The Growing Season

 

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The double impatiens by my front door.

I have been reflecting on growth and change lately. I tend to do that at the end of a school year. Some years there are more things to reflect on, a personal growing season.

It could be because I took a leap of faith last spring and left the comfort and known of a school I had been in since it’s door opened, albeit, following my principal and making the leap with quite a few familiar faces. It was a leap just the same. I’m happy to report that it all worked out well. I love my new school and my team and the faculty at large. I love the changes I made this year that reinvigorated my teaching.

Not all was new, it was tweaked, it was grafted on to the best of the old to create the new. Much like the flowers you see in the photograph above. I bought a double impatiens last spring and kept it going all winter in my garage. I enjoy gardening and always wish I had more time to tend the garden. I have usually buy seedlings and divide existing plants and occasionally start from seed, but for the first time I used rooting powder and took cuttings to create a brand new basket of the cascading pink blooms. Creating new from the old, and my first venture of this kind of propagation I would call a success.

I think we do this all the time in our lives, we make changes and additions based on our previous circumstances and experiences. Not too much is created from nothing. Even innovations in this world are born from a need to fix or improve something that existed before.

I went with some friends to see the new movie “Book Club” today and I went in with the preconceived idea that it would be funny, light-hearted and particularly relatable to women in their forties and over. I was not disappointed. However, I was surprised by the message it clearly delivered.

I have discussed with my Mama the concept that some older folks stop living, long before they actually die and both of us reject that notion. In the movie, the four friends are faced with their aging and what that might mean for their next season of life and they end up embracing their lives fully.  Propagating new from the old.

So perhaps in our lives, the growing is perpetual, as long as we are mindful to cultivate it. At some points the growth is slow and steady, other times it is rapid and disruptive. the important thing is we keep growing, from the moment of our first breath to our last.

 

Sweet Sleep

 

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My Sweet Ella snoozing away

The Spring season is in full swing, there are five weeks left in the school year, the weeds and uninvited plants have shown up like unruly party crashers and I am trying to maintain my writing life, and tend my friendships. Needless to say, the to-do list is long, the hours required to keep up are many and sleep is elusive even when I’m tucked in under the covers.

I have been plugging away this Saturday bouncing my attention between tasks for school, housework and yard work and oh yes that thing I do called writing.  I sat for a moment to check messages and saw this cuteness across the room from me. Clearly, my four-legged family members live the life of Riley.

I would love to take a nap, but this weekend anyway I simply can’t afford that luxury. However in five weeks, life will put on the brakes and for a short while, I will be primarily a writer, beachgoer and yes, nap taker. It makes me smile to think of the hazy days of Summer.

This current frenetic pace will pass and it will return again in August. That is one of the beautiful things about this life, it will change, it will speed up or slow down, somehow just when we need it to. June 5th I will sleep, maybe all day, until then I will power on and sleep vicariously through my sweet fur babies.

 

 

The Gift of Time

 

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Hampton Park, Charleston, SC

It is Spring break here this week and that has freed me up for writing and I am finally moving forward again on my fourth novel, I may even finish it this week. The gift of time from my teaching responsibilities I have consciously made the effort not to squander.

The old adage of all work and no play makes Julie a dull girl, nagged at me. As the week began I was talking with a friend whose’s first question to me was what are you going to do this week? I rattled off m plan to write, go to doctor appointments, take the dogs for their annual shots, etc.  Her next question was what are you going to do for fun?

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that if we aren’t working on something we are somehow wasting time. In our culture, it is un-American to be unproductive.  When I get exhausted from the pace, I sometimes wish I was European, where they seem to have a better way to balance.

After I got off the phone with this friend, I decided that if opportunities came up for fun this week I was going to take it. That night a post came through from a teaching colleague who had moved away and was in town for the week, inviting me to join her and others at a Tuesday afternoon happy hour. I immediately replied yes. Then I accepted a same day invite to join two friends for dinner. At the happy hour, I set up a coffee date at my favorite french cafe with another friend. Each day I have gotten an invite to join in or meet up for fun and I have accepted every one. I call all these invites a God wink, a nudging to do what I need to do to refuel and refresh. Isn’t that what Spring break is supposed to be about?

Unlike teaching, I can’t write for ten or eleven hours a day, I have tried to write for several hours a day breaking the sessions up with moving with housework or yard work and that works for me. The balance between sitting and moving is a conscious effort for health reasons for a writer. While your brain gets a workout and dare I say a drain, your body suffers from the sitting in front of a computer screen. My restless body cries out for movement.

Which brings me to the idea of being still. Another thing that Americans are generally uncomfortable with. After all, if you are sitting still how are you being productive.  I have been using a yoga DVD to improve my flexibility and at the end of each session, there is a segment of lying still and focusing in on your breath. At first, it was awkward, I wanted to just jump up and move on to the next task, the work of yoga was done. Now, I enjoy the time, after all, it’s sanctioned by the yoga instructor as part of the workout, so it’s not wasting time.

This same friend that questioned me at the beginning of the week is battling an aggressive cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation plus a barrage of doctor’s appointments. The gift of time means something entirely different for her. She is forced to spend lots of time sitting around and waiting for tests, waiting for treatment, waiting to feel better.  The finite nature of time in a human life has been brought to the forefront of thought.

Shouldn’t that be true for all of us, diagnosis or not? Our lifetime is finite, some of us with have more years than others, but none of us should squander the time we have been given. Does that mean we have to fill our days and nights with productivity? I say yes and no. Yes, make your life count, stand up for a cause, do work that makes this world a better place. No, because this life we have is not a full life if we don’t share with others, enjoy it and take moments to be still and reflect on it.

As this was one of my friend’s chemo weeks, she requested I bring her a strawberry milkshake, one thing that she can have that doesn’t seem to make her nauseous. Spending time with her has become a priority for me. She is ten years older and our friendship is like a big sister and little sister. She makes me laugh and is a sounding board when I grapple with life’s issues. I can only hope that I give her as much as she has given me. It was nice to take her one in the middle of a weekday afternoon. It was a beautiful out so we took our milkshakes a block over to Hampton Park, which sits outside the gates of The Citadel. We found a sunny bench to sit and watch our fellow park visitors. We chatted some and also sat in companionable silence. At one point she asked me what I was thinking about. I told her I was just soaking in the park and the sunny day, which was true, but I was also thanking God for the gift of time with my wonderful friend.

 

Time To Sleep

 

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Me in my toddler days and yes that is a cookbook, I loved looking at them.

The spring forward time change has my dander up. Yes, I appreciate the later hour of daylight, it is not an extra hour, the time has just been artificially shifted not a new hour of light suddenly found. But being someone who leaves the house around 5:40 a.m. for work, I hate that it will be pitch black again when it was finally starting to have the soft light of dawn.

I never have understood why we do this to ourselves. People will be grumpy in the morning, more accidents will take place and kids will fight hard against bedtimes when it’s still light outside. At little kids, if they are tired should be able to drop anywhere like I apparently did in the photograph above.  I so wish I had that ability now.

Despite the loss of an hour, I’ve had a very productive day. I did six loads of laundry, prepared four costumes for the class play, grocery shopped, changed the sheets, made a three dish luncheon for the members of my teaching team and here I am albeit rather late, I’m writing my weekly blog. For a brief moment, I considered delaying or even skipping this week, but I have an unblemished record of getting a weekly entry in since I established this blog and I’m not going to let the loss of an hour break my streak.

I hope tomorrow night when the daylight lingers and I have time to do some chores around the garden after supper I will have a better outlook on the time change. For now, this girl is going to get off her soapbox and head on to dreamland, tomorrow will be here early.

 

 

Baring The Halls & Organizing Angels

 

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One page of Angels

The time between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Company has departed and I finally feel settled into winter break. It is a time to reflect back on the year about to pass and forward into the year that is to be. I feel compelled to pack away the holiday glitz and restore order to drawers, closets, and cabinets.

It is a shock to the system when the layers of Christmas decorations have been repacked and stored. The mantle, tablescapes, and the house, in general, seems bare. Not that this is a negative. On the contrary, I find it fitting as we approach a new year. It is a new beginning and should be faced clean and stripped of the past, at least as stripped back as can be. Not all baggage should be left behind, some is essential for moving forward, but I try to be selective and reflective and a bared house fits the task at hand.

The other aspect of a bared house, just a simple white bowl of pine cones on the dining table, is that it reflects the season of winter, we can no longer deny is upon us. Like the bare branches of the trees, it is sculptural and architectural. Beautiful in its own right until the adornments of spring arrive.

The other part of this week between the end and the beginning compels me to do is organize all the things I have put awry through daily living.  The cabinet in the bathroom has been crying out for it for months and now I have the time to do it. This year I also decided to organize and catalog my Metropolitan Museum of Art Angel ornament collection. Mama started me on it in 2002 and I have gotten a new one every year with the exception of 2011. Each year I have carefully packed each angel back in its original pouch and box.

In recent years I have resorted to using a magnifying glass to figure out the year on the back of each ornament, driving myself crazy. So, this year I did that, but took a picture and labeled each picture with the year, then created a document with thumbnail pictures with the year, printed and cut and then taped the picture for each angel on the inside cover of each box. Now in 2018, I will not need the magnifying glass and I will only have to photograph and catalog one angel.

A little over the top for most, I’m sure, but my heart smiles knowing how well organized the angels are for now and the future. If only the bathroom cabinet and the cooking utensil drawer could be so permanently coraled.

So baring the halls and organizing everything from angels to zesters is my way of preparing for saying goodbye to this year and greeting the new. I have already decided, no matter what goes on in the world at large, here at home 2018 is going to be a great year.

Happy New Year my friends!

 

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

 

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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

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

On The Edge of A Decade

 

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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

 

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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.