This is autumn?

Pumpkin ExpressSometimes I really miss the crispness of autumn in more northerly climes. After 20 years in Florida, I have begun to long for a change. I miss the beautiful fiery colors of the leaves and the wind blowing them wildly across the streets and lawns – although not so much the raking! I remember long Sunday rides on peaceful country roads ablaze with color, stopping at an overlook to see the spectacular view of a valley and a little town far below, the white steeple of a church shining in the sun. We would stop at an orchard store and buy fresh apples – apples that actually smelled like real apples. I could never resist buying a fresh-baked pie or loaf of bread. I remember the special magic of walking hand in hand down a deserted night-time street, my cheeks and nose tingling from the chilly October air, stars hung like diamonds in a dark velvet sky just for us. The leaves rustled and crunched under our feet and we could smell the first wood fires of the season in the air.

I miss snow at Christmas – although not so much the shoveling! I never imagined I would feel this way. I remember taking the garbage out on a cold winter night and stopping to listen to the absolute silence created by the snow. Everything felt muffled, as if wrapped in cotton. I would pull my shirt around me and cross my arms so I could stand for a moment and look up at the stars and the crystal beauty of frost coated branches. Windows from neighboring houses were warm glowing squares in the dark winter night, framing twinkling Christmas trees inside. OK, maybe I don’t want two feet of snow that hangs around for weeks getting more and more dingy but a few inches here and there would be nice, especially combined with those chilly winter nights. When I was young people still used to go around neighborhoods singing Christmas carols – and I don’t mean three off-key kids grubbing for tips, which is what it devolved into over the years – adults, children, families all went around singing those beloved songs together. I remember caroling with my church choir when I was in 7th and 8th grades – some people gave us hot chocolate and cookies. I like to think that somewhere people are still doing this.

So, maybe I’m just getting sentimental in my old age but I don’t think so. For the past few years I’ve been conducting a quiet search for that sweet little town with an old-fashioned main street where the seasons change but the weather isn’t too extreme. Where the summers are warm, the fall is colorful and crisp, the winter is cold enough to kill off the bugs, sometimes it snows a little, and the spring really feels like a rebirth. I know it’s out there somewhere and, when I find it, if I can live comfortably there on my retirement income and my conservative sensibilities don’t feel too out-of-place, I’ll be gone. I’m open to suggestion.

 

Stella is always ready to go somewhere.

Stella is always ready to go somewhere.

 

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The Christmas Carol Singers

 

 

 

 

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You are whole and perfect as you were created!

You are whole and perfect as you were created!

I’ve had a rocky, on again, off again relationship with God. I was baptized in the Church of England and then, after my parents immigrated to the US when I was 5, I went to Sunday school and services at the Presbyterian Church in the small northeastern New Jersey town where I grew up. I sang in the choir during 7th and 8th grades. As a child, I accepted whatever I was taught about God, Jesus, and the Bible without question but, it wasn’t an important part of my life. By the time I was 14, I was questioning everything and none of it made sense or had any real meaning to me. I told my parents I didn’t want to go to church on Sunday anymore and I don’t remember them arguing or trying to force the issue.

At some point in my teen years I decided I didn’t believe in God  and I felt that way well into my 30’s. Actually, for many years I didn’t give it much thought. I don’t know exactly when or why I became interested in studying different religions but, I think it started with a growing recognition that there was a void inside me. After a failed marriage and a couple of disappointing relationships it started to dawn on me that I was seeking the love from others that I didn’t have for myself (followers of this blog know that I believe a lack of self-love is the cause of almost every problem in life). I began to understand that the emptiness inside was something no human relationship could ever fill. This was just the first glimmer of understanding and it took many years and a lot of soul-searching to figure it all out and take responsibility for my own happiness. My Mom calls it my “long and bumpy journey”. Without realizing it at the time, I was searching for a religion (belief system) that resonated with me because I was hoping that would be the key to understanding myself and the purpose of my life. I envied those who seemed to get so much comfort and guidance from their religion but, I couldn’t just slip one on like a coat – I had to feel like it fit me. I’ve always been an ornery cuss (I don’t actually talk like that; that’s just an expression I’ve always liked from old Western movies) – I question everything, don’t like to be told what to do, think, or believe so I had a difficult time with religion and never found one that I could fully embrace. In the popular vernacular – I was trying to find myself.

Eventually I realized that I was really searching for God, not for religion. What a revelation when I finally understood that God exists within but, also beyond, all religions. Anyone would think I was on an archeological dig and had discovered something that no one else had ever seen! That’s OK – I bet everyone who has struggled to find their truth has felt that sense of an epiphany when they finally get there. I know that religion is meant to be a pathway to God but, to me, it is a belief systems created by man. I’m not knocking religion – if it gets you where you need to be then it has fulfilled its purpose for you. I’m also not knocking atheism. I’m just expressing the importance of identifying what you believe to be true and living that truth. No one else can say what is true for you. You will know it in your heart when you find it. The simple (but not easy!) truth I finally came to is that the intelligence and creativity for which we humans have so much hubris are actually gifts from a much greater creative intelligence. These gifts were given to us, along with free will, and it is our individual responsibility to choose the best possible way to use them. Since we are all just flawed human beings, we often lose our way in life and waste our gifts .

I was always a “why” person but I was finally able to accept the concept that many things just can’t be explained, at least at this point in human development. I used to hate it when someone said “God works in mysterious ways” but I learned to be in awe of and even embrace those mysteries. An excellent book called “The Science of God” (I think it’s out of print but I found it through a used book seller) gave me a new perspective on the “creation versus evolution” debate. My conclusion is that science doesn’t disprove the existence of God. Science is God. In fact, the more mysteries of science that we unravel, the closer we get to God. There is no way that DNA can be explained by the evolution theory. There is something much bigger and more mysterious at work in the universe than any of us can truly understand or explain. I’ve heard it said many times, in many different ways, but I came to truly believe and feel that the spirit and power of God flows through all living things (and beyond). After watching an amazing documentary called “God of Wonders”, the biggest wonder to me was how I ever doubted the existence of a Higher Power. As an artist and writer, I know without a doubt that my creativity flows from a much greater power than me.

So-o-o, after all my searching, it turned out that all I had to do was listen to my higher self, which I believe is my connection to God. My faith is still new and not as solid and strong as I would like it to be; it flickers like a candle in a draft. I know I have a long way to go but I had an important light bulb moment when I realized that the best way I could strengthen and express my faith in God was to love his creation – me!

This was hard to write because it is such a personal part of my journey and also hard to express in words but, when I started my reinvention journey back in 2011 I made a commitment to live my truth and, when I started this blog in 2012, I decided that part of living my truth would be sharing it here.

Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.   ~Thomas Jefferson

Stella lives in the light

Stella lives in the light

Christmas is coming! Check out my Christmas cards at Lynda Linke Productions

A little help from my friends

The Book ClubEach friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world arrives. ~Anais Nin

When you think about it, you come into contact with hundreds of people throughout the course of your life. First, family members then, school classmates, work colleagues, members of clubs and organizations you join, neighbors, and on and on. Yet, out of all those people, with how many have you formed lasting connections? Some people form and retain many more relationships than others but, according to ask.com, the average person has 3 close friends. I don’t know if that refers to lifelong friendships or just how many friends a person usually has at any given time during their life. I would add that most of us also have social acquaintances or people we call friends whose company we enjoy but, with whom we don’t have close relationships. Regardless, an average of only 3 close friends is interesting considering the hundreds of people with whom you come into contact in your lifetime. I have known a lot of friends and acquaintances over the years, many of whom I have lost contact with, but today I’d like to pay homage to those who currently add to the happiness and meaning of my journey.

In my illustrated book “Try Lots of Hats” (for which this blog was named!), one of the stories is “The Friendship Hat”. It describes the many different types of friends we have throughout our lives and how each relationship has its own importance – and its own time span. I can remember times when I tried to hang on to a friendship that had outlived its purpose (and sometimes people tried to hang on to me!) but that was before I understood and accepted that people come in and out of your life. Not everyone with whom we become friends will have the same depth of connection with us or stay in our life forever and that’s okay. Our friendships (and love relationships) have a purpose – for both parties – we share experiences and learn things about ourselves and the world and, sometimes, the friendships end. Sometimes they burn intensely and then end with a big bang, sometimes they fizzle out and, sometimes they just fade away. You spend a lot of time with some friends and others you see infrequently. Once in a while, if you’re lucky, you find someone with whom you have such a deep connection that the flame stays constant for many years, maybe even your whole life. There is a great variety of texture in human relationships.

I have been blessed to have two close friends in my life for many years, despite distance, personality differences and all the changes we have each been through. More than 18 years ago I hired a young woman as my assistant and we quickly grew to be closer than many sisters even though we were different in so many ways. She was 17 years younger than me and married with two young children. I was long divorced with a son in his 20’s who lived in another state. She had three sisters with whom she was very close and a large extended family. I was an only child with no family connections beyond my parents and my son. Her focus was family and mine was my career. Our lifestyles couldn’t have been more different and yet we had an instant feeling of deep connection, which is so rare for both of us. Diane is the most kindhearted, generous and compassionate person I have ever known. She would literally give you the shirt off her back or her last dollar. Sadly, she moved back to New Jersey four years ago but we email and talk on the phone regularly and have managed to visit a couple of times a year. No matter how much time passes in between visits, we feel like we’re just jumping right back into an ongoing conversation. She is the only person with whom I can be completely myself – she knows all the sides of me and loves me anyway. We have complete trust in each other and know we can share anything without fear of judgment or that the confidence will be broken. We know, without doubt, that we can call on each other for help in times of trouble and that we always share in each others’ happiness. She also “gets” my sense of humor and thinks I’m funny! I’m hopeful that her goal to become self-employed and spend more time in Florida will become a reality someday in the near future.

I met my good friend, Lin, in 1990 when we both worked for a shelter for victims of domestic violence in New Jersey. I liked her immediately. She is a compassionate, caring, giving person who has given comfort to countless women and children over her 30 years in social work. I never worked with a better group than the staff at that shelter, before or since but, Lin is the one I stayed connected with after my move to Florida and her move to North Carolina a few years later. She helped me when I was going through the heartbreak of two disappointing relationships and we commiserated many times about our struggles with our kids. She went through a painful divorce and, although she doesn’t often share her deepest feelings, I think I was able to be there for her a few times when she needed a friend. She is outgoing, friendly, and much more “social” than I am (although that bar isn’t set too high!) and seems to make friends wherever she goes. We email every week, sharing books and movies we like and just keeping up to date on our activities and families. Every few months we talk on the phone and we visit when we can work it out. We share many interests and have often commented that if we lived close to each other we would enjoy going to museums, plays, movies and concerts together. Lin has a great sense of humor and a warm personality so whenever we talk or get together we do a lot of laughing.

A shout out to some other people I’m blessed to have in my life. Sharon – my dinner & a movie pal. Doug – my long distance email friend (who I hope to visit after you retire next year!). Judy – dinner with interesting conversations 2x a year for the past 20 years! Rena – my funny, eccentric lunch pal. Ann – one of my “quarterly dinner group” friends (I don’t see you often but you’re one of my favorite people). Carol – my old beach buddy who taught me a lot about living a balanced life. Yvonne – my fellow Ambassador Dog Team friend. Jo – love jazz and museums (at the same time, if possible!). Mike – my hybrid coaching client/friend, you help me reinforce everything I know to be true. Nadine – I love our conversations! Each of you reflects a different side of me and I thank you for what you add to my life.

Last but, never least, I have to mention all the four-legged friends that have added so much love to my life. My childhood dogs – Lassie, Peggy, Skippy and Brandy. Jessie, my canine companion during the early years of my marriage. Snowball and Jessie, our cats during my son’s childhood. Nettie and Ceilie, my beloved Florida cats. My current canine buddy, sweet Stella, who is teaching me about aging, patience, unconditional love and lots of other things.

This was fun – like counting my blessings! Don’t forget to let your friends know how much you appreciate them.

One is taught by experience to put a premium on those few people who can appreciate you for what you are ~Gail Godwin

Stella's pack of friends

Stella’s pack of friends

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Hidden Inspiration

ImaginationWow, three posts in a week … I must be doing a lot of thinking lately. I believe it’s important to always be on the lookout for inspiration, or at least stay open to it, because feeling inspired gives life more meaning and helps us stay in touch with our higher self. When you feel inspired your creativity flows freely, in fact, one of the definitions of inspiration is “the stimulation to do creative work” but, don’t think creativity is only for artistic people; it is an important element in everything we do. Creative thinking is needed to achieve any goal and to be a good parent, spouse, friend, employee or employee. Sometimes I have found inspiration in the most surprising and unlikely places, which is why I encourage you to keep an open mind because you never know where you may find it.

Last summer, in advance of the upcoming presidential election, I decided to start paying more attention to politics and current events and I began a self-directed education. For my entire adult life, I was apolitical and I still have no party affiliation – I have voted both Democrat and Republican. It doesn’t matter what your political views are. The important thing is that you try to be open to any opportunity for inspiration, no matter where it comes from. I started my education by listening to the news everyday from both a liberal and a conservative perspective – PBS Nightly Newshour and two programs on Glenn Beck’s internet radio and TV network, The Blaze. I expected to get a lot of new information from Glenn Beck but, I didn’t expect to be inspired by him and yet that is what happened. I bet even you “liberals” out there could be inspired by him!

Beck didn’t attend college, except for one class at Yale. He is a self-educated man who overcame a difficult childhood and addictions to alcohol and cocaine to become a self-made success. He is a creative thinker and a voracious reader on a wide range of topics. He is passionate about history and, since he believes that too much important history is being forgotten or revised, one of his many goals is to preserve historical artifacts and protect authentic history. The truth is of absolute importance to him and I respect that, especially from a man who is building a multi media company. Some of the documentaries his company has produced are among the best I have ever seen. His constant admonition of “Don’t take my word for it – do your own homework!” has often inspired me to do just that. He reawakened my interest in history and introduced me to many good books but he also inspired me on a more personal level because of his willingness to be honest about his struggles and to share how he continually works to overcome them. I recently read “The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life”, which he co-wrote with psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, and was once again moved and inspired by Beck’s honesty.

One of my favorite sayings is “When the student is ready, the teacher appears” and what I’m trying to get across here is that you shouldn’t let your prejudices or preconceived notions about someone stop you from hearing their message. You might actually be inspired!

Say what?

Say what?

 

See more of my art and books at www.lyndalinke.com

Christmas is coming … check out my greeting cards!

I’m not here to make you happy

Let your spirit danceThe only happiness for which I am responsible is my own. Does that sound selfish to you? That’s a knee-jerk reaction – stop and really think about it. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about other people or that I don’t try to help someone who is suffering in some way. It simply means that I know I can add happiness to someone’s life with acts of kindness and love, I can share happy occasions, I can show by example what happiness looks like but, I can’t make someone happy. The true revelation for me came when I understood what an important responsibility finding my own happiness was, not only to me but, to everyone around me. We are all walking the path of our lives alone and, even though we have companions along the way who can add happiness to our journey; it is up to each of us to figure out what is truly meaningful. When you are happy with yourself you can be a beacon of light to others who are searching for their own happiness. It is a gift you can share everyday.

Kindness, compassion, and charity are ways to add and share happiness. It feels great to make someone smile or lighten their burden but you shouldn’t try to solve their problems or “rescue” them from their life – that’s your ego at work, not your humanity. I learned a lot about this from working in social services for 22 years (plus several years of volunteer work) – when I first started I was trying to “fix” people by solving their problems for them and I became frustrated when they came back with the same problems again and again. Eventually, I came to understand that all I could do was to provide the tools and let them do the work themselves – or not. I accepted that everyone is on their own journey and has to learn their own life lessons. The outcome is up to them and I learned that, no matter what you do, some people just don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives. I also learned that trying to control another person is always more about my needs than theirs.

On the topic of making someone happy – when did parents start thinking they have to make their kids happy at all cost? Recently I shared a YouTube video on Facebook of comedian Louis C.K. His humor can be quite profane but, at times, it is also profound. In this particular video he is asked how he handles it when his kids ask for a Smart Phone and he answers that he just tells them they can’t have one. What a novel idea! He makes two statements that I really like – “I’m not here to make them happy” and “I’m not raising children, I’m raising the grown ups they’re going to be”. The reality is that it is not your job to fulfill every wish your child has. You’ll serve them better if you help them to understand that they won’t always get everything they want in life and teach them to control their natural instinct to be selfish and greedy. It is your job to teach them how to become an independent adult; not how to prolong their childhood indefinitely. Part of your job is to give them the tools they need to find their own happiness but, that will be impossible if you haven’t figured it out for yourself. If you’re still parenting I advise you to clean up your energy field and discover your happiness ASAP! It really is true that children learn best by example.

If you actually believe that you can make someone happy you probably should look in the mirror and figure out what need of your own you’re trying to fulfill. Are you acting out of guilt? Are you avoiding your own problems by trying to control another person’s life? Are you trying to force a relationship to be more than it ever could be? I’ve done all those things in the past but, after I learned how to be happy with myself, I never did them again.  No one can do that for you.

Simple but, not easy!

Stella adds to my happiness!

Stella adds to my happiness!

Christmas is coming soon!! – check out my latest Christmas greeting cards by visiting my online shop at Zazzle