Only for Special Occasions


When I was growing up, my parents had a set of china, but then acquired another set. This is one of the plates of the first set:

We used the first set more often. As a consequence, I remember breaking at least one of these plates.

The second set has plates with a gold rim and blue flowers. I don’t have a photo of this set. Because my brothers and I had a tendency to . . . ahem . . . break things, they were rarely used. Only on special occasions—like maybe Christmas and Easter. We called them “the good plates.” They had to be hand washed and dried—careful, careful—and quickly stored away. (Whew, didn’t break anything.) They certainly could never be used in the microwave.

Mom has a set of pearls—also only used for special occasions back then. But the occasions that came our way didn’t seem special enough. So, she never wore them.

Until . . .

Until one of her closest friends died of breast cancer. She was 34 years old. Suddenly, the just-for-special-occasions rule seemed too narrow, especially when Mom went through her first bout of cancer. Every day was worth celebrating. Every day was precious. So, we started using the good plates more often. Mom wore her pearls too.

I don’t have a photo of the pearls either. But you don’t need to see them to consider the things that are just for special occasions in your life. You know—the things you think are “too good” for every day use.

Maybe take out those pearls. Wear that sweater, that jacket. Break out the good plates or that fancy stemware, even if you’re just having a meal of Ramen noodles. Why? Because you’re special. Not just the day. You.

P.S. Please keep the people of Texas in your thoughts and prayers. They have had a time of it with the cold and the power outages.

China plate photo by Stan Washington. Other photos by L. Marie.

Gripped


I always think of the branches of this tree as the fingers of a cupped hand. Yes, winter has a firm grip in this area. It simply won’t let go. Even last night we had a fresh snowfall, one of many we have had. Even as I type this post, snow continues its “take that and that and that—mwahahahaha” approach.

While I might think of winter as the ultimate supervillain, I can’t help thinking of Wintersmith, in which the late great Terry Pratchett depicted winter (aka the Wintersmith) as an extremely confused would-be lover determined to woo a love interest, regardless of the cost to her community.

The fingers of winter, which that tree represents, inspired me to think about the things that have gripped me lately. One of those things has been discouragement and rejection. Okay, that’s two things, you might be saying. But I typed one and the other came along for the ride. Glancing at some of my old posts (I don’t make a habit of doing that; from time to time I copy photos and links from old posts), I can’t help noticing how I use to write more from a well of greater joy. But within the last year or so, the well had run dry.

Even in other types of writing—short stories, novels, nonfiction—I picked at the words like a young kid might pick at a vegetable on his or her plate. (“Do I have to eat that? Okay, how many do I have to eat?”) It was just a chore.

Some of the feeling of writing as a chore came from discouragement over the rejection of others. (See, that’s why I only said discouragement and rejection were one thing, rather than two. Totally planned it. . . . You’re not buying that, are you?) It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve queried agents and publishers. Gotta expect a certain amount of rejection, we’re told. But every once in a while, it gets to you. I’m not made of stone after all.

And then last week, I watched a video of a guy singing and playing the piano. He had so much joy. And I realized what was missing—the joy of writing.

When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to trade stories back and forth because we loved writing them. We didn’t care about style or how “good” they were. We wrote for the fun of it.

That’s joy.

I let the measurement of others take that from me. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying I should never go through rejection. What I am saying is that I started second- and third-guessing myself because of what others have said. Consequently, writing became onerous. It bore a weight—the weight of trying to measure up to whatever standards someone else has—it should never have borne.

Please don’t misunderstand me again. (I have to throw that out there, because I’m really thinking this through and realizing things as I write this.) There are standards of excellence. I believe in that wholeheartedly. What I am saying is that I want to take myself out of the grip of a pre-rejection mindset—thinking that whatever I do will be rejected, so what’s the point?

If by now you’re scratching your head and wondering what on earth I am babbling about, think of this as a therapy session you stumbled into inadvertently. Or maybe you too have been gripped by something you want to shake free of. (See, that sentence was not exactly grammatically correct, but we’re shaking ourselves out of the grip of stuff right now, so . . . yeah.)

So I wrote this post and didn’t give it two thoughts. Just wrote it because I wanted to write it. And the fact that I wanted to write it—really wanted to—calls the tears to my eyes and a hope in my heart that I’m back. Back to joy.

Photos by L. Marie.

Move Update

Hi! Remember me? I feel like I need to reintroduce myself, since it’s been so long. I’m L. Marie. And this is my blog. 😄 😁

Okay, so I moved to the next town over (about ten minutes from where I used to live). Thank you all for your well-wishes. It was a challenge that was finally surmounted.

Out with the old . . .

 

  

. . . in with the new.

    

Kind friends helped with the packing and did all of the unpacking. That’s right. ALL. Due to a very pressing editorial deadline next week (which I’m still working toward), I had to hit the ground running. So, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to visit many of your blogs or even write a post until now. I hope to return to blog visiting when I get this project to a manageable place. For now, here’s this update.

The old saying, “You can’t go home again,” is true in my case. Sadly, my old apartment building will no longer exist soon, as it will be torn down. I have no idea what will rise in its place. But I’ll miss being there, and especially miss my neighbors. We’ve all scattered to various places in the area.

I will miss you, old friend.

Photos by L. Marie.

Moving

  

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much recently. Life has been a bit hectic. I’ve had editing projects, auditions for projects (waiting), and—most of all—I’ve been packing. My apartment building was sold recently, so we all have to find another place to live by the end of the month or very early next month. Sigh. I’ll let you know what happens. I will try to post again before then. If I can’t, I’ll see you when the dust settles. Just know that I miss interacting with you.

Photos by L. Marie.

Grace and Truth: The Tension

    

The other day I heard a sermon by Robert Madu (Google him) on the topic that is this post’s title. I feel you flinching. Don’t worry. I will not preach at you (unless you want to talk privately). But I found it interesting because of the discussion on the dichotomy of grace and truth. Too much grace, and a message is watered down. Too much truth, and compassion goes out the window. Yet it is possible to live in the tension of both.

I’ve struggled to know what to post lately. With so many voices already lifted, what could I add? (By the way, for a great post on giving voice, I recommend Laura Bruno Lilly’s latest post. Click here for it.) And then I heard the above sermon which really hit home to me. So here I am.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that we’re all struggling, hurting, sad, afraid, and overwhelmed. That we all want to be heard. That we all were children once who grew up without all of the answers, no matter how much we pretend otherwise.

So, we criticize, complain, ignore, put down, demand—I feel exhausted just thinking about that list. And by we, I mean me. I’ve done all of the above in just the past week or so. “They see what they need to do. Why don’t they do it?” I grumbled. Truth without grace.

Or, I have thought, Let’s all just move on! Grace without truth.

Living in the tension of grace and truth is not easy. But we need that tension, don’t we . . . when we mess up. When we see someone else mess up. When we’re afraid. When we see someone else with a fear that’s different from ours and we are tempted to judge.

We need it from each other. We need each other.

Grace and Truth images found somewhere on the internet via Bing.

Pajama Party

When I was a kid, I loved a pajama party (or whatever euphemism you’re used to—sleepover or slumber party being the most common). I particularly loved going to my best friend’s house with my sleeping bag, pillow, and of course, my pajamas and slippers. My friends and I stayed up well past midnight, playing games like Twister, eating pizza and popcorn, and watching Svengoolie (Rich Koz) on TV (who featured really tame monster movies). After that, we’d tell ghost stories until we fell asleep, frightened out of our wits.

Mostly, I loved being with friends, away from my brothers (who hosted their own sleepovers in the tent in our backyard). I also loved the coziness of sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag and the convenience of having junk food within reach. (My BFF’s mom was very hospitable and hooked us up with snacks on the hour.) So, coziness, camaraderie, and convenience are three words that come to mind when I think about pajama parties.

Those words also come to mind when I consider why I love mystery books, especially those written by Agatha Christie—one of the queens of the cozy mystery. I love plots that involve people spending at least one night at a remote estate—the ultimate sleepover. Thinking of mysteries causes me to add a fourth C to the list—clues. The amateur detective, who of course is among those invited to the gathering, has to solve the mystery based on conveniently placed clues. But the clues that seem the most obvious are often red herrings placed to lead the detective astray. “Curiouser and curiouser,” Alice from Alice in Wonderland would say (to add a fifth word beginning with C to the list). (By the way, did you know that Lewis Carroll coined the word curiouser? Check this out.)

While I haven’t been to a pajama party in ages, I can always attend one vicariously, whenever I pick up a cozy mystery.

What’s your favorite cozy mystery?

  

Everyone agreed that the highlight of the sleepover was when the uninvited T-Rex sneaked in to wreak havoc, but wound up staying and having a good time when the bunny started telling ghost stories.

Pajama party image from fbccranbrook.org. Son of Svengoolie from Pinterest. Book cover from somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie. Squeezamals are a product of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company. Pop Hair Pets are a product of MGA Entertainment. The T-Rex came from Bath & Body Works.

Quiz Time!


Who doesn’t love a good quiz?? (If you don’t, just play along.) For each question below, choose the color attached to the answer that best fits you: Pink [P]; Blue [B]; Green [G]; Red [R]; Orange [O]. You can only make one choice for each question. Ready?

1. Favorite season of the year


A. Spring                                                B
B. Summer                                             R
C. Fall                                                     O
D. Winter                                                G
E. Any season with televised sports       P

2. Movie you enjoyed recently
A. Aladdin                                                           R
B. Avengers: Endgame                                       P
C. Anything on the Hallmark Channel                 B
D. John Wick 3                                                    O
E. None of the above                                          G

  

3. Most pleasing shape (in your opinion)
A. Circle                     R
B. Pretzel                   O
C. Parallelogram        G
D. Square                   P
E. Diamond                B

4. Convenience you absolutely cannot live without
A. Microwave                 O
B. Phone/computer        P
C. Television                  R
D. Dishwasher               B
E. Car                            G

5. Philosophy that is a good fit for you right now
A. The wheels on the bus go round and round. R
B. To thine own self be true.                              G
C. Sunshine? I’m good.                                     O
D. Live and let live.                                            P
E. I never met a coupon I didn’t love.                B

Mostly Pink [P]? Click here.
Mostly Blue [B]? Click here.
Mostly Green [G]? Click here.
Mostly Red [R]? Click here.
Mostly Orange [O]? Click here.
Rainbow assortment? Click here.

Okay. Maybe you’re ready to hurl stones at me. But did you really think a quiz I made up had deep insight into your psyche?

Or perhaps you’d hoped the quiz would lead to something a little more entertaining, like the Buzzfeed quizzes, which dole out fun facts about yourself or confirm your greatness by comparing you to a popular superhero.

But a quiz can’t really convince you and me how great we are if we don’t really believe that going in. Hence the final destination of the above quiz. I hope you already know who you are—someone wonderful, inspiring, and brave, even if you don’t always believe that.

Quiz image from clker.com. Sunshine from clipartpanda.com. John Wick 3 poster from movieweb.com. Avengers: Endgame movie poster from impawards.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

The Language of Flowers

On my walk the other day, I was drawn to the peonies in the yard. I love this time of year, with its abundance of green grass and trees, and especially with flowers blooming everywhere. And since we’ve experienced a ton of rain in my neck of the woods (with a flood advisory in some areas ☹️), the flowers are growing quite nicely.

Looking at the flowers got me to thinking about what flowers symbolize in the floral arranging community. When I checked online, I learned a new word: florigraphy—the language of flowers. According to howstuffworks.com, the following flowers have these meanings (captions and punctuation as per that website):

Peony = I’m shy, but I like you a lot.

 

Iris = Thank you, or Sending sympathy.

Gerbera daisy = Cheer up, or Thank you.

Tulip = Happy housewarming, or You’re a great host.

Red rose = I love you.

But during my walk, the peonies spoke a different message to me. The closed bud below reminded me of how I sometimes approach life—with a closed mind when opportunities to stretch or change come my way, or with closed hands when asked to give time or energy that I think I don’t have.

Or I’m like the peony below: sort of open but still wary.

The fully open peony reminds me of open-handedness or open-mindedness. I wish my default mode was flexible/open. But as of late, I’ve realized how cautious I’ve been about trying new things. Perhaps that’s a factor of getting older. But I know I’ve played it too safe at times. I’m working toward being more open. How about you?

Jennie, I hope you have an open hand to receive your copy of Mary Quattlebaum’s book, Brother, Sister, Brother, Sister, Me and You.

  

And Charles, the same goes for you in regard to Andy Murray’s book In Brigantia. Please comment below to confirm.

 

Tia Tigerlily and her mini-me are pleased at the floral theme of the post and the fact that the FTD site mentioned that the tiger lily symbolizes “confidence, pride, and wealth.” “Very fitting for me,” she said (though she probably has about 37 cents to her name).

Photos by L. Marie. Tia Tigerlily Shoppie is a product of Moose Toys.

Photos by L. Marie

The World in Black and White

While researching for an article on the human eye and the reason why we perceive snow as white, I came across many discussions on how light helps us we see different wavelengths of colors (which is why certain objects look a certain color). But that set me to thinking about how black and white photography used to be the norm.

This is how my mind works. Welcome to the labyrinth. Hope you brought snacks.

So of course, once I was off on that train of thought, I was curious about when the first color photograph appeared. Wikipedia had the answer:

The first color photograph made by the three-color method suggested by James Clerk Maxwell in 1855, taken in 1861 by Thomas Sutton. The subject is a colored ribbon, usually described as a tartan ribbon.

By James Clerk Maxwell (original photographic slides) ; scan by User:Janke. – Scanned from The Illustrated History of Colour Photography, Jack H. Coote, 1993. ISBN 0-86343-380-4., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1007375

From there I segued to black-and-white thinking and wound up stuck there. Did you know that there is a psychological term attached to this sort of thinking? Check it out:

Splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) . . . is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

Statements like the following are examples:
• It’ll always be like that.
• They will never change.
• I am worthless.

Ever have thoughts like that? I have. 😔 These thoughts are often byproducts of discouragement and defeat. I’m grateful for wise people who gently point out when the needle of my mind is stuck in the groove of this sort of thinking.

I can’t help thinking of Morpheus, a character in The Matrix (played by Laurence Fishburne), who advised,

I can do that by changing the “record” in my mind:

• One bad circumstance doesn’t dictate that life will always be the way it currently is. After all, seasons change.
• Even the most set-in-his/her way person people can change.
• I am valuable and strong.

Ever fall into a rut thought-wise? What did you do to climb out?

Henry insisted on a black-and-white photo with his newfound friend, the Pusheen Cat, both of whom say that strength is their defining trait.

Olive is like, “The world is always black and white as far as I’m concerned. Just look at me.”

Matrix gif from uproxx.com. Tartan photo from Wikipedia. Other photos by L. Marie.

The Play’s the Thing

By now, you’re probably thinking of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, since the title comes from that play, specifically Act 2, Scene 2:

More relative than this. The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

But I was actually thinking of what you do when you have downtime (like I did in this post). And in my area, we had oodles of downtime, thanks to the latest snowfall, which brought several inches overnight. What do you do when you barely have electricity (it flickered on and off on the night the snow began to fall in earnest and into the next day), no hot water, bad roads, and no internet, thanks to the snowstorm? (Working at home, I need internet.)

You go outside to scrape the snow boulders off your car, grumbling as you do so, because you can’t get your driver’s side door open. A layer of ice keeps it stuck fast. Same with the passenger door. And you need the scraper on the front seat. You grumble again. Finally, you get the rear passenger door open and crawl to the front over the center console, knocking your rearview mirror askew, and wind up in a tangled heap of boots, coat, and scarf in the driver’s seat. After shoving and shoving, you get the door open.

You scrape. And grumble. And scrape. Rinse. Repeat.

But then, something magical happens. In the distance, you notice the trees as the snow continues to fall. With the snow lacing their branches, they look like Christmas trees. And as you trudge wearily back to your building, you take in the sheer delight of a small child experiencing snow for the first time. His excitement is contagious. You think, The snow is pretty. Winter dresses the earth in frosting with a skill the finest cake decorator can only dream of emulating. (Okay, one tree is a little heavy on the frosting.)

   

This is a scene where you wouldn’t be surprised if a unicorn showed up.

  

As you talk with the child and his grandfather, you realize that going out to play is the thing to do on a day like this.

    

As I headed inside to cocoa it up, a friend texted, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

It sure is.

If you have snow in your area, what’s your favorite thing to do on a snowy day?

Do you want to build a snowman?

Donatina thinks this chunk of snow looks like a dog.

P.S. The power finally went out for a while, then came back on, only to go out again and on again. Finally got internet early Tuesday morning.

Photos by L. Mare. Donatina Shoppie by Moose Toys.