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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

The school year just ended, so I’m using this time to write and to become more visible as an author. I’ve written two articles on Medium so far, please check them out. Heck, you could even become a fan if you really wanted to! Here are the links:

https://medium.com/@julieballantynebrown_68872/online-teaching-during-a-pandemic-aea0e159bf90

https://medium.com/@julieballantynebrown_68872/faith-426322259857

Thanks! You are all awesome!

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Exactly two months ago, the night of February 17, I was so excited. The next morning, I would board my plane to Boston and begin my mini-adventure in Salem.  I was packed and ready. barely able to fall asleep. I remember it well. At that point, COVID-19 was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know

Fast forward to now. It’s only been two months since my trip, but it seems like years ago. Travel isn’t even on the radar at the moment. There have been some really rough days, I’ll admit. Emotions have run the gamut: Fear, inspiration, hope, anger (this past week, especially), frustration, all ramped up due to the situation.

I’m trying not to let my OCD and anxiety run away with those negative emotions, going round and round in my brain for hours without stopping. It’s times like these when I seriously rethink my therapist’s offer of medication. I’m not going to lie, Wednesday was really difficult, watching people completely disregard safety regulations, getting out of cars and clumping together, with such ugliness, waving Confederate flags and white power signs that had nothing to do with what they were supposedly protesting. Just for the record, I believe in the right to peaceful protest; I do NOT believe that we have the right to put other people in danger by potentially exposing them to a deadly disease (including children, OMG!!! There were several children there!), clogging up streets and honking horns for EIGHT HOURS around a Level 1 trauma hospital where there are tons of sick people, children, and a maternity ward. WTF??? Seriously, what is wrong with people? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter, so trolls, step off. Don’t even try to defend that mess,

That being said, there are many positive things about this social isolation episode that I am focusing on. Such as:

  • Family time. Youngest Child is a brilliant musician and he’s been teaching (forcing) me to learn piano chords. I can already read music, I sing and play the flute/piccolo/tin whistle, but my piano experience has been limited to very simple tunes. Now, I’m learning some really cool stuff. He’s also helping me with learning ukulele. I always wanted to play and, of course, he knows how. We’ve been watching a lot of movies as a family, eating dinner together every night, and playing games. Yes, we get tired of each other and need some alone time, but for the most part, I love spending more time with Marty and Youngest Child. (Oldest lives on his own now, two hours away, and Middle is in his apartment at school since he has better internet and still has an active lease.)
  • Sleeping in. We’re working, Marty teaches, too, but no more 6:00 am wake-up times for us. School starts when we want it to. We’re honestly working a lot of hours, more than we normally do, but we have sleep. Yay!
  • I’m writing regularly. I finished the yet-unnamed sequel to Traveler, began another book, and plan to begin editing (and naming) the sequel this week. I’m also writing a lot more blog posts, in case you haven’t noticed.
  • Languages. I’ve dusted off my Italian and French and am going full-force on Duolingo. It’s awesome. Future plans…
  • I’m starting my Shakespeare garden indoors with seeds. See my Shakespeare Garden post for more on that. It’s so cool, watching everything sprout!
  • Zoom meetings. Two months ago, I couldn’t have told you what Zoom was. Now I use it every day. It helps me to stay connected to my theatre family and my church family. I truly don’t know what I’d do without it. I even get to have my therapy appointment online, which is very much needed.

Now, with things looking a bit better with this stupid virus running its course, there’s a little light shining at the end of the tunnel, if people don’t screw it up and start a giant second wave. We (myself included) need to focus more on the positive, not to ignore the problems, but to keep things from getting very dark.

In the comments, share a positive with me, some bright spot in this dark time, no matter where in the world you are. I want to celebrate with you!

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This Easter will definitely go down in the books as one to remember. It’s a bit anticlimactic. When our boys were small, Easter was a big deal, what with the bunny and all. There was Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, followed by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Then there were the new outfits for church, going to a packed Easter Sunday service, smelling all of the flowers in the sanctuary. For the last several years, we’ve celebrated Easter dinner with family, at my brother/cousin’s house. It’s always been something to look forward to and enjoy. This year is different, of course. Church will be on YouTube, Youngest Child is too old to hunt eggs, and while I plan on making a nice ham dinner, it will only be the three of us. It’s a bit of a downer.

Of course, there have been other Easters that haven’t been “normal”. Seven years ago, we spent Easter in Disney World with my mom, brothers, sister-in-law, my niece, and my nephew. (Side note: Disney World is not the happiest place on earth, especially around nap time.) I brought some Easter candy to Florida with us to make it seem a little more festive, especially because Youngest Child was on that edge of belief and unbelief. It was a good Easter, just different.

Then there was the Easter that Middle Child got RSV. It was his first Easter, he was only a little more than two weeks old. His breathing didn’t sound right on the day before Easter so I took him to the doctor. We ended up taking an ambulance to the hospital where they tried to give him a spinal tap, but he gave them such a hard time that they gave up. We were there for three days, absolutely terrifying. Marty was left on his own to handle Easter for Oldest Child who wasn’t even two, so I assume he isn’t terribly scarred from the experience. That was the worst Easter, even worse than this one, for us anyway. Things went from zero to sixty so fast and we were scared. Thank God that little fighter made it through and is now quarantining in his campus apartment. He gets better internet for his classes there and still has a lease, so he’ll be home when things start clearing up.

Easter is about resurrection, rebirth, renewal. We don’t get to celebrate the way we usually do, so we have to keep perspective in mind. In Christianity, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the basis of our faith, a renewal of sorts. We’re going through kind of a renewal right now, a reluctant one, but a renewal nonetheless. It’s uncomfortable, but I don’t think Easter, true Easter, is supposed to be comfortable. Change never is. Things are different this year, but it’s still Easter.

I wish you blessings, wherever in the world you are, whatever religion or creed that you believe, or not. What’s in your heart makes no difference to me, I just wish you love and blessings. We all kind of need that right now, don’t we?

Stay safe. Stay home. Wash your hands. We’ll get through this.

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We’re 15 days into the COVID-19 craziness since everything started shutting down here in Michigan. Some thoughts I have.

Good Things:

  • Sleeping. Marty are I are working Monday through Friday and putting in longer hours than we do normally, just because everything has to be answered and checked online instead of verbally. Every student gets feedback and that’s tougher to do this way, but I don’t have to be up at 6:00 anymore. I can wake up and post things in my pajamas. I am already used to this.
  • No Student Behavior Issues. This is a fabulous thing. I haven’t had to yell at anyone in more than two weeks. I had one kid act up on a video conference and I just deleted him from the chat. Now that they know I record video conferences, everyone is on their best behavior.
  • Writing. I have time to write! In fact, I’ve almost finished my next book, a sequel to Traveler.
  • Yoga Pants and Leggings. I haven’t worn any other kind of pants for two weeks. I am comfy.
  • Gardening. As I wrote about last week, I’m making a Shakespeare garden and I’ve been able to get that all dug out, plus, I’m enlarging another one of my gardens and making it a spiral garden. It’s going to be awesome. Marty is still scared.
  • Music. Youngest Child regularly serenades us with beautiful piano music. He’s doing well under the circumstances and is channeling some of his cabin fever into music. It’s pretty awesome. (The music, not his cabin fever.)
  • Carry-Out. We are supporting local restaurants twice a week with carry-out. This is wonderful because not only does it get me out of the house and support a local business, I also hate cooking most of the time. It’s a win-win.
  • Deep Cleaning. This is a sort of good thing. I do not enjoy cleaning, but I do enjoy getting rid of clutter, which is necessary. This means that we won’t have to go through quite so much stuff when we move to London, whenever that is. Again, Marty is scared.
  • More Meditation Time. Very necessary.

Bad Things

  • People Are Dying. Seriously, scary amounts of people are dying from this, alone in overcrowded hospitals. Yes, I know that there are people who are recovering as well, and that’s awesome, but we also have never faced anything like this virus and the numbers jump higher every day. Yes, people die from the flu, but we have medicines and vaccines to help with that. We don’t for this virus that kills, percentage-wise, many more people than the flu. Don’t fluff this off.
  • Social Distancing. A necessary evil. I’m introverted, so I don’t regularly go out just to hang out with people, but I do enjoy going places, being out and about. Even my favorite trails in the woods are closed. Picking up local carry-out has become very exciting, even though people in line are standing very far apart and only one person goes into the restaurant at a time. It’s kind of a weird experience.
  • No Theatre/Church. Self explanatory. I miss my friends. I miss their hugs.
  • Scared Students. Kids are nervous. They miss school, they miss their routine and their friends. Hug your kids tightly, they need it.
  • PEOPLE WHO WON’T STAY AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE. Seriously, there are still people gathering in places and not paying attention. God forbid, they spread the virus to someone who will die from it. I get that they may not be worried about themselves, but really, how stupid can you be? People were having a full-on PARTY by my sister/cousin’s house a few days ago. C’mon. We’re all bored, we all want to  get together, but this is where maturity (or lack of) kicks in. Idiots. Batman Slapping Robin Meme - Imgflip

I hope all of my readers around the world are safe and sound. Wash your hands and stay home. If you’re any kind of essential worker, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are appreciated.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts with me. This is a global thing; let’s stay connected. Love you all.

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Today was a really difficult day emotionally (See my blog post “March 8”) but I’ve gotten through it. I twisted a few lines in the show today, but nothing too awful and I’m blaming that on the mental fog of the time change. I visited her garden and made plans for the coming springtime. Maybe a hummingbird feeder this year?

I’m surrounded by wonderful people who lift me up without even knowing it: my husband, my kids, my theatre mates, and for that I am thankful. Depression is an illness and I have tools to help me manage. This, too, shall pass. I can’t believe how much it still hurts, all this time later.

Rest, my little one. I feel you with me.

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There are little, beautiful, things that make me smile.

Baby belly laughs. Best thing ever. Hands down.

My husband’s hand on my back at night as we go to sleep.

A random text or Snapchat from one of my boys.

Snuggling with one of my boys.

Messaging with my cousins.

An email or message from Sabrina.

Someone being kind.

A hug between friends.

A silly rehearsal moment

Petting friendly kitties.

Petting any animal.

Random sappy things said by students.

Sunburst through the clouds.

Our Christmas tree, still lit on February 12, by choice.

Dimes.

The thought of being on an airplane, going somewhere.

A lovely quote.

Pictures from days gone by.

Good feedback from a director.

Ocean waves.

A warm, soul-squeezing passage in a book.

A most satisfying piece of a plastic bat. (Only some of you will get this.)

Time to write.

Snow with no snowblower noises.

What makes you smile?

 

 

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This morning, our pastor gave a sermon, a really good one, on forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I struggle with on a daily basis.

Logically, I understand that forgiveness means letting go of a hurt, it doesn’t mean that what the other person did was okay or that you have to reconnect with them, but I still find it difficult for sometimes. Most things are easy for me to forgive: a student being disrespectful, being cut off in traffic, when my husband or kids track in dirt from outside onto my clean floor. Simple stuff. But then there are other things that go much deeper, that are not healed and I don’t know if they ever will be. Every time I truly think I forgive one of those really deep wounds, it comes rushing back later and I know I haven’t, really. I don’t quite know how to let go, to make it go away forever.

Asking for forgiveness is tough, too. Like all of us, I’ve made some really bad choices in my life and I’ve hurt people. Not on purpose, I don’t have it in me, but they were hurt because of what I did, or, in some cases, didn’t do, and that’s my burden. I know that in at least one of those cases, I am not forgiven and that’s a terrible feeling, knowing that I caused that much pain to someone else.

So, these are things to work on within myself, with the help of my therapist. (She really should be paid overtime for having to deal with me.) Forgiveness should definitely be a goal, if only to free oneself of the pain of those hurts. Studies have shown that forgiveness improves mental and emotional health, which in turn, improves physical health, so it really is a good thing. I just have to figure out how to get there.

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“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Image result for free snow pictures

 

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“It was November, the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.”

~L.M. Montgomery

Anne Of Green Gables

I don’t care what anyone says, I love the spirituality of November.

 

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I love Halloween, I always have. Deciding what to be was (and is) always something that started back in September, sometimes even August. I went trick-or-treating until I was 20 years old, legit. The last time I went out begging for candy, at 20, I dressed as Paul Stanley from KISS and my friend, Tom, was Darth Vader. We had a blast. These days, I love dressing up to pass out candy, I love dressing up just during the day itself, just because.

I also love the origins of Halloween. I love the mysticism, the ancient traditions, and the legends. I love black cats, stories of witches and ghosts, the story of Jack O’ Lantern, and the feeling of spookiness that permeates the season.

Image result for free black cat and witch images

What I never got into were the slasher movies with blood and gore. I’m still traumatized from seeing Friday the 13th when I was seven. I was at a sleepover where my friend’s mom had no limits on what we watched. I never told my mother about it and I still can’t shake the horror at what I saw. I also saw Poltergeist before I should have. Young kids should not see those movies, you know? Parents should pay better attention.

When I was a teenager, I saw plenty of those movies but I never got into them. They’re not my thing. I know plenty of people who do enjoy those kind of horror films and enjoy being scared in that way, but it’s not for me. Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers don’t signal Halloween to me, but I know they do for a lot of people. I do enjoy scary movies, The Sixth Sense is a favorite, but of the psychological variety, not knives and chainsaws. I just don’t get the violence aspect.

So, what kind of Halloween person are you? A traditionalist person, like me, or one who needs their Jason fix? Maybe you’re a combination of both. No judgement here, I am just curious to see who likes what. Comment below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Image result for free happy halloween images

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