Thoughts on a Snowy Day

It’s February. I’m sitting next to the window watching winter storm Nancy and the air is white and swirling with the snow. For the last day I’ve gone out periodically to shovel the walk between my house and Mom’s. It doesn’t do a lot of good because of the drifting, but perhaps it won’t be quite as deep when it finally stops falling.

I’m also making bread. It’s in a warm place rising right now. I have a kitchen counter where I can look out a window at my bird feeders. I should say animal feeders because the squirrels and rabbits are there too. There is much about this time that is very nice.

I’m to consider the following questions today, in preparation for a guided group zoom tomorrow. A bunch of writers, including me, are trying to think deeply about who they are writing for and what their message is.

1. What do I know about my ideal reader and message? Answer: Not much. The people who give me the most feedback are personal friends, and a few others who seem to be around my age. Baby Boomers are starting to be introspective as they think of themselves as elderly. The messages they tend to like are along the lines of “you’re not dead yet. What you do will probably look different from when you did it at 20, and it may kill you, but you can still do stuff if you try.”

2. Is there anything about exploring this that makes me nervous or uncomfortable? Answer: Yes. I wonder about all the readers that I don’t ever hear from. I think there are a lot of different kinds of people reading that don’t say anything and I wish I could be more engaging. I wish I could know that I’m striking a chord or answering a need for encouragement.

3. What do I like to write about or talk about? I like to talk about the natural world because the bottom line is WONDER. I always arrive at the point of looking for God in what he has created, and that includes humans and their stories. The list of what I consider the “natural world” is pretty long. That is why my blog subjects are so eclectic. It might be snowflakes one day, a walk in the forest the next, a conversation with my mom, and today it might be making bread. To me, everything has a connection to the Creator.

4. How would I describe myself? I am outwardly calm, quiet, attentive, and resourceful. Inwardly, I often feel “less than” and insignificant, and in need of being reminded that I am unique, valued and loved. I think a lot of people feel that way. I would love it if my writing could give people the reassurance they need in those areas.

5. What do I know about my personality and how does that affect my writing? I am primarily an introvert, but I can step outside that when I need to, on a good day. I don’t mind being around a lot of people but my love is having good conversation with one at a time. I’m a helper type, always picking up on people’s needs and wanting to assist. It’s actually easier for me to decide to help someone else than it is to do my own hard work – that definitely affects my writing. Writing is hard work.

6. How do people describe me? Ask! Answer: I have asked but it’s hard to get responses to that question. It’s work to think about someone else and give an honest, serious assessment. I tested myself on that and find it difficult to describe others. So, I get it. No judgment. I always appreciate feedback and wish there were more of it. See question 2.

Have you ever tried to describe yourself, to yourself or others? How did that seem to you?

New Skills, New Thrills

Yes, I’m actually learning something new. I am on a launch team for a new book coming called Raising Prayerful Kids.

I chose to help with this particular launch because it deals with two of my primary interests – prayer and children. What a great pairing! I will get a sneak peek at the book which doesn’t come out until 3/8/22. I can think of so many good places to promote this topic and will be working hard to do just that.

I’ve learned that getting a book out in the world is a real job, and it goes better if you have something called a launch team. Who knew? I didn’t. This is the first time I’ve ever helped with something like this. I’m finding it quite interesting. You can apply and join too, if you feel like helping this book get known. The application to join is here https://forms.gle/1Ky3kpUUY6KXDtKJ6

Launch team is closing soon so check it out if you want to know more.

When I Don’t Have to Wait

It’s a strange, hard world out there. It’s time we fight back with a little fun. I have lots of thoughts on the subject and will be writing about it for the rest of October.

Everywhere we turn these days there is something to wait for. I wait in traffic, at the grocery store, for commercials to quit, for the spooling to stop, for food to be cooked, for my hair to dry, for sleep to come, for the headache to go away. What surprises me though, is that I find myself waiting for things I don’t have to wait for – out of habit, I guess. It is a habit I am setting out to conquer.

On this beautiful evening, calm, warm enough to sit outside, I’m not waiting to light a fire in my Solo Stove. Making fire (small and controlled) and watching the flames has always been fun for me so I followed the fun and started my fire. I knew I would love this little fire pit, but I can see that if I waited for others to come enjoy it with me, I would not be getting much use out of it. I do like to invite others to sit around the fire, but that usually involves some planning ahead. When it’s only me, I could be doing it any night when the weather is nice, even without a plan. Why wait?

Waiting can be a good thing, right? Why? Because I have to let the people in line before me go first (unless I want to get thrown out of the store…). Because the food tastes better when it’s cooked long enough. Because things work out better when I match my desires with right timing, right circumstances, right preparedness. I learn that patience is a good thing and I learn patience by having to wait.

But what about not waiting? You see, I’m learning that I won’t have much fun if I wait for it to happen by itself. I’ve spent my share of time feeling sorry for myself, wising I was having fun, being pitiful. I can decide to have fun, sometimes with others, but even when I’m alone. Often that is my only choice. I have a ready list of those things I enjoy doing, because everything in life goes better with fun mixed into it. It’s medicine really.

And honestly, fun is a huge part of my faith life, my life with God. I’m not sure I’ve ever read the word “fun” in the Bible, but I have seen “pleasure” and “enjoy”which are probably about the same thing. I can’t imagine the abundant life that God says he wants me to have, without it also being fun. I feel it in my heart, God is in favor of fun.

All this to say that it’s a good night out here on the patio. There’s work to do inside the house, which I’m not doing. I’m alone with my writing pad and my cup of tea, watching a warm, glowing fire. No guilt, no regrets. I’m having fun and fun is good. (Wish you were here…)

Random Spring

Today it is raining and blustery. Will it snow once more in the hours ahead? It’s possible. I never know how to dress for my daily walks – down coat, rain jacket, only a sweatshirt, hat? So I put it all on and take it off and carry it if I have to. For our spot on this planet, the month of March is never sure whether she is winter or spring, which leaves us waiting in various ways. Life is just a little more eclectic and full of random activities, waiting activities.

We watch the snow melt. I know it’s hard to imagine that being exciting, but when you’ve seen nearly five months of whiteness, a little bare ground is a big deal. It has disappeared from the roads and most of the yards except for the deep snow banks that the snow plows left. There are still patches of snow in the woods where the sun doesn’t shine. The lakes are still covered with rotten ice, but the geese are arriving and looking for any open water in the streams and marshes.

We are cleaning closets, emptying boxes long forgotten, and making decisions. Spring cleaning, it could be called that but it’s much more. It’s like taking trips down memory lane and we spend a lot of time talking about what we are remembering.

We (I) are finally putting December behind us. I turned off the winter lights on Daylight Savings day. The sun is coming up earlier and in a different place on the horizon. The patio furniture is out on the east porch and we are ready for the first day that allows us to sit outside for morning coffee, no longer in the dark and cold.

For some odd reason, I’m finding puzzles to be more than usually comforting. They have appeared in greater than usual numbers too, thanks to friends who have dropped them off. This is the first year that I’ve done puzzles alone since there is no one in the house who cares for them like I do. When my brain needs a break from daily duties, the puzzle is there waiting, demanding nothing, requiring a different kind of focus, full of color, visually interesting, solvable and just challenging enough.

Even the cat is waiting to be let outside. She watches the squirrels at the bird feeder and gets all excited, but only spends a few seconds in the cold when I let her out. She is waiting for the warm times she remembers, and as I watch her sitting in the sun I am reminded of spring window washing duties. I cleaned this window this week and it looks much better now.

Everyone’s chickens are laying eggs now and it is easy to get them fresh from the farms. I get a strange delight at boxes like this one from a chicken breed called Rainbow – for obvious reasons. I am having time to pay more attention to our nutrition and exercise needs. I feel healthier and ready for summer, ready for the sun, and work in the garden.

I am writing, although finding it hard. April Challenge is coming up and I would like to have my posts finished beforehand. It is slow going because my theme is so interesting and personal. Stories of my great grandmother and her family are so thought provoking and absorbing and I find myself spending days thinking about one episode before actually nailing it down. It is hard but I know it will be worthwhile.

And amid all the projects that didn’t get done this winter, there are a few that are getting done. I’m sealing the beautiful outdoor chairs that my uncle made for our patio, and I sawed the backs off my kitchen stools and painted the seats barn red. Now they fit under the counter better. I swept under the stove, vacuumed out the truck, and put away the snow shovels in favor of the rakes. I am even finding time to knit, and that amazes even me. I am grateful for all there is to do that makes waiting an interesting part of life, almost like a season in itself.

I can almost forget I’m waiting,… just sayin’.

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.

Today’s Four Good Things

There were four very good things about this day. They were good things to me because they made me feel very alive and stimulated by new insights. They spurred me to action.

The earth is still spinning in space. It’s a good day.

The first was seeing an amazing sunrise, with my favorite morning people. I love watching the sky, the clouds and light doing their thing at the beginning and the end, like bookends of the day.

The second thing was a set of lessons on recognizing and understanding more about shame and the part it plays in people’s lives. It was so enlightening that I finished nine lessons. I couldn’t stop. Thank you Dinah Monahan! I would sit in any class you were teaching.

A third good thing was hearing an interview with a very insightful writer who said so many profoundly helpful things about writing. Everything she said was meaningful and gave me ideas about collaborative writing (and about life in general). I wanted to try new things right away. I had to take action and buy her book immediately on Kindle. Thank you Diana Glyer for your “Bandersnatch” book and I hope I have time this weekend to read it.

The fourth good thing was that I made my step count for the day once again. It was a combination of treadmill, walking outside, and just getting around doing life. I’m finding that it’s a commitment that’s not always convenient. For instance, it means getting sweaty two or three times a day and having to decide whether to shower and change clothes – yeah, that’s right, I don’t always do it.

You might think this picture is too big. That’s okay, you can think that. It makes me feel good to look at it.

But I feel like it is doing me some good. I’m sleeping differently because I’m physically tired at the end of the day. I’m starting to get some lower blood pressure readings, and although I’m not usually in a bad mood, I feel my mood is better than usual. It feels so good to have done something challenging.

Today as I was walking outside, sweating underneath my winter coat, and hoping my phone wouldn’t run out of battery, I kept getting texts from some poor scammer. Whoever it was (and I don’t think it had to be a woman), they used the same tired story of wanting me to be their Mary Kay consultant and help them with a big order for a daughter’s wedding. I don’t know why I get pleasure out of playing with these people for a bit, but I do. I tell them they can order off my website, which is where they got my phone number. And then it branches off into why they can’t do that, followed by how their boss is going to cut me a check for the product. Their boss? It’s such a lame story that it always amazes me.

The good part is that I did get home before my phone (and exercise app) ran out of battery. I’ve also taken a shower, finally, and will be ready for a clean start tomorrow. Just sayin’…

Small Stories Series

Life produces many small stories. Being small doesn’t make them “less than”, except maybe in word count.

Static Electricity (or What Is That Doing Out Here in the Field?)

I will start by saying that I don’t have a clothesline so I dry our laundry inside with an electric dryer.

It was about a week ago in early spring, so early that neither Mom nor Dennis, the husband, had been outdoors much. We were a month into the COVID 19 pandemic and tired of it already. Snow had just melted and the fields were bare, but it was a warmish , breezy evening.

We had just finished a “tea party” with family and weren’t quite ready to quit having fun. In a rare burst of energy the husband decided he wanted to walk down past the barn and to the pond to see whatever could be seen. Off he went.

Mom and I had the golf cart out for the first time of the season and we headed out past the pond to tour the wetlands and meadow. It was exhilarating, partly because the wind was still chilly. We did one big circle and headed back. I could see the husband had passed the pond and was making his way toward some neighboring condos. He had been in one of those “do it myself” moods so I decided to get Mom home first and then come back to see if he was tired and wanting a ride.

We had just crossed the bridge when I saw something on the ground ahead of us. It didn’t look like debris and it hadn’t been there when we passed by earlier. It looked like clothing of some sort.

Coming closer, I thought it looked like underwear! How strange, I thought.

And closer still, it was underwear, and in fact, it was MY underwear. What!?

I swerved over and snatched them up, and once again I noticed the husband in the distance, his pant legs flapping wildly in the breeze. There was no other way those panties could have made their way out into the field except he must have had them. They must have been stuck inside his pant legs and the wind had shaken them out as he walked. He never noticed them stuck in his pants and never noticed when they left either. His “do it myself” mood had started earlier when he had taken his shower and had chosen his recently washed and dried pants to wear. Let’s just say he’s not a real careful dresser. (But I would so have noticed if someone else’s underwear had been stuck inside my pants…)

For a minute it looked like Mom might fall out of the golf cart, laughing as hard as she was. I figure with the pandemic and all going on, God knew we needed some comedy and decided putting something common in a very uncommon place would fit the bill. (At least it was some of my prettiest underwear…)

Yep, right out there in this grassy field…

A to Z Challenge 2020: Theme Reveal

I don’t know how to categorize my topic. It’s about health, emotional, mental and physical. It’s often about family. It’s personal. It’s definitely about a particular lifestyle. It’s about caretaking.

Lots of us are caretakers these days. We care for our children with disabilities, our aging parents and family members with dementia. Some of us work in healthcare institutions and give care to patients of all ages and conditions. It’s a special calling, a special task.

This year I’m using the April A to Z Blogging Challenge to share my own experience, my stories, my thoughts and feelings about caretaking. I am a retired RN, retired in the sense that I’m not getting a regular paycheck, but I’m still learning and doing, in the field of caretaking.

I live with my husband, diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2018. I’m also across the yard from my mother, a courageous 87 year old, and within a short drive of my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s. Like so many others these days, I have a friend and a dear sister-in-law who are fighting cancer. While not giving daily care to all of these people, I’m often involved with their needs and I do care.

I’m interested in hearing from others about their experiences, since I have already found that caretakers, as a group, have much to share and teach each other. These posts are an invitation to all who read to contribute and connect. The A to Z format doesn’t cover all possible topics of caretaking but serves as a starting place for discussion. Please join me this month as we explore being caretakers.

There is a moral task of caregiving, and that involves just being there with that person and being committed. When there is nothing that can be done, we have to be able to say, “Look, I’m with you in this experience. Right through to the end of it.” Dr. Arthur Kleinman

The Next 2000 Words

For the next 2000 words, I am a writer. (Don’t worry. They’re not all going to be here.)

Back before the start of 2020, I made a few bold (for me) promises about progress in my writing journey. I am three months along that path now and haven’t felt like saying much about it. My irregular schedule of posting on my blog hasn’t given much evidence of progress either. But, in taking stock, I’m happy that some things have happened. I’m not standing still. I’m moving at my own pace and I’m thankful that there aren’t a lot of scary deadlines imposed by others.

I have installed a writing program on my iPad and am using it. Like with any powerful tool, there is a learning curve involved with the program (Scrivener) so I also had to invest in a course to teach me how to use the thing. Amazingly, I’ve found time to listen to most of the lessons in the course. The lessons have taught me that even after the course is finished, I know only the tip of the iceberg of Scrivener knowledge. It is only a start, but there it is!

I have done a lot of reading because I believe all those who say that reading is one of the most important things I can do to become a better writer. I think I have finished all the books on that past list, and have a deep well of subjects to think about and discuss with others. I have a whole new list of books for the next few months, which I’ll share later.

I’ve planned out the month of April, which is the one month every year when I write a post every day (except Sundays). The April AtoZ Challenge is definitely challenging for me. Looking back, I see that I’ve gone from random, “anything goes” topics to more purposeful, planned out writing. This year my topic could actually turn into a small booklet that would be helpful to others. I’m excited about that.

Hope*writers has been my biggest financial investment in my writing life and it has been inspiring any time I’ve let it be. It’s my online community of writing resources. The best thing about it is that it has actual “faces”, friendly ones, that consistently show up on social media, phone, and the hope*writers website with encouragement and so, so helpful direction. I’ve taken to listening to their hour long interviews with successful writers while I walk on the treadmill in the morning.

Light box, tread mill, podcast… so many good things at once.

One of the lecturers this week left me with this useful information. From a scientific study, it has been shown that even short periods of creative writing, done regularly, affect mood in a positive way. I’m taking that advice and choosing some event from the past or present, as long as it has some emotional energy attached to it, and writing about it for 20 minutes. I’m describing what happened, what I thought about it, and what feelings were attached to it. I’m doing this because it’s the end of a so long winter, there are some critical things happening in life, and I need to find some positivity. Give me some good mood! Help my brain think right!

I’ve had to give up a few things to make room for these new demands on my time, but that is okay. These new practices are better than the ones they’re replacing. If my desire and love of writing is something with a God-given reason behind it, I had better be finding out what the reason is. I no longer have thirty or forty years to play around with the whole writing thing.

Most importantly, I’ve become deeply interested in who you are, my reader. I’m asking myself what I have to offer you. I realize that my most compelling reason for writing has been for myself – what it does for me. While that is still important, it’s not enough anymore. I want to add value somewhere.

Wesley and Buttercup kissing, eeww!

Movies

This re-post from June 2012 is especially appropriate since I just watched “Princess Bride” again last week. It’s all part of reviewing past writings looking for that elusive book that might be in there somewhere…

The truth is, I don’t really remember lines from movies the way I sometimes pretend to do.

I remember one quote from “Star Wars”, “the Force be with you”, or at least I think that was said there.

I remember several things I loved from “Princess Bride” but I can’t quote them exactly, something about a peanut, and something about the RUS’s.

I remember the shrubbery in “Monte Python’s Holy Grail” and the blood spurting hand (which I’ve tried to forget and can’t).

“UHF” is responsible for my love of enterociters (spelling?).

 Lastly, I remember laughing till my sides hurt during “Three Amigos” but I’ve watched it since and couldn’t quite relive the experience. I sort of remember being sick and having a fever while watching it the first time and that may have accounted for it seeming so funny.

That’s it for movies. That’s all I remember. Not impressive.

But I do enjoy a good movie and can get caught up in a thought provoking plot, if it’s not too weird and unbelievable, and if the characters are compelling.  I also have an emotional memory of how I was affected by most movies, even when I don’t remember the plot.

I rarely choose to watch a movie a second time though (exception – Princess Bride). I guess I just don’t want to clog my neuron pathways with most movie content when I have trouble remembering my own life that I’m actually living.

And then there’s the actors … I put them in the same boat with sports figures. They simply get paid too much for what they do, even when they do it well. If they’re a high salaried actor it should be part of their job to go feed starving people in Africa with a lot of their money. It’s ridiculous, and no wonder so many of them end up getting disillusioned with life in general. That being said, you must be aware that this is an opinion and you are entitled to feel differently. 

Yep, here it is.