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For this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, I dare venture into territory that is terribly uncharacteristic for your Sea Muse.

(and you know something’s up when the picture is not worth the 1000+ words, long posts here being rare these days)

I began this blog for one reason. It turned into something else, then it took another twist and another, and…just like life itself, evolved over the seasons along with me.

Well, it is time for more evolution.

A new season of life…just as we emerge from winter this week and burst into the spring of a new cycle of living, this blog and its author burst forth into a new chapter. Join me, my friends…

So, here is my wall – and please, if you can identify what the hell this is, I will be greatly indebted:

The Wall

Granted, this does not look like a wall to the average eye. But to me, it represents one of the things – whatever this thingamajig is – that has separated me from my sanity for nearly 20 years.

You see, last July I divorced my husband for a number of complicated reasons, one of which included a hoarding habit.

Was it THAT bad? No, it wasn’t like crap was piled to the ceilings in the house (although I couldn’t bring myself to stick around another 20 years to find out).

But it was one of many habits that, as the years went by, I learned to live with and justify in my head. Any one destructive habit did not warrant breaking up a family in and of itself.

I was tough, I told myself (because I am). I can live with this, I told myself. I’ve got bad habits, too, I reasoned. Nothing is worth divorcing for, I pleaded with myself (for years).

Good Christian ladies don’t do that, I lied to myself. I can rehabilitate him, I fooled myself into thinking. It’s too scary, I bullied myself into believing.

I helped build the wall that imprisoned me.

In the end, I realized there is no excuse for settling for Bad Behavior.

And there is no excuse for making endless excuses.

I couldn’t control his drinking. I tried, but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t control his harsh demeanor. I tried, but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t control his hoarding. I tried, but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t control his financial irresponsibility. I tried but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t control the walls he put up little by little, until it got to the point that he didn’t want me or the kids going to church and paranoia got out of control. I tried, but I couldn’t.

I tried by being the Proverbs 31 wife, the perfect little housewife all these years.

But somehow I wound up wearing the pants. And that’s not a bad thing, as I was raised to believe by feminist mother who clutched my hand and jutted her chin out and stalked through the women’s lib years with great pride, and sent me to a private all-women’s college to drive the point home. Women can do anything! And I never stopped believing that.

I had so, so much to give…I am bright, beautiful, passionate, creative, talented and well-educated.

Sadly, he didn’t know how to receive these gifts, and all the gifts in the world couldn’t teach a guy like him how to love a girl like me.

I am not bitter: this was not a waste of 20 years by any means, and I have a lot to show for it and learned some of the best – and toughest – lessons in life.

Last month I began The Purge.

Anyone who is divorced knows what I am referring to. This would be the physical process of decluttering one’s living space and reclaiming it as your own, with untold emotional yields in the process.

For me, this has particular emotional power since extricating myself from a relationship with a hoarder. With a hoarder, you are not allowed to get rid of anything “because you might need it some day.”

The hell I received for even thinking of throwing out that magazine that held a recipe somewhere in it that he was “going to get around to clipping out…” Well, you can imagine. And being the obedient, submissive wife, I quickly learned not to mess with his shit. I was basically bullied into forfeiting my minimalist preferences.

Before we married, there was a place for everything in my home, and everything was in its place. I got high off of throwing things out or donating items no longer needed. The house was easy to clean because there was hardly ever anything to pick up or dust under/around. It was easy to care for the things I owned, because I truly cared about them. And I could pack my life into my car, save large furniture items.

I must admit that having four children has challenged my minimalist values. However, over the last month of purging, I am discovering that you can have four kids and still keep a tidy house. No one has complained yet of missing anything.

In fact, the youngest walked into his room after I got done bulldozing it (with a trip to the dump and Goodwill afterwards) and chirped, “Mommy! You found my favorite car!” THAT was the validation I needed that I was within my own right to do what I instinctively knew was right.

Restoring law and order.

Today I conquered two closets; a trunkload went to Goodwill and the trash can is overflowing.

I also went on a spree, finding all kinds of nooks and crannies that had been neglected. Ceiling fans got dusted. It was that kind of day.

The gem of the picture above is one example of all kinds of odds and ends littered around the house and yard that were saved by him because if something broke, it was “handy” to have spare parts around or just the right gizmo that might fit the bill.

He buffaloed me into believing it was worth saving everything because every so often when something broke, by golly, he had JUST the right part to fix it with, and he became the hero of the day, saving us money and time. But over time, no time was saved because the time it took him to dismantle and store something did not pay – and eventually, there was no room to store anything.

Everything got taken apart and I was up to my ears in spare parts that I couldn’t even begin to tell you what they went to or why they were taken apart, wires exposed and stashed under the dresser, under the bed, above the washing machine, behind the ironing board and up to the ceiling in the shed.

So I finally hit my ceiling. One day I found myself at the base of the wall separated from my sanity.

I find myself climbing over the wall, inch by inch – and today I finally reached the top where I could peek over and see the horizon of reclaiming my sanity.

And that gizmo in the picture is headed for a landfill.

It’s been a long, long road. The beginning of the end actually began shortly before I began this blog in July, 2011.

So I owe my faithful readers a loving hug for walking this walk with me, even though you did not know what was going on when I wasn’t in my beach chair. In fact, this was my respite from the madness – my sea-escape from the painful reality I faced when I wasn’t relaxing at the beach.

Thank you, readers, for holding my hand through this long journey.

This sounds like a goodbye – au contraire! It is a new beginning, a new phase of life and the blog as we evolve together.

Just wanted to fill y’all in on what’s what. And this photo challenge – a wall of all themes – seemed a fitting time to unwrap my sarong and get real on this beach.

Thank you, God, for my blog friends helping to hoist me up over the wall. Thanks for giving me the energy and freedom to declutter my life, my home and my mind. Thank You for new beginnings that do not come without challenges – those challenges give us our strength and courage.

Thank You for walls, God.

This Laughing Gull scored a piece of post-Mardi Gras goodness, a piece of caramel corn from a bag caught from a float during a parade two weeks ago (extra points for snagging it from the boy’s hand on a moving ferry boat):

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Thanks, God, for unexpected treats and blessings – the kind that seem to show up when all we were doing was going on about our business.

Thank You for giving us courage to snag the prize in the face of risk and sheer faith…how sweeter the reward when we have to work harder for it!

For more rewards, click HERE.

Each year, large and colorful banana spiders weave incredibly artful webs all along the Gulf Coast…

IMG_2978

This one has just caught an insect and was wrapping it up with silk to save for later.

For more photo challenges, see this week’s Rule of Thirds

Thanks, God, for the wonder of Your beauty all around us…for what we see up close and for what is not so clear, in the background, blurry and out of reach.

Haunted

For more self-expressions, please visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

A different take on “new” for this week’s Photo Challenge:

When you have dementia or Alzheimer’s, what’s old is brand new. Every day is a new day, every experience is brand new.

Most of us are inclined to feel pity or sadness for people who live out their last days with such a diagnosis, but really, you’d have to see the brand new joy it to believe it…

My mother with dementia became utterly enamored with the wind-up cymbal-clashing chimp she “gave” her six-year-old grandson this Christmas – the very gift she gave to me when I was three.

She had forgotten what joy such a toy brought, and when he opened it, she latched on to it, began to talk to it and babied it, wound it up multiple times and clapped with delight!

what's old is new

(take note of the fruitcake she was enjoying at the time, a gift her brother sent her…he sent the rest of us “mixed nuts.” We tried unsuccessfully not to laugh at the subliminal parallels…)

Meanwhile, our fourteen year old son with Down syndrome had talked for over a month about wanting nothing but a baby for Christmas. At first we thought he was bluffing or we were misunderstanding his convoluted speech, which is still at an infantile level.

We thought he was over the “baby” phase years ago. But he wasn’t kidding (here, his six-year-old brother helped him unwrap his gift):

joy

Again, what we thought was old or not age-appropriate, was brand new all over again – and brought new joys that we, in our worldly “wisdom,” never would have anticipated.

David was thrilled – and takes her everywhere he goes, is mindful to feed her when he eats, takes her to the potty when he goes, dresses her when he dresses, tucks her in when he is tucked in, and holds her hand together to pray when we pray. He makes for a very attentive daddy, despite his disabilities…

love

The lessons I learned from these who we might label as weak or incapable, were much larger than any lesson I myself could have taught.

The lessons being that

1.) It’s not up to us to judge what’s appropriate;

2.) You never know how something will affect or transform or touch another person; and

3.) What we consider old or outdated just may be the spark that someone else needs to embark on a brand new journey of joy.

Hey, God – thank You for an unimaginable 2014 and for the wonder that 2015 brings. Thank You for the blessings you brought, and for the unknown surprises You will bring us this year.

God, help us to have the courage to embrace things that are new – things that we didn’t see coming, things that may not match up to our idea of what’s right or appropriate or acceptable – help us to see that You operate out of the box more than any of us ever could.

Help us to be tolerant of new horizons, to be flexible and to face all things NEW without judgment, without fear and with curiosity and reverence, knowing that You just might be behind those things You have in store for us – that they are all part of the journey that hopefully brings us closer to You.

Two Resolutions

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, I challenge you to make a different kind of resolution, in addition to the one you might plan to make for yourself.

When we resolve to do something, it is usually to make a difference in our life – lose weight, cut back on something, save money, pursue something on the bucket list.

Our resolutions typically have to do with finding a way to improve OUR life.

Since changing the world starts with us, I am not suggesting you give up your resolution for yourself.

Rather, I challenge you to make TWO resolutions – one for yourself AND one for someone else.

Why not resolve to make a difference in somebody else’s life, too? Perhaps it’s someone who can’t do something for themselves, someone who needs help, someone who needs a friend, someone who can’t get out or someone who otherwise would go without.

Volunteer. Donate. Lend a hand. Pitch in somehow. Resolve to make an ongoing difference for somebody.

(Caveat: Give without conditions – give freely without strings attached – even strings of disappointment if your gifts seem at the time to be unused, underappreciated or unacknowledged – the point is to give)

If you can spend the time to better your life, you probably have the time to better somebody else’s.

My challenge to you: see how much more fulfilling a resolution is when you make it for somebody else.

What ideas do you have? Where might you take this challenge? Have you done this before, and if so, what was it like?

What will it feel like to make a difference in the world outside of your own self-improvement?

Here at the beach, we see a lot of yellow, mostly in the form of the sun and its magnificent reflections in the sky.

For this week’s Photo Challenge, I’d like to share a few splashes of yellow I recently enjoyed:

OB Sunrise

Yellow sunrise at Orange Beach

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Hibiscus, bright yellow like the sun

Bayway Sunset

Yellow sunset over bay

Thank You, God, for sunrises and sunsets, for seasons of change.

Thanks for the rhythm of time and the brilliant colors You infuse into those rhythms.

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