Sunday, February 5, 2017

What happens when you take a break from Facebook?

Eleven days I ago I deactivated my Facebook account. The negative posts, political bashing, and idiotic memes were beginning to have an adverse effect on me. But as I sat there, phone in hand, mindlessly scrolling and internally bitching about the hostile words being exchanged, I couldn't seem to just scroll on by. I found myself being drawn to the vicious words and political disagreements. I would read posts by adults who can't spell, young people who are clueless as to what happens in the real world, and by art educators verbally attacking each other for not agreeing with their approach to art. It was pissing me off, but I kept reading.

My morning routine had been to get my cup of coffee and sit for an hour and a half trying to wake up while checking my Facebook. I would check it again throughout the morning, spend a half hour at lunch seeing what I had missed, then come home and immediately get on it again. Anytime I had a free moment, I was checking it. Then, before bed, I'd find myself on it, yet again, getting myself all worked up about what I had read, right before bed. This was NOT a good way to relax.

There were many posts I really enjoyed. Living out in eastern Oklahoma, Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family back home, to see what they've been up to. And let's be honest, there's a great feeling when you post something and get a great response. Lots of "likes", people commenting. It makes you feel good. The day before I deactivated my account, I posted it on Facebook to let people know I was going away for a while. All the sad faces and comments warmed my heart. And for a moment, I started to reconsider. But when I added up the amount of time I spent on Facebook during the day, I realized that three to four hours of my day, every day could be spent more wisely. I had tried to limit my time on Facebook, but had been unsuccessful. No, the only way was to deactivate my account.

So what have I been up to for the past eleven days? Well, I have made about 6 pieces of art. They all just started out as playing around with oil pastels on different surfaces. I did some folksy type churches. They are meant to be very primitive and fun. Some are on wood, others on cardboard, all done in oil pastel. I like seeing the texture created by the different surfaces.

I also did this large heart. The surface is heavy cardboard. It came from the cover of a wallpaper sample book. Covered in brown paper towels and Mod Podge, it created an interesting texture. Next, I made the heart from paper towels and Mod Podge. It is hard to tell, but the heart is actually raised.

They were all fun projects and I created them all AFTER being off Facebook for eleven days. 

For years now, I have wanted to create a travel blog. I finally started working on it a few months ago. I only had two posts and needed to make a post about my first day hike on January 1. Yesterday, over a month later, I finally did that. Posting about a first day hike on January 1 sort of loses its momentum when you post over a month later. Why didn't I do it sooner? I was probably on Facebook.

My other project is planning my Oklahoma Route 66 trip over Spring Break. Being on a tight budget, I can't go on any grand road trips, but I think driving Route 66 is doable. I have actually driven through most of the towns but never spent any time in them. Hours have been spent researching historic Oklahoma Route 66. I want to be sure to see as much as possible, stopping to take photos along the way and hopefully talk with people along the way.

If you want to check out the travel blog, go to Agnes Takes a Road Trip

Because I want my posts on Agnes Takes a Road Trip to post directly to Facebook, Twitter, and Google, I had to reactivate my Facebook. But for now, all I am using it for is to get the word out that I have written a new post. I will do the same with this blog. But I'm not ready to get back on Facebook. 

Life has been peaceful and productive in the last eleven days and honestly, I haven't missed Facebook at all. My mind is clearer, I feel motivated again, and I have felt more creative. 

Turning 50 last year wasn't hard, but it certainly gets you to thinking. This is the time when you start to look back at your life and where you are now. Is this how you want to spend your life? Are you doing the things you love? I realized that I did not want to waste my precious time scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. I want my time to be spent doing things that fulfill me, peak my curiosity, and make me want to be a better person.

Will I return to Facebook other than just selfishly posting my blogs to get people to read my work?? Probably at some point, but there will be some serious cutting out and unfollowing first. I want my time to be spent on positive, enriching moments. I want to be surrounded by positive, enriching people. Life is too short to waste on such negativity.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Poison and Wine

There are those songs that can make you stop everything you are doing and just listen, absorbing every word, every note. They are the songs that speak to your soul at a primal level, songs written just for you. Other people might say they love the song, too, but you know the song is yours and only yours. This is my song. The lyrics are below, but the voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White of the Civil Wars bring these words to life in such a haunting, soulful way that the words fail without their voices and the music. 

Poison and Wine Lyrics

Civil Wars

You only know what I want you to
I know everything you don't want me to
Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
You think your dreams are the same as mine

Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
I always will

I wish you'd hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back
Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don't have a choice but I'd still choose you

Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will

I always will
I always will
I always will
I always will
I always will

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Real Love?

Why is it so hard to find love? There are good people out there who are lonely and can't seem to find anyone. They can't seem to find that person that makes them laugh, that person they can't wait to tell about their day, or that person to simply cuddle up with at night knowing they are there for you, no matter what. For some it comes easy. High school sweethearts. People who find love with the person they rear end at an intersection. Those who find love "at first sight".

But for some of us, it isn't so easy. It never has been. For some, there is not the opportunity to date a lot of people so you learn what you do and do not what in a relationship. For some, there is no one who loved you in high school and has loved you ever since. For some, it is night after night of being alone. No one to share your life with. No kiss goodnight. No "I love you".

For me, there is always the dreaded question..."How are you still single?" I don't know why. Some say I am too picky. I think you need to be picky. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I don't have to have someone around. I simply want someone around. Someone to laugh with. Someone to talk to. Someone to cuddle up with at night, knowing we are there for each other, no matter what.

I loved once. It wasn't the man I married. I got married because honestly, at the time, I hadn't dated much at all. This man wanted to marry me. In the days leading up to the wedding, I just kept thinking "I can get a divorce. I can get a divorce. The invitations have been mailed. I can get a divorce. Lots of people get a divorce. The wedding dress is hanging in my closet. I can't take it back. I can get a divorce. I will hurt his feelings if I cancel now. I'll just get a divorce later." It's pathetic. I know that.

I stayed for over ten years. It was an emotionally abusive marriage. Day by day I felt as if a part of me was dying. I tried to stay for the kids and because I was scared of what he would do if I left. Finally, I couldn't do it anymore. I was simply done. Part of me was terrified. I was going to be alone again, but everyone told me, "Oh, you'll be remarried within two years. Just wait and see." I had hope. Hope that maybe real love would finally come my way.

After I moved out, while waiting on the divorce to be finalized, I met someone. We had a lot in common and dated for a while. I was happy, for a while. Maybe I was looking too hard for love and scared him away. He slowly disappeared from my life. It turns out he had found someone new. He didn't want me. He had, however, introduced me to someone. Someone that did want me. At least for a while.

This man and I connected. Immediately. Deeply. For the first time, I felt love. Real love. I believed that I had finally found my soul mate. No question. It had happened. My head was swimming. I was giddy. THIS was LOVE! I now knew what all the songs were about. I got it! I knew I had found the man I would grow old with. I was wrong.

There were problems. Lots of them. All relationships have problems. For years, I tried to fix them. I wanted things to be good. Solid. But they never really were. I held on. I held on to something that probably wasn't really there at all. It was for me, but it takes two. In the end, he also found someone new. He didn't want me either. So was it real love? If so, where did it go? Does it just fade away? Does it die? Do we kill it? Was it ever really there?

Now, years later, I am still single. I've been on a handful of dates. Most I wanted to leave within the first few minutes. I am very picky. My time is precious to me and there are few people I am willing to share it with. I'm almost 50 years old. I really don't want to die alone. Not that I plan on dying for at least another 54 years. My goal is to live to 104 years old. I don't know why. That's just my plan. But that's a long time to be alone. But maybe, just maybe, real love doesn't come for everyone. Maybe some people are simply meant to be alone. That makes me sad.

It's one thing to choose to be alone. I get that. There are many times I just want to be alone. But there are other times you want to talk to that person that gets you and loves you anyway. You want to call to that person and have him come out and look at the quail in the yard or to kill the snake in the spare bedroom. You want those arms around you when you've had a bad day or that hand to swat your ass as you walk by. You want that someone to simply love you. Just love you.

There are so many people out there who are married or in relationships and the love is still strong. You can still see it in their eyes. Others have gotten sick and tired of each other. They've forgotten why they fell in love in the first place and all they want is to be single again. And then there are those go from relationship to relationship trying to numb the pain of lost love. It just makes me wonder what it takes to find real love? Why is it so easy for some and so painfully hard for others?

I don't have any answers. I take one day at a time. Always open to new possibilities. Living my life as fully as I can, even if I am doing it by myself. Those of you with real love...cherish it, cultivate it, never take it for granted. What you have is precious and I am truly happy you have found it.

(On a side note...I know this is poorly written, but it needed to be said. I just couldn't seem to write eloquently about this subject. It is short and choppy...and much has been left out because it would take a book to write it all. I should also note that I always try to figure out what my role is in any relationship and whether it is a positive force or a negative one. I always strive for the positive but am thoroughly aware of my faults and weaknesses.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Best Laid Plans...

Seven months...that was the last time I wrote something on here. I was in the midst of making a life changing decision, selling off most of my possessions and pursuing a career as a truck driver. I wanted to simplify my life and driving a truck over the road was the only way I could find to make it happen.

Life in Edmond had become too hectic, too stressful. The people, the air, the memories - I was suffocating. My children were both out of high school. I was still single and itching for change. Weeks of research led me to believe that driving a truck would give me a quiet life with an ever-changing view of the country, affording me time to write and just "be".

As I sold my belongings, piece by piece, it was freeing. I felt as if a huge weight was being lifted just by getting rid of "stuff". I kept only the things that had real meaning to me or things I absolutely loved and couldn't part with. In the end, it all fit into a 6' x 12' U-Haul trailer. My whole life.

After six weeks of truck driving school, I couldn't manage to pass my CDL. I was without a job, without a home, and running out of money quickly. So I went to my mom's in eastern Oklahoma to try to figure it out. My few belongings were stored above my step-father's office out in his barn. My things were here, maybe this is where I was supposed to be.

Over the years I had considered moving out this way. It's beautiful country and I have family here. But the sweltering humidity and the people of Walmart always kept me away. Plus, being single, I knew the chances of changing that status out here were not good. But now I had nowhere to go. I had tried living in northwest Oklahoma near my dad and sister. That simply didn't work. I didn't have the money to move to New Mexico or Colorado nor did I have the money to travel there to look for work. I would have to find a job here. I arrived on a Friday. Saturday I looked for a place to live. Monday I looked for a job.

I lost track of how many jobs I applied for. Apparently seventeen years as an elementary teacher doesn't qualify you for much. I only had one year under my belt as an art teacher and honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to teach art again. It had been stressful, teaching in Edmond. Some of the kids simply wore me slick with their attitudes and sense of entitlement. As I applied for jobs, my stomach turned as I read about the positions. I needed a job. I had to have a job. But I couldn't imagine myself stuck in an office all day doing paperwork or having my eyes glued to a computer screen. How do people do this all day?

In my job search, I found a listing for an art teacher position in a small town in western Arkansas. I like small towns. They have their own problems, but for the most part, they usually have really good people. I set up an interview.

The interview went well and I was hired. I immediately called about a house in the country my mom had found for me. I let the landlord know I was interested in renting it.

I now had a job and a place to live but very little to put inside the house. I had sold off most of my things. I didn't have furniture. No bed. I had sold off my work clothes and kept only clothing that would be good for driving a truck. All the work I had put into creating a life around being an over the road truck driver...and here I was, in eastern Oklahoma, about to become an art teacher in western Arkansas.

I often asked God why he made me go through all of this...the expense of truck driving school, selling my things, the embarrassment of failure (again). The only thing I could come up with was that I was supposed to be here and this was the only way it was going to happen. I wouldn't have come here on my own. As much as I love my family, it worried me living this close. Would I feel smothered or would I still be able to live my own life?

I've been living here for five months. The humidity this summer was bad, but I didn't notice it so much because I wasn't stressed. The traffic is minimal and I am surrounded by the hills and mountains jutting up all around me. I think I have had one person pull out in front of me in the time I have been here. In Edmond, that was a daily occurrence. Once in a while the fire trucks from the Hog Eye Fire Department go wailing by. Mostly I hear coyotes yipping and howling, the occasional hoot of an owl, and of course, the rooster up the road that sounds like he is dying every time he sounds off.

When I walk outside, I can breathe...fresh air. I'm not breathing in the smell of car exhaust and fast food restaurants. I walk outside and see the reflections on my pond instead of other houses and buildings.

For the first time in years, I am relaxed, happy. I really love my job teaching art. I sometimes shake my head at the number of times I hear "ain't" in my classroom, but I also smile at each time I hear "Good morning", "yes, ma'am", or "Happy Thanksgiving!". I work with good people and am teaching sweet, respectful kids, most of whom are eager to learn. My drive to work each morning is beautiful, always changing with the weather.

Being close to family has been a good thing. I enjoy my time with my mom and her best friend. I even enjoy the never-ending harassment from my step-father. I am also very grateful to them all. They were the ones who had an abundance of furniture and helped me furnish my home. My step-father is the one I call when my twelve year old 4-Runner falls apart.

Six months ago, I fully expected to be on the road now, running into bad weather, living out of my truck, saving money, and seeing the country. This is the last place I expected to be, but it turns out, it is the best place for me to be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Beginning

Six weeks ago, I made a radical decision to abandon teaching completely and become a truck driver.

In that time, I have been selling off most of my possessions in an attempt to reduce my worldly belongings to an amount that would fit in a small storage unit. It was terrifying. At 48, I have spent my life collecting things, trying to build up the type of life and home I envisioned in my head. It never really came together the way I had hoped.

My process of elimination boils down to emotion...if I look at something and get an emotional response to it, I keep it. Photos, notes from my kids, old bottles from a friend...those I will keep. My Fiesta Ware dishes that belonged to my great-grandmother...definitely keeping those. Books on photography, wildlife, exploration...boxed up and headed to storage. But so much of what I have accumulated over the years does not elicit an emotional response. It is just stuff that has no meaning for me. It makes me wonder about how I came to accumulate all this over the years. Was I trying to fill a home or fill a void?

Paring down my life is the most freeing thing I have ever done. So many people have told me they are envious and wish they could do the same. Being single with grown children is allowing me to have this freedom. I will be able to easily move anywhere I want taking only my most precious possessions with me. Of course, who knows where I will eventually end up. New Mexico and Colorado have always been my top two destinations of where I want to live, but now that I am about to embark on a journey as a truck driver, I will finally have the opportunity to see what else is out there. The United States is full of places that might eventually become home for me.

For years I have wanted to travel, see what is out there. I have felt trapped in Oklahoma, only venturing out to the surrounding states here and there. I know some people love it here and I am happy for them. You can have it. But I'm outta here! There is just so much more to the world. New people, new vistas, new cuisines, new ways of thinking...

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am heading in the right direction. This feels right. Driving a truck was certainly never a dream of mine, but it is the vehicle (pardon the pun) for doing exactly what I want to and write. My life is going to be simplified. I will have fewer things to focus on - driving, delivering, and writing. I won't have to look at my front yard getting taller and taller dreading having to mow it. No more vacuuming the house, cleaning the tub, dusting the furniture. My home will now be the size of a small walk-in closet. I will pare down my things to only that which is necessary and will fit in the truck. And when I decide to find  a real home, I will begin with only those things that I love.

My truck driving class starts in three weeks. My hope is to be on the road with a company shortly after that. It is going to be hard saying goodbye to my kids, my family, and friends. But they know me well. They know that this is just the sort of thing that I love...traveling, being on the road, solitude. I hope it can inspire others to take a bold step, do something unexpected, give life a chance. At the end of my life I want to be able to look back and know that I was bold, courageous, and willing to take risks. I want to know that I was an inspiration to others to follow their dreams, live their lives with passion. I think if we did a little more of this, the world would be a better place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Starving Artist - The Life of a Creative Soul

I am really struggling with the fact that I am a creative soul. A creative soul who is getting so fed up with the day to day frustrations of not having enough to get by. Why couldn't God have given me the soul of an accountant or engineer? Something that could actually support me financially?

I am 48 years old. Single. Broke. It never seems to get any better. Quit your job to follow your dream? That's what I did. And I love my new job. I really do. But it isn't enough to pay the bills. Not even close. Should I have stayed in a job that drained me mentally and physically and still didn't pay enough? Should I have pursued a career in a field just because it pays well? My parents would probably say yes.

In the regular classroom I felt like a failure every day despite giving it everything I had. The stress level finally got to be more than I could bear. Those kids needed someone new who could give them what they needed. In the end, I was worn slick. Should I have stayed just because I had a regular income and benefits? Hell no!

So I took a leap of faith. Seven months later, I am sitting here stressing about money all the time and feeling zero creativity. I spend my free time looking for part time jobs where I don't have to be on my feet. You get to a point where you are at the end of your rope. Where do you turn? God? I've done that. Still sitting here. Struggling. It makes me wonder...what did I do wrong? Is this payback for something? Am I just an idiot? My parents would probably say yes.

I have a college degree. I am smart. I am a problem solver. I am creative. Surely there is something that I could do that would actually support me financially. But what? People love my paintings and the things I create, but they don't buy them. I apply for jobs and never hear back. I am a giver. I donate - things, art, clothes, money. I am kind. I am helpful. What am I doing wrong? There has to be an answer. But when you hit closed door after closed door you begin to wonder, "Is this it? Is this what my life is always going to be like?"

I don't know what the answer is. I want to give up, just curl up into a ball and disappear. But I won't. I never give up. I keep believing, day after day, that there really is something to taking a leap of faith. There has to be. There are too many others who took that leap and ended up flying. Maybe I'm still growing my wings. I hope they grow fast. The ground is approaching fast.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Train of Thought Leads to Olives

Yesterday I was sitting on my front porch watching Fred, the squirrel, nibbling on a nut. I name all squirrels Fred. Don't ask me why because I don't know. While sitting there, I had the following train of thought. "Oh how cute he is nibbling on his nut. (I had just thrown out some crackers) I wonder if squirrels would eat crackers. Crackers probably aren't very good for squirrels. At least not the kind of crackers I had in my pantry. Maybe some of the healthy crackers. Ooh, I love good crackers with cheese. (Then I remembered something I had seen online about canned cheese). Canned cheese. Gross. No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are idiots. Who would come up with canned cheese but Americans? But surely other countries have really crappy food items that aren't healthy? SURELY there isn't a country who has nothing but healthy food available. They have to have some canned/jarred items. Like olives, but those are healthy. Olives. OLIVES! I had a dream about olives last night!"

So basically, seeing Fred the squirrel nibbling on a nut sent me into a train of thought that lead me to olives which reminded me that I had had a dream the night before about olives. How bizarre! I have never dreamed of olives before. Walking into class naked...numerous times. whole life. Someone trying to kill me....more times than I like to remember. But olives? Never have I dreamed of olives.

I jumped up, ran into the house and opened up the computer. I Googled dreams about olives. And what I found was very interesting. had the following to say:

Because of the mention in the Bible of olive branch and the fruit of the olive, it has the associations of peace and immortality. Certainly with healing. So olives in a dream may represent the resolution of conflict in life.

The olive also is a symbol of wisdom, and in classical mythology and Renaissance art it was associated with the goddess Minerva.

The tree is an ancient symbol of the holy land, peace, love, and the path of healing and regeneration.

Wearing an olive crown can represent resolution to a conflict, and victory over what you face.. A burden will be lifted off you and you will come out victorious.

Because the oil can be pressed from the olive it has the meaning of healing or ease coming from pressure or trial. You might connect this with like or dislike because of your relationship with olives; or memories or associations with times and places you ate olives. said:

To dream of olives indicates fulfillment. It also signifies loyal friends and immortality.

An olive branch represents harmony, unity and optimism. You may likewise come to a solution to your disagreements and be relieved of troubles.

The color olive green indicates pure knowledge and Zen. It will be necessary to achieve unity in your environment. said:

The olive is a symbol of peace and immortality. Whether you dream about an olive tree, and olive leaf or branch or the actual fruit itself, the same meaning is conferred to your dream. This is a sign that you are about to enter into a long-lasting relationship or career that will mutually benefit all the parties involved. You should look forward to starting new partnerships in the near future because all of them will benefit you in some way and bring stability and respect to your name. The olive can also be a very spiritual symbol for some religions.

In my dream, I was happily rolling in the olives. I could see the olive tree nearby. There was an abundance of olives. After reading the dream interpretations, which I am certain are highly scientific, I choose to believe that all my struggles are about to come to an end. After years of frustration and heartache, things are about to get better. 

In the end, it really is about perseverance, pushing on with faith no matter the circumstances, knowing that each day you are being the best that you can be and doing everything you can to make the world just a little bit better. Faith will be tested. Troubles will come. Heartache is certain. But from each of these we learn..about others and about ourselves. With that wisdom comes a pass it on. Use your life to teach others, to give others hope. In a world so lost, we all need a little hope that in the end, we can all be rolling in olives.

What happens when you take a break from Facebook?

Eleven days I ago I deactivated my Facebook account. The negative posts, political bashing, and idiotic memes were beginning to have an adve...