Nose-prints on my window

A feral colony of three sibling kittens born in my garden this summer, have decided to stay on for the winter.

The black kitty I named Coal. From a very young age he’s been the most gregarious. The kitchen window looks out on my garden (not pretty in winter). When I walk in the kitchen, Coal jumps from his napping spot on my jacuzzi onto the window ledge. He is captivated by me, regardless of what I’m doing. Anytime I’m cooking is his favorite time to visit.

Recently he’s taken to high-fiving me through the glass then walking back and forth rubbing against the window. He’s now “trained me” to pet him through the glass. This goes on until I’m tired. Not once a day but rather each time he sees me – including after dark when he’s visible only by his topaz eyes.

As a result, my kitchen window is dotted with nose-prints from Coal and fingerprints from me. It’s messy but I love the connection we have and look forward to seeing him each day.

Messy window vs visits from Coal. Coal wins. Windows can be easily cleaned.
On my deck when he was very tiny
Coal and his siblings, Toffefay and Stormy

Creativity during a pandemic

During the pandemic with endless days of solitude, I’m increasingly grateful that I discovered a passion for painting. I immerse myself in the vibrant colors and create art that continues to surprise me. Hours melt away….

Clearly I’ve been obsessed with the tiles I’ve been painting with alcohol ink, as evidenced by recent posts. I wanted to share a few of my favorite artistic endeavors in this post; all are alcohol ink on Yupo paper.

Gratitude

A year ago I was beginning preparations for the annual Wolfe family Christmas Eve, a tradition that Spence and I started years ago. For my grandkids, it’s the only Christmas Eve they’ve known. With the house decorated, delicious food, surrounded by family, laughter and gifts galore in front of a roaring fire, the tradition continued even after we lost Spence. This year the house is decorated but the Christmas Eve festivities had to be cancelled due to Covid.

So you might be asking, isn’t this post titled gratitude?

In a year fraught with crisis, chaos and isolation for long periods of time I make a point of reminding myself that I’m okay when staggering numbers of people are not.

I’ve lost no one to Covid.

I have my health, a warm home and no worries about where my next meal is coming from.

Tipper and Biscotti, (my cats) are my roommates. They entertain me, snuggle endlessly and don’t seem to mind that I talk to them…a lot. I may be the only human in my home but I’m never alone.

I’m grateful that I moved Mom to my home for six weeks when the Covid crisis was in the first surge. She loves my cooking. We played games and had non-stop quality time together while remaining safe. I introduced her to the Gilmore Girls – a favorite of mine that I’d recommended countless times. She was hooked and it seemed fitting to share a show featuring a mother and daughter with my own mom.

Home delivery of groceries is something I hadn’t imagined I would ever do but that changed in March of 2020. It was a godsend during those early months.

I’m grateful for my garden. It got me out of the house and into fresh air and sunshine creating beauty that surrounded me all summer.

Puzzles, countless puzzles kept me entertained for hours while shifting my focus away from the worries of the outside world.

I’m grateful for knowing myself enough to take breaks from the news. While I want to be informed, watching the news felt like being bludgeoned for most of 2020. Sometimes a girl needs a break.

Music and books have always been things I love. They became an essential and integral part of coping during long stretches of alone time.

Streaming took on new meaning in 2020. I’ve discovered fascinating documentaries and series that captivated me. I’ve watched critically acclaimed movies that I’d always intended to watch.

After postponing a road trip to my beloved Wears Valley in May, I was able to go in September. Having traveled here many times, I sought out activities that avoided crowds and would be safe, which brought me to the Great Smoky Mountains Art community. I took classes in pottery, glass blowing, fused glass and painting with alcohol ink. It was transformational and something I might not have done if not for Covid. From the number of blog posts, it’s clear to see that painting is now a hobby/passion/obsession of mine for which I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for the scientists who worked tirelessly to find vaccines that will eventually eradicate Covid.

I’m grateful for the return of hope I feel for our country as we approach inauguration of qualified, compassionate leadership in January 2021.

Thank you to my followers, you have my gratitude as well. I wish you a Merry Christmas, good health and a Happy New Year. Be safe.

My first 24 tiles

I’ve been sharing my tile art through various social media accounts and garnering lots of positive feedback. One question (likely due to the number of posts) is “what’s the plan for these”? That’s a great question….for now I’ve been enjoying them displayed like this!

Creating beauty and focusing on art rather than the sadness, uncertainty and stress of 2020.
I pop in my AirPods, select my favorite playlist and start painting, like a spa day for my mind.

Self Care, part nine

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It’s human nature, for women in particular, to be harder on ourselves than others.  With  family and friends, we support their choices and are non-judgmental of their mistakes.  We accept their imperfections because we know their worth, in other words we provide unconditional love.

In contrast, we hold ourselves to higher standards and our inner voice can tear us down if we don’t manage its volume.

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Self care isn’t just about getting through a crisis – it’s an ongoing awareness of our inner critic who makes us feel we’re not meeting every self-imposed expectation.  Call it changing the lens or flipping the script and try to imagine that same internal voice consistently offering up positive affirmations and encouragement instead.

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Fitzgerald’s quote exemplifies that level of self-care that is essential to changing how we view ourselves.

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It includes you believing  in yourself – you’ve got this!

 

 

 

 

Self Care, part eight

There was a moment during my journey that stands out, what Oprah would call an “aha!” moment.

It came from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network.

For months I hadn’t been able to focus on a book, movie or tv show. I had no appetite nor interest in food or cooking which had been passions of mine.

I’d lost my mojo.

Enter The Barefoot Contessa. I’d tuned into her show out of a need to fill the silence with a familiar voice but then found myself engaging. Ina’s on-screen warmth drew me in and whatever she was cooking (though I can’t recall what it was) had my full attention. Her joy of cooking ignited a spark in me and at that moment I felt a shift as my inner foodie began reconnecting with my heart. It was a big step forward. Though she’ll never know, just by being herself, Ina Garten helped me on the path to healing myself.

Self Care, part seven

Making yourself a priority is something everyone can benefit from. Whether dealing with loss, trauma, stress or life in general, it’s important to do something just for you, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Tune into what you need and take a self care break.

None of us knows how long we have, treat every day as a gift, make it count.

Self Care, part six

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Roughly three months after my loss, I was exhausted from thinking about the life that Spence and I had shared and how nothing would ever be the same. I desperately missed our happy life together.  I felt incredibly lonely, angry, resentful and hated the word “widow”.

Then I decided that I was going to be happy again. I wanted to lose the “sad Laura” cloak that I’d wrapped around myself. It was Spring 2017, the weather was warm, my garden was coming back to life and I felt the pull toward being in nature with my hands in the dirt, something that’s always brought me joy.

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I decided to claw my way out of the dark place I’d been.

Not every choice I made was successful or well thought out. At times it felt like I was hurling myself forward in my pursuit of happiness without regards to where I was going to land – which accounted for some mental bruises. But I knew Spence would want me to live a full and happy life and on days that felt like a struggle to do it for me, I did it to honor him.

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I’m not saying it was easy to change my mindset or imply that I didn’t backslide. Grief took pot-shots at me more than a few times however I was determined to outrun it. It’s like the old adage about how many times you have to repeat a behavior before it becomes a habit – so I behaved as though I was happy. Fake it till you make it, right? And as habits go, this is a good one to have.

There’s no clock on this process nor is it a competition. On the road back to embracing life, take one step at a time.

Even if you stumble, you will get there.

The Self Care series is my personal journey over my first year after losing my husband and reflects both my struggles and successes.

Self Care, part five

Getting through loss is a one step forward, one more step forward and five steps back process.  Sometimes it’s more than five steps backward and it’s part of grief and recovery.

There is no road map that’s laid out for you. Every now and then you step on a land mine. It happens.

I found that the first few times I met friends or family at a restaurant, I’d think “I can handle this” and then suddenly, up bubbled the tears.  I’ve always hated for anyone to see me cry (not a pretty crier) and they weren’t full on sob-fests, but I was embarrassed and felt bad for the person with me.

But this is what I learned.

These same people missed Spence and had memories of their own, many of which we shared.  Speaking for myself, it’s often hard but inevitably healing to talk about him with those who loved him. He was funny, loving, smart, worldly and larger than life.

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You are not alone in your loss and the loss is not yours alone. Share those memories.

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