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He was never, ever, “Daddy”. He was “Dad” and he was bigger than life, meaner than a crocodile, and funnier than Red Skelton. I came to terms with my image of him decades ago, when I needed to address my idea of a father figure vs. what God wants a father figure to be like. My father was not a God-like father-figure, make no mistake of that. But the man who terrified me was the same man who amused my best friend, and bantered with her on a chalkboard next to the refrigerator.

I was horrified the first time I noticed that she’d written a note on the board – and signed it, no less, with the name “Krazy Kat”. Dad would blow a gasket. That board was only for parental instructions and the once-a-year greeting of “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” scrawled in Dad’s left-handed print. But Lisa had left an off-hand remark and signed it, there, on the forbidden board.

Moreover, Dad answered her with some tongue-in-cheek repartee that had us all giggling. They corresponded for years like this, Lisa and my father, while my siblings and I cowered under his authoritarian rule and dodged his “black” moods. Their notes on the blackboard were some of my earliest memories of his humanity.

Not my earliest, however. I remember that sometimes – and very rarely – he would let my sister and I try to tickle him to death. Somewhere in the tickling, he would “swallow” his cigarette, and we would rear back, afraid we’d kill him or he’s be mad at us. And then, miraculously, he produced the butt of the cigarette from his mouth, still smoldering, and we’d all fall in a heap, giggling.

More often, he was the authoritarian. He was moody and unpredictable. He could say something simple and it felt like it cut like a knife, We all longed for his approval, and we all felt like we fell short of it.

But that was the early Dad, not the Dad of our adulthood. He still had his moods, but he seemed more mellow. Kinder. More patient.

My sister was very needy. A single mother, an addict, an alcoholic, a woman with no marketable skills. Dad taught her how to do her own plumbing. Encouraged her to get minimum wage jobs. Got guardianship of her oldest when it was needed, but didn’t try to interfere with the younger ones. He loved his grands to the moon and back, and don’t you think they knew it? Where was the drawer with cookies in it? Have a fight with Mom (my sister)? Ride your bike over to Gramps’ house and hang out. Dad was proud of Deni.

I was closer to my mother than to Dad, but when she died, roles changed, as they needed to. Dad became my friend, my confidant. He and my brother went on many trips to revisit Dad’s childhood. Our sons stopped to visit Dad when they were in the area, and Dad loved Jared and Levi for that. He had other kids he “adopted”: my sister’s friends, our childhood friends. Their children. He took care of them, shared drinks with them. Tomi (my niece via my foster sister) was his favorite.

Somewhere along the line, I addressed all my issues toward him, and he toward me. We became friends. I talked to him the week before he died, and we made plans.

And then he was gone. Just like that. A candle blown out. The papery feel of the skin on his hands just a memory. His face – which mine echoes – and his eyes – mine resemble – gone. The good, the bad, the ugly. The beautiful.

So – we’re driving down the two-lane from Lages to Ely. All of us on the bench seat of the old pea-soup green GMC. Dad, Mom, Me, Deni. Dad lights a cigarette and passes it to Mom. Dad lights another cigarette and passes it to Mom, who passes it to me (the non-smoker). I pass it to Deni. Dad lights a third cigarette, which he takes a long drag on.

Deni, “Um, Dad, you just lit three cigarettes,” She’s staring at the one in her hand with lust.

Dad: “I thought you were a smoker. That’s for you.”

Mom and I collapsed in laughter. Deni rolled her eyes and smoked her cigarette. “Thanks.”

He died on May 5, 2011. I miss him so. But not in a painful way. I miss him like I miss my mother and sister. They’re gone. Will-o-wisps. Voices that whisper from the grave once in awhile. A faint touch on the shoulder. A nod in the wind.

Today’s episode of taking charge of myself, my finances, and becoming my real self actually goes back to when I lost sight of all hope. I was lost inside of a long, black tunnel, and if there was a light at the end of it, it was a freight train bearing down on me, not the end of the tunnel. It was the beginning of redemption, but also the beginning of a series of lies I am only just now beginning to unravel in the quest to be a more genuine person, a more genuine Christian woman, and to be the person I have been created to be.

We (and by “we”, I mostly mean “me”) were deep in debt. I was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and I was doing it on credit cards so my husband wouldn’t know how deep in debt we were. Yeah, that works.

About the same time, my husband discovered a church and a pastor he thought he could believe in, and the next decade plus were spent serving and doing good works to earn the blessing of a God Who doesn’t ask us to do any of that. And it was all wrapped nicely in a package that said God doesn’t ask us to earn our salvation, but if you don’t pay your tithes plus, you’ll never get blessed. In our desperation – and because the church also harbored us and offered a refuge – we bought into it.

It wasn’t all bad, I want you to know that. I made life-long friends. We had some awesome times. We saw God move in miraculous ways. But it also sucked the life and joy out of us, slowly. Our children were maybe – or maybe not – the better for it. Or the worse. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. One child pursued God, but not in the charismatic evangelical way she was raised in. The other child remains agnostic. The last child rejected it, and walked away, shaking her head at the cruelty. My husband threw up his hands and walked out of the last service he served in, never to return.

I continued on until one day I found I wasn’t working hard enough to earn the favor of a position and I said, “No more.” Because it isn’t about works.

It wasn’t all the headship of the church, either, but the people they “raised up” to fill positions who got power hungry were often the roadblocks. And the constant “Tithe or you won’t be blessed” preaching. “Give and ye shall receive.” “Cast your bread upon the waters…” “You’re not blessed? You’re not giving enough!”

We owed tens of thousands of dollars. I was a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) and a homeschooler. “You should get a job.” (What? And pay exorbitant day care fees?) “You should put them in public school. God wants our children in public school to witness God’s love.” (Um, we’re not homeschooling for religious reasons, but for academic reasons!) TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CREDIT CARD DEBT AT HIGH INTEREST RATES.

Sometimes, I felt like we were drowning.

Then, a job fell into my lap. I took it. The kids were older. They didn’t need me. We bought a house. We paid off all those tens of thousands of dollars. The only other credit we had was for car loans. I co-signed for my daughter to go to college for a year (she funded the rest of her years of college). Eventually, with exception of the car, school, and mortgage loan, we were debt free. We quit tithing.

Well, we left the church and didn’t have anyone to tithe to. And still, the blessings flowed in. I got raises. We paid off cars. We roofed our house. My husband retired with a pension.

We don’t own a credit card, although we do have Visa/debit cards (which have come in handy when we have needed to make a purchase that exceeded our $200 debit withdrawal). We’ve paid cash for most things over a period of seven or eight years. The roof is the only thing we put on credit.

Until today: I needed tires for my car. Making the decision to put tires on credit was excruciatingly painful. Fearful. What If. But there was no option: the tires were bald and one had a nail in it. I’ve been driving all winter on bald tires. In snow. On faith. And good driving skills. But enough.

“Your credit is amazing,” said the guy at Les Schwab. We put four very nice tires that should last 80,000 miles on my car. My car needs a brake job, but I can pay cash for that next month.

Came home and realized how tense my muscles were. All those fears coming at me, at once. I am afraid of debt!

Well, sometimes, debt is OK. I can pay this off in no time. I budget and I stick to it. I’m learning about my relationship to money and my own self-worth, and how those things tie into each other.

By the way, I’m going to give you some controversial advice: if you owe a lot of money, pay the debts off first. Before you start tithing. Don’t let anyone guilt you into tithing first. God will bless you for paying your debts off. And, for His sake, learn how to handle money. Then you can tithe.

Procrastinate. Read the book, make a few notes, and then – procrastinate. Avoidance. It works for me.

Well, it doesn’t work, but it is what I am doing tonight. I am procrastinating. Trying to breathe in/out, and trying to convince myself I am worthy – which is the whole point of reading books on self-improvement at the moment. I AM WORTHY.

I ordered the paperback versions of the two self-help books so I can make profuse notes. Something tells me that these books will be as life-changing for me as Elaine Aron’s book on The Highly Sensitive Person has been. So add these to the “must have” library for me:

Staci Eldridge – Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of Me

Nancy Levin – Worthy. Boost your Self-Worth to Grow Your Net Worth

There’s something about paper books: you can highlight with a marker, write in the margins, underline, and find your bookmarks quickly. e-Books just aren’t that user friendly. Sure, you can bookmark, but find the bookmark you want in a couple seconds? Or write in the margins? Not so much.

I started this particular post on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, right after I received notification that I have been accepted to show my art work at the Silverton Art Festival in August. It’s not much more than 20 miles away. I’d have to sell 8 paintings to break even. My husband isn’t exactly on-board, but he’s not objecting, either.

And, yet, this art festival isn’t the one that got me dreaming that I could actually do this. I put that art show – the BIG one – on a back burner and didn’t work toward the goal of getting there. Why? Because I constantly undersell my own personal goals. I derail myself. I don’t believe. And that pattern of thinking is why I started reading these particular books in the first place: to seek a way to change the way I sub-consciously limit myself.

I paid for my booth at the Silverton Art Festival tonight. Hell with it, I’m doing this. Sink or swim. Do something that will start me on the road to believing in myself!

I am also making a commitment to the art show I really want to be in, the one in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2,288 miles from here. No jury. Almost 3 weeks long. A very different venue of exposure that isn’t limited to local or my friends on Facebook. 2018. ArtPrize.

 

 

 

I revived my father’s vintage Emerson Resuscitator Model TC case. It looked like this image, only minus the equipment:

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And green. Mine is green.

Somehow, I neglected to take a “before” photo: before I tore all the plastic forms out, before I stripped the vinyl cloth out, and even after I did all that to show what it looked like stripped bare of everything I could remove. Some things I could not remove.  The idea was to create a mobile display case that also doubled as something I could carry product and paraphernalia in when I start doing my own shows at local fairs. Because of the residual little “shelves”, I figured the trunk (which measures 26.5 x 10″ and is 6.5″ deep.

I thought a cork lining so I could also use push-pins to hang mini paintings, and then vacillated for months on the sides: what fabric? Should I paint it? What should I paint on it? What about the leather? Wow, cork is expensive at Michael’s! Oh, thicker cork is cheaper at JoAnn Fabrics. Buy and procrastinate.

These are my common excuses to not do something, and I milk them. I tell you this because I want to shake those core beliefs I have acquired and change them. This is my year to stop sabotaging myself.

I decided to heck with the questions, just DO IT. Pick a fabric, pick a varnish, and glue the dang cork into it. I unrolled the cork and laid it out to flatten. I hot-glued the fabric in and used varnish to seal it so it won’t unravel. And today, I cut the cork. I won’t tell you how badly, but suffice it to say I had to cut twice.  And change razor blades. And set books on the cork to help it seal to the glue on the wood.

But before I did that last step (the books), I took photos (the glue I used is slow drying) of the finished (well, inside finished) product.

I can’t remove those supports. The rivets go through the entire case.

I can use it to carry things around in, plus set it up like this on a table with some of my larger mini’s (5×7″ and 4×4″). It’s 1/4″ corkboard. Probably last me a year or two before I have to replace the cork. Eventually, I’d like to paint the outside, but that’s not a stress point at this juncture.

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When I do paint it, I will have a vision for it. For now, it can look “Shabby Chic” and be functional. That’s all I ask.

 

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You can see the floor in my studio.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, when I am stressing I clean. I clean to avoid the object of my stress. I clean because it gives me control over something when I feel something else is beyond my control. I clean because I can think better when my work space is less cluttered.

I was stressing over my art website, which has been giving me fits all week. Rather than sit at the computer and face it, I sorted beads. I organized the locker. I moved all the latex house paint cans into the red Snap-On tool box. I purged my acrylic craft paint, and I sorted my projects. I even tackled the paperwork sitting on my desk top (you know, the stuff that needs filing). I cleaned and organized the closet in the Master Bedroom (you don’t want to know how bad that was).

Half-way through this purging of the soul process, I decided I needed to try one more time. Call one more tech person. And this time, I asked the right questions. The tech person at GoDaddy had me back in my website and uploading photos within five minutes. He merely disabled a plug-in that had a glitch, and there I was! Back in business.

I have a clean closet in the Master Bedroom, a neatly re-organized studio, and a greater appreciation for just asking for help. I also have a better understanding about web-hosting and what I am paying for, something I should have learned back when I first purchased the domain name and started paying for a self-hosted website (many thanks to my friend, Mary Ann, for helping with the terminology). I also learned about keeping receipts for websites, paying closer attention to the dashboard, plug-ins, and maybe watching some videos on “how to” do things on a website.

Now, about those projects that I sorted through and need to finish…

There is a shift in the universe. I walk my usual trail around the parking lot where I work, but my mind does not settle. I stand in the office and watch cold rain fall and puddles form in the parking lot, and I wonder why I am here. Why am I here? Why don’t I feel the love for this job that I used to have? Why do I feel cut off?

I turn to prayer for answers, and feel nothing. That’s OK, I tell myself: you don’t always get to feel something, faith is not a feeling, but a way of looking at things when you cannot see the answers. There is still a shift in the universe.

Desperate for answers that do not seem to be forthcoming from the Great Beyond, I search for answers on Amazon Prime, in the Kindle store. Cheap answers: I don’t want to spend a lot of money on self-help books I’ll likely get bored with and delete. I settle on two.

Becoming Me: Embracing God’s Dream of You by Staci Eldridge. Intriguing title: “God’s dream of…” Does God dream of me? By chapter three, I was wishing I had purchased the paperback version so I could highlight and write in the margins. I’m a little over half-way through, and I still have to sit it down and chew on the information. It’s deep. It’s challenging.

It’s about girlfriends. I’m a terrible girlfriend. The introvert of introverts. I don’t talk on the phone. I barely text or IM. I hardly ever call someone to hang out with – they call me. I wasn’t always this way, but I haven’t felt fully comfortable with girlfriends since we moved into this house and I started to get my heart broken by friends. I have some baggage to deal with.

But that’s not even all of it. I also bought (for cheap) a book on finances. Worthy – Boost Your Self Esteem to Grow Your net Worth by Nancy Levin. Until I opened this book, I would have told you that I have a healthy self esteem. And I do – in every area except finances. And, apparently, girlfriends.

I gave up answering the questions at the end of each chapter. I’m just reading through the book right now, then I will go back and read it slowly, and deal with the elusive questions about how I feel, think, and understand money. It’s about facing my fears and getting rid of my excuses. It hurts. It’s honest. It’s overwhelming.

These books came into my possession as I stand on the brink of a new chapter in my life: launching myself an an entrepreneur and an independent artist. Before I purchased them, I wondered: Am I self-sabotaging? What am I doing to hinder my own dreams?

Turns out: Yes, and plenty. I’m full of excuses. I’m old, I hurt, I’m tired, I have a Day Job, I don’t have the money… I have a lot of fears to face down.

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I have dragons to slay. Fears and excuses are dragons.

I don’t understand websites, coding, and why my art blog went down suddenly. I need to educate myself so I know the questions to ask and where to go for help. I’ve never bothered to do that. (My son-in-law, Sam, once told me, “You don’t read the manual.” He was right. I don’t. I try to do things on my own and when I run into a brick wall, then I start looking for the manual that I misplaced.)

It’s not that hard: a ten minute video on coding or websites or wordpress. Free tutorials everywhere, just search. TAKE THE TIME.

I didn’t pay for support on WordPress. I kept thinking I should do that, but… excuses. Now, I know why I needed to pay for support. Had I paid for support, help was just a phone call away. (No worries – mistakes like that can be easily fixed by paying for support NOW.) I didn’t understand the difference between my web host and the site where my site is located. My friend, Mary Ann, pointed that out to me and I felt like bashing my head against the desk: So Stupid. No, I’m not. I just didn’t think. Thankfully, my web host was gracious and helped me find the error in my site: it’s malware in the WordPress end of the site, and it doesn’t affect my personal blog (this).

My website is only an example. It is hardly the only place I have limited myself – or taught my children to limit themselves. But – no guilt. Guilt has to be dispensed of as much as fear has to be.

I have a litany of things I can’t do: jog, for instance. I’m an awkward runner. People – my brother – made fun of me when I was a teenager and trying to run. I run “like a girl”. But I have spent decades watching other people jog and it’s not that hard to imitate. I’m no more awkward than some of the people I have observed. I can jog, and I can learn how to jog. I have no marathon goals, but I can learn how to jog, for my sake and for my dog’s sake. Age has nothing to do with this. (I jogged three laps around the office tonight, just to prove that point to myself!)

So what is limiting you? What views about finances are holding you back? What dreams do you want to achieve that you are afraid to pursue? I’m sixty. I’m going to change my life. No excuses.

What excuses can you slay?

ARGHHHHHH. Between GoDaddy and WordPress.org changes, I have been effectively locked out of my Two Crow Feather Woman Site (I can write posts, but not upload photos, and I am unable to change security settings). It’s infuriating because this is my Retirement Plan Site (aka: I sell art work). I just sold a nice commission to a very happy customer, and I want to post that on my website, but… The Happiness Engineers at Word Press take 24-48 hours to respond.

I’m pretty certain that GoDaddy deleted files they suspected were malware and that affects my site. GoDaddy is great to buy your Domain names, but I’m firing them as web host support and hiring someone else (TBA).  (Thank you, Mary Ann.)

I sometimes hate technology in that I am just not that tech savvy, I don’t know code, and I want someone else to help me. My son, the Geek, refuses. Of, so does my youngest, the Second Geek. Because, you know, I might pester them to death with techie questions I want answered for FREE.

Can’t say I blame them.

I work an 8-hour day at a “Pays the bills” job, so can’t sit on hold for hours with a tech company, trying to sort out the alternative employment plan. Right now, I’d love to be free of “work for wages” so I can work on the web site of “works for passion and money”. I’m often too tired at the end of a workday to deal with these frustrations.

Gripe Gripe Gripe. Whine Whine Whine. Bangs head on desk. I’d rather talk to the IRS about taxes than deal with this.

Which reminds me: I need a tax advisor for a small business for this year. I’d rather grow wings and fly away to some fey garden.

I absolutely hate being tied to the facts of death and taxes; I’d rather be off chasing faeries and mysterious things. I suppose it’s the anchor to my kite string: death, taxes. and IT issues. Especially IT issues.

Hopefully, I get my art website back up and functioning soon. Meanwhile, I will try to concentrate on gardens and ancestry.

Oh, ancestry. My dad left me a note inside a book of lyric poetry I decided to take to work today to read. How did he know I would open that book and read his note?  His timing kills me. I cried.

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The intro is about the Aryan migration(!!) also known as Manifest Destiny, and something I really cannot condone – except it happened. The lyric poetry of the story (think Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) is beautiful. Skip the intro and the story told is lyric, if not un-politically correct. But neither is Hiawatha nor Evangeline.

Not sure how I ended here, except I can’t post to my art site. Yet.