How A Struggle With a To-do List Reminded Me How Blessed I Really Am.

 

WP_20171216_005

Our card for Christmas 2017

In my last post, I lamented about the length of my to-do list, how this holiday season seems more frenetic than average, but that I was going to try and tick things off while still somehow enjoying the peace, love, and joy this time of year is supposed to be about.

One of those items on my list was taking the photo and designing my annual card. So finally on December 16th, I managed to corral the dogs under the tree and using the word “squirrel” got them to look at the camera at the same time.  Feeling good about that, I went online to design and order, discovering same day pick up was possible. Wow! I might get cards out before Christmas after all. I even selected the stationery card style I like.

It was a little irksome that the big box store I was ordering from expected me to drive fourteen miles and past two of their other area stores to pick up, I was just elated that I could get this task done and feel like I was catching up.  I should have known that was too easy.

While running other errands I received a phone call from the store I was working my way to, their printer was out of ink and they would not be able to process my order at least until Wednesday. OKAY… so I stopped at the store that was close to home and discovered they could print from what I selected on the kiosk, we were back in business.

After some scrolling, I settled on a photo card, not my preferred paper, and it had a company’s logo, also not my first pick, but the price was awesome and again, I was going to strike it off my list today!

Oh, if it were that simple. Order placed, I wandered the store looking for a few things I needed, lightbulb for outside, tape for gift wrapping, stocking stuffers etc. Forty minutes later I strolled back to the photo center. Machine not working, employees working on it. I stood clutching my items, not wanting a cart I could fill with unneeded items.  After another forty minutes, I was regretting that decision. Happily, a woman who had decided on one item offered her cart to me and I gratefully accepted.

Items secure, I settled down on one of the stool by the counter, silently willing the printer to get back to its task. I practiced my patience and I watched my fellow shoppers. I saw a bald woman, obviously, a chemo patient and I was reminded how blessed I am for the health I have.  I saw some older citizens riding around in scooters, some looking lonely and I was reminded how blessed I am to be mobile and have so many friends,  I  am never lonely even when I’m alone. I overheard a frazzled mom, lamenting the cost of something to her friend, both of them with young children in tow. I was reminded how blessed I am to have my needs met and most of my wants. As I made each observation, the level of peace that settled over me grew and my heart filled with joy.

All told I spent close to another forty minutes sitting there, waiting and watching. In the end, I got my cards, they may not have the typical finish I would like, but they have what is more important, they show the two furry loves and they express my love to the friends and family that will receive them. No one who matters will judge the material they are made of, but they will care about the message they express.

Sure, I’m behind again for spending the time in photo center limbo, but maybe what I got out of that pause in my jam-packed day was worth more than being able to tick more boxes off on that to-do list. I am blessing rich and that my friend, is what the Christmas spirit is all about.

 

 

The Busy Season

 

WP_20171211_003

My current to-do list of which I can only claim to have completed four items on…

 

2017 has flown by at a frenetic pace, punctuated by upheaval in the world, in our country and in my own personal sphere. Happily, the upheaval in my own little world has been all about positive changes. Even the positive changes have added to the workload and required adjustments that have contributed to the break-neck pace living this life has become this year.

I don’t know why I thought the holidays would be any different. Normally I have most of my shopping complete, my cards printed and sent and if the house isn’t completely sparkling all the decorating is complete.

I have completed about ninety-five percent of the decorating, but the house, in general, is a disaster and I haven’t even taken the picture for the Christmas Card let alone ordered it.  This year might have to be a New Year’s  card and as the days fly by and I am getting more comfortable with that idea.

Company is coming in before my teaching is done so I will be cleaning and finishing report cards simultaneously. I think New Year’s Eve will be spent sleeping if I’m still alive by then.

I hate that this year is like this, I try to embrace the intent of the season, peace, joy, love, and while I will find moments to feel all that, I accept this year is just not the year I can revel in it. First New Year’s Resolution, take back life in 2018, at least once the school year is over and next Christmas will be prepared for months ahead so that when it arrives I can soak it all in.

For now, maybe the house won’t be as clean as my usual standards and some of my shopping might not get finished until Christmas Eve, cards will not be mailed on time and for this crazy year, maybe that’s alright.

 

 

Merry Christmas Old Friends!

 

WP_20171202_007

One of my favorites

Nothing against new friends, I love adding to my collection, but my heart leaps. with joy when I encounter old friends not seen in a while. If you haven’t guessed by now I’m not talking about people, rather the ornaments that adorn my tree.

There are few new among them, each year I get some as gifts, so it takes a few years for those to become treasures. Ornaments I have had for years and many of the ornaments that live at my mama’s house tug at my heartstrings. Sometimes it’s a memory or what the ornament symbolizes, like my culinary snowmen. Sometimes it’s just the beauty and craft of a particular ornament to appreciate.

The trick is to place them on the tree so they can be equally enjoyed throughout the season. When I built my house (and it is not a grand house by any definition) I insisted on an outlet embedded into the floor in the middle so that most of the tree could be enjoyed from as close to a 360-degree view as possible.  One of the best decisions within my small budget. If I ever get the chance to build again, I would design again for tree placement.

I have heard folks say they wish we could enjoy our holiday things year round, but I am a firm believer in the seasons and the holidays having their place. After all, what makes them special is that they are not part of the daily grind.

So, it was with great joy last night when I said hello to old friends and placed them on the tree for a month of glory. Then I will carefully pack them away, knowing we shall meet again.

Merry Christmas, savor the season and share the joy!

 

An Endless Love Affair

 

WP_20171124_002

Looking from Rockville over to Seabrook

 

You would think after thirty-one years here in the South Carolina Lowcountry I would take foregranted my surroundings. When you tend to live somewhere it is typical to ignore the area offerings such as museums unless you have company. I see vistas of marsh, river, and ocean on a daily basis and I adore those views, they instantly calm me and make me thankful for getting to live in this beautiful place.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ride with friends out to a house in Rockville, which is still a pristine village much like it was back in the 1800’s when this particular house was built. I could easily imagine a life here away from traffic and our crazy suburban sprawl. If only I was retired and didn’t have to think about the practical things such as commuting to work!

The house built in 1829 was loaded with character and a gem by itself, but it was the water views that took my breath away. I never tire of looking across the water and marsh. I often wonder if I had this view from my back porch, would I be too distracted to write or would I just find my creative well constantly replenished?

I’m not sure but I would be more than willing to find out. I think I might have to write a book where a lucky character will get to live in this charming house with this magical view and I can live vicariously through them.

I truly hope that when I’m one-hundred and eight (the age I am planning on living to) my love affair with the South Carolina Lowcountry will still burn with the same intensity it does today. Considering that fire has been steady for thirty-one years I can’t imagine it will ever burn out.

Bounty of Blessings

 

WP_20171119_001

My sideboard arrangement

Looking out into the world, we might find it challenging to find much to be thankful for. Politics and social upheaval in our country are overwhelmingly chaotic at best and downright frightening at worst.

We seem to have forgotten we are supposed to be the shining example to the world of how a society can treat its members with respect, dignity, and equality and thrive in all we do.  I’m not naive enough to think that we have achieved the goals to form that more perfect union, but I am hopeful enough that we as a nation are still striving for those ideals.

Forty-nine years on this earth has shown me that upheaval is necessary to create the growth and improvement towards those goals, it’s just painful to witness and live through.

So instead of looking out into the world and the nation, perhaps this year to reflect on what we have to be thankful for we should look closer to home. I find numerous blessings in my lowcountry community, my family and my circle of friends.

I am always amazed by the giving nature of my fellow lowcountry citizens. Whether it is a crisis here at home or half a world away, people in this community respond in droves. I like to believe that is true of the majority of Americans, it is the American way to have compassion for others.

My family is rather small and I had the opportunity this summer to re-connect with a cousin and I am so thankful we had that time together. I am blessed that my parent’s and so far the majority of the family members are still well and living full lives.

At this point in life, so many of my friends I would call family. If I need a sounding board or encouragement, I have been blessed with many to turn to and I only hope that I have been the same source for them. Friends truly are family we choose.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week I will focus on all that is right and good in my world, personal and beyond. I challenge you to do the same. Leave the politics and the social issues for another time. Over this year’s table let’s bow our heads and give thanks for the blessings each and every one of us have a bounty of to call our own.

 

On The Edge of A Decade

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 5.49.34 PM

The best decade yet!

 

With the exception of 13, 18, 21 and your social security eligibility age, we tend to mark our age milestones on the decade. As I write this I am on the eve of my age turning to the last year of my current decade and I think this is actually the time to stop, take inventory, reflect back and look ahead. After all next year when I reach the half-century mark it will be a celebration of reaching that next decade and on to the new adventures the fifties will bring.

As I look back I can honestly say the forties have by far been the best decade. My friends who are already in their fifties assure me this trend of each decade getting better continues so I’m optimistic about what might be ahead. The forties have been liberating. I became comfortable in my own skin. I can say I have been happy, or perhaps content is the better word for the majority of the past 9 years.  I have suffered loss and disappointments like most people, but I feel that my resilience has expanded and my reactions are more measured and balanced. This is life after all, far from perfect. Life is messy and unpredictable, but if you are comfortable with who you are and lay your foundation on faith, integrity, and love, then you can be the eye of any storm that life swirls up around you.

Yes, the forties have truly been fabulous. I still have lots of things on my bucket list, but if it all ended tomorrow, I am content with what I have already accomplished. I have a goal to live to be one-hundred and eight, so assuming I reach that, I should have plenty of time to continue to check things off my list. The fifties will be eventful, I will retire from teaching and move my writing career up to the number one spot, my mortgage will be paid off and there are events coming I’m not even aware of. I look forward to it all. Each day of this life is a gift. I am thankful for the 17,885 days I have lived so far. I look forward to all the days yet to come.

Each day of this life is a gift. I am thankful for the 17,885 days I have lived so far. I know the next 365 will finish out my current decade, I look forward to all that is yet to come.

 

Say Goodbye To The Sunshine

 

WP_20171104_002

The late afternoon sunshine that will disappear tomorrow with the time change

It’s the first Saturday in November and I’m tuned into the Clemson game and hanging with Lucky and Ella, my two golden retrievers. I should feel like I’m in my happy place, yet an aura of melancholy hangs in the air. The time change takes place tonight and I find I am dreading it more so than in the past.

See as a teacher I leave for work before six a.m. so with the exception of late spring, I tend to drive to work in the dark. With the “fall back” change, I now face several months of arriving home in the dark in addition to my dark departure. It makes me not want to walk the dogs, it is almost impossible to do any kind of yard work before dinner and frankly, I just want to curl up in a ball and hibernate. I guess it’s a good thing I live in the south where at least we get more daylight than our northern neighbors. I think I would be susceptible to the seasonal affective disorder.

I wish we would stop changing the time. I realize it requires an act of Congress to put an end to it, so I understand that will never happen. I wish we could tie their pay to performance, perhaps some laws would actually get written and passed or reviewed and dissolved. I jokingly posted on Facebook this week that if I were to run for office my platform would include getting rid of the time change and also that the trick or treating part of Halloween would always be observed on the last Friday in October, no school night craziness. I got a great response from friends throwing their vote my way. Seriously why won’t Congress tackle changing the time change? It could go a long way to improve their approval rating.

I have not spoken with a single person who says “yea, it will be dark before five p.m. now!” I would love to rebel and keep my watch and clock the same, but then I’d be an hour early for everything. I know I can’t enjoy too much wallowing about what is to come. It will come and I will have to adjust like everyone else.  Fortunately, even when we manipulate time we can’t stop it. The shortest day of the year will arrive and we will begin the lengthening process. Just when it will feel like the days are getting to a perfect placement of daylight we will mess with it again, making us all grumpy when we lose an hour.

Just when it will feel like the days are getting to a perfect placement of daylight we will mess with it again, making us all grumpy when we lose an hour. But at least the sunshine will surpass the workday, allowing for lots of early evening enjoyment.

Until then I will turn on the lamps in the evening and soak up all the sun I can at recess.  Maybe I’ll even try some moon and starlit walks. Maybe post-work yardwork is out, but it might mean more time to write.  I can’t stop the time change from coming but I can change how I use the time I have.

Attitude can make its own light.

 

Attending to the Signs

 

WP_20171029_002

Sycamore leaf in my front yard

I’m not sure when it happened but fall has definitely arrived here in the lowcountry. I had been searching for signs in the world around me and in the long-range forecasts by the local weatherman. But then October got fully underway and I got distracted.

It happens to me several times a year and I suspect it is the same with others whose primary careers are in education. August, October, and May are the busiest months and I get lost in the vortex of school. October might surprise some, but remember it is the first report card and hence parent conferences for each student. This year it seems to arrive too soon, I suppose due to the eclipse and the hurricane disturbing our normal school year patterns.

When the calendar turns to autumn and parts of the country are already revelling in cooler temperatures and changing leaves, here in the lowcountry we are still sweltering in the heat and high humidity. Yet we press on with fall activities such as football games and pumpkin patches.

October flirts with fall. A few cooler or at least lower humidity days, followed by a resurgence of heat mark most of the month. The air-conditioning hums along, it is still needed most afternoons and we all try to resist turning on the heat for those few cooler mornings. I personally make a rule no heat on until November, so I have gotten dressed at lightning speed a few mornings. I may give in a day or so early this year. It has been in the seventies, but today is in the sixties with a low in the morning threatening the upper thirties. No worries the heat will be on for only a night or two before we return to a few eighty degree days.

I have been so wrapped up with report cards, conferences and trying to be not all work by participating in the busy fall social season, I tuned out for the last week or so and this morning I was taken by surprise by the marsh grasses waving golden heavily amongst the green. The beauty of the waving grass with the water in the background took my breath away.  Leaves along the road are tinged with brown and yellow and my Sycamore in the front has begun dropping its leaves. The breeze is blowing cool, a front is moving through and taking the warm air with it, albeit temporarily. I am giddy with anticipation for crisp air.

When I noticed today that the hints of fall from a few weeks ago had turned into the signs of the season I lamented the fact I had not been paying attention to the moment of transition. I had missed it because I was too wrapped up in other things. I finished the last of my conferences this week and I did manage to participate in two social events, book club and a faculty night at an art place, however, by Friday I was so exhausted I came home and crashed. It wasn’t until Saturday morning I realized I missed a friend’s annual Halloween party. I have enjoyed that party many times and I am sad I missed this year, especially since some in attendance I don’t get to see that often.

The message I think I received from the party miss and the marsh grass change is to slow down and take the time to notice even in the midst of all the busyness. We only have so many falls to enjoy in this life, I want to soak them in. I realize I can’t shirk my responsibilities and nor do I wish to, but I also know things aren’t in balance when I get so exhausted I don’t remember an annual party. I hope you realize it’s not the party but the people that I regret missing.

So today I’m going to seek out some leaves to crunch under my feet and breathe in the fresh air.  I will renew my intention to pay attention to the world around me and appreciate each day for the many gifts it gives.

 

A Little Trim Here and There

 

WP_20171021_001

The trimmings from the side yard, I sure hope it’s the third Monday the trash folks pick up the yard waste.

October is moving at a breakneck pace and I have been patiently waiting for the usually accompanying cool weather. By South Carolina standards that means the upper seventies with a nice breeze and a decrease in the humidity.  Much cooler than that and we might think we slipped into winter.  Yet here we are October 21st and we are in the eighties. Granted, the humidity is not at August levels and there is a breeze so I jumped into the annual fall garden clean-up. The above is just from the side yard and the adjoining front corner by the garage.  I have much more to do, especially in the back, but I’m holding out with the hope next weekend will be a little cooler.

As I trimmed, shaped and weeded I got thinking about how writers do the same thing with their work.  The first spilling out on the page is usually untidy and overgrown in parts. Sometimes whole sections need to be moved or cut altogether. Occasionally a seedling is found and can be cultivated to enhance the story.

As my brain reflected as it seems to always do when I’m working in the garden, I also saw the beauty of how this trimming works in our lives. We trim away old habits or toxic friends. We weed out our closets and other possessions to give space for the things we actually like and use. We examine how we are using our time and try to clear our calendars and to-do lists of the things that detract from a meaningful life. There is something soothing and energizing about restoring order and clearing away the excess. In the garden, In the closet or garage, in relationships and how we use our time.

For me, these clean-ups work best when I do them on a fairly regular basis. I find that the changing of the seasons, regardless of cooperation of the weather are great times to stop, reflect, pick an area or two literally or metaphorically to trim up and weed out. Then discard that excess, the baggage that holds you back, and move on, there is an even better life just ahead.

Happy trimming!

 

Southern Girl Rule #63: An Iron is Essential.

 

WP_20171014_002

Ironing pillowcases for the guest room

I have a love-hate relationship with my iron.  Okay, it’s mostly a hate relationship, I find clothing in particular difficult to iron (which is why I have a steamer for those), not sure if it has to do with being a leftie or my lack of patience.  I do enjoy the zen of ironing a linen napkin or tea towel, but those items are about the only ones I feel confident tackling.

So why am I ironing pillowcases? My guest room will soon be occupied, and while I would clean and iron for any guest, my mama and daddy are expected in tomorrow. Hence the effort with the pillowcases. It might be a generational thing, but mama always seems to have a stack of ironing. Me on the other hand, if I can get it out of the dryer fast enough and hung, that’s good enough for me.

A few wrinkles have never bothered me, but I clearly remember my mother’s dismay if I tried to leave the house for school in something that needed a little ironing. I still will hear her voice when I’m getting dressed. I think,  Is this passable or does it need ironing? I suppose it has saved me from going about town like a bag lady. I have often chosen what to wear based on what doesn’t need ironing.

You would think I would invest in clothing made from synthetics that don’t require ironing, but I have an affinity for natural fibers, particularly cotton and linen, the two types of cloth that require the most ironing. Ironic I know.

As I worked on the pillowcases, I realized it’s not about the wrinkles, but did I put in the effort, did I represent myself and my family in the best possible light.? The answer should be yes. Ironing is a way to show you care enough to make the effort. Even if your results are less than professional (Don’t look too closely at my work).

So despite it being up there with vacuuming, my least favorite chore, I will press on, pun intended!