks she will start training to be an Interpretive Guide for YNP. That sounds very exciting.

I am in that transition. Looking for work. Wondering what's next. Hoping the gentle winds of change bring me to a place of productivity and happiness. I've truly enjoyed being healthy again and having the freedom to go where the heart wants to wander.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Colorado Trail: Marmot and the Stone Room

The Colorado Trail was everything and nothing, different but the same, and exciting and numbing. For these reasons I've had some trouble assimilating the experience and finding a way to write about it. With that said, creating my first composite helps me tell the story.

The skies shifted from clear blue to baby blue with clouds to storm clouds--sometimes all in the same day. There were broad vistas. The occasional surprise like the stone room ruin. And of course the marmots above tree line. So this composite actually puts this Mr. Marmot out of his element. In addition, I loved all the mushrooms that ranged from bland brown to bright red.

Textures by Kim Klassen
Textures and frame by Photoshop Artistry

This image tells a story of a variety of experiences that the separate images could not do so well for me. Some of my favorite things on the trail.

I hope to create some additional composites. Maybe I will finally be able to share this experience in only a dozen images rather than 500!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Creative Expression: Contemplation

Photoshop Artistry supplied the image of Andrew Constantino, a street musician in Ashville, NC. Using some new textures, brushes, and adding a stroke I created a new frame. Layer masks and blending modes were used extensively.

Check out the before and after by scrolling your mouse over the image.

mouseover to see before image

Textures by Kim Klassen
Textures, brushes, and primary image by Photoshop Artistry