Thoughts About The Camp Fire in NO CA

With the fire slowly creeping forward and containment at 35%; I have decided to leave for a bit for the coast, which is not immune from the toxin filled air.

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The smoke is so heavy that breathing is becoming more difficult and it is seeping through the cracks in my house like a snake slips and slithers through the smallest of holes. I have to wonder that even if the fire does not reach us will the smoke smell permeate our home making it smell like a barbecue shack for years to come? How does one get rid of that deep-fried charcoal smell anyway?

B just called me as he drove to work. He says the smoke is so thick that it is like driving through pea-soup fog making driving more hazardous than the normal commute. Toxins from the fire will have effects on the average persons health for years to come and so you begin to ask yourself do the risks of staying outweigh the risks of leaving?  Yes, we want to stick around to guard our house against the fire but most of all we want to protect ourselves from the lower than pond scum looters that prey on situations such as this to enrich themselves. Yes, almost everything is replaceable except that feeling of violation that may never leave.

The death toll now stands at 56. It appears that it will reach well over 100. So many people gone. So many folks who made the community what it was no longer alive to contribute to the re-building and bring the enthusiasm that is needed for such an endeavor.

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The border of the fire now stands less than 5 miles from my home. The winds are blowing the pines to the right just a bit. My solar panels are no longer producing power. The birds have stopped singing and the deer have a desperate look to their eyes. The skunk has a slightly gray parlour to him and so do I.

It will be nice to leave for a bit. Nice to be where the air smells fresh and the sky is actually blue rather than brown. I feel for those who have no choice but to stay waiting in lines to have their licenses re-issued, take a shower, try on donated clothes, find a rental, talk to FEMA and the insurance adjusters. Sometimes being in shock protects you until it can no longer do so because you are just plain weary and you lose hope.

Yes, for so many there is a lot to do. A lot to overcome. And so far I have had little to worry about. I am one of the fortunate. Yet, even if we lose our home  I think I can say with confidence that we will still be one of the lucky ones…because we have one another and we are still alive.

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And…The First Fire-Related Lawsuit Is Filed. Compassion Is Needed.

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Tonight six more individuals were added to the list one never wants to be on…deceased. Dead due to a fast burning out of control wildfire. This brings the number killed to 48 with hundreds still missing. It is a sad day for our state but especially for the towns of Paradise and Concow where most of the victims resided.

Paradise is not a compact city. There were many folks living down miles and miles of long country roads. People spread out far and wide surrounded by tinder dry forests. As I read over the list of the missing I couldn’t help but notice that about 90% of them were over 70 years-old. Grandparents who couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t drive, or maybe even hear any warnings that might have come their way.

Tonight it was also announced that the very first lawsuit was filed in court with the fire still raging and fault not yet determined by fire investigators.  The defendant in the lawsuit is PG&E, the local electrical utility. Right before the fire became an inferno, the utility emailed an individual requesting access to their property as the PG&E’s transmission wire was sparking. This is most likely just the beginning of a long list of suits that will surely follow.

While I realize that many will want to see someone held responsible for the deadliest fire in California history; I am hoping people will not turn on those who did their best during a chaotic situation…the first responders. Having lived through several emergencies, I can only believe that everyone did their best to save lives while a fire was swallowing up land the size of 8 football fields every minute. With hot embers flying through the air driven by radically changing winds which were being pushed faster than a person can drive, it seems to me that to try to point fingers is a game in futility and one that degrades our collective humanity. Yes, looking back we always find things that could have been done better and faster but when calamity strikes we all do what we can and  we do what we can to the best of our ability and with the knowledge we have at the time.

Unfortunately, we all have noble ideas of how we THINK we would react in certain situations, often playing those scenarios out in our minds at different points in our lives. But life isn’t that simple. We often find in an emergency that our previously good ideas no longer work. Trees fall, lines are long, folks stay behind for one last thing, we fail to heed the warnings soon enough or we don’t have enough gas in our car.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there will many people who will go to their graves second guessing themselves for failing to act in ways that were impossible to implement when there are so many lives to save in a cataclysmic event. It is truly one of those moments that you can never totally prepare for. The notions and ideas that survivors had about themselves and how they would react in life changing events can often snare them. Then the “if only’s” may begin to slowly eat away at them until they are but shells of their former selves.

I hope this does not happen. I hope people will look at one another and not point fingers but will show compassion and understanding. Perhaps one of the greatest things folks can do for themselves and others in this type of situation  is to stop, breathe, and say:

“I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.”

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The “end” of an emergency is really just the “beginning” of a new normal. It isn’t easy. Anger appears out of nowhere and despair can rob us of moments we formally enjoyed. Yet, compassion and forgiveness (a blame free environment) can go a long way towards bringing a community back together and re-building it in such a way that it creates a long-lasting atmosphere of vibrancy, restoration, and love. May everyone impacted by this fire remember that blame creates suffering which only causes further suffering for ourselves. And may those involved look for the best in each and every person and not assume the worst; so that seeds of compassion planted now will flourish in the future creating Paradise once again in this amazing mountain town.

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View of the area around my home

 

 

THE DEADLY FIRE CONTINUES

First of all, my regrets to the beautiful town of Paradise which lost so many in the fire. Same with Concow. There are now over 6,400 homes that were destroyed and there are over 50,000 displaced persons. Also, for the history lovers the Honey Run Covered Bridge was destroyed. It was a much loved landmark in the area where everyone went to have the senior high school pictures taken and many weddings were held. Built over 100 years ago it was the only three-span bridge remaining in the USA.

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So far we have evacuated once. Not because it was mandatory but because the winds were suppose to be 50 miles per hour at night and I didn’t want to drive in the middle of the night along with 50,000 other people who were trying to leave. I watched the videos of those who were driving through fire on both sides of them, embers flying around and no visability. That is not the way I want to die so we went and stayed with my cousin for the night and returned the next afternoon. The car is still packed and ready to go if need be.

We have offered a large room in our home but thus far no takers. Sometimes it seems so difficult to be  able give and get disaster relief to those horribly and truly impacted people. I wish it was easier to connect because I know people are looking for shelter and I cannot imagine cots are too comfortable.

Today it was announced that they have found 42 deceased persons in the area and over 200 are still missing. This makes the Camp Fire the deadliest in California history. Don’t even get me started on what our bone-headed leader said about the situation. Too bad he didn’t just get wet while in France and melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. I suspect that is the real reason he would not attend the ceremony in the rain!

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We are watching the fire creep slowly towards us but the winds are dying down so I am not expecting that this monster fire will reach us. Thank you for all those positive vibes. That said, the smoke is thick and ash floats down like snowflakes. My outdoor furniture has a layer of soot coating it and my head hurts from all the smoke in the air.

Paul was burdened after visiting the evacuation center and became concerned that we would lose everything too. We explained that nothing else mattered but the love we had for each other and for our family in general. Everything can be replaced… but people… and while somethings are dear to our hearts, if lost, we can find other things to replace them. Nothings Real But Love!

It was an eerie day hearing the helicopters down at the lake scooping up water to pour on the fire. Yet, with such thick smoke blanketing the area I could not see them. I heard them coming and going all day without one visual verification that they were truly there.. It makes me wonder how those pilots keep safe and I have to give them a big salute for all they are doing to try and keep us safe.

Since we just moved here we really don’t know many people but when I go to the store I hear the stories of personal loss and it just breaks my heart. Someone’s grandma gone. Another person’s uncle still missing. Pets left behind because they were so scared they ran off and their owners had to leave without them.

B and Paul went to the evacuation center in town to help out on Saturday. They said it was the saddest thing they had ever seen… so many traumatized people who fled with only the clothes on their backs which make what I am about to say so ridiculous. While they were there they were instructed to hand out clothing to all these people who had no clothes but what they were wearing when they left two days before. As these needy people were getting free clothing, the state health department came and shut the hand-out down, stating that the clothes had to be taken and sanitized first. What a bunch of crap! I wrote the Governor and other officials stating at times like this common sense needs to prevail and rules need to be bent when at all possible.

Today, I made the kids come out and remove leaves from the backyard and the decorative bark away from the house. They complained so much that I think that they need summer jobs detasseling corn or picking fruit. Good old hard, sweaty labor might just cure the “Princess” nonsense that is going on in this castle.

Here are some pics from the fire. Please keep California in your prayers.

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Saturday-One of the evacuation centers that B and Paul worked at

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Saturday-Smoke starting to fill the area

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Why we left

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A street 5 blocks from us

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Wild Fire

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When I left my house at 7:45 am I noticed a HUGE plume of smoke over the mountain. Checking the internet, I found that there was a wildfire burning about 25 miles from my house or 17 as the crow flies. Ten acres were involved.

An hour later the fire had grown to 100 acres. An hour after that it was at 1000 acres and about two hours later it was at 5000 acres. Now, five hours later this fire has grown to over 8000 acres and entire towns in the hills have been evacuated and there are over 100 homes that have already burnt to the ground.

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My son’s teacher told me that his good friend lost everything in a fire several years ago. Today, when his friend saw flames a long way off from his house, he quickly packed his car. Having survived one fire he knew just how treacherous they couldbe. By the time this man and his family made it to the highway both sides of the road were on fire with lines of cars trying to make it out of the area.

It doesn’t help that we are having 30 mph wind gusts that are suppose to be around for another 24 hours.  The winds are spreading the fire here and there with spot fires popping up constantly. I fear for the people and wildlife who may not make it out of this firery hell in time.

Later in the morning I called my father who said, “Pack your car and go rent a trailer.”

I chuckled. He is over reacting I thought.

Later my cousin who lives in the area issued the same warning. “Be prepared,” she said.

And so, I went home and I handed two of my kids who are sick of the sofa  each an empty box and told them to fill it with those things that had meaning for them. I did the same while also creating boxes for each member of our family trying to determine what things were most important to their hearts and to their heads.

It’s a strangle thing putting your entire life into a few boxes. What stays and what goes is not as easy to determine as you might think. Of course, I put the box of important papers (birth certificates, adoption records, passports) into the back of the car. I took one painting that we obtained from my a few of my kids birth country and a bunch of old video cassette tapes that I have yet to put on DVD. The old family Bible went in as did a few photo albums, a necklace from my GG Grandmother, my writings, one of my stamp collection albums, our wedding picture, my husband’s bagpipes, my kids Eagle Scout pins  and an ancient Chinese incense burner. My GGGG grandmothers sleeping cap which sits in a shadow box in the hallway was included, as was my GG grandmothers vase, my kids early drawings, some of my daughters diving medals and a few souvenirs from our many travels. Most of the photographs I left behind, except for some of the older pictures, thinking that so much was online, that I could easily make re-prints if need be.

And so my car sits in the driveway packed and ready to go should we need to. I doubt that it will happen but with such a fast moving fire and such high winds I decided that it was better to be prepared than not.

Please pray or send positive vibes for those in harms way of this very dangerous fire. The fire is still a long way from us but it is burning so many others out of their homes in the mountains.

(Picture from my house)

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Update- It is now 2 p.m. and the fire has exploded to 17,000 acres

Batman And Other Fine Creatures

Sometimes, when we least expect it, something happens that forever changes the dynamics of your family. In our case, it appears to be Batman.

On Halloween, son #3 was outside trying to hand out candy to the local youth. Since we recently moved here we went all out to ensure we could meet local demands and based the quantity of candy needed on our old neighborhood numbers. We bought 600 pieces. This was a mistake of epic proportions.

We had ONE trick-or-treater. ONE. This, of course, means that I must personally consume the other 599 pieces within one week in order to ensure that said candy does not expire. At this point I will need to eat 300 pieces tomorrow and 299 the next day. But who is complaining? According to my calculations to burn off this amount of candy I will need to stay at the gym until the last of my still-in-the-nesters reach 18…and that is another four years. Good luck, Dad! It’s my turn to stare at the buns now!

Anyway, besides the lone costumed candy kid, there was one more creature that hit our driveway on Halloween night. As related by son #3, he decided it was time to take a look around after hearing strange noises as he sat waiting for the other 599 children to show up at our door. Imagining spooks, grim reapers, and the like out for his head; son #3 was pleasantly surprised to find this creature of the night which was immediately brought inside and cuddled.

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According to the vet he is 5 weeks old and very healthy for a wild kitten. He weighed in at 15.5 ounces and his vocal cords are very busy. Due to all of his “talking” there has been a divide in our home as one contingent wants to name his Chairman Meow while the other insists that Batman be his moniker due to the pointy ears and the fact he is nearly all black. But this isn’t the only issue facing our young feline friend.

I have always believed that you are either a cat person or a dog one. I grew up with cats but when I was old enough to have a home of my own; canines became my companion of choice. But then this cat shows up completely unannounced and uninvited. For our boxer mix this cat is a menace and because of his DNA he likes to chase and kill small rodents. It is obvious that he considers Batman is of that ilk (small rodent) and his proudest moment would to be to serve Batman up on a platter as a nice tasty dinner for his human friends. Obviously, perspective is everything.

The other hurdle we have to overcome is Paul’s previously severe allergy to cats. Thus far, it appears that the weekly allergy shots for seven years are paying off. There are no itchy red eyes, swollen faces or sneezing going on here.

So for now, like it or not, it appears that Batman is here to stay. Doors are now shut to keep dog from cat and cat from kid. Earplugs are worn to keep us from hearing Chairman Meow’s views on everything under the sun. So while this cat issue remains up in the air for now one thing no longer is. Next year I am making everyone stay indoors on Halloween.

 

 

 

A Little Whimsy-Your True Nature

I don’t think I have ever endorsed a product before but I really think that these make cute gifts for the holiday season. Best of all they are cheap! I found these bookmarks a couple of weeks ago when I was at the visitors center at a National Park near my home. I believe that the advice and reminders are spot on.

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There are a ton of these including Advice From A Mountain, Advice From A Bear and Advice From A Sasquatch. Such cute reminders of the important things in life without having to beat someone over the head with the sentiments.

Visit http://www.yourtruenature.com to view and shop for all their wildly unique gifts.

This ends this public service announcement. We now return you to our regular blog.

 

Who Are You And What Do You Stand For?

I could write something profound and meaningful about the question of who are you and what do you stand for. Always an important question in my book but one I will leave for others to debate. Today, I want to ask you the questions in regards to art. Precisely, designing your own coat of arms.

Several weeks ago I wrote about how my therapist has been encouraging me to paint. I am not good at it but I am finding that it is getting those “after his affair/almost divorce” feelings exposed in a way that is finally helping me to examine them and let them go. Who knew?

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This week I decided to take on a new project. I am designing my own coat of arms. I was inspired to do so, believe it or not, because of Meghan Markel and her now husband, Prince Harry. Seems that when they married they needed to have a coat of arms designed for their household. A big task to say the least. It is said that Meghan took great pains to make sure that emblem represented who she is and where she came from. As such, California figured predominately. First, she incorporated the state’s flower, the California poppy. In addition, the blue background on the shield represents the Pacific Ocean and the yellow rays across it come from “The Sunshine State” logo.  She also acknowledged her own power of communication through the open beak of the song bird and the quill.

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In designing my own pennon, I have looked hard at myself. Who am I? What do I believe? What do I love? What represents my authentic self? And for the past week I have been designing my crest.  I am not ready to share yet but I will share with you some of the symbolism that I have incorporated.

  1. The first thing you would notice on my coat of arms is the Phoenix rising which signifies that I have arisen from the flames a winner having beaten life’s challenges and defeating the hard times. It is a concrete symbol of my rebirth as a person, female, wife and mother. Around the neck of the Phoenix is a heart with a number in the center which is meaningful to me.
  2. Instead of a traditional crest I have used an open book with symbols of what I believe contained within the pages. This works because I am an open book and share openly and freely. I also love to read and write.
  3. Within the pages of the book is the earth meaning I am a traveler and a person who sees all people as being in and on this planet together. There is also a musical note…self explanatory. The scale of justice sits high upon the crest because of my believe that we are the same and therefore the scales should be balanced for all equally. A pen representing my writing career also has its place. A symbol of Korea is also represented since the country has played such a major role in my life. And there is a very large ? showing that I am a seeker as well as a person who questions everything.

Needless to say, designing this coat of arms has been an interesting process. It has helped me clarify some things and made me look hard at what I value. Further, I have tried to approach this design as my 26th Grandfather must have approached his. Seven hundred years later his crest still stands embedded within the doorway outside of his castle reminding all that enter what his life stood for. I want my coat of arms to be the same… a testament to my great-grandchildren of just who I was and what I stood for.

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My 26th Great Grandfather’s Coat Of Arms At Craigmillar Castle

Autism Touches Every Aspect Of Your Life

Autism sucks. At times it contributes to immense suffering for both the person with autism and his/her family. Sometimes it just does. Period. End of story.

Frankly, I have it easy if you consider the many behaviors that encompass the entire spectrum of people with autism. There are those people who cannot speak. or toilet themselves or self-harm. My sons have none of these issues. We are fortunate.

But sometimes I get weary of the constant pushback.The whole I say “yes”, so he says “no”. The fifty pokes to my arm everyday. The constant giving of some of the deepest parts of myself and getting very little back in return. The feeling that I am doing too much, or not enough, and either way believing whatever it is I am doing; I am most definitely not getting it right. Sometimes it is downright discouraging feeling that your choices are limited, as is your pocketbook, in your ability to get your children the help that they need. And for those of us facing mental health issues along with autism the chances to obtain needed services decrease even more until the quagmire you are in looks a lot like quicksand and it feels that way too.

Yes, I know that my boys are teenagers and some of this is normal teenage behavior but often it feels like it is teenage behavior on steroids and the doses are getting larger by the minute.

Over the years, I have heard comments such as “This too will pass.” Will it? When? Or “You are building character.” Seriously? We have enough character in this house to write our own sitcom. We don’t need anymore. So now, after all those years of worrying about offending others; I no longer put up with those people who “give you the look” or make”kindly” suggestions on how you could improve your children’s behavior. To them I suggest: you are not fighting the daily battle so you have no say. Keep your thoughts to yourself. I don’t need them and neither does anyone else who is doing their best day in and day out.

Maybe someday things will get easier for our kids. There will be less bullying. There will be more services. Schools will do what is right and give kids what they need to reach their full potential instead of fighting parents every step of the way. But until that time, parents are here engaged in a daily battle for their kids rights and it is sometimes beyond exhausting.

So the next time you see a special needs family don’t judge. Just give them a smile or a kid word and know they are dealing with more than you will ever have to. Then go about your business thankful that your family is doing well.

 

 

 

The Good That We Can Learn From The Bad

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Believe it or not sometimes I am beginning to see light shining on the path I have been forced down due to my husband’s infidelity. I am beginning to see a little clearer how I contributed to this debacle. NO, it does not mean that he was just in doing what he did. It just means that sometimes we unwittingly do things that help shift the tide of events to a road that was never meant to be traveled. For it is often NEVER just one persons fault when a relationship unravels. Let me explain.

Before B’s affair came to light I had not been enjoying my life for quite a long time. Sometimes autism took its toll. Sometimes my own negative thinking. Sometimes it was just situations involving me in things I shouldn’t have let myself get involved in in the first place. Other times is was a very low level depression and large amounts of stress that contributed to my thinking that life had somehow become a struggle. And while I recognized that life was never meant to be a struggle somehow it was turning into that very thing it was not meant to be. Often I felt I had lost control of my own life.

Recently, I have come to see that this pain of my husband’s betrayal  has brought good things to my life. When I came close to divorcing I was distraught and depressed. If I thought life had been a struggle before, now it felt like a 1000 pound weight had been added to the backpack that I carry on my life’s journey. All my self doubts rose like a tsunami and smashed my ego into smithereens like wooden boats thrown against giant breaker walls. I was a mess.

Yet, slowly I have come to see many positives that have come my way after this experience, one of which I would like to share with you. You see, in almost losing myself and my life as I knew it all of a sudden I realized what a good life I had. For the most part I have loved it and when taken as a whole it had made me happy and has brought me much more joy than sorrow. I had just forgotten the good parts and was concentrating on the bad. Trying to fix things that were not mine to fix or living for the future and not in the present which created suffering and unhappiness; discontent and anger.

And so, in almost losing everything, I have gained a new and positive perspective on my life…and when I got that back I realized that my remaining years are meant to savored, grabbed, and spent looking for the first buds on a tree. So now I stop and listen and look, recognizing and appreciating the pure joy I hear in the laughter around me, all the while enjoying brilliant sunsets that are best viewed when still and contemplative. For life was never meant to be a struggle and I am trying not to make it so.

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A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

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