#A to Z Theme Reveal

April is nearly here. For me, that means spring and the end of winter, it means birthday month for me and youngest daughter, and it means the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Choosing a theme each year for the blogging challenge has usually been a chore. This year I have tried out several ideas and rejected them, because they required extra time in addition to the writing that I actually have started and want to continue. But wait! I can combine what I am already doing with the A to Z and maybe accomplish both at the same time. First, here’s what I am already working on.

My great grandmother was an amazing woman for her time, feisty, brave, resourceful and independent. And she was a writer. I have her story and will be magnifying her tales of midwestern life in the late 1890’s up to her death in 1954. I have to call it fiction because she leaves room in her story for imagination of the times and circumstances, but it is historical fiction. Hers is a story of family, of faith, of women’s place in society, of handling hardship and sorrow, even of living through pandemic times. I am proud of her and love her story. I think you will too.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge consists of a post every day in April, excluding Sundays, following the alphabet in some way – twenty six days, twenty six letters. Short stories from my great grandmother Alzie’s life will make up my daily posts and I’ll get the alphabetical thing in there somewhere. I look forward to any feedback from readers, because that has been my favorite part of the A to Z in all of the years that I’ve participated. The challenge has been a great tool to stimulate creative ideas, and to develop a consistent writing habit so I recommend it to all writers or readers who want to do something interesting in April. Follow this link (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com) to learn more and see for yourself.

My favorite April picture from a print at youngest daughter’s house. Creator unknown to me, but I would gladly give credit if I could. Cute.

February’s Good Things: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not something we do for other people, it’s something we do for ourselves, to move on.

From ProjectForgive.com

Today’s good thing is forgiveness, both the kind that others give me and the kind I give myself.

The day started out just fine, and I must have let my guard down a little because of that. It wasn’t much past noon when I forgot an appointment. I had also put my phone on silent earlier and forgotten to take it off, so I didn’t get Mom’s reminder call. I’m pretty sure I’ll be forgiven for both of those things just because my people are nice. But when I miss an appointment it really bothers me, so I don’t forgive myself right away. I carried that around in my bag of disappointments for a couple of hours.

I felt pressure to do my exercise before too late in the day. That was my one productive activity, after which I started messing up my room collecting things for the upcoming rummage sale. It was all out on the bed, and overflowing onto the floor, when I realized it was time to cook dinner. Where does the time go? I had intended to cook for Mom, but because I hadn’t let her know, she had eaten earlier. The bag of disappointments was feeling full, so I forgave myself for that one.

Instead I started cooking dinner and got distracted, until the faint smell of burning food brought me to my senses. I’m forgiving myself for burning dinner. After all, I’ve not burned dinner many more times than I’ve burned it. I cut the burned parts off and we ate it anyway. I forgave myself for ruining the non-stick pan because I don’t really think there is such a thing. I’ve never met a non-stick pan that I couldn’t make sticky. And I forgave myself for forgetting to turn off the burner for another hour. It’s -30 degrees outside and the house needs the extra heat.

Oh pan, I’m sorry.

And now I’m forgiving myself for the awful shape my room is in. I’m going to push everything off the bed and take care of it tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and that’s kind of what forgiveness is all about – starting over fresh, and second chances. Forgiveness and extending mercy feels good and in my life, it is oh so necessary. Just thinking about it and its merits has reminded me of how important it is not to hold grudges against others or beat myself up about things that are past. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this, but maybe that’s why God gives me days like this – to practice.

February Goodness: Good Words

I love it when someone speaks influential words that apply to my life.

I believe that learning, growing, and being curious makes me a happier person. Sometimes I can commence down a better path all by myself, but most often I am inspired or encouraged by someone else’s good words. I have good words written on note cards, in my journal, on sticky notes here and there, magnetized on my refrigerator, and on note apps on my phone. In fact, they are stashed in so many different places that I have trouble finding any certain one when I want it. My favorite books are highlighted so I can easily find those places where words changed something for me.

When I was younger, encountering good words was easy. I had parents and teachers who felt responsible for telling me all kinds of things. Now that I’m older I have to search for that kind of input. It’s actually work to keep growing. I’m trying to do it on purpose.

A favorite thing, and I don’t do it often enough, is to ask someone who knows me fairly well to think for a minute and then tell me something they think I need to hear. I pick kind people, like Mom, who have earned my respect. But I am willing to hear correction as well as anything else they might have to say. Although it might feel selfish to ask someone to think about me and give feedback, I think that is a distorted feeling. I think it’s healthy to want to know what other people see. It adds balance to my life and keeps me away from unhealthy extremes.

Thank you Emily for some good words today.

Today I listened to a podcast that had a good word for me. I am a writer of sorts and have been a member of a professional writing group for several years. I have writing projects that I want to complete and I thought I was taking them seriously. I am working on them whenever I get time. And then, prompted by words from the podcast teacher, I took a look at my calendar and did not see writing anywhere on my schedule. I had to admit that it did not appear to be a very serious task. I now have a chance to do something better.

Okay, it’s on the calendar now. (I know it doesn’t look like I do much, but that’s because I’m retired and don’t write things down until after I do them.)

And of course, there’s nothing like a pandemic and year long isolation to make good words precious to me. I hear all the time that people are lonely, wondering whether they have value to anyone, feeling a bit hopeless, depressed… and I begin to feel some of that myself. I am grateful for words that came along one evening this week, from the video series “The Chosen”, Season 1, Episode 1 (such a good, thought provoking series!). The words are “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.’ ” From Isaiah 43:1 Those words are for all people and they make me feel known, valued and not afraid. Good words.

What good words have come across your radar lately? Please share.

Donating (again)

Today I donated, not to Salvation Army or Goodwill or Humane Society Thrift Shop. Today I donated to Memorial Blood Center. I’ve done it several times since moving north, since I’ve stopped making trips overseas and since my hemoglobin number has been high enough. It’s kind of strange to think of my blood being shared with someone else, from my body to theirs. It’s strange and amazing to think that I have that much extra, and that I can make more so that it’s hardly even missed.

I became aware of a new kind of donation called double red because my brother had given in that way and told me about it. I wanted to help meet the demand for red cells, which I was told was high, and I qualified so I went online and got on the schedule. That kind of donation has to be scheduled because it takes considerably more time on a special machine called an apheresis machine. Blood is separated into various components and some parts are collected, in this case it would be red cells, and the rest of the fluids and plasma are returned into the donor’s body.

Pulling into the parking lot today, I was a little excited about doing the double red thing. As a nurse, I’ve seen a lot of blood and transfused a lot of blood so I’m not upset or queasy about the thought, but I’ve never been the one hooked up to the machine either. I registered at a table manned by the bus drivers (yes, they do multitasking when the bus is parked) answered my online questions and was sent to one of the buses to get the process going. I had quite a wait and started thinking about the apheresis machine and wondering how it worked and how they cleaned it, wondering if it ever malfunctioned… was even getting a bit anxious (deep, slow breaths, calm thyself…).

Then due to a scheduling mistake they told me they couldn’t get me on a machine and asked me to donate whole blood instead. So, short story, that’s what I did. It was over in a few minutes and was familiar to me. I was fine with that.

The most common blood type is O+ and it also happens to be the one most easily shared with others. I am type O+ and am blessed to be healthy enough to donate, to give back. There’s also a little something to be hopeful about – people with O+ type blood have been showing more resistance to COVID19 and are among some of the most long-lived people as well. I’ll take that.

Oh, and I got a T-shirt and a snack. Just sayin’…

A little wrinkled. I wore it already – a good workout shirt.

Coming Back to Center

Yesterday I finished working a lengthy project. Today I am re-centering. I started to describe it as finding my own life again, but that is not true. It’s all my own life. Choosing to immerse myself in work away from home and my usual routine is choosing how to spend my life, my minutes. Things, like this project, that seem like they could be distractions are really important parts of the main thing. They are my life. Stepping outside the norm challenges me to be resourceful and flexible. It brings new experiences, new thoughts and emotions, reveals areas of needed growth. And when it’s over, it makes coming back to “normal” sweeter and restful.

Be totally honest now, do I look centered?

Today I started back to center. I spent time talking with mom, and praying with friends. I took out the garbage, washed the dishes, found the washer and dryer under a rather large pile of stuff and started reading a new book to the husband. I watched snowflakes float down. I cooked broccoli, zucchini and salmon for dinner. I got a package ready for the mail. This too was all my life. One of my favorite sayings describes it perfectly. “It was all fun, and fun is good.” Just sayin’…

The Final Mess

It’s not done till it’s all done. This is not a political post. There are other messes.

How many of us have never moved from one house, one location to another? Those few who have stayed put all their lives have not experienced the final mess. I have seen it multiple times. Maybe it’s possible to learn to avoid some of it’s aspects, but… no, I think there’s always a final bunch of weird stuff that turns into a plague at the end.

Sometimes I have gone room by room, trying to collect the most valuable items and making sure they are packed. That is not the hard part. As the “keep” boxes stack up and increase in number, I start looking for a way to sell the “not so important” stuff. That can take a while and is a skill, a real job actually. Then there is the stuff that can’t be sold and I beg my friends to take off my hands, followed by the stuff that I have to load up and donate or take to the landfill. When it goes to the landfill, I am paying for it to be taken off my hands.

Who would have thought this little storage chest would have created a buying frenzy on the marketplace. I must have had it priced too low.

Lastly, there are the things that didn’t make it into any of the above categories – probably just hidden somewhere, or forgotten. This stuff is sitting on the floor, because all the furniture is gone. The boxes are all used and gone so there is nowhere for it to be packed. I’ve picked these items up a dozen times and not known what to do with them, and I still don’t know what to do with them. No one is around to want them, but they are good enough to cause guilt if put in the trash. They are the final mess.

I’m almost there with the project I’ve been working on – packing up a house for friends of mine. The last two days I listed big furniture on Facebook marketplace and spent most of both days answering questions, texting and meeting people as they came to pick things up.

The wise people bring pickup trucks, preferably empty, and a team of men. Other people, well, maybe being wise is optional. It will all fit in there somewhere.

This load… what can I say? Luckily they didn’t have far to go.

Since this has not been my own house, and I am uncertain what the final destination of some items should be, I am taking them home. My house is starting to look like their house, my garage like their garage. My closet smells like mothballs just like their closets did. I’m hoping if they remember something they still want, I’ll still have it here somewhere.

I wish I had been thinking more about writing as I was dealing with this house project. The April A to Z Challenge is coming up and I should have taken pictures of items through the alphabet as I was packing them. I’m sure I could have covered every letter. As it is, I will have to think of another theme.

Goodbye December, Goodbye 2020

I did my 10000 today. And look at that daily average! I never would have thought it.

Thank you so much to everyone who read and watched from the sidelines this month. I definitely felt the needed pressure not to give up as I watched for views, comments and likes. You all were great! Zeb thought so too – he’s smiling and that hardly ever happens.

Doing a hard thing, on purpose, usually has payback. Challenging myself to be more active this last month has been hard but I have learned some things about myself that are good to know – even better to remember. Here they are:

Challenging myself publicly, does make me work and produce results. I can use this little bit of information to get all kinds of things done! I may not meet my goals perfectly but I go way beyond what I would do without a challenge. This is actually exciting stuff! I’m considering what next month’s challenge ought to be and the possibilities are wide open…

The excuse of not having enough time to do something probably isn’t true. I have often thought that I didn’t have time to put in 10,000 steps a day, and thinking that kept me from addressing inactivity. For a whole month I was able to find creative ways (and times) of meeting that goal most days. Over the month I averaged 3.5 miles a day. Needing that hour to walk had me looking for time wasters in my day, and I found them! They are gone and I don’t really miss them.

Physical activity helps me be more focused in areas of life other than the challenge area. There was a big project going on this December and I had the energy to get stuff done on it day after day, without getting discouraged. When I was home, I had to focus on cooking dinner, or housework. Not at home, I made my lists for errands and groceries and coordinating activities with other people. Mental focus is just a natural benefit of increased circulation to the brain, duh!

More things keep coming to my mind, but I think you get the picture. It’s not just about December either. Hasn’t this whole year been challenging? And haven’t you adopted some new and good practices as a result of being challenged? I have.

So, I’m saying Happy New Year to all. Twenty-twenty-one may turn out to be as full of hard things as 2020 was but it’s possible we could choose those areas where we want to see good work done in our lives. Some challenges could be of our own choosing. I’m going to pick some out while I’m waiting for midnight, just sayin’…

December Wreckage

I crashed. Taking off from my walking challenge was intentional Christmas Day. I don’t know what happened the day after that but no walking was done then either, (Oh, that’s right, it was the husband’s birthday. He got my walking time.) By Saturday night I was like wreckage. I sprawled in the recliner and looked terrible, felt terrible, and probably acted terrible. I was complaining and practically weeping as I tried to explain it to mom and my brother and niece. The frustrating part was not knowing why the sudden drop in energy, motivation, positivity. Was I sick (Covid, aaaagh!) or was I having endorphin withdrawal? Was that even a thing?

Yeah, two in a row. Not good.

I forced myself back on the treadmill last night and tonight. I guess I feel better, but it was really strange and I’m not completely out of that bad space yet. Honestly, it was having to report in here that kept me from quitting – and the fact that my family was laughing at supporting me and being sympathetic. Thank you guys.

After my pity party over at Mom’s I was walking back to my condo and momentarily all the bad stuff was forgotten. The snow that had been drifting in all day, and the dark, and the lights were so arresting I had to stop in the freezing cold and just look. The snowflakes were so large and flat that the light reflected off them everywhere. The dark sky was a complete contrast to the glittery, sparkles on the ground. Winter moments like these are the reason I can stand to live up here.

I wish pictures could do justice to what I saw. Not even close…

White and Cold

This morning the snowplows were running before daylight, when it’s still kind of hard to see where you’re plowing. I shoveled myself out and had coffee with Mom. My brother got off his snowblower long enough to join us and then went back to work.

But the sun did come out. Walking outside seemed a possibility and I did have some things to deliver at our church, which is only about a mile away. I put on every possible winter layer, including a mask which, for once, was a help, not an aggravation. There was a breeze which was chilly when I was walking into it. Our temp was about 5 degrees F.

I stomped into the church with frost on my eyebrows and semi-numb feet. I didn’t realize that I had arrived at the same time as the work party for the coming Christmas Eve event. By the time I delivered my envelopes to the office I had also been given a job. I had nothing better to do so I put up lights, erected a wooden menagerie of animals, and carried decorations here and there. Every time I took off my mittens, even for a few seconds, I was amazed at how fast the cold became painful.

Can you imagine celebrating Christmas Eve outside when it’s below zero weather? Blame COVID for that.

By the time I set out for home, my feet were more like blocks of ice but I hadn’t gotten my steps in for the day. Hitching a ride was out of the question. I knew I could make it, and I did, but it was the fastest section of my walk for the day. My app said I was walking 5.5 miles per hour at one point, but that would be more like running so I think it must be wrong. All I could think about was getting warm again… fireplace, hot drink, my “blankie”.

It is beautiful after a snow, and I did snap a few pictures because I couldn’t not do that. (There are times when nothing says it better than a double negative.)

I might rest tomorrow instead of taking a walk. It’s supposed to be even colder. Just sayin’… May you all find a blessing in your Christmas celebration.

My view right out my front door. Clean, white, and cold, very cold.

Blizzard Blessings

Living in northern Wisconsin, I am used to winter starting early and ending late. We had a good snow earlier, but then it gradually melted. We’ve had bare ground for several weeks now.

Today Mom and I spent the whole day at the house we are helping to pack up for our friends. We’ve nearly got the upstairs conquered. Tonight, and by that I mean 5 pm, I went out in the darkness to put a couple things in the truck and was surprised and a bit alarmed at the weather. It had been raining, just above the freezing point, all day. The water had been dripping off the roof onto a pile of metal bound for the recycling station, making a loud sound like a running faucet. But now, it was snowing and the wind had picked up. There were two inches of white stuff on the ground already and clouds of it were being hurled around, blizzard style.

My truck door opened with a crack, breaking a film of ice. I hurried back in to help Mom out and once in the truck we wondered if the wipers would be able to clear the windshield. I have a scraper somewhere in the back seat but it was buried beneath the boxes of things we were taking home to sort out. We were able to see out the front after a few swipes of the wipers, and I lowered both front windows to clear them enough to see the lights of other cars on the street.

We live only about a mile from where we were working and I was glad of that. The road was snow covered and no longer had edges and lane markings. The few cars that were out were going slowly and following each other’s tracks. A deep enough layer of snow removes all boundaries and landmarks, making everything look strangely unfamiliar.

But it is exciting. Whereas we were having a relatively boring, predictable weather pattern, now, SOMETHING WAS DEFINITELY HAPPENING!!

The wind blew most of it off. The rest of it will melt and go down the drain.

We made it home without mishap. I was glad to push the button and see my garage door go up. What a blessing to have a warm, dry place to drive into. Tomorrow the blessings will continue because we will have a good excuse to stay at home and sort through the boxes and bags of our friend’s belongings. Staying at home will be restful, even though there is plenty to do. I need the change. For us, at least this time, the blizzard is our friend.

I got about 7,000 of my steps today going up and down the stairs where I was working. It was easy to get the last 3,000 on the treadmill. And now I am ready to turn out the lights and be snug in bed, listening to the howling fury outside.