The Aesthete Blogger Award

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Thank you so much to @CompassStories for nominating me! I’ve been so glad to meet you and to read your work. I enjoy following your stories on wordpress and on twitter.

To learn more about the Aesthete Blogger award, here is the original post and creator:

Admita @ The fictional journal and their 

https://thefictionaljournal.wordpress.com/2021/03/23/the-aesthete-blogger-award/

(I am not the best on technology, so hopefully I am doing all the rules correctly.)

Tell me something about this world that you admire.

I would have to say resiliency. Even in the face of adversity, people persevere. We are able to find creative solutions to difficult problems. No matter how bad things get, people keep going and don’t give up. When people use that resiliency to show kindness to others is when I think humanity is at it’s best. 

What is your favorite form of creativity?

This one is so hard! I love art, music, photography, writing, theatre. It’s just hard to choose. If I absolutely had to choose, I would say slam poetry. Slam poetry combines a piece of those other elements I love. It is a performance art form of the spoken word and is a type of theatre. I have written and performed one slam poetry piece, only because I find I have to be truly inspired to work in that medium. 

 

@CompassStories questions:

What do you enjoy most about your work?

To my surprise and delight, my work has evolved in ways I never thought would happen. I started my blog as a way to showcase my photography with short life quips and posts on simple living. In addition to simple living, I am also writing reflective autobiographical pieces (Tales from my Surfboard) and have started writing fiction. I am very proud of the fact that all of the images on my blog over the past six years is my own original photography. However, I have gotten away from the landscape photography focus and have put more of myself into my writing. I have been vulnerable in ways I didn’t think I would allow myself to do. It’s been freeing, really.

How have you gained an audience over time?

I’m still not sure how many people that follow me are real or are robots (sorry, folks!). I try to keep things real, genuine, honest. I just keep putting myself out there. I figure even if no one reads it, it’s an exercise for me just to put myself out there. I’m honestly not sure about gaining an audience. I’ve never gone for the numbers. To me it’s more an outlet for my voice, whether my voice is heard or I’m screaming into the abyss.

What’s your favorite season and why?

My favorite season is fall. I’m a marathon runner, and all the best races are in fall. It’s easier to train through summer than it is through 4 feet of snow in winter! I love the fall weather and the leaves. I also have MS, so fall weather in the 50 degree fahrenheit range is perfect for me. It’s the magical time of year when it’s baseball season, hockey season, running season and football season all at the same time. I also love to go camping in fall.

What are your current favorite shows?

I don’t have cable and I do not stream shows online. I work at a computer all day, so streaming a show on the computer during leisure time is not relaxing for me! I do have favorite shows that I watch on DVD, so they tend to be older shows. My five favorite shows are: Cheers, MASH, Star Trek: The Original Series, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Six Feet Under (only one of the 5 I don’t own on DVD – I borrowed them from the library). 

Share something you created:

I recently started writing fiction. I am currently working on a three-part short-story series set in a fictional town called Golden Fork in the Gold Rush Era of the United States. I have had a few private readers of part one. I am currently working on part two of the series. 

In Honor of my Aesthete Blogger Award nomination, here is an exclusive: 

Never before published or revealed: The Golden Fork Series (working title) Part One: Prologue 

Prologue

The peddler turned his carriage around the bend late in the afternoon. This would be his last stop of the day before bedding down for the night. The past few days, he had been traveling through remote homesteads with miles between each one. After this house, he would travel almost a week to reach the booming town of Golden Fork that had sprung up near a mine.

It was a good thing, too. The peddler was low on wares and needed to reach a place with more people to replenish his wagon. Business had been good on this trip. Many people were stocking up on things for the holidays coming.

As the peddler started up to the last house, a young girl started running toward him. He stopped, unsure of whether there was some emergency or she was just eager for his wares.

As she approached him breathlessly, he could see she carried a bundle. The peddler stopped the horses and waited for her to catch her breath. He tipped his hat “Ma’am.”

“Hello, Sir. Are you by chance heading towards the mining town?”

“I am,” he replied.

“I’m wondering if you might be willing to give me a ride to the town?”

The peddler was puzzled. The mining town of Golden Fork was a week’s trip on horse. “Ah, look here, miss. I don’t take passengers. I’m not a ferry or a train. You don’t have kinfolk to go to town? What do you need and I can see if I have it here in my wagon.”

The girl was insistent. “Please, Sir. There is no train here. I just have to leave. I won’t be any trouble to you. Look here,” she uncovered the package she held in her arms. “I can pay my way,” she continued. “I do fine embroidery and millinery work. You can have these linens to sell in exchange for my passage. I have skills. I intend to find work in the town.”

The peddler looked at the most beautiful handiwork he had seen and thought of how much he could charge for it. The holidays were coming and people were spending their savings on fine gifts. He pulled on his beard, thoughtful, and looked towards the house. If there was someone else home, they were either inside the home or out in the field. He looked at the girl more closely.

“How old are ye, miss? It wouldn’t be proper for me to take a traveler all that way with no chaperone. Are you running away from something?”

The girl stood taller and looked more dignified than her 18 years. “I’m old enough to know my own mind. I need passage to the town for work. They won’t miss me here. The wages are needed more than my company.”

The peddler looked back at the home again. It was still quiet. He was thoughtful. “What else do you have in that package?” He asked. “I’m low on supplies and would not want to be accused of being inappropriate with a female as I roll into town.”

The girl answered, “I have enough food for myself for 5 days. If you can share some supplies, I am willing to do more handiwork to earn my passage if you have something in your wagon that can be embroidered or sewn.”

He continued to stare at her.

“I’ve lived here all my life. Worked the land too. I’m fine sleeping on the ground if you sleep in the wagon so it is proper. Please, I need passage to town.” 

The house continued to be silent. Still skeptical about the arrangement, the peddler gave a slight nod. He knew what it was like for your wages to be needed more than your company. He held a hand out to the girl and helped her into the wagon. 

“There are some linens back there. You can do what you can,” he said. 

“Thank you, Sir,” she beamed back at him as she accepted his offer of a hand into the wagon. 

With the girl named Rose aboard, the peddler looked again at the forlorn house. He turned the horses and started on the trail that would lead to Golden Fork. It was time to be going and find a safe place to bed down for the night. 

Rose did not say much on the trip to Golden Fork. The peddler still wondered if she was running from something. At the same time, he was glad for the quiet. The peddler had never before taken on a passenger. True to her word, Rose went through all of the items in the wagon and was able to sew and embroider even the most simple of scarves into things of beauty. He would definitely be able to raise his prices on those items for the holidays. 

Being a gentleman, the peddler did not take her up on her offer to for her to sleep on the ground on the journey. He had her sleep in the wagon and he slept on the ground. He figured it would be safer if she was out of sight. The last thing he wanted was to be accused of being inappropriate. This arrangement was weird enough as it was.

After a long week of traveling, Rose and the peddler were only about a mile outside of Golden Fork. 

“Where should I drop you when we get into town?” The peddler asked. 

Rose tried to think of a way to evade the question. She had never been into town and had no idea what was there or what to expect. “Oh, just on Main Street will be fine,” she replied.

The peddler raised an eyebrow. He seemed to know that she didn’t really have a destination in mind. He wondered again if there was something from which she was running. She was a polite young girl, but not much of a conversationalist over the past week they had traveled. 

Rose stayed in the back of the wagon as they made their way into town. The peddler ignored her request of Main Street, thinking it would look improper for him to just drop her off there without a chaperone. The peddler made his way to a side street of town, where he could stable the horse and park the wagon. There was a boarding house in town for miners and other traveling menfolk. He had never seen females at the boarding house and wondered where Rose would stay in town.

That wasn’t his business. The peddler had already become too involved when he agreed to take her on as a passenger. He pulled up to the stable where the horses would stay and let Rose know she could come down from the wagon. 

Rose exited the wagon with bright, wide eyes. She seemed to take everything in as if she was seeing town for the first time. She actually was, but the peddler didn’t know that. 

“Look here,” the peddler started. “You have kin or someplace to stay? There is a boarding house, but it’s for mining men. I’m not sure where a young lady would stay.”

“Oh, I’m off to find a job with board,” Rose jutted her chin out with confidence. “I’m sure that my skills are in demand here in town.” 

The peddler looked at her skeptically and then offered, “Hey, you did nice work on those scarves. You should take one with you so you have a piece of your work to show them like how you showed me.” 

Rose nodded and thanked the peddler for letting her take a scarf. He knew she would not accept coin for her work and it would look improper if he were to give her coin here in front of the stables. 

“Well, time to get the horses taken care of and the wagon put away. Good luck to you,” said the peddler.

“Thank you for the hospitality,” Rose replied.

She hesitated before leaving. The peddler reminded her “I’ll be at the boarding house for a few days before I take off again.”

Rose nodded. She smiled, and then started off from the stables towards Main Street and her new life.

Main Street was busy. But then, being from the country, Rose had never seen an actual Main Street. She knew Golden Fork was a mining town but it didn’t dawn on her just how many men would be about. 

Main Street held a boarding house, a saloon, a barber, general store, a dinner room, and a post office. It appeared that there were other businesses on some of the side streets too. So far she had not seen a dress shop or a millinery. Those might be on a side street. 

Rose looked around to try to find a friendly face to ask for directions. It seemed like there were a lot of men in a hurry. It was early morning, and they all seemed on their way out of town to the mines. 

Out of the corner of her eye, Rose caught a woman, a little bit older than herself, duck into the general store. Of course! The general store would be the perfect place to start her search in looking for work. She could sew and make clothes for them to sell. 

Determined, she hiked up her skirts and headed towards the general store.

(This has been your exclusive sneak peak at the fictional Gold Rush town of Golden Fork in 1849.)

Nominate some people and spread the love:

Lou Farrell @LouFarr00389955

Ami @DaysWithAmi

Lia @ConduitOfMagic 

Rebecca @chipmunkofpower

Sue Kerr @PghLesbian24

My four questions to my nominees:

What inspired you to start your blog / writing? 

What is your favorite time of day and setting where you feel most creative?

What is your favorite coffee or tea and why?

What is your favorite era of history and why?

Aesthete Award Rules:

  • Use the official logo/graphic of the award and display it on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Show some love to the one who nominated you!
  • Mention the creator (Asmita@ the Fictional Journal) and link it back to the original post.
  • Tell me a something about this world that you admire.
  • What is your favourite form of creativity?
  • Nominate 7 lovely people and notify them by commenting on their posts; spread some love!
  • Ask your nominees 4 questions.
  • Share something you created. (can be anything!)
  • And lastly, just so you know: I LOVE YOUR CREATIONS!

Three Years After Facebook

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One of my friends whom I have known for almost twenty years lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago. This is someone with whom I also worked at two different places of employment. At one job, she was my supervisor, at another job, I was her’s. Even though we no longer work together, we have remained friends through the years and many different life events.

My friend was fortunate in that she, her husband, and all three of their dogs were able to escape the fire safely. The house, however, is a complete loss taking multiple fire departments over 12 hours to battle the blaze. The fire made both local and regional news channels at stations 60 miles away.

I spent some time over the weekend talking with my friend trying to figure out how to best help her. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose absolutely everything. Many people think that minimalism is some cold-hearted philosophy that centers around getting rid of everything and having empty rooms.

While I do have empty rooms, minimalism is not about getting rid of everything. Minimalism is about surrounding yourself with what you truly love and focusing on who matters in life. I simply cannot imagine losing everything like that. What I have in my house is only what I love and what brings me happiness.

During this conversation with my friend, one of the comments she made stuck with me.

She said that she was glad I had reached out to her because she had been thinking about how my Christmas card and letters were next to her chair.

Since deleting my Facebook account three years ago come the first week of February, I have been focusing more on being present in my relationships. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me by receiving my complete attention when I am with them. I don’t want to miss out on the important moments in life because I am too busy scrolling through a social media feed or trying to get the right photo to post online.

This blog is my only form of social media. I have no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, nothing.

Three years after deleting my Facebook account, I still have no regrets. I could not be happier with my choice.

Back to my friend … this person is one that I try to send a card to either monthly or every few months. There are a few people in my life that I write to on a regular basis to keep in touch since I am no longer on Facebook.

I do not often get a response from the people I write. That’s fine. Life is busy between work, kids, and life. I totally get that.

What really touched me about my friend’s comment was the knowledge that she actually reads my cards I send every so often. Not only that, but she seems to look forward to them.

She lost absolutely everything in her home and one of her (I’m sure many) thoughts was, “oh, your letters were right next to my chair.” I’m sure her thought stemmed more from remembering her house and the familiarity of it than from my actual letters.

I told her I would send her another card. I did. I tried to keep it light with little to no house stuff. I’m pretty sure one of my last cards was full of first-time homeowner news (like my lawn mower adventures last fall) and I’m sure that’s the last thing she wants to hear about right now.

Now, if I had been on Facebook, I would have known about the fire a lot sooner than I did. Apparently, she posted it to Facebook about an hour into the blaze.

I truly don’t understand how people can have the emotional strength to not only live their life, but actively report on their own personal tragedy while it is happening. It’s not a judgement, it’s just an observation of something that I no longer understand.

When I had a Facebook, I remember doing the same thing. Every inane thought and one-liner to major life events was documented online. For me, social media made everything become more dramatic that it needed to be. It’s like jumping up and down in the middle of the street screaming “look at me!”

I, personally, am so happy to have the drama removed from my life. I have enough drama at work. I don’t need drama in the virtual realm as well.

Three years post-Facebook, and I don’t miss it at all. I still get the weird looks and comments of “you should be on Facebook.” I don’t think so. Sure, I may miss out on things by not being online. It takes me a bit longer to learn things when my news sources are the paper (yes, paper) newspaper and the radio. However, I still keep in touch with the important people in my life and know what is going on with them.

I treasure my relationships more because I actually put forth effort into maintaining them. It’s one thing to mindlessly scroll through your phone pushing the “like” button or typing “I’m so sorry” giving virtual support and quite another thing to actually pick up the phone and ask someone “How are you? How can I help?” and then physically, emotionally and spiritually help them.

Community is what happens in real life. Who is going to be there for you when there is no wifi?

Recently, I have heard that some people are choosing to delete Facebook due to the privacy drama going on. Drama is still drama. It has been there since the beginning of Facebook. It’s just a question of what kind of drama you are willing to put up with and how much of it. Apparently, people have a lower tolerance for privacy drama than for emotional drama.

I’ve spoken with some people who rely on social media for information, and no matter what happens will not delete their accounts. That’s fine. To each their own.

There is a certain fear of missing out (FOMO). For some people, FOMO is real. They will not get rid of social media due to FOMO. For me, I can say that when I was on Facebook, there was no FOMO. I did miss out. Big time. I missed out on important things in my life and I missed out on people who were right in front of me due to my preoccupation with social media.

Three years post-Facebook, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. I am present for the important people in my life. For those of you who stay on social media due to FOMO, think about what you may be missing in real life by using social media.

Social media does have it’s merits. As someone who lives in a rural area, I can see how social media would be helpful for people who feel isolated. Just keep in mind are you using social media to connect, or are you isolating the people around you in real life by using social media?

Social media use is a personal decision for everyone. I’m just here to tell you that if you are thinking about deleting social media, you are not alone. I have done it and am much happier for it.

Every so often, you will hear about a social media experiment where someone agrees to go off social media for a year or so, sometimes to get some money. There are articles on the internet about going a year without Facebook. In fact, I did a blog post about it. Part of the reason why I did a follow-up post in year two and now in year three is to show that leaving social media is sustainable.

It is not only sustainable, but my stress levels have decreased and my happiness has increased since leaving social media.

While it may have taken me a little bit longer to find out about my friend’s situation without social media, once I found out, that does not change my reaction to what happened. Without social media occupying my time, I actually have time to respond to my friend in a caring way beyond just a comment on a post. I have time to be there for someone in real life who needs a friend. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

Three years after Facebook. I have no regrets.

 

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

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It has been almost 2 months since I completely deleted my Facebook account, and I have absolutely no regrets. Not only have I had no desire to log in, scroll through a newsfeed, or create a new account, but also I am so much happier without Facebook. I do not feel that I am missing out on anything. I get the news, the weather, and am an informed citizen who gets my information through other formats. I am aiming to simplify all aspects of my life, and my technology use has been reduced to this blog, my email, and my cell phone.

There are some people with whom I communicated via Facebook, and I do miss those people. I will admit that I am disappointed in some of my so-called friends who cannot seem to pick up a phone to contact me without Facebook. Facebook is the modern day version of voyeurism. It is the lazy mans way of communication. Why put effort into talking to people when you can simply swipe through some “friends” on your phone? (Can you detect the sarcasm here?)

I have gone back to old-school basics of letter writing. You know, that paper and pen snail mail kind of communication that starts out “Dear Pen Pal,” or whomever.

This has enriched my relationships. I have to consciously take the time to sit down to compose a letter or card to an individual, and I personalize my message for the person to whom I am writing. It is so much more engaging than posting some vague status update and waiting for notifications or “likes.”

There is some excitement in getting return letters as well. Admit it – as an adult, mail service sucks. No one likes the mail because it tends to contain either bills or junk mail. Most people nowadays pay their bills online. When we open the box and there is a lovely handwritten envelope from a loved one or friend, there is a certain amount of glee that happens. We may even skip back to the house from the mailbox. Maybe not. I could be going overboard.

When writing a handwritten letter, we can send a whimsical card or notepaper. Who doesn’t like school supplies? Why use an impersonal emoji when you can use stationary to exhibit our own personal flair? We can even draw our own designs instead of using some computer-generated graphic.

There is so much more feeling and so much more meaning when we take time out of our busy days and busy lives to send someone a birthday card or a get-well card. It is a personal, thoughtful touch that will be remembered more than an impersonal post on someone’s wall. In fact, many people post on other people’s walls as a public display of some type of behavior – the same gesture done privately would mean so much more. Facebook puts relationships on display that should remain between individuals and not necessarily subject to public view and comment.

Handwritten cards and letters can be kept and read again when we are feeling down or need a reminder of how someone feels about us. Do you get that same feeling when scrolling through a newsfeed? Research has shown that Facebook has a tendency to make people depressed more than it brings people up. I have yet to see any research that proclaims positive aspects of Facebook. Yes, I understand that people have their reasons for using Facebook, and that there are positives to the platform that people find individually. Yet there is no research showing widespread positivity, only negative outcomes and influences. For example, more divorces than ever are listing Facebook as a reason for the divorce. Should we really be putting our personal relationships on view for the world?

The lost art of letter writing allows personal relationships to remain personal. Often, when we write a letter or card to someone, it is for that person only. It is not like we take out the letter and read it around the break room at work or stand on a street corner reading it for everyone to hear. We may sometimes share snippets of letters with others who know the same individual. Yet it is rare that we will read the entire volume to everyone else in our life.

What would happen if you randomly sent a handwritten letter or card to one of your close friends or family members? Would they be shocked? Surprised? Would it make them smile? Joy is the point of rediscovering the lost art of letter writing. Yes, it may be an antiquated method of communication, but can you tell me that you do not smile when you receive a letter or card in the mail?

Slowing down our lives for quality human connection is essential. Today’s breakneck pace of life takes away from our relationships. There are more divorces, more single people, more people alone than at any point in human history. Yet we are more “connected” than ever before. The Internet is a great tool, but the connections are often superfluous.

Increase the quality of human connection by discovering the lost art of letter writing. See who we can make smile by doing so.

Life Lesson #493: Do Not Wine & Adele

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Above: Recent art project in process. It will be much shinier and prettier after it is fired in the kiln. You can see some of my Deadpool skin courtesy of my autoimmune disorder.

They say that no man is worth crying over, and the one who is won’t make you cry. This is true for both men and women. While I have heard this adage many times, it has literally taken me years to develop a sense of self worth adequate enough to truly embrace it. When we are emotionally distraught, we tend to engage in negative coping skills in an attempt to deal with the pain. Part of growing up is developing and maintaining positive coping skills to be able to deal with life’s challenges so that we can become resilient and bounce back to full functioning in shorter periods of time.

When we are emotionally distraught, we are more susceptible to becoming overwhelmed by even the slightest thing. The smallest addition to the pile could be the tipping point at which distraught tumbles into full-blown despair or meltdown. About 5 years or so ago, I could very easily tell you what my most negative coping skill was for dealing with stress. It was then I learned to not wine and Adele.

We all have negative coping skills, from smoking to drinking, to binge-watching Bridget Jones’ Diary on repeat while inhaling tubs of Ben & Jerry’s to taking out our emotions on the people closest to us whether they deserve it or not. For me, it was wine & Adele. I could drink wine and listen to anything else from the Grateful Dead to The Doors to Florence & The Machine, but if I put on Adele, well, then, “rolling in the deep,” indeed.

Over the past few years, I have been successful in replacing some of my most negative coping skills with more positive ones. The fact that I have been able to minimize and simplify my life these past few years has greatly helped in this transition process of shedding negative habits for more positive ones.

Simplifying my life, slowing down my schedule, and reducing the amount of clutter around me has empowered me to more competently face and process my emotions better without being overwhelmed by anything around me. I have the time and space to process all my emotions, both positive and negative, without having anything in my environment be a tipping point to a negative place. I have been able to develop positive coping skills for processing negative emotions so that I can more quickly and successfully come through the other end.

March was a particularly challenging month for some reason I have not been able to identify. In March, I used my positive coping skills a lot. I did quite a bit of painting, I have been more active in community events, and have had more meaningful conversations with those whom I interact.

I did not wine, but I did Adele. With my autoimmune disorder, my wine consumption has gone from about 4-5 bottles per year to maybe 4-6 glasses per year, so wine is no longer a coping skill. I did, however, pop in the new Adele CD and have a nice, tear-free soak in the bathtub.

Sometimes when we are distraught, identifying our positive coping skills can by extremely difficult, even if it seems that they should be evident. For those moments when life is overwhelming, I have made a list of positive coping skills that I can look at to remind myself that there are ways other than smoking (I quit like 9 years ago), wine & Adele, or endless tears to be able to cope with stress and pain.

Some of my positive coping skills include:

  • Running
  • Painting
  • Baseball
  • Hockey
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Church

It is especially important to try to identify coping skills that are not dependent on other people, in case those people are not available, or maybe we just don’t have people in our lives on whom we can rely. Unfortunately, that is the situation in which I live. There is not a single person in my life that I could pick up the phone and call when I am having a hard time. I have tried it before and the usual response is “I’m busy.” I don’t even bother reaching out for human contact anymore. People know where I am. If they want to talk to me, they can reach out to me.

One of the reasons why learning to not wine & Adele is so significant is that wine & Adele was trapping me in a cycle of negativity. I was not processing my emotions and moving on from them; I was dwelling in them. Pickling myself in negative feelings is not what I have in mind for my life. In the process of slowing down, I now have the luxury of being able to unpack and address each emotion and move on from the situation that much stronger for having addressed the initial cause of despair.

Diversifying our coping skills is important in case our “go-to” is unavailable. For example, when I was injured last fall after my marathon, I had to rely on my other coping skills to deal with my running injury, because it was definitely not something I could just “run through.” If I ran with that injury, I would have done permanent damage that would have inhibited my running for the foreseeable future.

Do you have your own version of wine & Adele? What positive coping skills can you use to replace the negative ones? How can we be kind to ourselves and best allow ourselves the time and space to process our emotions in healthy ways? When we slow down our lives, we then have the opportunity to deal with our emotions instead of just dwelling in them. We are here to live, not to dwell.