Stepping Outside the Box

We all have our comfort zones. I confess. I can be pretty bad. If I can’t win something, if I’m not good at it, I usually won’t participate. I’m competitive and I hate to lose. This is why I don’t do tennis and rarely do bowling. But, at least I know because I tried it.

But…

Trying something new is important. It’s exciting. It can be such a rush. Energizing. Envigorating.

Which is what I did this weekend. Although I can sing and write, I’ve always thought art was outside of my wheelhouse. And then, for one of my closest friends’ birthday, she decided to book a painting party at this place called Painting With a Twist.

Because we had a bigger group we got to use our own private room AND pick our painting. They supplied us with music, a teacher, smocks, easels, paints, and paint brushes. We got to bring our own wine and munchies.

The teacher walked us through the painting process step by step. This is my base. We were supposed to make the backdrop a streaky gray. My inner rebel came out & I added a touch of magenta to give it a bit of my personality.

  

As you can tell, I started to get really into the process….

Next step was coloring in the feather. Turns out I either don’t take direction well or I need to dance to the beat of my own drummer because whenever she’d tell us what color she wanted us to use next, I went with the opposite.

But, I think my feather turned out pretty well, and I was finding the process to be interesting and a challenge. I painted, chatted, and sang along to the music they had playing.

  
This particular creative process was never one I thought I’d be any good at, but I was doing pretty well…

And then came the dreaded birds. They almost did me in… Can you see how serious I got?   

In fact, our whole group got pretty hard core… Determined not to be done in by the birds. This time, I tried it the instructor’s way. It didn’t work for me. Until she helped me touch one of my birds up and I found my own way.

  
By the time I was done it felt like I’d really accomplished something. Something I never knew I could. And it felt good! 

  

Not bad for an amateur, huh? 

What I’m saying is that this was a great reminder of why it’s so important to try something new. Something outside of your comfort zone.

When was the last time you did something you’ve never tried before? What was it? Did you have fun?

Life Lessons With Brian Kinney

Have you ever had a tv relationship leave such a strong impact on you that years later, you still look back on those characters with fondness, remembering all the good times as if you were there and the challenges they’ve overcome with pride. Maybe you even learned something along the way.

I have a show like that. The leading man was arrogant, narcissistic, a bit of a whore and mean. And I loved him for it. Brian Kinney, played by Gale Harold, was my hero because deep down behind that a$$hole veneer was a heart of gold. As for the mean…it wasn’t so much mean as brutal honesty. He called it like he saw things and he didn’t ever pull punches. I think I loved him a bit for that… No one could ever say that they didn’t know where they stood with him…and his kindnesses showed itself at the most unusual moments in the most original ways.

Gale Harold aka Brian Kinney of Queer As Folk

Gale Harold aka Brian Kinney of Queer As Folk

At first glance one might think, whoa! That age difference doesn’t bode well for this relationship. Normally, you might be right. If the younger guy was anyone but Justin. He’s an oddly compelling mix of innocence and wisdom. He’s the actual grown up in the relationship, emotionally speaking.

Justin Taylor

Randy Harrison aka Justin Taylor from Queer As Folk

The show? Queer As Folk, a Showtime Original TV show back in the early 2000’s. My absolute favorite scene happened at the end of Season One, when the young man, Justin Taylor played by Randy Harrison, who caught his eye (a high school senior) asked him to prom. He said no. He was concerned that maybe the relationship wasn’t so appropriate because of their age difference. He was in his late twenties. He does, however, decide to show up for one dance…

Sadly, after that dance, tragedy strikes. Justin walks Brian to the garage where he’s parked to kiss him goodnight. Brian starts to get into his jeep. As Justin heads back to finish the prom with his best friend, Daphne, a football player from his school with a baseball bat hits him in the head from behind. Brian, seeing him coming from his side mirror screams Justin’s name, but it’s too late. The damage is done. Brian fights the guy off and calls the ambulance for an unconscious Justin. Fortunately, Justin survives and eventually recovers.

Brian always thought he could hold himself apart. That he wouldn’t allow anyone close enough for him to love them. Except somehow, Justin was able to sneak in. Debbie, played brilliantly by Sharon Gless, is his childhood best friend, Michael’s, mom. Unaccepted by his own family, she knows him best… I love this scene where she calls him out on the feelings he’s trying so hard to avoid.

Then there’s what Queer As Folk taught me about gay marriage. Lindsey Peterson, played by Thea Gill, is Brian’s female best friend and the mother of his child. Well, okay, technically he’s the sperm donor for her baby with her girlfriend, Melanie, played by Michelle Clunie. After one problem after another in planning a wedding that won’t be recognized by anyone but their friends, Brian brings their friends together to help them put together the wedding of their dreams…

It was actually through this show that I saw all too clearly why legalizing gay marriage is important. Here’s my take based on what I learned. If it were simply a matter of love, many would probably be okay with commitment ceremonies. But it’s not just the love aspect that makes marriage so important. Actually, it’s the legalities that we heteros take for granted.

For example, in season one, Gus, Lindsey and Melanie’s son becomes ill. When they rush him to the hospital the only people they’d let back with him to the doctor was his biological parent. When Brian arrived after Melanie called to let him know Gus was sick, he wondered why she wasn’t with their son. When she explained, he became furious on her behalf. In the end, they were both able to go back (mostly because the “biological father” approved it). It didn’t matter that she was the parent raising the child.Later, to ensure that both mothers would be able to care and be responsible for Gus, he allowed both women to adopt him, effectively signing his parental rights away despite the fact that he obviously cared about him.

In a later season, an anti-gay activist group (I’m sure you know which “religious group” they resembled) decide to blow up the local dance club, Babylon, during a fund raising event to “Stop Prop 14”. In the explosion many were hurt and several were killed including one of Lindsey and Melanie’s lesbian friends. She was the mother of two children. She and her life partner had been together for years. When she passed away, not only did her partner lose her, she lost their children. Why? Because she wasn’t the biological parent and had no legal rights. Technically, those went to the family who’d never approved of their relationship to begin with. That just struck me as wrong on so many levels for both the kids (who knew her as mom, and for the woman).

I know that this may not be a very accurate depiction of how things work these days. I’m sure there are legal documents that can be created that will protect some of these rights. But still… There are still so many places who won’t give health insurance to life partners, but will approve it for spouses. And that’s just for starters.

Ally

When I look back on this show, I appreciate how it broadened my horizons. I loved the characters and the plot lines. And I’ll forever love Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor. In my little universe, they found their happily ever after. (And yeah…I found their sex to be smokin’ hot!) Of course, with these guys of mine, they had to go and put a twist on the series finale…

Has there been a show that’s opened your eyes? Maybe helped you grow? View the world just a little bit differently? I’d love to hear about it. And Debbie’s final question is a valid one…How the hell DO you return a water buffalo?

Bringing Back The Christmas Joy By Giving

Got some not so great news about a friend today, so if I’m not my normal chipper self, I apologize. I’m still waiting to hear what will happen. Unfortunately it seems like several people I care about are struggling today…some with cancer, some with career, some with other various wounds and injuries.

Remember how lucky you are to have your families…because there are people out there who have no one. Hold them close…and let them know, especially this time of year when things can get overwhelming and bleak…just how much they matter to you. Whether you think they know or not…remind them.  It’s important.

::Deep Breath::

Ok, now let me try to shake off this melancholy. You are all gonna help me do it.

Viveka– my Swedish pal who loves all things tied to passions…music, photos, people and writing…honored me with my third Blog Of The Year award!

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What could cheer a blue girl up more than giving her friends gifts?  So, without further ado, the rules, then…my Christmas Gifts to some very deserving people who’ve found ways since I started my blog in August to lighten my days. (Also, there are those friends of mine who would rather NOT receive an award…if I know…I will respect your wishes and honor you later…in other ways.)

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award.
2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.
3 Please include a link back to this page http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/our-awards/blog-of-the-year-2012-award/ – and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!).
4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them.
5 You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience.
6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…!

Jennifer from Quirk’n It – who finds such lovely images from behind her lens.

Amadiex from The Closet Artist – who is finally finding ways to make time for her art work in the midst of her busy job at the hospital. (Ya’ll know how I feel about people who follow their dreams…)

Benjamin from Evolutions Of Art – A wonderful artist suffering from new onset Parkinson’s and with an appreciation for beautiful music.

Olivia OBryon – An awesome teacher with interesting stories…including one that proves…bad boys always have a plan.

Ramblings From A Mum – A new friend who made me realize…there are so many more gadgets that my house could use…

Organised Clutter – Whose idea of a “Literary Fantasy Dinner Party” still has me thinking about who’d be on my guest list…

Cowboys And Crossbones – Who really knows how to party…and is in Nashville, a place I’d love to visit sometime.

Sydney Aaliyah – One of the first people I met on here who also shows that the art of giving is not dead.

Every one of you is deserving of this award. If you haven’t been included yet, don’t despair…I have 3 more of the Blog Of The Year awards to go and I’m trying to pace myself.

I hope in some small way…knowing you are appreciated and recognized makes your day just a little….maybe brings a smile to your face.  The world could use more smiles.

Sun Setting On El Paso

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Today is a milestone in a couple of ways. First, this is my 101st post…which means my last one was officially my 100th. Where has the time gone?

Also, I thought it was appropriate to post a picture of an El Paso sunset over the mountains as the sun is setting on my last night in this beautiful city. I leave early tomorrow morning.

Tonight the gang is taking me to my first Mexican restaurant in this lovely town. We are having my going away party at Carlos And Mickey’s. I’ve been told they have live music and awesome Margaritas.

This has been a wonderful adventure. I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way. I’m gonna miss this place and hope to come back to visit sometime.

Thanks for keeping me company through my adventures!

My question tonight? Where was the most beautiful sunset you remember seeing? Tell me all about it…

Claiming Christmas (with a little help from my friends)

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No post yesterday…I know, bad of me. Usually I give warnings if I’m going to miss. Unfortunately, duty called. Anyway, still in El Paso, so I’m missing my family. As I sat at breakfast this morning, I started looking at pictures of Christmases past and thought I’d share. The above picture is my oldest girl, Isabella…she is such a tolerant girl. She sat with those antlers on her head so we could take pictures and didn’t even try to take them off.

You know who else is great? Hubby! For Christmas a couple years ago he got me this awesome holiday dish set so we could entertain friends and family in festive fun. He knows my entertainer spirit so well! Of course my friend, Natalie, has a hubby with some pretty interesting gift ideas, too!

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On the subject of gifts, my buddy Marcia also has some great ideas on how to help our deficit & economic issues while shopping for the holidays. In fact, I’m taking her up on the challenge and trying it, myself! Care to join us?

As I sat in my hotel lobby, enjoying the fireplace and thinking about different holiday traditions over the years, I came across my friend, Mae’s post on Mythical Monday about Yule logs! It was like she was psychic and knew where I was while I was busy being homesick!

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The thing is, usually hubby decorates the outside for Christmas and I decorate the inside….including putting up the tree. Well, he sent me a picture of outside…

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And he told me that he’s already put up the tree, too, since we’re not sure how long I’ll be away from home. He even volunteered to write out the Christmas cards! He also mentioned something about baking Christmas cookies! I know it’s sweet, but part of me is a bit sad. To comfort myself, I’ve been looking at unique Christmas Tree Ideas for the book lover. It did help me to re-find my smile. Here’s a pic of our tree from Christmas past…

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Now no one quite dressed the Christmas part like my grandpa…well, except maybe Santa! So, finding this old family picture from Christmas Eve a few years back (complete with my cousin’s dog and gramps’ oxygen tank) made me smile… This was one of our last Christmases before he passed away. Check out his snazzy red Christmas pants and sweater! Loved that!

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The guy in the grey suit in the back row? That is my stepdad. He has gluten allergies. For Christmas last year I made him a gift box filled with home made GF treats…bread, chocolate brownies, peanut butter cookies. You get the idea. It was probably one of my favorite gifts to give, too! Like Amber from Journey Of Steps said…nothing replaces the good feelings associated with the true intentions of Christmas!

Now to add the final steps to ensure I don’t become a Christmas Curmudgeon, I need Christmas Carols, people! I need to know all of your favorites…so I can sing them to myself. So help a sister out! What is putting you in the Christmas spirit? What is your all time favorite Christmas song and why? What is the best gift you’ve ever given at Christmas and why? Because nothing makes me Christmas Cheery quite like singing Christmas music. Well, except maybe this adorable girl….

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Do I Matter Less?

I have a pet peeve. Actually, I have several…but today I’m going to bring up just one. Yesterday, in my social networking feed a post…or maybe it was an article…came through basically talking about this poor woman who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As you guys know from prior posts…cancer once again, recently hit my family. We lost a family member. I am completely sympathetic to this woman and her battle.

What set me off? The post read something like this “poor woman just had a baby, then was diagnosed with breast cancer…how tragic.” Really? Having a child is what makes this tragic? Because what that statement intimated to me was that if you don’t have children, then cancer isn’t nearly as tragic or devastating to you. Let me count the ways that this rubbed me wrong. First, I have a friend who developed bladder cancer as a small child. Treatments included issues with bodily function control..and did permanent damage to her reproductive organs, guaranteeing she will never have a child biologically speaking. And she still has health issues…not to mention is devastated every time she hears about someone else having a child…not because she begrudges them the joy. She doesn’t. She just wishes she could experience those joys for herself.

Another friend was unlucky enough to have inherited the BRCA gene which gives her an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and/or uterine cancer. This means that she is in the process of removing everything that makes her female as a preventative measure. Her sister also has this gene….but has children. So somehow this is so much more tragic for her sister. Really? This may sound a tad insensitive, but at least should something happen, her sister has a legacy she’ll be able to leave behind…not that you ever WANT to leave them behind.

I have another friend who had breast cancer, fought it, beat it…then developed uterine issues that concerned her oncologist enough to recommend a complete hysterectomy. Immediately. She’d been a career woman up to this point, not in any rush to have children…thinking she’d have time to find the right man first. The opportunity taken. By cancer.

And then there are the men…who also can be diagnosed and die of cancer…do they get less sympathy or empathy simply because they’re not able to give birth?

Ya’ll get the point. The thing is, I doubt that this is how the person posting meant to come across…but words are like that.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only time I’ve seen red over people with/without children. Please, don’t misunderstand… I LOVE kids. I adore great parents. I think it’s the best gift you could give both to your child and the world. (I was blessed with an amazing mom who is still my role model…no comment on dad.)

So you can imagine my shock and anger when on a conversation over the phone with a fairly new friend he tells me, “You will never truly understand or appreciate God’s love or grace until I have a child.” Really? Now most of you have already caught on to the fact that I’m a pretty controlled person…to a fault.

On that day my facade cracked. I believe my first (and most honest) response went something like this. “That’s asinine. Did you just hear what you said? Are you stupid?” And believe it or not, his comment hurt me so much that I was in tears. Because I understand only too well what a sinner I am…and I have read the Medical Description Of His Crucifiction. That kind of love outdoes even the sacrifices my mom made for me. I did not have to produce offspring to know or understand.

Honestly, that was also the beginning of the end to our friendship. Because as he explained his point of view, he just dug a deeper hole for himself, disqualifying everything because he was a parent. Because children make every person suddenly a good parent, right? (Infuse sarcasm here).
If only…

This also calls to mind a horrifically tragic situation that happened one day when I was working in the emergency. A family brought their 18 month old into the emergency room for lethargy and failure to thrive. They had no sooner got him into the back when he went into respiratory distress. The nurses lined up and took turns performing CPR, hoping to stabilize him while they did tests. It turned out he had a large tumor in his brain. His family was fundamentalist and didn’t believe in modern medicine except in emergent situations, so he hadn’t had any tests or doctors visits prior to this one. Unfortunately, the little guy didn’t make it.

As I sat there, hurting for this family…not wishing that kind of loss on anyone, I heard a family member say, “at least you have the other kids.” Like that negates the loss or care or heartache somehow? All I could think in my head was “Shut UP!” What kind of comfort was that?

See what I mean? Words! Whether intentional or not…they can have seriously damaging effects! Choosing them wisely can sometimes be the biggest gift you can give a person. They can also be the reason for ending things. I’ve occasionally been the person to choose words unwisely, but I try to be careful. I try to consider how my words might impact the people I love. But, I’m not perfect.

What statements or words have you heard that have set you off? Or cut you to the quick? What are your pet peeves?

Friendships, Trips and #Thankstweetings

As this years draws closer to the end, I get reflective. Looking back, I guess I always have. Maybe because we’re also closing in on Thanksgiving, or simply in my nature, but I find myself looking for things to be thankful for. First and foremost, I’m grateful that this year is almost over because it means next year can begin.

This year has been tough on my husband and I. He’s had three surgeries between February and May…and broke his hand. Just as things finally start to stabilize, I lost my job. Although we joke about the whole “for better or worse” portion of our vows, it’s strengthened our relationship…and our relationship was already pretty solid.

But as rough as we’ve had it…we realize it could always be worse. Above is a picture I took in the Bahamas two years ago. That year we stayed at the Wyndham Nassau Resort.We went back again this year, but we stayed in the Atlantis on Paradise Island. It was amazing! In these last two years we’ve made several friends because we book through Maximum Sports for their annual Da ‘Boys In Da Bahamas trip. We’ve also gotten the opportunity to get to know some of the players on a level we’d never have the opportunity to enjoy in the regular world.

The point of all this? We got to be good friends with a couple while we were out there the first year and we look forward to meeting up every year. Unfortunately, this year, my gal pal was diagnosed with cancer…and did her treatments. Her hubby fell prior to our trip (off a ladder, I think?) and wound up with stitches prior to the Bahama trip…which meant no water excursions for them. Last year we all went snorkelling. This year we did a shallow water dolphin thing…and they didn’t get to join.

Then, after the Bahamas, my gal pal had another incident with cancer. This was followed by her hubby getting into a motorcycle accident that left him badly injured and hospitalized for a bit. Between the medical bills and the time off required to care for him, not to mention his time loss due to his medical condition, they have neither the finances nor the time needed to allow them to take this trip next year.

I was seriously disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see her next year as we’re all in different areas. She lives in the DC/Virginia area and the rest of us live in Florida/Texas/Illinois. Pretty spread out. When she told me that she’d be unable to make the trip, I mentioned getting together for a girls weekend! All the ladies agreed… It would be a ton of fun! This is where you guys come in. We need ideas for places to go. It can’t be too close to her home…as you ladies know…when you have a husband and a son, there is a tendency to call you for every little thing if you’re close enough to feel accessible to them. On the other hand, it needs to be close enough that it’s not too costly to get there for her. Our initial thoughts were Nashville…maybe Myrtle Beach. Where would you guys recommend and why?

And thinking all these trips had me thinking…if money were no option, where would you love to visit and why? I’d love to go on a trip around the Mediterranean…Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, the south of France. My hubby is half Italian and dying to see that side of his culture. Me, I love the richness of food, passion and history in those areas! I’d also love to eventually own a vacation home in the Philippines. The four years I spent there growing up were amazing! So much love, food and sense of family there. I have always felt welcome in that country.

So…this is what I’m most thankful for this year…the friendships I’ve made…the challenges we’ve overcome…the dreams I’ve been able to pursue. What are you thankful for? And speaking of thanks…check out Good Geek Ranting’s blog on #Thankstweeting. I think he’s got a great idea and I plan on participating! People don’t hear Thank You nearly as often as they should… And who knows? You may just brighten someone’s day!