Here’s to a better year

journal

I don’t know where 2016 went. For most, the year seemed to be a bad one. Some would say it was the election year, bad politics, bad events in today’s world, etc… It wasn’t any of that for me. My year started out decently, and there were some good things throughout the year that happened, but it seemed that the bad outweighed the good in 2016.

Some of the bad included spending 10 months of the year being sick with no diagnosis or explanation in sight, doctors who don’t care, and frustrating times with insurance. I was even treated to an ambulance ride in mid-October after passing out and having dangerously low blood pressure. Others included unexpected and expensive plumbing issues; over 40,000 Africanized honeybees in my back yard (ok, that wasn’t too bad, but it could have been!); my cat being sick; business was much slower than usual; the loss of yet another classmate from Italy on the last day of the year; and last, but certainly not least on my long list, I stopped writing for 6 months.

There was a bit of good in the mix, one of the best being that I got to see my dear friends from school in Italy during the summer, and I was able to travel to New Mexico to see my mother for her 70th birthday.

Let’s go back to that comment about not writing for 6 months. I think the stress of life and being sick got the best of me, and I just stopped. I realize now that is the time I should have been writing the most. I’ve missed it, and started craving it again. I never do this each year, as it all seems so cliche and pointless to make the same resolutions as everyone else every year, but I broke down and made one New Year’s Resolution for 2017. This is one that I think I can challenge myself with and be productive with. Whether it will be a few words, a few sentences, or a page or two, I’m going to write. Every day. You may not see a post from me every day, and maybe most days will consist of only those few words a day, but I’m putting myself on notice. It’s a much better resolution than becoming one of those gym drop-outs.

Here’s to a better year – not only for me, but for everyone. We all deserve it. I know it’s going to be a rocky start, and that’s already apparent in my life, but I’m already off to a good start with keeping up my new resolution.

“On writing, my advice is the same to all. If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Write.” ~Anne Rice

Hiraeth

Italy copy

It’s not just that building with 4 walls and a ceiling. It’s that place – the place where you feel at home, where you feel loved, where the memories of your childhood are, that place where you grew up. For some, it has another meaning entirely, that’s not so easy to describe.

Hiraeth is a Welsh word for which there is no direct English translation. The best definition is this:

(n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

For me, hiraeth is a foreign country, along with those good friends that are now across the United States and oceans apart in other countries. It’s a feeling, where memories have been created with people who share a similar bond. I grew up in Naples, Italy. That place is home, my hiraeth, although I haven’t lived there in 29 years. That is where my story of nostalgia begins…

I moved to Italy when I was a kid, at only 10 years of age. My father was in the Navy, and I had already pulled up stakes from different places and schools at least 3 times before this big relocation to another country. I wasn’t afraid of it, but nervously excited. Unlike some American children, I never did have a difficult time adjusting to the changes. Being in another country had a huge learning curve in becoming accustomed to the culture. It was a different way of life there – even the air seemed different – but that learning curve came to be an easy adaptation to a normal life for me.

The slow-paced days. They all felt like summer to me.

Drinking Fanta or Coke while walking around the city, taking every sight in. The beach, the cobblestone streets, the dirt roads, learning to cross the streets with the crazy drivers who didn’t abide by traffic rules.

The food. Every morsel was an extraordinary experience. The mozzarella, the pizza, the pasta, the seafood. Nothing compares anywhere else.

The homes we lived in. I resided in 3 different homes, each with their own character. They all felt like mansions, with enormous rooms, but not one of the houses ever had the appropriate amount of water pressure and hot water, or there was well-water to deal with. Who cared? We always made the best of it.

Listening to the neighbors having arguments and yelling (I’m sure that was normal conversation), or singing at the top of their lungs (some of them thought they were Caruso).

Watching the buffalo in the field right next to your house, and petting their noses when they approached your house, which was separated from the field by a wall.

Visiting places like Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, with other trips to Rome, Florence and Venice. So much history and culture to soak in, and it was all right there in your neighborhood.

I always made friends easily where I’ve been, but kept a smaller circle. Since all of us were encountering the same type of acculturations in Italy, the friends we made became lasting ones. In the States, the friends we meet seem to come and go a little more swiftly; we may keep in contact with some, but there isn’t as thick a bond. I did have a really good friend prior to moving to Italy. We wrote letters to each other during the time that I was thousands of miles away, but I’m very saddened to say that I don’t know my friend any longer. I can’t say for sure of the reason, but we ceased to write, and I lost contact with her. I did find her once again via social media approximately 7 years ago, but by some means, we’ve lost that bond. I’ve come to realize that my friendship with her is not the same kind of bond that I have with the friends I gained from my time spent in Italy. It’s regrettable that I don’t have one friend to speak of from the days prior to my living in Italy.

Since returning to the States 29 years ago, I’ve remained in contact with all of my friends from Italy. I had lost contact with some after I graduated from high school and life got busy, but the world of social media has reconnected me with many of them, and we always pick up right where we left off without a beat missed. I have also made new friendships with those that I didn’t have the opportunity to make acquaintances with when we were in Italy – those new friendships have been amazing, and we all wonder why we never did become friends all those years ago. It matters not, as the bond we have now is unbreakable.

It’s no easy task to describe this bond to those who have not had this unique opportunity of growing up as an American in Europe. It is unspoken yet completely understood amongst us. It is only part of what can be described as our hiraeth.

We all long to go back there to that time and place. Our feet may leave that beloved country we have all called home, but our hearts will stay a lifetime.

Daily Notes and Tapas

I’ve taken to writing with a friend on a regular basis. It’s been great to try something different than the normal atmosphere of my writing at home, at my desk, surrounded by the same things and the same sounds. I’m not alone, and that’s different, too. At first, I thought it would be difficult to write somewhere different and be in the presence of other people while I did it. I’m the type of person who needs the solitude…or so I thought.  Turns out I don’t need it all the time.

Our relationship started in the Event Industry. We knew of each other, but we didn’t really know each other. Over a matter of of a couple of years, I had learned that she migrated out of the Event Industry, and into writing. I hadn’t begun to get my feet wet yet, but it had always been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to pursue.

After I had made the decision to begin writing, I still kept it to myself – until I learned that my friend had taken the leap and moved to Sweden for a few months. I’m a shy gal, but I got up the courage to follow her blog and I sent her an email to tell her what a fan I was while she was afar in Sweden. It still took a while for me to get up the courage once again to put my writing out there for everyone to enjoy, but she has been such a great encouragement, and one of the reasons that you are reading this blog today.

Since she’s returned from Sweden, we decided to meet in person, and our personalities meshed immediately. Although there’s still so much to learn about each other, it seems as though we’ve been friends for years, and we have many similarities in the things we’ve experienced in life, and how we think. We decided to make our meetings a regular thing, and to include a writing session to hold ourselves accountable to get a few words on paper before we have to go back to our busy lives.

It’s been so much fun to sit at our favorite coffee shop and commiserate about the goings on in the world and in our lives, and then take the time to be silent, sitting across from each other…just writing our hearts out.

During our first writing session, we didn’t get much writing done. Instead, we talked about collaborating on a fun project. We decided on offering daily creative inspiration on Instagram, with both of us posting about the things that inspire us in the world of writing. From the day we started, the inspiration has been flowing!

And now for the shameless plug… I realize I’m speaking for the both of us, but I’m positive my friend will be happy I did. Please do follow us on our Instagram accounts, and join us in our ‘Daily Notes and Tapas’. We hope you enjoy the daily inspirations…a few notes, words, visuals and appetizers to tease and spark what lives inside you!

Instagram: @rebeccagaffney | Blog: eatingatme.com

Instagram: @reginaleighnotes | Blog: reginaleighnotes.wordpress.com

Our hashtag: #dailynotesandtapas

Instagram pic

The Dandelions

pic (1)

The Dandelion – considered by most a noxious weed, but is indeed a flower, with some varieties being very beneficial and have many diverse uses. Who knew? Those annoying yellow flowers that pop up unwanted in your beautiful green lawn of grass, only to mature and turn into that white, fuzzy, ugly ball that release their seeds into the air, dispersing themselves over long distances. They tend to survive and establish new roots wherever they land, even in some tough conditions. Through many years of history, children have had that uncontrollable urge to pull them from the ground to blow on them for entertainment, watching the seeds blow in the wind.

Military families are much like the Dandelion. It’s no wonder the flower has been named the official flower of the Military Brat. Members of these families have been sent and scattered all over the world, forced to learn to put down their roots anywhere they land and adapt to their surroundings.

I grew up in one of these military families, as my father was in the Navy. I was born at a naval base in Illinois, and by the time I was a toddler, we were sent over to the east coast. We lived in Virginia and Maryland until just before I was 10 years old. Then came the big news…we were going to Italy. What an adjustment that would be! I was only nine years old – I hadn’t yet learned about all of the countries foreign to us in school. We packed up, said our goodbyes to our friends that we had made, and got on the plane. That part was nothing new to me in my nine years, as I had already gotten used to leaving school and my friends for a new location more than once, making a new start. When I got on that plane to Italy, I wasn’t fully aware that I was going to a place that was so different, where no one spoke English, where things weren’t the same as the places I had already lived. I somehow thought things would be just like before. No big deal, right? I was in for a shock!

I was in a different world! What was this place? What are people saying? Why are they yelling and waving their hands so much? How do I open this door? What am I eating? Before long, though, I knew the answers to these questions, and so much more. Life in Italy was an adventure, and adaptation was easy. There was so much to learn and explore. The roots had been planted, so to speak.

Because we were military, I went to a Department of Defense school, with the other kids like me. Similar to being in the United States, our friends came and went rather quickly, as their parents got called back to the States. I was lucky enough to stay in one place for 6 ½ years. That isn’t too common in the military, especially back then. I made so many friends, and created lasting bonds with them, even though our time together seemed too short.

We all learned that our true roots aren’t where we currently live, they are in our hearts, and remain as a bond with all of the places that we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the friends that we’ve acquired along the way. Those bonds of friendship are stronger than any and last a lifetime.

We are the Dandelions. We grow, we change, we get uprooted and spread, we adapt, we reestablish, we overcome, we rise above life’s challenges. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A New Direction

writing prompts picDuring a recent coffee date with a fellow writer and friend, I became more inspired to write. I always seem to come away from our meet-ups feeling that way. I am excited to be writing, and no matter what we talk about over our coffee, those flames of writing desire and inspiration are ignited. This time, I came home contemplating which direction I wanted to go, as I was feeling that I needed to make a small change in order to move forward with my writing.

It’s time to go in another direction; not in an impactful way, though. I’ve decided I am in need of releasing myself from the deadline. I’ve been working on these monthly writing prompt lists, and it seems that I’m now too far behind to begin to save face. I knew that as soon as wedding season started this year, my writing may have to take a backseat to the brides and event planning details that tend to take much more of my time. I am, after all, getting paid to plan events; I’m not currently getting paid to write. I hope that I will get paid to write someday; that is a dream that I will continue to strive for as I find myself in this magical world of writing. Until then, here’s the plan…

I still love the writing prompt suggestions. I love to take that random topic and make it into something that is my own. I am not going to change the fact that I use them, as they challenge me, and take me in directions I never thought I would go. I’m going to continue to search for and choose my own random prompts, and not worry about disappointing you and myself by struggling to get my piece posted by a particular date. I will also throw in one of my personal essays from time to time, just to keep things interesting.

You may see more sporadic posting, but I will be able to take the time to make the words count. That means more to me than fulfilling that deadline.

Hold on to your seats, folks! There’s more to come.

Got shelved

From April’s Writing Prompts, April 9, 2016

“With literary biographies, you’re either shelved with other biographies or next to your subject’s fiction.” ~Blake Bailey

After reading this quote, I couldn’t help but think, if I got shelved, what authors would I be shelved with? This intrigued me, so I was impelled to look up a list of famous authors. This is no easy task. I have yet to find a comprehensive list of authors in alphabetical order, without noticing too many authors’ names missing. It’s really difficult to determine exactly who I would be shelved between.

If we went about it using our last names instead of categories, I would be somewhere in between Solomon Northup and Flannery O’Connor. It is a regrettable fact that I have not yet read either of their works; shame on me. I did see the movie, “12 Years A Slave”. It was a wonderful movie, but like all movies based on literary works, I’m sure there was a great deal missing or much not conveyed that might have had great importance. I would much rather read the book and get the story in it’s entirety.

What an honor it would be to find myself shelved amongst these great authors! I’m certain my work is anything except qualified to be placed amongst them, but I am making that a goal.

Until then, I read, I write, I research, I write some more; and I dream…