Happy Decade Day

Someone special begins a new decade of life today!

Her heart holds its stories close
Every so often one
Rises to the surface to be

Noticed and told
And she shares it, laughter
Mingled with curiosity
Excusing the format of

Ink penned words
Scratched on the back of

Cut paper
And not exactly written as a
Real story
Yet shared authentically
Not stopping until the end

And I get the gift of
Noticing more of the woman
Destined to be my mother

Still growing, learning, curious
Holding much in a heart that
Expands to reach those she

Loves
I long to know more of the
Kindness inside and how she
Endured hardships and
Struggles to arrive at the place she is now

But those are her treasures to share
I love her and
Remain curious to
Discover more of who
She is as she enters a new decade of life.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope this decade is your best one, yet!!!!!




Top 10 of 2018

I post links to my top 10 blogs on the Facebook page at the end of each year. This year I decided to crate a separate post linking them together in one space for the curious and also for myself.

These posts are the ones most read over the year.

#10 Mystery Solved where I have a trigger and meltdown and am completely vulnerable with feelings surfacing in my 19 year old self.

#9 Free Bread where there is provision in a stressful situation.

#8 Composting the Fart: The Weekly Baab

#7 In Between which explains my feelings during a time of transition in my home.

#6 Unprepared for Goodbye faces the loss of a special person in my life.

#5 Up Next talks more about further story training work I did in 2018.

#4 Hello, New Beginning is about just that. The gift of a new beginning.

#3 Mother of the Groom because I was also one of those this year.

#2 Goodbye, Costco since we had to part ways for a season.

#1 Goodbye 25 Years which details the close of a chapter.

It was clearly a year of endings and beginnings and transitions. I am eager to see what 2019 holds and plan to continue writing on the blog. Stay tuned!

Flourishing Fitness Routine

Eleven days into 2019, my word of the year finds me settling into a fitness routine. I hope the seeds I am planting this month help my body to flourish as the year progresses.

A key goal I have is to close my exercise ring before noon and to have made substantial progress on my move ring, also. Intentionally taking care of this early in the day keeps me from the friendly 9:30 pm reminder that there is still time to close my move ring with a brisk 45 minute walk.

By 9:30 pm, I want to be snuggled in bed, not shivering in the cold trying to close my final ring. By 8:30 I want to be reading to Mae without worrying about having to go out for another walk afterwards.

To take care of this, I hook the laptop up to the TV in the living room, push the dog bed aside, and do Refit video playlist workouts on YouTube. It has been working for me this week, which is why I have the courage to post about exercise today!

This is what I did this morning.

On Tuesday evenings I attend a live class led by Betsy Dean. It is such a kind space for my body, mind, and spirit. I love live workouts. They have been a part of my story since here.

In addition to the cardio fitness piece, I begin my days practicing Yoga with Adriene.

I find that yoga helps me connect with my body and breath and increase strength and flexibility. I fell off of my regular yoga routine sometime last summer and decided to use January to find a new one.

So there you have one way that my year is starting to flourish. I am taking it day by day, trying not to think too far ahead; holding loosely, yet with intention. It is work, much like cultivating the ground for a garden or laying the foundation for a building.

What about you, Dear Reader? How are you doing 11 days into the year? Did you choose a word or set a goal? I would love to see you in this space or over on the Facebook Page. Check in and say hi! I am grateful for your presence.

27 Years

It is not raining which is what makes the rainbow over the lake even more surprising. Calling to me while grilling lunch, my husband of 27 years and I share the moment. We laugh and take pictures.

It has been an anniversary weekend of surprises, both good and hard, and in these last hours I try to hold it in all that was good while remaining curious about what still feels hard.

Returning to reality is always challenging, but there is something in our story that makes it feel moreso. Our long-distance start and breakneck continuation hold clues to the longing to step out of the whirlwind.

I do not take this space away lightly. So much came together to bring us here. I almost thought it would not happen and held the idea and plan loosely.

Adult sons worked together to hold down the home front while the people still living there pulled together to keep things rolling. Grandparents and extended family filled the gaps. Christmas gifts of food, drink, and sweets were brought along to sustain us.

Friends generously offered a place to land, one of our favorites. We stayed in a different room of the house this year, changing things up. It had everything we needed to enjoy time together, our greatest need of all.

It is a gift to be married to someone who you just want to be with. While we both enjoy adventures, we also love slow days and sharing space and reading and cuddling on the couch with no agenda.

We like to take walks and eat snacks and one of us saves all of the paper bits to paste into a travel art journal. We found a musty antique store and walked through it laughing over memories but not buying any of them.

We stayed off of screens mostly. I posted some links to looks back at anniversaries of days gone by in Facebook and felt gratitude for where this one found us.

Twenty-seven years is not a traditional milestone anniversary. When looking it up, all eyes are on 30, the next big one. While it is good to look ahead, it is even better to be here now. Every year we say, I still do is a big one.

This year’s celebration was one to savor and revel in. While acknowledging that difficulties and disappointments may arise during our time away, we also felt the joy of hard work and honesty, and its resulting rest together.

Mere hours remain until our return to reality. There is clean up and packing and ending the time well. I smell breakfast cooking and realize that I have skipped yoga time to write, and I am okay with that.

There is deep gratitude for the goodness we shared here. There is joy of anticipating seeing the faces we love and beginning the first full week of the new year with them.

Flourish

It came to me while unpacking my Christmas ornaments this year. I pulled a mini Starbucks mug ornament with the word Flourish from the box. It was still in its packaging. I remembered buying it on sale after Christmas last year and saving it for this year.

The ornament never made it out of its cardboard casing or onto the tree. Instead it stood on a shelf in my room inviting me to ponder the word Flourish and what it might mean for me in the new year.

Looking it up, the next step in the process, began to solidify my choice.

to grow luxuriantly, to achieve success, to be in a state of activity or production, to reach a height of development or influence, to make bold and sweeping gestures, an ornamental stroke in writing or printing, a decorative or finishing detail

All of these meanings, and more that were listed, felt true about what I long for in the new year.

Still pondering, I came across an online quiz related to figuring out your word of the year and decided to take it. The result was courage.

I always need that, and in this case, I think finding the courage to flourish is where I landed.

Here is my process in making this year’s art journal page along with the final result. I will keep it displayed to remind me of this year’s intentions.

Dressember

My final post of the year was unplanned, yet begs to be written. A New Year’s Eve twist finds me at home rather than out celebrating downtown. A surprise sum of money collected earlier in the day finds me with funds to donate when I was unsure there would be any. Now I need to write about it.

For the past several years, I have donated to the Red Tent Living team in their efforts to raise money to combat human trafficking via Dressember. Cheering them on from a distance, admiring their choice of outfits, I never participated fully by wearing a dress myself or calling attention to the movement.

This year I began pondering what it might be to participate by wearing a dress or skirt each day. The month of November found me wrestling the idea, torn with ambivalence and struggling with what was going on inside of me to offer such resistance.

On December 1 I put on a skirt, telling myself that I would regret not wearing one if I decided to go through with the challenge. That day was an early-morning choir rehearsal for the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir Christmas concert. I am a parent assistant and received many compliments on how nice I looked that early in the morning.

The following day was Sunday and was natural to dress for church as well as for the choir performance. Day 2.

I continued through the month. On Day 4 I wore a dress to my exercise class. It was the one I wore to my son’s rehearsal dinner the month before. The other ladies in the class admired it and seemed surprised that I would wear it to class, but they did not ask further details and I did not offer any.

The month rolled on, and each day I wore a dress or skirt. It was easy because I have so many of them. In fact, what made it easy is also what made it difficult. I realized that my story with dresses and skirts is what was keeping me steeped in ambivalence.

At the final exercise class of the season, I determined to share why I was again wearing a dress while exercising. There was a new participant, and at the end of class when we were talking I shared why I had worn a dress to the previous class and why I was wearing one now.

I looked at the newest member of the class and said, You could just think I’m that lady who wears dresses all of the time which I am not. I have already been down that road.

Because I have. And that is what made this so difficult. My story with wearing dresses feels shameful and confusing, and to call attention to the fact that I was wearing one triggered deep feelings tied to clothing and body image and a whole list of other related baggage.

Having purposed in my heart to wear a dress each day, I continued to the end. Confident that I would find some extra money to donate, I waited. Christmas money was absorbed by medical bills and other necessaries. Time began to run out. End of year finances tightened to the point that Christmas cards still remain on the mantle, addressed and waiting for stamps.

The final day of December, the final hours arrived, and a message came, thanking me for a job I had done for a loved one. She told me there was money to pick up for it. This was an unexpected twist in my day.

Grateful, I stopped by and collected a generous amount. It gave me $20 to donate, which is not much, but it is something. These days, to me, it is much.

I immediately got on the Red Tent Living Dressember Community page and donated.

And on this last night of 2018, I invite you to consider doing the same. Make a donation, great or small, to help the team round up to $10,000. They are so close!

Click here.

I have my dress on, though my New Year’s Eve plans changed. I wonder if they changed to give me time to write this final post. To share my journey and struggle and wish that I had sorted all of this out sooner.

This was the time to share. I am still sorting, struggling, pushing through.

Shame says It’s too late. Why bother? You should have made this decision at the beginning of the month.

Truth tells me I am right where I belong.

Thank you for being here with me, Dear Readers!

Church Coffee

It comes to me mid-service in a paper cup with plastic lid. The flavor is urn-style bulk ground coffee mixed with powdered creamer and sugar. Sometimes my coffee friend hunts down and finds real cream, adding a splash. Those occasions are rare, though.

This holiday season there was flavored creamer on the table in the narthex. Usually church coffee isn’t fancy. I love it that way. Plain. Simple. Full of love by the one who prepares it for me.

Getting out of the house on Sunday mornings is a feat in itself. Every week. I used to think it was because of small children and all of the work that moving the troops took. That is partly true. The other part is that we take ourselves with us. It is not all them. It is all of us. Sunday coffee becomes a dangling carrot.

This morning found us seated together in the front row of the overflow section. We were early late-comers. All of the best people soon surrounded us. I love that. We sang out loudly in the sound-absorbing vacuum multipurpose room and endured the half-hour following the service that our fearless leader requires to socialize.

In between singing and socializing, church coffee came to me in a piping hot cup, reminding me, once again, that my large bag carrying everything else did not carry my coffee cozy. I add it to the running list in my head titled things to pack for next time.

Christmas Morning

I woke Christmas morning to quiet. Thoughts filled my head. Words filled my heart. Leaning over the bedside, I pulled the laptop from it’s place on my nightstand shelf.

Propping up on pillows, I opened it and began composing. The bedroom door cracked, my husband doing his signature peek to see if I was awake from my sleep.

Do you think you will be long? Everyone is waiting for you in the living room.

Of course they were! In a classic move of having words come to me at the worst time, I closed the laptop, replaced it on the nightstand shelf, and eased my way out of bed.

Wrapping in a cozy robe, I exited to the living room, where a combination of excited and sleepy faces awaited my arrival.

The month of December has been full of celebration. From the first weekend when our eldest and her husband came to celebrate with us, to the weekend before Christmas when my son and his wife visited, we have eaten no fewer than three Christmas breakfasts and as many dinners.

Programs, concerts, gift exchanges, parties, and the wedding of a friend’s son filled the days leading up to the big one. Shopping, wrapping, tending to individuals occupied my time. Christmas cards still being worked on were intentionally set aside until the days after Christmas.

Christmastide.

This brought me to Christmas morning and all of the words in my head and people around the tree. Two adult children and the four still at home greeted me with various levels of excitement and exhaustion written on their faces.

I knew they had been up together late into the night playing games in one younger sibling’s room, sleeping over together in another. The one sharing his room slept downstairs by the light of the Christmas tree, keeping his own tradition.

All of this worked itself out without my planning or control over bedding and beds and sleeping arrangements.

I’ll take care of it, Mama. Don’t worry, adult daughter said. And she did. I went to bed, slept soundly, and woke thinking I could write while everyone was still sleeping when they were all quietly waiting for me in the living room.

This is how I know change has come.

We weren’t awake late into the night trying to settle small children into their beds and startled awake early in the morning to excited knocking on our door. The excitement, while present, was more contained and less explosive.

Present.

Contained.

Less explosive.

These word choices reveal work that has been taking place in my heart and the hearts of those in my home. Learning to be more present. Helping to contain and handle strong feelings. Revisiting and repairing places of rupture with adult children. Revisiting and repairing places of rupture in my own heart.

I woke to words from my story, the story of a younger self, the last Christmas spent with my family before marriage. It was the self of 20, the age of my youngest adult. The words in my head were spoken by a sibling, 13, the age of one of my own.

I have a clear visual of these ages and more context than ever, which is why I think the words came so loudly and clearly. It is why they came with kindness for those present in the scene.

I am still coming close to late-teenage me. From ages 16 to 20 is a painful blur in my story, beginning with a move following the Christmas of ’87 and punctuated with the words,

We’re not having Christmas this year. We’re having a wedding, Younger Sibling, 13, Christmas ’91.

I was married on January 4, 1992.

Christmas and the season surrounding it holds much for me. There is loss and grief and struggle and joy. There are heavy places in my story with Christmas, places even nostalgia can’t reach.

I didn’t write on Christmas Day. I spent time with the family, soaked in the tub, and took a nap. I spent moments on an unexpected phone call with a friend. I hugged adults goodbye and found presents that had not been wrapped in the excitement and passed them out and played a board game.

I watched Elf and went for a walk after dark to look at the neighborhood lights. I fed my parents’s cats. I brewed a cup of Sleepytime tea with my husband, choosing to end the night with tea and reading instead of wine and more eating.

It was a kind choice. As is this early morning writing time two days later. Little by little, step by step, things are changing, have changed. (Yes, do click on that link.)

It is a good gift.

Merry Christmastide, Friends!

All is Calm

In this moment all is calm. 

It is almost laughable that I am sitting on the couch in one of my favorite places with a small terrier pressed up against me and a calico cat looking on from the far cushion. Anyone that knows me recognizes the absurdity of this scenario.

The only sound is a light purring. Sunlight streams through the window, just missing my eyes.


I do not want to move my body, so I lower my head a bit.

This moment of calm is brought to me by a messy kitchen and a pile of laundry. It comes from an intentional choice to sit and spend time with my words rather than with a broom and dustpan.

The animals recognize this and take full advantage of the space. They live in it. They bring their presence to me, one of them leaning in close. This is how they spend their days, and they invite me to experience their world.


Paws folded, one eye open, Zephyr shifts and snores. She has nowhere to be right now, is in no hurry. Dewey leans closer to me me each time she adjusts.


I want the calm to stay, but I know that it can’t. The day marches on, and I must go with it. So I rise carefully, a habit formed while tending my babies. Let sleeping dogs (and babies and cats) lie.

In a most unusual turn of events, neither one moves, save to adjust for comfort. They curl into parallel balls of fur and sink into sleep. I leave behind an imprint of just that and exit the room, carrying the calm with me.

Peace, Love, Joy

December days roll along. The felt tree fills as we settle into a groove of lighting advent candles during dinner and putting up the piece at the end.

This year’s reading time is less structured and, as a result, more peaceful. Whatever it is I have been striving for year after year has been laid to rest. I continue to learn to embrace the present.

Embracing the present looks like trusting the words I read yesterday morning in Deuteronomy 31:6,7 NLT Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or panic . . . for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

How quickly I flee from love to fear, from peace to panic. These words reminded me again of my anchor. I can trust the one who goes before me, ordering my steps.

I love the picture of handmade felt Advent pieces in the header. I wanted to plan a post around it, but nothing came. The words I tried felt awkward and clunky. Instead of joy, I felt burdened and pressured for something to say.

Listening to Jason Upton’s A Table Full of Strangers, vol 2 I heard the line Peace, Love, and Joy come from you. Quickly I pulled up the picture for my pieces and there were the words. 

Love

Joy

Peace

That is how inspiration came to me. 

Maybe you will be inspired, also. Blessings, Friend!