Tag Archives: Relationships

A tribute to my love

balanceAs I sketched in my pastel journal this evening, thoughts of balance came to mind and I recalled a post I once wrote in response to one of my readers. He asked advice on how to find time for art when you’ve got a full time career that exists completely outside of the art world. Some days it is definitely not easy and I find myself stretched thin to make time for everything I have on my to-do list for the day. Especially the last few weeks.

We had a bit a of a scare when Brian ended up going to the emergency room at the hospital after an accident at work. While I won’t go into the gory details, the doctors warned they might have to amputate his finger before they operated. So I guess in a way, this piece is also a tribute to him and the love we’ve shared these past seven years. I cannot imagine my life without him and I am so thankful that everything turned out okay. He still has a long way to go before he can regain use of his left hand due to the severity of the accident, but the important part is that everything turned out okay and he’s healing up better than expected.

My gratitude also goes out to everyone that night that played a role in getting him the medical care he needed. And yes, they were able to thankfully stitch his finger back to normal so he will most likely recover completely without any major complications. The bones will heal over time and although we won’t know the end result for a few months, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. He is left handed, so it is more frustrating than anything else.  His biggest problem right now is boredom. Despite it all, his spirits are high and he is keeping a very positive attitude.

So this is for you, my love. I feel so blessed to have you by my side in life. Every day I discover more reasons to love you…

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the art of finding balance

I received an e-mail today from one of my readers asking:

I was just wondering if you have any advice for the modern career woman who is struggling to have some time for herself. How do you find an outlet for your creative self expression and still manage to balance your financial responsibilities and so forth.

It’s a question that a lot of fellow readers might struggle with so I decided to post my response here on the site.

To give you some background history, I decided at an early age to choose a field outside of the art scene to allow me creative freedom in my art, and to give myself financial security. At first, I struggled at finding a real world job that fit my personality and skill set, but in time, I found myself working in the accounting field of all things…and for me it works.

Contrary to most misconceptions of accounting, I don’t sit in my cube counting beans all day. It is really more intense and exciting than most people realize. Of course, each day varies, but in a typical month, I’ve used a wide range of skills from using my detective skills to solve accounting mysteries to developing processes and procedures to prevent those “mysteries” from happening in the first place. And really, typically, they are never truly “accounting mysteries”, it’s just a way to add the element of fun back into my career. Something that’s missing from most corporate america jobs.

In other words, part of being a successful artist in the corporate world is a matter of perspective. Find elements of your work that you love and discover a way to transform it.

The other key part of finding balance between your work and life is in the art of recycling paper. Instead of throwing paper away that has only been printed on one side, find a place to stack it. Then when you need to brainstorm on an idea, reuse other side. Instead of wasting more paper through post-it notes, use your recycled paper when jotting down notes from phone calls. Part of you will feel good from doing this one good deed. Not to mention, that recycled stack of paper comes in handy sometimes when you realized that you might have thrown away something you need at a later date.

The other very important use of recycling paper comes with daily goal setting. Take of one those sheets of recycled paper and fold the paper in half. Use one side to list your goals for work that day, and the other side to list your personal goals outside of work. At the end of the day, cut the paper in half…leaving your work to-do list at the office as a mental note that it will still be there for you in the morning. Then take your personal list with you.

When it comes to personal goal setting, I have six main sections right now that I’m focusing on: Art, Financial, Health, Relationships, Spiritual, and the Mundane.

With my art goals, I look to accomplish something artistic every day. Whether it’s working on one of my paintings or simply brainstorming for new painting ideas, all of it counts. I also list my goals for the website as well as my recently opened etsy store. Basically, anything that has to do with my pursuit to make art part of my life.

Daily financial goals can be as routine as paying bills to downloading our Quicken statements. Again, remember, those small little steps add up over a week or even month’s worth of time.

As for my health goals, one of my main ones is remembering to take my vitamins. I’ve even taken in a pair of 5lbs weights into work considering I spend a lot of time in the office. They’re great for conference calls. Just put the phone on mute, do a couple bicep/tricep curls. Sure, I do occasionally get a few weird looks. But more often than not, I also get thumbs up for making that commit to keep healthy. Not to mention, I typically stay more focused on the call when lifting weights versus browsing my inbox.

Another one of my main areas for daily goal setting is relationships. From calling my mom on my way home from work (on my hands-free device, of course) to making a birthday card during lunch at work with friends, I always look for creative ways to accomplish my goals. Just remember that you’re not always going to get everything done in time. When it comes to cards, I’m always horribly late. As anyone that knows me will say, my sense of time is always off. But as someone once said, the wait is always worth it for my cards since they are typically homemade.

As for the spiritual realm, it can be as simple as saying a prayer, lighting a candle, or reading something inspirational before bed. The idea is just to make a little bit of time to step back and be thankful for the many blessings in life.

And then there is the mundane…laundry, dishes, mowing the grass…all those things you wish would go away, but never do unless you put a little elbow grease into it. So to prevent the weekend from being full of chores, spread it out throughout the week. Fold some towels one day. Do another load the next day. And if you really need help in this area, check out Flylady, a website dedicated to helping you find balance between life and chores.

Goal setting is just one part of finding balance in your life though. The other main part is your friends, family, and your significant other if you’ve discovered him or her. It’s these relationships that you build that will help you keep perspective, give you guidance when you need it, and inspire you to keep reaching for the stars every day. The important part is to develop these relationships across the different areas of your life that are important to you from work to your hobbies. And if you’re lacking friends in an area of your life, be bold, be daring…make the first step and ask someone to join you for lunch or coffee. Over the years, these friendships will become priceless.

When it comes to finding balance in life, sometimes you discover the secret through trial and error. Other times, you might discover it over a cup of coffee with friends. So if you’re still reading this, what are some of your own personal ways to find balance?

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Perfect in our imperfection

I think that I am married to probably the most wonderful woman on Earth. I’ve had friends ask what makes us work. How do we get along so well? How do we do it, without all the seeming frustration that others go through? Well, there’s a secret.

She’s not perfect. But she’s perfect for me.

Something that we’ve come to realize and hold dear, as a couple, is the idea that everyday challenges, frustrations and troubles from the outside world help us develop not only as a couple, but as individuals.

I think what happens is that most of us in the Western world have been indoctrinated with this notion that when you meet your “soul mate,” everything with the relationship and the outside world is suddenly okay, blue birds start singing, music plays, and then the credits roll, and then a big message splashes on the silver screen: “And they lived happily ever after.”

I think what makes our marriage work is that we expect challenges, and have come to accept that we’re not married to some idealized archetype, but a real, living person, each with the own challenges, fears, hopes, and dreams. We didn’t choose to marry perfect beings that will fulfill our every need right off the bat. Instead, we both know that we each chose to marry an imperfect person, but that we chose to marry people intelligent enough to grow and learn.

candle magickWithout getting mushy or overly melodramatic, ours was a whirlwind romance. We met, and I literally moved in with her on the third day of knowing her. We discussed marriage on the fourth day. Not that anyone’s counting.We both were a little dazed by this idea, and a little stunned at our own admissions of love so soon, but were willing to go forth with our wild wishes. But immediately after discussing getting married, we had a deep, insightful, and intelligent conversation.

“But what if we find that we’re not really compatible? What if we don’t like the same things? What if, what if what if?!?!?!”

We both agreed, after some introspection, that we could handle it. After all, we were both in our mid twenties, and although its still a young age, we had experienced enough relationships to know a few fundamentals.

First and foremost, we both agreed that no one is perfect. We both agreed that we would help each other to become better people. We agreed that if a problem popped up, we would put effort into solving the problem and really have adult conversation about any issue that came up. I think the key to us is that we don’t expect perfection from one another. We’ve learned to know that we’re individuals, sometimes with very different thoughts on how to act out there in the universe. But that’s okay.

For us, the key remains to be able to accept each other for our faults, keep the conversation alive, and have extremely good senses of humor. Some of the most trying times from our past are now the most significant inside jokes that we share. Today’s pain is the lesson that prepares us for tomorrow.

I write all this down as a way of saying “Thank You” to my wife for being able to understand my drives, motivations, and actions with no need for apology. When I make a blunder, I still haven’t figured out how she’s able to have such a good sense of humor about nearly everything I do.

In the end, what makes us work is we forget the small stuff, and really, truly *talk* about the big stuff. What you have is two people who share this incredibly beautiful entity called a relationship. We both work hard to help is grow, nurture it, and continue to expand in its scope.

So yeah, we’re like any couple. She screws up from time to time. And so do I. (But not that much, really. ;-) She forgets engagements, is constantly late, puts her foot in her mouth, etc. You know, normal things. Small things. Things that, in the big picture, just don’t matter.

Yeah, she might not be perfect, but she’s perfect for me.

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On the Passing of Time

Sometimes there are brief moments of clarity that hit you in such a way as to indelibly and indescribably transform your way of thinking. The moments of lucidity, epiphany, or whatever you wish to call them can impact you in such a way as to be indescribable. I’ve had one of those moments recently, and I am going to try to describe it. My words may falter and not convey the actual shift in my mind, but I will at least make an effort.

Time has a way of slipping from you. We all try, to some degree or another, slow down and savor important experiences. Of course, practicality suggests that we all know what really happens. Our day-to-day lives sometimes just don’t let that come to pass. There’s work, or school, or a bazillion obligations that keep us running from place to place, pausing maybe to shove some fast food in our faces and catch a few hours of sleep before waking and doing it all over again.

For the past six years, I’ve had a few of moments of clarity.  I’ve attempted to record them somehow, in my own private writings, sketches, or sometimes a poem. But I am finding lately that these moments of clarity are becoming fewer and far between, but also more profound at least, from my reckoning.

For six years, I’ve traveled and navigated through life with my wife. Three years of getting to know one another, and three years as married. (And yes, we are still getting to know one another.) We met in our mid-twenties and both come from very different backgrounds. And through her eyes, I have been able to see the world from a different perspective. We often joke about being Yin and Yang, although we can’t figure out who is which, but slowly I am beginning to see that there are other perspectives than mine, that are just as valid, important, and insightful as my own.

For about a year now, I have been constantly on the go with school, and being a culinary student is extremely demanding, physically, mentally, and with time. I spend at least 40 hours a week at school and when I am not at school I am generally studying or doing some homework. We’ve had little time, really, to slow down and savor the important moments in life, and it was this thought that had been constantly in the back of my mind for awhile now. But this is true for most couples. There are periods in life where the sacrifices in time that you make, which will be worth it later on, simply keep you running on the hamster wheel, without much time for really connecting. Our schedules are so incredibly different, that it makes the time we do spend together very precious.

So I sat down, wishing to write a journal entry about “Time,” my perspective of it, and contemplating how to go about conveying my idea of the concept. I wanted to write some little tidbit of information, my own little “Taoism  thought of the Day” on the meaning of time, slowing down, and taking time to savor life.

We were in mrs. muse’s artist’s loft about a week or so ago, lounging on her plush couch, watching a little television. There was some mindless blather on the boob-tube, but that was okay. We had both had rough days at our respective places of activity and needed a little time to unwind. I was formulating how to go about writing the journal entry on “The importance of slowing down,” tossing the ideas over in my head, allowing specific ideas to bang against one another. After all, I’ve been moving at such a rapid pace this last year, the idea of slowing down seemed rather appealing to me, and sounded like a great post to share with the readers of surrealmuse.com I looked up at my wife, the words of an opening sentence for the entry ready to leave my lips when suddenly, out of the blue, I had one of those moments of clarity. I thought that I had a well formed line of thought in my mind for the post, but it just dropped out of my thoughts. The gears. The machinery of thought veered off in a completely different direction.

It was evening, the lights were low, the half-moon visible through the window. The volume of the television was low, and the light from the screen played across her face as she sat, a sleepy, contented smile on her lips and her dreamy, half-closed eyes watching the program. And an odd thought struck me. That somehow all those years, six years, had caught up with us. I found myself looking at my wife and realizing that somehow, she had grown and aged into something wonderful right under my nose, regardless of how busy we have been. And now, here we are. Still young, but undeniably growing older. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Six years isn’t really that long. And thirty really isn’t that old. But I was awe struck to realize that we have both, over the six years, aged a little, and for the better. Of course, like anyone who has ever lived, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve weathered the uncertainties that life has thrown at us, sometimes coping better than others. Don’t get me wrong here, I have absolutely no complaints. Hardship, struggle, and the like are just things that all of us have to deal with at one point or another.

But in that moment, that absolute clear moment, I realized that every day of life is a gift. We, just like everyone else, are growing older each day. I used to look at time, and think of it as a resource that was constantly running out, and that the clock was ticking, and that there was only so much time we had to accomplish things. And in that brief, powerful moment, I felt the value of time. I felt the importance of slowing down, to appreciate what blessings are in our life. Each day is a gift, and I no longer feel the clock ticking down. Instead, I am feeling the essence of living for the moment, and attempting to make each second that ticks by a sweet memory. Time isn’t running out, really. Time is simply there for us to remember how wonderful each moment can and should be.

I thought about telling my wife this, but there really is no way to say “Hey, we’re getting older,” without getting smacked upside the head or offending a beautiful woman, without any pretext or long-winded preamble, such as I have done here. Your fault, dear reader. But I now think I am just beginning to understand that yes, we are getting older. And I know that every day we age is an opportunity to make ourselves better, and to appreciate each moment for what its worth. I am someone that never expected to live to see 25, let alone 30. And I am excited at what the next 10 years may bring, and what memories that are waiting for us to create.

Later that week, I was lying in bed, waiting for Natalie to finish her nightly bed-time ritual of getting her clothes ready for the next day. She passed by the mirror, and mussed with her hair. She peered long and carefully, studying her face.

“I’m getting old,” she announced. She didn’t look too pleased, pushing her face closer to the mirror.

She said it in a way in which I should have just pretended to be asleep, but this announcement, considering the thoughts that have been bubbling away in my mind, brought about this unseen connection that echoed my own sentiments, albeit with a very different tone. Yup. We’re both getting older. And that’s perfectly okay.

“I know,” I said. Of course, this earned me a dirty look, but I couldn’t help but smile.

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Love in the Prozac Generation

A surrealmuse.com supplemental by techmuse, the adoring husband of themuse.

Sigh. Its late. About 1:30 am. Valentine’s day is, I suppose, officially over in our time zone.

So its over. The day to express to your loved one how you feel. And right now I am looking for divine inspiration to help me in this post.

I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. With a passion. I’ve never had one turn out well. There was always something wrong with them. The earliest Valentine’s Day that come to memory was me, in third grade.

The most popular girl in the class was Sandy. She was sweet, nice, and always wore a pin with a smiley face on it, and didn’t mind playing Transformers with us boys. Valentine’s day suddenly came into my awareness that year as something a boy is supposed to something to prove his adoration to the object of his affection. Namely, the girl scout named Sandy.

My family was at the grocery store for a grand old shopping outing. We spent some time in the jungle of produce and made our way past the gigantic Coca Cola displays and suddenly, there is was. An enormous, shining, red, pink and balloon-adorned display of Valentine’s Day Chocolates. Mom and Dad let me choose one, and I couldn’t wait to give it to Sandy the next day. I was absolutely sure that chocolates would make her like me more than anyone else. I don’t know if I had any idea why this was important or not, but it seemed important at the time, to me. It was the first time I actively had a crush. And it had hit hard. I mean, after all, Its not everyday you find a girl who can transform Optimus Prime from truck mode to full on robot mode with laser cannon in under 3 seconds.

Of course, as an activity, we made hearts out of construction paper and glue. When recess came, my heart was pounding out of my chest. I took my bookbag out to the playground and, after about 20 minutes of working up the courage, presented Sandy with the chocolates.

On her face was a look of sheer and outright terror. And then, the tears. Ah, nothing like the high pitched squeal of a third grader to ruin a romantic moment. And then, the horrible, terrible, laughter from all of the other kids.

Sandy threw the heart on the ground and stepped on it once, and then the teachers came over to see what was wrong… They thought it all very cute.

I was mortified. And, for the rest of the school year, Sandy wouldn’t play with me. Heck, she wouldn’t even look at me. I guess, for a third grader, she had the appropriate action. She was confused, scared, and a little intimidated. Laughing children throwing pine cones and singing “Brian and Sandy, sitting in a tree…” could be a little traumatic to both parties.

But that was my first Valentine’s day, and ever since, they have been pretty much the same. Sure, they didn’t all involve pine cones, and the grades changed, and I got older and more awkward for a bit, but every Valentine’s day pretty much ended up in rejection. Or had some trauma associated with it. Minor. I hope this is being read with a good sense of humor.

But that all changed when I met the primary author of this site. Ever since then, Valentine’s Day celebrations have had meaning They have been deep. We’ve been together through quite a bit these last few years, especially this last year.

I am in school, full time with easily 30 hours of homework a week, she is working nearly sixty to seventy hours a week. And the moments we have together come few and far between these days. quite honestly, we are lucky to get one good full hour together each day.

She takes care of me, and I take care of her, the best that we can in the limited time we have together. We talk, but conversations generally lose steam as the clock wears on, and 5:30am comes awful early for someone who is a incurable night owl.

Sure, we are making investments in our future. We understand the sacrifices we are making now will help us in the long run. Sure, we know that, well, sometimes life can get rough. But we deal. And due to our schedules, which are on opposite shifts, we find ourselves sometimes spending 10 minutes together before one of us goes to sleep.

Sure, we do what alot of couples do. We changed the date of our Valentine’s Day celebration so we could have all day together on Saturday. We had a great meal together, she bought me some gifts, and I am getting her a necklace. I say “getting” because themuse is very particular, and we will probably be shopping until tax day for it.

But this year, I want to give more to my wife. I want to do more of the things that matter. I want to spend more time with her. I want to stop opting for an evening spent sulking on the Internet because we are both “just too tired” to do anything else. I want us to reconnect on that deeper, spiritual level that lack of time can sometimes erode. And I want to make clear, specific goals of these things. She and I have been talking about this, and how to achieve it, and how to spend more time together with our hectic lives… But actions speak louder than words. So darling, here are some gifts I want you to have…

  1. Once a week, I’d like us to go to Borders, or a bookstore together, even if we meet after work.
  2. St Pete Art Walk. When they come up, you tell me. I will make time.
  3. At least once a month, I’d like us to go to the beach. Maybe more often. I know, I know. Yeah, I can be weird about the beach. Well, time I got over it.
  4. Eight Minutes in the morning. Yes, I know,but its time to do it. (And for those of you who have filthy minds, shame on you. This is an exercise routine.)
  5. When you need a date night, you tell me, and it will happen. You name the place and time, and I will be there for you.
  6. Every night, we have tea *together.* We have tea, but its often in our separate offices. I miss tea time with you. And its a good chance to shoot the breeze.

Okay, so those things may seem small. But they are gifts I can give you, all throughout the year. And maybe by then, they will be habits… And we can think of new things to add to the list. And every year, we will keep our list, and add on to it. And every year, we will look back, and laugh at these silly little love letters.

So, how are we going to make sure these things get done? Well darling, take a look at your desk. There’s a calendar for this month. This is our Togetherness Calendar. Its a tool we can use. And we can use it every month. And if you like, go check my office. There’s one tacked up to the cork board in there.

This little token of my love is to show you how much I value our time together. I know there will be times that allow more or less minutes of the day together. But we’re still waiting to get you a necklace until you find the perfect one, and I can’t exactly give you chocolates due to your blood sugar..So look at this as my little box of chocolates. I can’t give you a real one, but I can give you my heart. You’ve always had it, its always been yours, and I want to show you how much I love you every day, by sharing even a small part of every day with you, and by making time for us to connect.

I love you, spooky, my Gemini, my lovely, lovely wife. Thank you for being the most amazing thing to have ever happened to me. I have no idea how you do what you do, and how you manage to make the world around you seem more beautiful. Your smile still makes me melt.

Anyway, I am pretty sure by now, there’s alot of people relatively close to losing their lunches, so I will stop for now.

So since I can’t give you a heart of chocolates, here is my real one. I love you hon, can’t wait to spend more time with you.


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Ideas to transform your romantic relationships

I once made the joke to my husband that now that we’re married I’m allowed to go to the “dirty part” of the bookstore so for Valentine’s day, I got a book, Tantra between the Sheets, and it’s probably one of the best sex books I’ve never come across.

For once, the photographs are artistically done. Quite a few of them are so high quality that I could easily envision them hanging on our walls. As for the book, if you haven’t read about Tantric Sex before, it embraces sexuality on all levels because it’s not just about doing it or trying a new position every day or getting creative with sex games. Real intimate sex is so much more that to be quite honest…this is a topic that deserves a trip to the bookstore. There is so much content within the book that it’s not just something you can paraphrase in a paragraph and be done with it.

As a Western culture, I think there is this myth that once sex between an existing couple gets old and boring, it’s time to move on. And while you can experience that “excited teenager feeling” with a new partner, the mistake is realizing what’s at stake, what you’re really losing. Because a real marriage isn’t just about sex, it’s so much more.

One of the cool quotes in the book about this topic states:

According to the Taoist, it takes seven years to know your partner’s body, seven years to know your partner’s mind, and seven years to know your partner’s spirit.

And I have to agree with those sentiments. While my husband and I have been together for a total of five and 1/2 year since meeting each other, we are still learning every day. We are still developing and deepening our relationship. But I will admit it’s not easy. It takes work. It takes faith. Just not everyone in the western world is willing to do this,  Thus, this would be why 50% of all marriages end up in divorce.

So this Valentine’s Day, I urge you to take a look at your relationship (if you are in a long term one) with a fresh pair of eyes. Maybe list 100 reasons why you love your spouse/significant other and leave them in little slips of paper of ten reasons each so they can go on an “Valentine’s Day” hunt around the house for the other ten slips of paper. Or try a ritual together and make candles or plant some flowers together instead of just buying ones that will die within a week. To me, it’s not about how much money you spend, it’s about showing your appreciation, your love for that other person. So if you’re budget is tight this year, don’t feel guilty that you can’t buy that piece of jewelry you’d love to get them just go the extra mile and do little things because in the long run…it’s the little things that add up and really make a difference.

And if you’re still scratching your head for that perfect Valentine’s idea, go pick up 1001 ways to be Romantic. It’s an excellent book that you can put to good use year after year because you don’t have to be romantic just on Valentine’s day.

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As I write this a myriad of thoughts are crossing my mind.  To start off with, my ten year high school reunion is this upcoming labor day.  While I am not going, the whole anniversary date has got me pondering, am I where I imagined I would be ten years since graduation?

And honestly, my life has become more than I ever imagined it could be.  I am married to one of the most amazing husbands.  We have a beautiful house and two of the most comical cats.

Besides that, I have developed my artwork to a level that I thought I would never achieve.   Even though, we are both facing being laid off within the next 90 days, we live a very blessed life. 

A couple entries ago, I simply posted one my beliefs that everything happens for a reason.  It was the same night that we found out that my husband was also going to be laid off.  At the time, I didn’t want to go into the details, but I wanted to remind myself of the power behind this statement. 

In all of my life experiences, each one has taught me a lesson or help facilitate the connection to the next step in life.  With my husband, there are a couple interesting connections, connections that make you wonder if we were destined to meet each other one way or another.

But ultimately, destiny aside, we all play a role in shaping our future.  So I wonder where all these recent changes where land us.

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