Farwell and Thank You 2020!

Well we made it to the end of 2020 and while it may be a dark year in our collective history and personal lives, I would like to thank 2020 for the amount of light it provided as well. I haven’t blogged this year, frankly I haven’t done much writing this year at all. Partly because trying to be a teacher during a pandemic and pivoting the methods of teaching sharply last spring. and partly because I found this year leading me down a path of discovery and growth which has led to great personal growth and I believe a productive writing year for 2021.

Very few people on our planet have lived through a pandemic before and so much has changed since the last one, we have had to write the playbook as we’ve gone along. I don’t want to dwell on the politics that have gone on, personally I don’t think politics should have played a role in life and death circumstances. But I do think the pandemic gave us the opportunity to see what might need to be fixed politically and policy-wise in our great democracy, still not a perfect union, but I have faith we are still striving for it.

We have had an uncomfortable but necessary light shone on long-festering societal issues, from racism, poverty, access to basic needs in various communities, and civil discourse, the pandemic heightened the issues and also gave many Americans the pause in their normally busy lives to stop, listen and observe, whereas pre-pandemic we might have given these issues a passing nod, but just got on with life rather than engaging in dialogue and thought that I hope will lead us to make leaps in improvements in all these areas.

Personally, I was gifted the time to correct my priorities for consistency in fitness and other self-health care practices. ( I lost 23 pounds this year). While I have practiced my faith and bible study for a long time, this year it became deeper and I found great solace in letting go of the worry and putting it in God’s hands. I can walk by faith and find the blessings amidst the pain and tribulations of the time we are in. I am much more appreciative of the people in my life, from family, old friends and new. From the sisterhood (with a few brothers thrown in) of educators who have marched on and encouraged each other in the most challenging year of my so far 28 year teaching career. I have also become more appreciative of every day, the sunshine, nature, my home, my fur babies, in other words I have increased my attitude of graditude.

I did help a fellow educator write a timely book for parents on learning at home, not just for virtual school, but summer enrichment etc. I definitely prefer fiction writing, but it was cathartic to have some writing to do. I am encouraged that with a little disipline and as long as I can continue to teach in person all spring semester as we did this fall, I can again develop the routine of regular writing sessions and finish up a book that has been lingering in my self-made purgatory for all of 2020.

Thank you 2020 for reminding me of all the blessings I have and how faith and gratitude can be a light in the darkest of days. I can’t say I’m sad to see you go. Right before the holiday break I was explaining to my students that when we came back it would be 2021 and one of them said, “Yea! No more COVID!” I had to explain that just because the year changed it would not magically go away, but that while last new year’s we had optimism and no idea what was coming and the year went downhill, this 2021 was starting down and we were on a steady climb back up to the top. The kids actually cheered, it was apparent we all need that vision of hope to hold on to.

Welcome 2021, I have high hopes for you and I also have faith that you will deliver.

Bring It On 2019!

 

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Wilbur, my resident party animal, plus neither dog would wear the glasses for a picture…

The last few days I have been able to indulge in some of my favorite morning television and of course, they were discussing resolutions and goals for the coming year and they also had on tape what the various personalities had said for 2018 on tape, playing back and admitting to their fails and celebrating their successes. Which initially gave me the idea to write a post today, on the first day of this new year.  Here is my accountability in writing out there for the world to see, not just a note taped to my bathroom mirror, to be removed a few months down the road.

I had purchased a set of 2019 glasses to use with my students on the first day back to school and had thought how great if I could get the dogs to wear the glasses for the post photo (and I didn’t even drink last night!) Needless to say, that was a photo shoot that didn’t happen. Plan B…There was Wilbur just sitting there, a willing crazy eyewear model and upon reflection a much better representation of me.

Why? So glad you asked. If your familiar with the character Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, then you know he is loyal, optimistic about the goodness of people (and spiders) and the world in general. I like to think those traits are part of my make-up. Call me crazy, but I think 2019 will be a great year, the world will become a better place, People will be kinder and more compassionate towards others and we will rise above the ignorance and fear that dominated many of our national conversations in 2018.

While I can’t control the actions and words of others, I can choose mine. I can let, peace, compassion, and love begin with me, from what I say to what I do, not just in the big moments, but in the mundane everyday moments.

So my resolution for 2019 is to measure my words and actions against this ideal. That’s my commitment to making the world the better place I envision it to be and I invite you to join me.

Now for the more mundane (yet equally important to me) goals. I’m recording them here as a way to make me accountable.

  1. Exercise daily: 5 days at the gym, walking the dogs daily, yoga 2-3 days a week (Note this isn’t about weight loss, although that should be a nice side effect. I’m focusing on my strength, balance, and flexibility so I can make it to my goal age of 108 standing straight and moving around on my own power). You could say I share some physical characteristics with Wilbur as well, rather rounded and soft.
  2. Save a full month’s salary in the emergency fund (I know it should be more, but I’m trying to be realistic here, knowing there may be an appliance or two that will need replacing this year.)
  3. I will finish and get out into the world my fourth book.

If 2018 was any indication, I’ll be back to this moment at the beginning of 2020 in what will seem like a mere blink of the eye. So come on 2019, there is no time to waste, I’m off to the gym!

 

At The Close of Christmas

 

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Packing up the tree ornaments

I have taken a hiatus from my blog for almost two months. It wasn’t intentional it just sort of happened and on reflection, I think I needed it. Life, however, didn’t take a respite, it barrelled along at top speed finally coming to what I know will be a brief slow down in this lull between Christmas Day and New Year’s (Although looking at my calendar of events for the next few days, it is not exactly a lull devoid of activity).

I put the tree up on December first this year, which makes it the first to be taken apart and packed away. I will leave the mantle and the dining room table until this weekend. Stretching out the season just a little. Each year as I place each ornament away for the next eleven months, I reflect on the people who gave me the ornaments, or the memories attached to them. I think about how an ornament represents an aspect of my life, for example, the turtle that makes me think of my years at Laurel Hill Primary school or my collection of MOMA angels that make me think of my Mama. As I dismantle this year’s Christmas I think back on the current year, the good and the bad and take stock of where I am in this moment.

The packing of the decorations for me is a solitary activity which makes it a good time for contemplation. A new year is just days away and while my faith doesn’t officially close the Christmas season until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, I like to face January 1 with a clean slate, that’s a clean house in the real world as well as in my figurative world. After fifty years of living, I know that some baggage comes forward with me and I believe some of it should. Not all baggage is negative, some of it is wisdom or at least reminders to help make better decisions moving forward, hang on to those thoughts. Some are the blessings that lift us up and strengthen our armor for the battles that lay ahead, Keep these in your carry-on bags.

The rest, the doubts, insecurities, the hurts intended or unintentional, leave all those behind in 2018, we will pick up some new ones in 2019, we are after all, only human. But perhaps we can try and relegate these to the smallest disposable bag possible in the coming year.

As I pack up the ornaments and the trimming, I am packing up the good things I’ll move forward with and discarding that which I don’t want to see in my life when it’s time to pack up 2019. A year is but three-hundred-sixty-five days, we should make the most of it. Another thing I’ve noticed is the older I get the faster the years seem to go, so I’ll be back to this time of reflection before I know it. As I pivot from the past toward the future, I’m filled with contentment in this moment. After all, this moment is what life is really all about. Yesterday is part of my story, but I can’t change it, tomorrow is hoped for, but I can’t make it turn out the way I might envision, but this moment, this beautiful gift of a moment, I can soak up and be present in. This is the thought that I will carry in the palm of my hand, my passport into the year ahead.

 

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!

 

New Year Essentials

 

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Collards, rice and black-eyed peas from Boone Hall Farms in Mount Pleasant, SC.

Here we are on the eve of the eve of a new year and the end to another. On the whole 2016 seems like a year of turmoil and confusion across the globe, but personally, it was one of my best year’s yet and I can not help being optimistic about 2017.

I want to make sure to start off on the best possible foot forward. Here in the South Carolina lowcountry, that means a New Year’s day meal of Hoppin’ John and collards. Sometimes I think to myself I might skip it, last year’s serving has never turned me into an independently wealthy woman, at least not in dollars. I am a bit fanatic about removing the veins from the collard leaves and that is a tedious process. Not to mention the washing of the collards, it is akin to trying to get the sand out of leeks.

But who am I to tempt fate or mess with tradition. As my friend Emily pointed out when I shared my reluctance to tackle the hassle, it can’t hurt to eat them, but what might happen if you don’t. I certainly appreciate all the luck I can get.

While I may not be rich by bank account measures. I sometimes feel like the richest woman in the world by other measures. I have the two most wonderful canines in the world living under my roof. I have a loving family. My work as a teacher and a writer feed my soul. I work with the most fantastic group of people and my friends are truly walking around with hearts of gold. I live in truly one of the most beautiful places in God’s creation. My needs are met and many of my wants. I have health and faith and joy.

Now before I am accused of wearing rose colored glasses, I should point out I face challenges, disappointments, setbacks and frustrations like everyone else. But when I scale these against the blessings I wax poetic on above, I am in awe of how rich I really am.

So maybe decades of eating Hoppin’ John and collards has added to my coffers after all. Happy New Year y’all! May you find 2017 blesses you in the things that truly matter.

 

Doors & Decisions: The Outcome

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Shiny and New

So, if you read my last blog entry: Doors and Decisions, I imagine you are saying “Whoa Nellie, where did that color come from?” Particularly since I left you with a red and four shades of green as finalists.

I had given myself 48 hours to make a decision and I am happy to report I beat the deadline, making it in 36 hours. So how did the door end up blue , Sherwin Williams – Aquarium to be specific?  Well I took my original finalists to Facebook where I knew I would get great feedback from a large group of southern women with awesome style that I am blessed to call friends. Then it occurred to me to google gray houses and door colors.

I know…modern magic…you can find anything with a key word and the swipe of a finger.  Loads of images popped up and the blue with the gray struck my fancy. It was important to me to do something a bit different. I was after a lightening and brightening effect after ten years with a black door. A renewal for the house if you will as we begin 2016.

This color spoke to me of the South Carolina coast. A modern, fresh and bright complement to the traditional gray house with the white trim. So here we are with a freshly painted door to start the new year. It turns out the process to arriving at the color decision, really wasn’t about color at all.

For one thing, it is just paint, easily changed. I came to realize that life is actually the same way. If you don’t like the direction your life is heading, change course.  Very few decisions in this life can’t be reversed or redirected. I dare you as we start this new year to renew yourself with something big or small.  It can be something symbolic like a door color or life altering like a career change. This door color decision was really about being open to trying something new.

I learned a bit of how I am growing as an evolving human and what I hope for in this coming year. That is another life revelation from this process, we never stop growing and changing as long as we stayed tuned in. The process in 2015 to live in joy has led me to this point of renewal for 2016.  I want to be fresh in my ideas and energy moving forward.  I want to take more risks. I want to sparkle and shine with joy and zest for this precious life.  I want to continue to connect my beloved South Carolina Lowcountry and the beautiful souls of the southern women I call friends to my writing.

So here’s to 2016, filled with opportunity and possibility (laundry room is looking a bit bland…orange…tangerine?) Make it a time to renew and refresh.  Make 2016 about making the best version of you yet!