A New Chapter

I dreamt it a year ago, and with the help of my husband and the support of my much more tech savvy kids, this new chapter of our life has come to fruition.

I remember an animated breakfast conversation after that initial dream, last March. (A dear friend of mine and I were selling gifts with images and poems on them).

“Like poetry to go,” I told Ric who immediately warmed up to the idea. “We could include your photography!”

How to do it was the challenge, until one daughter suggested we look into Society6.

“They sell quality products featuring artists’ images,” she said.

I read about it and was overwhelmed; we’re not techies.

“I don’t think this will work for us,” I told Ric.

Then, last week, in an inspired moment of stubbornness, I decided to write to the company.  

I don’t now if your service would work for me… I began.

The response was swift and helpful and with the guidance provided, we now have our own virtual store, hosted by Society6: KnutsonKreations.

It’s been a whirlwind of readying material, uploading images, deciding on products and determining how to market them. We are very green, but have over three dozen designs currently on offer, with many more awaiting our attention.

Of course, it’s a huge learning curve, which is why I would be honoured if you could take the time to drop by the site and leave feedback or comment below.

Naturally, we immediately ordered product, and I’m happy to say the images are true to what is depicted on the site. I’m wearing the lizard leggings as I type (got lots of razzing about this design from the kids), and Ric is sipping from a 15 oz mug with his Caribbean Wave image.

All the images depicted in this post are also available in many different formats, from framed art to journals, apparel, home decor or giftware. If there is something that catches your eye, Society6 is offering an artist promotion as of Tuesday, February the 19th through Thursday, midnight. The offer includes 25% off plus free worldwide shipping. I’ll post a link at the start of the promotion.

Thanks to all who have encouraged me in this process. I am buzzing with renewed purpose.


V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #13: Questions

questions.jpg

What will come from all this suffering?  Why do I keep repeating old patterns?  Where is this journey taking me?  How can I be a better person?  When do things get better?

A Question
by Robert Frost

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

What do you question?  Asking the right questions, I’ve heard it said, is more important than finding the answer.  This week, let’s examine the questions that keep us curious.

Ideas for response:

  •  find images that symbolize your questions
  • Record a dream.  What questions arise from the dream message?
  • write a poem, asking one of life’s big questions
  • start a conversation – post one of life’s big questions and summarize the responses.

To participate:

  1.  Create a post on your own blog and publish it.
  2. Link back to this post or leave the address of your blog in the comments below.
  3. Remember to check back and read other contributions.

All are welcome.  Look forward to your responses.

Point of View In Dream Study

I’m on a field trip with several classes of middle school students. We are attending a local theatre to watch a live performance.   One boy, in particular, is concerning me.  He misbehaves regularly and needs constant monitoring.  I rotate between the balcony and the main floor keeping an eye on students and come upon the boy in question in the midst of a fist fight.  I pull him off and give him a time out and go in search of the vice-prinicipal, who is also on the trip.  None of the other adults are in sight and I find them in the lounge, enjoying their time off from normal duties.  Disgusted, I rush back to find my little problem has snuck away.  

I awake from this dream feeling angry and exhausted.  “Am I the only responsible one?” is the thought running through my head.

Recording my dreams, and working with their messages, has been a practice of mine for some thirty plus years.  One way to approach dream interpretation is by considering the story from another point of view.

The Boy

We’re on this stupid field trip to see a sissy play, and I get seated next to the most annoying kid, and well, he pushes my buttons, so I hit him, and before you know it, Mrs. K comes along and ushers me out of the room and tells me to sit tight.

Mrs. K’s alright but she gets all officious like this sometimes.  I am sorry to upset her, and I plan to sit like she tells me, but as soon as she’s out of sight, I spot the exit, and well – who can blame me – I’m outta there.  I got better things to do than sit through some dumb play.

There is much about this kid that I recognize in myself.  I was quick-tempered in my youth, and known to throw a few punches.  I spent considerable time in the hall for misbehaving.  I was also known to “skip out” often.  Even as an adult, I would rather go off on my own than attend boring conference sessions.

So how does this relate to my life now?  What part of me is feeling solely responsible, and what part is feeling like that-out-of control kid?

Dreams invite us to view ourselves honestly, by presenting current issues in story form.  They help us formulate questions about our current life situations.  While the messages are layered, any interpretation that inspires growth is a good place to aim.

The rewrite of the dream draws to my attention two opposing parts of self.  What is missing is a middle ground.  That might be represented by the colleagues, who have taken a more relaxed approach.  In the dream, I find my peers in the lounge and make a snap judgment, walking away in disgust instead of voicing my need and asking for help.

I can imagine that from their point of view, anyone of them, realizing what was happening, would offer a hand.

In shifting point of view, I become aware of an old familiar pattern surfacing:  “I’m the only one who is responsible; I’ll have to do it all myself.”

A little less self-righteousness and a little more asking for what I need is called for, it seems.

(V.J.’s challenge of the week is point of view.)

VJWCbanner

Death Threat

“Viewers are cautioned that this next report contains images that may be disturbing to some.”

Naturally, I turn toward the television to see what all the fuss is about.  Photos of a crime scene where two women have been brutally stabbed to death are plastered across the screen along with images of the hotel they had been staying in and the victims themselves.

“Uh, Ric,” I manage to utter before sheer terror takes over me.  Not only are we staying in the same hotel, but the two women are occupying the same room we had originally been assigned.  When we’d arrived, just days before, and found there had been a double booking, we gracefully offered to move rooms.  What if we hadn’t?  Suddenly, I feel deadly cold.

“Maybe you should stay at the farm tonight instead,” Ric suggests.  The ‘farm’ is a small rural property we have purchased for our retirement.  As the house needs repairs, we decided to take a vacation at this nearby resort in the meantime.  Ric has to return home on business overnight, which means I will be on my own.

“No, the report says the police have a suspect in mind – a drifter who has been seen loitering in the nearby town.  The farm is too isolated.  I’ll be safer here with people around.”

Somehow, in the deep middle of the night, isolation feels more pronounced.  From where I lie I can see the outline of the door to our room and try to reassure myself that the deadbolt will hold.  I pray the double sliding doors in the adjacent room are secured enough to prevent an intruder.  I must fall asleep at some point, because when I awaken it is morning.

Relief floods me.  Daylight brings a return to normalcy, sanity.  All is well.

I have a quick wash and throw on some clothes, deciding to catch breakfast in the restaurant.  This suite we are staying in has two rooms – the bedroom, which is accessed from the outside, and a living/dining/kitchenette area, which is accessed by the pool area of the resort.  A short hallway with a bathroom separates the two living spaces.  It isn’t until I pass through into the kitchen area that I notice the intruder and I stop short.

Standing well over six feet tall, he is a giant of a man, with a disfigured face and scarred hands.  Like a rabbit, I freeze, assessing the situation.  In my mind, I picture the exits, both locked as far as I know.  How long has he been here?  Do I have time to unbolt the door before he’d catch me?

As if reading my mind, he flashes a pass key.  He works here, I realize.  Remain calm, I counsel myself.

“Am I going to die?”  I ask willing my voice to remain steady.  “Because if I am, do you mind if I have one more cup of tea.  Tea is my favourite thing?  Could you allow me that?” An element of surprise is my only hope of defense.  It worked for me once during an attempted mugging.  The would-be assailant stepped in front of me and demanded money and cigarettes.  In my nervousness, I laughed and said: “Do I look a smoker?”  The ruse worked long enough to let me dart away from the mugger and yell for help.

He doesn’t answer, just glares at me with that menacing expression, reminding me who’s in charge here.

“If it’s about sex, I’ll do anything you want, no need to get violent.”

“It might get rough.”  Do I detect a hint of bemusement in his voice.

“That’s okay, but I’d still really appreciate that cup of tea.  Can I make you one?”

“No, I don’t want any damn tea!”  but he doesn’t move to stop me and he’s dropped down onto the couch now, stretched across it, his legs splayed out over the end, his massive belly displaying one long scar carved into his side, and I realize he’s removed his shirt.

Cautiously, I make for the sink, feeling like I’m moving in slow motion.  His voice stops me.

“Why’d you have to put lanolin on the food tray?”  His voice is mournful, gravelly, and if I didn’t know that my life is in danger, I might l have laughed out loud.  My mind races:  He must work in food services.

“I didn’t,”  I stammer.  “I mean…I don’t use lanolin…don’t even have any.”  Then, sensing the opportunity:   “Somebody would do that?” I play the sympathy card.

“Makes my job damned near impossible,” he mumbles.  “Makes me angry enough kill!”

So we’re back to that.  Is that what happened to the two young women?  They greased the dinner tray?

“Hurry up with the tea already; I don’t have all day.”

He closes his eyes for a moment and I examine his face.  An unfortunate soul, really, I think.  Large, beefy jowls, and a bulbous nose that likely indicates years of alcohol abuse.  A scar covers one eye socket, and his lipless mouth seems to hang open unaware of itself.

Just as I turn again towards the kitchen, a light tapping on the door precedes the entrance of an entourage of people.

“Housekeeping, Miss.” A woman bustles in carrying freshly pressed and hung laundry.  “Where would like these?”  Behind her comes another housekeeper bearing clean towels, and a team poised to clean.  “Is this a good time?”

“A very good time!”  I turn to see that the hulk has gone.  Did he slide away?  I wonder.  Did anyone see him?  I direct the clothes to be hung in the bedroom closet and smile with genuine gratitude for the disruption, but keep my council.  He may still be hiding in the suite.

Two young teens then barge through the now open door and buzz around delighting at everything in the room.

“Excuse me,” I say to them.  “What are you doing?”

“This is our room!  We just checked in!”

“This is my room,”  I can feel the anger rising up in me.  I have had enough disruptions this morning already.  Things are beginning to feel surreal, and I just want some peace to recollect myself.  “There has been a mistake.  Leave!”

The doorway fills with what must be the rest of the family:  a man and woman and four more children.

“Check-in,” I tell them, ” is not until four o’clock.  The room is still mine.”  I had forgotten that today was check-out and the realization brings me new hope – I might get out of this alive yet.  I have work to do.

The family and housekeepers all leave with the exception of one little straggler.  I start to give him directions to the lobby, then realize he is too little to understand, so I walk him down the hall instead.  As we approach the reunion with his parents, I see that Ric has returned and is approaching the building.  The nightmare is finally coming to an end.

I turn back towards the room, anxious to get packed up.  I see him in my peripheral vision as he steps out of the shadows.  I stop.  Surely he won’t accost me here in the hallway, with people around.

“Did you see my scars?” he asks, eyes turned away.

“I did,” I respond unemotionally.  What can he possibly want me to say?  Like the wounds you left on those poor young women, I think.

I hear Ric’s approach and see the killer step away.  Should I tell my husband? I decide not.  Ric would react protectively, and could end up getting killed as well.  I greet my husband warmly, and turn our attention to the task at hand.

Car loaded, Ric pulls toward the exit just as a police vehicle drives in.

“Stop here.” I command, rolling down the window and catching the driver’s attention.  “The man you’re looking for works in the kitchen,” I tell him.

Then I signal for Ric to drive away and wake up.

It’s all been a dream.

(I am still away, celebrating, so I’ve left you with this tidbit originally published on One Woman’s Quest, July of 2015.  Hope your week is going well.)

FOWC: We Couldn’t Hide Our Excitement

Five-year-old Sloane came for a sleepover with Grandma and Grumpa this weekend.  Imagine the delight when we Sloane and I came upon this mother and her little ones:

followMom

Mother Mallard was not as delighted to see us and ushered her ducklings into nearby brush:

ducklings in bush

but new life, once revealed, is seldom content with being hidden, and like little wind up toys, the babies followed their mother around the corner and out of sight.

duckies

Sloane says the baby ducks were her favourite part of the weekend.

(Fandango’s Daily prompt is hidden.)

Glue: A Dream Perspective

(Sometimes, the best way to approach dream interpretation is to retell the dream from a different character’s perspective.  What follows is just that.  The ‘she’ referred to is the ego self.  To gain further insight, I also wrote a poem, simply titled “Glue”.)

How can I justify this current state of malaise, given the opulence that defines my life? Each waking moment is filled with the busyness of minding the children, pursuing a suitable career, and tidying this enormous house in anticipation of more guests – all of it a testament to my capability and worthiness, surely.

Perfection is not too high a standard, I tell myself; I want to be that perfect mom – the PTA mom that everyone admires and strives to be. Today, for instance, I am hosting a party for my friend’s mother, themed: This is your life. I’ve invited people from her past, and I’m hoping to inspire change. Heaven knows, she needs it, has basically dropped out of existence since becoming ill, and we want her back. Well, at least, I know her daughter does, and that’s cause enough for me to help out.

I’ve chosen a bright red sweater with splashes of neon colour – an old favourite of the guest of honour – a blast from her past.   She wore it at a time when her kids were young and aspired to many of the same things as me. She wore her hair short, then, sleek, with big-hooped earrings to accent her small round head. Bright colours, she’d read were best for her skin tones – this was the era of True Colours. I can tell, when I open the door to receive her, that she recognizes the attire – she is momentarily taken aback and then composes herself, her smile wry, reminiscent.

She takes in every inch of the house, of our existence, sympathizes with the amount of work it takes to keep it all going, does not question the absence of my husband – hers was always absent too. It’s what men in our lives do. Stay away and provide. We fill in the rest. Carte blanche, I like to think of it;  I prefer it this wa

Mr. Slaughter arrives, and she is initially delighted, except the once large, broad-shouldered man, who rescued her from her teenage angst, is now hunched, wasted away with grief – his wife left him and he cannot bear the solitude. “Down and out”, I mutter under my breath. She is stunned into silence. He meant so much to her, I can see, she is wondering how this can be. The man who set a path for her, now destroyed. Life happens, I think.

Another friend arrives, pulls up in a gold toned convertible, her massive blonde hair piled atop her head like something out of a fifties Doris Day movie. She hasn’t aged a day, by the looks of her, and boy, does she flaunt it.   This elicits a smile from V.J., who always knew her friend was different, admired her moxy, her willingness to walk her own path. Even though they are years apart, she admires the younger woman’s unwillingness to conform, wishes she had a bit of it herself. “You know what you need?” the blonde bombshell tells her. “You need glue.”

I’d told her that myself – was glad someone echoed my sentiment. “Glue” I echoed. “To hold yourself together.”

She looks dubious, but says she’ll run by her doctor. There is hope for her yet.

A Nightmare in Prose

Inspiration for my writing often comes from the Dreamtime.  I play with the words, find new meaning and typically create poetry, although some dreams offer up the basis for short stories. A recent nightmare is not cooperating with any attempts to break it down, and so I’ve decided to rewrite it in both prose (offered here) and poetry (visit here).

Nightmare in Prose

This malaise, this undeniable melancholy has been hovering for days now, maybe even since we moved to this place – me now in isolation; he removed to more important matters, work. The mind, I find, is not to be trusted – conjures images of shadows, movements defying rationality.

The other night, for instance, while my husband slept soundly beside me, I caught a glimpse of someone in the hallway, or maybe it was just the play of light from the road – a flash of car beams infiltrating the curtains. I lay motionless and alert for hours, but it didn’t come again, and yet, the air of “other” remained.

I’ve said none of this to Tom; he is far too logical, and it would just stress him further; he hates to leave me as it is. No doubt he thinks I am in a heightened state of sensitivity due to this illness. The doctor says the inflammation affects my nervous system, as if I’m locked into a state of flight or fight. Wired, I call it.

th.jpgWhat was that? I swear I saw the curtain over the doorway to the closet sway. Yes, there it is again – inching upwards.

I feel a raging rising up inside me – immobilized as I am, cemented to this bed, helpless.

“I see you!” I cry aloud. “I know you are there. Show yourself.” I muster all the fortitude I can, but it is only bravado. I pose no threat to anyone or anything.

Stillness.

“I know you are there!” I repeat with insistence, deciding this intruder is ethereal. “Are you someone I know?”  My mind goes to those who have passed – so many losses, to numerous to count.

Nothing.

“How old are you?”

The curtain rises slightly.

“Do you want me to guess? Keep raising the curtain until I reach your age? I’ll count by tens.”

With each upward jerk, I count, ten, twenty, thirty, and then the curtain drops again, and the connection is lost.

“Please, don’t go!” I beg. “We’re just getting started.”

With that, a figure breaks through the veiled doorway, and emerges into the room: a luminescence outlining the body of a woman.   She is more essence than presence, and I feel an urgency emitting from her – frustration coupled with warning. Her gaze falls to the window, and my eyes follow – two looming figures approach – giant-sized men, only the slit of their eyes revealed beneath cloaks of black, like ninjas seeking prey. I make myself small, huddle under the covers, will myself invisible.

th-2But the walls have come alive now, and monsters are taking shape, and I think I must be delusional, prey I am delusional, but the floor boards recede and there I see the skeletons of those who have gone before me, and know that I am not imagining – there is danger lurking everywhere, and the time has come for me to submit.

***

Dear Reader:  Can you write me a resolution to this dream?  Comments below greatly appreciated.

A Tapestry of Poems

I write poetry.   I play with images conjured up while sleeping, until a message appears.  (I describe this process in an earlier post:  Composing Poetry. )  I’ve noticed that the dreams, and consequently the poems, will follow a particular theme, and I thought it might be interesting to introduce the poems of a series to one another and see what might emerge.th-5

To create the poem that follows, I chose two lines from each of ten poems, all relationship themed.  Mostly, I chose the lines that either appealed or stood out to me.  Keeping the pairs intact, I played with the order.  Here is the result:

Here’s a girl, book smart, heart
uncertain, romance a fluttery desire

She’s in the kitchen cleaning, prepping
sweetness; wishes to nurture childlike

routine – a barrier to what
lies within, darkness waiting

Funny, this present impulsivity –
am alone, overweight, a dreamer

Pretense overcomes stage fright
a worthwhile role for any story

not a glittery, star-crusted version
but a well-worn edition, creative

I am solid, ebony, earthen
know that I have value

Unknown depths below
and shadows, murky –

Broken parts craving protection
surrender to the catharsis of creativity

Fear and protectiveness retreat, helpless
in the face of the adventure that calls.

(Poems borrowed from:  Dialogue, Whale Dreams, Questing, Invitation Anxiety, Unbridled, Hatched, Relationship Saboteur, Tender Hearts Fall, Demon Prowler, and Alcohol’s Child.  To view originals, visit One Woman’s Quest )

 

 

Tired of the Same Old Endings

“I’ve started to write short stories again – something I haven’t done since I was a kid.”

“How’s that going?”

“It’s disturbing, actually; the endings are the same even after all these years.”

“Like what?”

“Me in a straitjacket, completely mad.”

“Oh, I see!”

th-1As do I – there are never happy endings, just a worsening of the situation caused by my inappropriate actions.

I used to fear I was going insane as a child – not a far stretch considering that’s what happened to my older sister.  This conversation is with my psychologist.  Just when I thought things had settled out in my psyche, the dreams have started again – not so much nightmares as deeply disturbing.

I grew up in a house full of secrets, where chaos was the reigning element, and hope, if it dared rear its head, was quickly squashed.  As a child it was difficult to see a way out of the pain, other than suicide or extreme acts of violence.  I attempted neither – was the ‘good’ girl in the family – but it doesn’t mean I didn’t fantasize about it.

“I left home when I was seventeen!” I whine to my therapist.  “It’s not fair that I’m still struggling with this.”

“How have you been feeling lately?”

“Tired,”  a ludicrous comment (I have ME/CFS which is characterized by systemic exhaustion); “I’m sleeping more than usual, which is actually a good thing, given I don’t  sleep well with this disease.  Have lost interest in food…generally depressed, I guess.”

Damn! Depression is like that elusive fly that keeps buzzing around but I just can’t catch.

“You have lots of good things going on right now; is there something that has triggered it?”

th-2In fact, there is – a conversation my younger sister and I had around Mother’s Day.  While I have sought extensive help to support my healing process, my sister prefers to hold it all in, and then every once in a while bits spew out.  Her mini revelation was enough to ignite the dreams for me.

“I don’t have a conscious memory of what she’s talking about, but the dreams would seem to indicate I was affected too.”

“Do you want to explore it further, or do you think you know enough to move on?”

I had been doing quite well – had gained enough perspective to be able to extract past wounds from present occurrences – yet, in my writing, there has always been something else lurking – another layer of hurt.

“I just want to know that there is going to be a different ending!  I need to know that there is a purpose to all of this and that my life won’t end up tragically, but right now I can’t see any other options.”

And then it hits me – this is what I love about effective therapy – my upbringing was not about love and connection, it was about survival.  I did not learn the skills that I need to have a fulfilling life experience, thus the need for re-parenting.

th-3.jpg“Do you have a copy of Growing Yourself Back Up?

“I do!  Found it the other day when I was clearing things out!”  I’m feeling lighter now, having identified the current dilemma and having an action plan in place.

No matter how innocent, children take on responsibility for the dysfunction that adults dish out.  They absorb the abuse, violence, and imposed secrets as reflections of their own lack of worth.  Consistency, enforced guidelines, and predictable parenting help build a secure sense of self, and a foundation of confidence from which a child can progress.

“Try to see the good things that have come out of it all,”  my therapist offers kindly.

“You mean like resiliency?”

“Yes, that’s a good place to start.”th-4

Dreams: A Vehicle for Self-Reflection

I’m waiting in the RV for my husband to finish shopping and drive us away.

This is how a recent dream begins.  For over thirty years now, I have been recording and working with my dreams as a means to personal growth.  Often, where the dream takes place establishes context.  For me, currently disabled and dependent on others, this opening line paints a clear picture of where I am right now.

th-2Dreams, however; are not intended to simply reiterate the obvious.  The messages that bubble up from our unconscious offer us new insight, if we are willing to open them.

A small child climbs aboard, and take a seat…she wants to come with us…but I am worried that her mother will be looking for her, and think we kidnapped her.  I tell Ric we can’t bring her with us.

When we purchased the RV, it awakened in me a new sense of adventure.  After three years, primarily home bound, life seemed to be opening up; I felt a kind of youthful hope, and at the same time, I was flooded with concerns:  Are we being practical, or irresponsible?  What right do we have to even consider traveling under our current circumstances? 

Then I notice there are two other women aboard …. also intending to come along for the ride…and the RV is now a yacht and more people have imposed on our space and Ric is enjoying himself while I am trying to gain control of the situation.

th-1.jpgWhat started out simple enough, has now become very complicated, and even as I type this I recognize my role in all of this – I have an uncanny ability to blow things out of proportion.  I just don’t seem to be able to sit back and relax and enjoy the moment.  Part of it is this disease, I know, and much can be attributed to life experience.

Incensed that no one is listening to me, I decide to investigate further and find that the uninvited guests are sleeping in our beds….and there is even a dead body in our bathtub.  Who is going to clean all this up? I wonder.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and propose that the uninvited guests are all the excuses and obstacles that I put in my own way, sabotaging any attempts at autonomy or personal success.    What makes me draw such a conclusion?  Dreams use exaggeration, as well as humour, to illustrate a point.  This dream is poking fun at my over-worked sense of responsibility – “Who is going to clean all this up?” Indeed.  As if I could ever be responsible for the shenanigans of a boat load of adults.   Assigning responsibility to myself makes me look like a victim, and if I look like a victim, who can ever fault for me for my failures?  th-3

It’s a clever trap I weave for myself, and I might not have gleaned it from the dream, if it were not for the dead body in the bathtub.

The odd, the perverse, the horrific, are all gifts from the unconscious.   I could not shake the image of the dead woman in my bathtub.  Of all the places for her to die, my bathtub is the most personal.

I decided to dialogue with her, imagining myself seated beside her, and allowing the conversation to flow (rational interpretation set aside).  She had much to reveal, the gist of which inspired the poem:  A Body in the Bathtub.

th-4The main message I came away with from this dream is that no matter what our circumstances, financially, or otherwise, there will always be challenges to potential happiness.  Most of those challenges are self-imposed.  The problems of the dream could have been avoided by the setting and assertion of clear boundaries.

There are things I want to accomplish in life – and that we want to accomplish as a couple – if I can only get out of my own way.