My Year of Hope

Once again it’s New Year’s Eve. I’m spending the evening enjoying my NYE traditions: movies (Star Wars marathon this year), snacks, writing-in the new year, and of course, plenty of introspection.

2016 has been a whirlwind ride. I suppose every year seems like it goes faster than ever, but this year truly sped by. I barely know where it went. Looking back over the year, I can’t help but wonder what I have to show for it.  There were bright moments and struggles.  I’ve made a little progress in some areas, but ultimately I can’t help feeling I’m in exactly the same place I was last year at this time.

I never make New Year’s resolutions.  I often think back over the year past and the year ahead. Sometimes I think about goals, but I refuse to make promises to myself I know I probably won’t keep.  This year, I’m choosing a different approach.  I am giving my new year a theme.

hope

I am claiming 2017 as my year of hope.  My focus in the coming days, weeks, and months will be on finding and embracing the things that give me hope: people, stories, music, activities.

This may be much more challenging than I anticipate. Hope seems to be in short supply in our world just now.  Anger, fear, and uncertainty seem to hold sway, their cacophony drowning out the subtle whisper of brighter things.  Still I will search for it. I may have to dig deep, seeking beneath the surface to find the hope that is carefully guarded in some hidden place. I’m sure I will have to continually remind myself to be on the lookout for each and every glimmer.

When I look at all my favorite books, songs, and movies, most of them have a theme of hope against insurmountable odds. All my favorite characters, my heroes, are those who hold on to hope, who create hope even in the darkest hours. I may not be very heroic, but I’m going to do my best to be that person who sees the hope.

There is never a guarantee, where hope is concerned; hope touches the edge of dream, but it is not a simple dream. It wants work, and sometimes it is bitterly painful – but no life is lived for long without it.
~Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flame

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The Gift of Family

A few years ago, my family decided to have a “handmade” Christmas, instead of store-bought gifts. I was underemployed at the time and finances were very tight. Even handmade gifts can get expensive when you have 13 people on your list. So I had to come up with a very inexpensive idea, but I wanted it to be something special. Whenever I give a gift, I do my best to give something that is symbolic of the connection between me and the recipient. I try to find something we have in common. But like all families, mine is made up of a wide range of personalities and interests. Given time constraints, I needed to make one type of thing, but what one thing could I do that would celebrate my unique connection with each of these individuals?

After a fair amount of agonizing contemplation, I finally settled it. I would write each member of my family a short poem. I’ve been writing poetry on and off since I first learned what it was in elementary school, where a poem was writing a word down the page, using each letter as the first letter of a line. I remember this because I still have them. My verse had matured over the years, and I thought that I could manage a passable poem for each member of the family. No problem, right? Yeah, right.

I was almost immediately gripped by writer’s block. I found a clean notebook and created one page for each member of my family. I filled it up with “research.” I looked up the meanings of their first and middle names and played with them to come up with a phrase that fit. I made notes on what each of them meant to me, and the first words that come to mind when I think of them. I doodled. I wrote their names over and over again.

Slowly, painstakingly, the words finally began to fall into place. I got about halfway through the family and then got hopelessly stuck. I even wrote a (bad) poem about being stuck! I don’t know what finally broke the block, but I managed to get unstuck in time to write the remaining poems, clean them up, and make them into laminated bookmarks done in the subject’s favorite colors. I wrapped them in packages of all shapes and sizes, in an attempt to disguise the fact that everyone was getting the same thing.

Once they were finished, I couldn’t wait until our family Christmas gathering. I was excited for each person to receive their poem, but also beyond nervous at exposing so much of myself. That Christmas now stands as one of my favorites. There were tears and laughter as each person read their poem. I had never put so much time and effort into Christmas presents before, nor have I since. The result was worth every minute!

I know I am blessed with a wonderful family. Though we are spread across the state and country, we love and support one another. We enjoy spending time together whenever we can. I am well aware of just how rare it is for a family our size to continue to get along so well, and I would be lost without each and every one of them.

Over the next weeks/months, I will be sharing the poems I wrote that year. I’m not sure how often I’ll post them. I’ll post the first sometime this weekend, and the rest will depend on if I come up with other blog topics to write about. Enjoy!

Finding the Right Words

“Why are you so quiet?” A coworker asked me this question a few weeks ago as I walked by his desk. As always, I didn’t know what to say.

Despite the note on my kindergarten report card that said I talked too much in class, I have been shy and quiet for as long as I can remember. Maybe I got in trouble for that kindergarten transgression and overcorrected for the rest of my life. Who knows? But talking in general, and especially in front of people I don’t already know, has been and continues to be a challenge.

Sometimes I literally can’t find the right words. Yesterday, while talking with a neighbor I was completely unable to think of the word for the little rodent that burrows around under grass and ruins lawns. I was thoroughly embarrassed when the neighbor supplied the word “mole.” Of course I knew that, but the word just refused to come when I needed it.

Even when the words themselves don’t fail me, I never know just what to say. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I should say, and sorting out in my mind what words I should use. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I can’t find the right word? What if I hurt someone’s feelings? What if I don’t really know what I’m talking about and say something stupid? What if I say something, as I so often do, in not quite the right way or words, and get laughed at? What if I embarrass myself? I spend so much thought on trying to figure out the right words to say that I miss the chance to say them in context. It is a rare day when I can actually relax and be part of a normal conversation without worrying about saying something wrong.

Instead of getting easier over time, this seems to get harder. As I learn and observe more about the world, other people, and myself it gets harder and harder to find the right words. Every so often an article comes across my social media newsfeed with a list of things not to say. I’m sure you’ve seen them: 17 things not to say to someone who (insert condition of humanity here). As well-meaning as these lists are, for me they are counter-productive. As if I wasn’t already struggling with what I should or shouldn’t say, now I’m getting bombarded with lists of more things I shouldn’t say.  I worry so much about unintentionally saying something that might insult or hurt someone, that it seems better to say nothing at all.

It seems I’ve been trying my whole life to deal with this challenge. Once when I was young, my entire family was at together at McDonald’s for dinner. After I was too shy to tell the clerk my order, everyone agreed that I didn’t talk enough, and so decided that for five minutes no one was allowed to talk except me. I could do nothing but giggle for the entire five minutes, because I was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say.

Two months ago, as I perused my file box full of half-started stories in an attempt to determine what I would write for NaNoWriMo, I discovered a recurring theme among my main characters. For as long as I have been writing (which is pretty much as long as I’ve known my letters and what a story was), I have been writing about a girl/woman who can’t speak. Occasionally she was born deaf or some illness took away her voice, but most often, for some mysterious reason, she just can’t. I’m not sure exactly how many of these stories there are, but it is at least in double-digits, and in all but perhaps one or two, this inability to speak did not make her an outcast. In contrast, in most cases she has a small but tight group of friends who love her and, more importantly, understand her, even without speech. There is always some way for her to communicate, sometimes using sign language, or writing in a notebook, or through an interpreter who can hear her inner voice.

While that may work in stories, in real life things are not so easy. So the best I can hope for is to find those rare and wonderful people who will be patient when I’m quiet and be ready when I find the right words.

Thankful – June

Month 3 of my Thankful posts. 🙂

Today I’m thankful for:

  1. The gentle rustle of the wind in the trees, enhanced by a chorus of birdsong, enjoyed from the comfort of my own little deck.
    IMG_1001[1]
  2. The rainbow after the storm.
  3. An uneventful dentist visit.
  4. Returning after a quiet week off the grid.
  5. Encouragement and shared laughter.
  6. A quiet evening at home.
  7. Life in general.
  8. A good morning for my first 5K (a bit on the cool side and slightly overcast, but the rain held off).  Run or Dye was lots of fun!
  9. I survived Monday.
  10. New toys, in the form of a Fitbit Flex, some resistance bands, and a new book to add to my collection (Mirror Sight, Book 5 of the Green Rider Series by Kristen Britain).
  11. Central Air, which I finally turned on, just to get the humidity down a bit.
  12. A Thursday that is really Friday in disguise.
  13. A day off, spending some time with my big sis!  Bonus:  An unplanned but welcome chance to go to a Tigers game, including a spectacular sunset view of the city (photo cred to the big sis)!
    IMG_1030[1]
  14. An absolutely perfect early-summer day, with warm sunshine, cool breezes, and pristine blue skies!
  15. A 79 cent bottle of bubbles. 🙂
  16. 16th – 19th.  It finally happened.
  17. I went a whole week without remembering to update my list.
  18. Now I can’t think back that far to come up with thankful items.
  19. 😦
  20. Captain Sundae (only the best ice cream shop ever) and their famous Tommy Turtle Sundae.
  21. Family time, even if things didn’t go exactly as planned/hoped.
  22. Sleep.  Lots and lots of long-overdue sleep.
  23. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis.
  24. Discovering my contact lens had jumped out of its case in time to save it from drying out!
  25. Booking my little mini-vacation/writer’s retreat.  I can’t wait!
  26. A chance to use my gift with words to help my sister on a project that is very important to her.
  27. Figuring out, after all these years, a way to get Strider to let me comb his beard!
  28. The arrival of my Camp NaNoWriMo 2014 t-shirt and the anticipation of starting writing on July 1!
  29. Cuddles from the softest kitty in the world, my little Luna.
  30. A visit (though brief) to the library! (Bonus:  Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!)

What are you thankful for today?

Going Off the Grid

My family and friends know, and enjoy giving me (usually) good-natured reminders, that I resisted cell phones and smart phones for a long time. Like so many, I was pretty adamant about it too. My refrain was often “I will never have a cell phone.” I watched as slowly people around me joined the ranks of cell phone owners. Even though I saw the usefulness, what really struck me is what I call “constant contact.” Suddenly there was never a time when someone was just plain “out of reach.” With the rise of texting, followed by smart phones with ever-increasing reach and capability, this became more and more true.

More than anything, this idea of “constant contact” was what made me cell-phone shy. I didn’t want to be constantly reachable.   I liked the idea of leaving home at home and work at work, and have times in between where I was just not available. The answering machine or voice mail could hold a message, and I could check my email once or twice a day and be content.

Eventually I gave in to the cell phone. Once that happened, I didn’t resist the smart phone quite as strongly, though I wasn’t in any great hurry to get one, mostly because of the expense of a data plan. However, I eventually gave in to the inevitable, and got an iPhone 4s. I love my iPhone. I’m not going to lie. The ease, versatility, and convenience of a smart phone make it an alluring chunk of technology to own. In the year and a half since I got my iPhone, I (like many others) have become addicted to the thing. Most of the time, it goes from room to room with me at home. I almost never leave the apartment without it. With it and the miracle of the internet, I can keep in touch with family and friends like never before: daily pictures of a niece and nephew from the other side of the state, long-distance viewing parties with fellow TV Series fans who live a thousand miles away, text messages for quick exchanges without the interruption of a phone call; social media to find and connect with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.

But with all the benefits and convenience of the information age, come certain pitfalls. Unless I stop myself, I find myself checking a hundred times a day to see if I have a new text (I don’t), or a new email (only junk messages), or if someone has liked my oh-so-witty Facebook post (must not have been as witty as I thought), or commented on the 8 millionth picture of my fuzzy-mutt posted this month alone (c’mon people, he’s the cutest dog alive, you have to agree and comment on his adorableness). Things get really hairy after that. Checking Facebook leads to taking a quiz on which Doctor I’m most like (I got the 9th Doctor, which is awesome because he’s my favorite), which leads to another quiz, and another. Once I’ve escaped the quiz-taking black hole, I click on an article or picture someone liked that seems interesting, and if I’m not very, very careful, I read the comments. At which point, I come to realize that not all human beings are as nice as I like to think they are. Rather, some of them are horrible trolls who have the terrifying (and depressing) gift of turning even the most positive, “feel-good” item into a hotly-contested point of debate about how the world and all of humanity are doomed. And I sit there dazed, thinking “I just thought it was a cute kitty, but apparently it is a harbinger of the apocalypse.”

Thanks to my particular set of quirks and foibles, all of this can lead me down an unfortunate path if I am not very guarded. I sometimes find my self-worth getting caught up in whether people are liking my statuses or responding to my texts, and I rely too much on social media for social contact, instead of actual, in person conversations. The doom and gloom and negativity of many posts and articles (and especially comments on articles) can drag me down into a funk. The ease of checking in with social media or surfing the web makes it too easy to procrastinate from things I should be doing.

And so, for the sake of my sanity (and productivity), occasionally I find it necessary to, as I like to put it, “go off the grid.” I take at least a few days to completely disconnect from social media, game apps, the internet, and as much of my cell phone as I can manage, though I’ll still text and answer calls, and sometimes check my emails. I usually shoot for about a week of being disconnected, though how long I can actually manage it varies. My off-line times are a chance to reset my mind. It’s a reminder to experience for myself, rather than witness through the filter of the internet and social media. I find myself getting more done at work and at home. My creativity reawakens when I’m living more in the real world than the virtual. When I return after a few days off the grid, I find I have a clearer perspective and can process everything with the grain of salt that is necessary with everything on the internet.

This time around, I’m also going to take it a step further. In addition to going off the grid, I’m also unplugging my TV and Blu-Ray player, and probably my computer too (except for paying bills and working on writing projects). I’ve lately found myself complaining about not having enough time for reading and writing, which is ridiculous when I can manage back-to-back movies or episodes of “Arrow” or “Doctor Who” with no problem.

Starting sometime between now and Friday, I’ll be going off the grid for at least several days. I haven’t decided just how long yet, it will be as long as it takes to get my brain reset or as long as I can stand being so out of the loop. Of course, as soon as I’m back on-line, I have to spend hours scrolling through all the feeds to catch up!

Strider’s Tale

My boy, Strider, last night.

My boy, Strider.

As I was watching a movie last night, Strider rang the sleigh bells hanging from my front doorknob to let me know he needed to go out. In this case, I suspected it wasn’t so much need as it was want. He was bored, heard the neighbors (and more importantly, their dogs) outside, and he wanted to go say hi. I, on the other hand, had other thoughts. We spent over 2 hours the afternoon before hanging out with the neighbors and their dogs, and my introverted self needed a quiet evening in. So, I promised him “in a little bit” and kept watching my movie. At one point as he was waiting, Strider sat on the other side of the coffee table from me, just patiently watching until I remembered his request. He was so adorable, I had to take out my phone and snap a picture.   And the picture was just so cute, I had to post it on Facebook. The caption I used was “Seriously. How could anyone not love this face?”

I meant the question lightly. I just love my goofy mutt so much, and I love to share his fuzzy cuteness with everyone.   I’m sure there are plenty of folks who just shake their heads, or laugh at my silliness, and scroll on.  However, as I was getting ready for bed later in the evening, somehow my thoughts returned to the photo and caption. At first I just smiled again. But as I thought more, it came to me. Someone didn’t love this face. Or at least, didn’t love it enough.

Meeting Strider for the first time.

Meeting Strider for the first time.

I adopted Strider from Animal Control. A friend came across his picture on an adoptable pet page one day, remembered I had once told her I wanted to have an Irish Wolfhound someday, and that I would name him Strider, after Aragorn the Ranger/King in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. My friend called about him and learned he had been brought in as a stray and had been in the shelter a week. He would only be held there one week more. Though the clock was ticking, the good news was that a couple of Wolfhound breeders/rescues had already called about him and would take him in if no one adopted him. Even though I protested that I really wasn’t ready to have a dog, my friend convinced me to meet the shaggy stray, drove me the hour to the animal control shelter, and introduced me to the sweet boy who I could not help but love. He was so eager to please when we took him out of his kennel to get to know him a bit. He demonstrated that he already knew all the basics (sit, down, etc.), making it clear he’d belonged to someone, and they’d spent the time to teach him. I should have known instantly that it was meant to be, but I tried to be practical. I told my friend that I would look for a new apartment that would allow me to have a big dog. If, in the week I had, I found a place for a price I could afford, I would take the plunge and adopt my first dog ever. Needless to say, I found a place, and took Strider home with me a week later. He had his first vet exam and the surgery required as part of his adoption. The Veterinarians told me he was 3 or 4 years old.

3 or 4 years old, and clearly trained. He’d belonged to someone. Someone had taken the time to be sure he was well-trained in at least the basic commands. Someone had seen what I can only imagine was the world’s most adorable puppy face. Someone had watched his puppy antics, when his rapidly growing legs made him all gangly and awkward. Someone had watched that puppy face elongate and broaden into this handsome face, with those deep brown eyes that gaze off into the distance. And when he escaped, or chased a squirrel, or was frightened, or just ran for the love of running, that someone let him go.   Or maybe they deliberately let him go. He had no tags, collar or microchip. Maybe he didn’t grow up true to the breed they’d expected. Maybe he was too hairy. Maybe he bark-howled too loud, or ran too fast, or had an accident in the house one too many times. No one called or came to animal control looking for him. There were no notices posted. Someone he loved and trusted (because Strider is not capable of anything less for that one special person in his life) let him wander away.

In the distance

It is unfathomable to me that anyone would not go to the ends of the earth to find him when he was lost. I know I did. I’d had Strider for about 2 years when he and his cousins (my sister’s dogs) decided to go for a jaunt instead of being brought in from the outside pen at my sister’s house. My sister’s dogs came home. But Strider was not at his home, and didn’t come back. He was missing for an entire week. I was heartbroken.   I called the shelters and the local police. I put up flyers. I drove around calling his name. I put ads online, and friends shared it for me. At the time he was not microchipped (he is now), but he had a collar with tags. In the end, that was how we were reunited. He’d been hanging around a mini-farm that had several animals, including 2 dogs. The owners of the house put food out for him, but for a few days he was too shy for them to grab him. Finally, they succeeded. When my phone rang late that Friday night, and a man told me “I think I have something that belongs to you” and mentioned a dog, I literally could not believe it. At this point, hope was fading that I would ever see my boy again. The statistics were against us. It was cold and there were many busy streets in the area where he ran off. I had to ask the man to repeat himself, and I was almost in tears on the phone. He described Strider, and his collar, and said he’d found my number on the tags. I got directions and drove right over. I hoped but would not allow myself to believe that it was my boy until I laid eyes on him. Our heroes had allowed him to temporarily take over one of their dogs’ crates. He just about broke the thing when I came down the stairs and around the corner. Once out of the crate, he almost knocked me over, and smacked me in the face in his excitement. And I didn’t care. I had my boy back. There was nothing to do but hug him and cry into his fur. If it ever happened again (heaven forbid) I would do it all over again to find him.

My Strider is one of the lucky ones, to find a home where he will be loved fiercely and forever (despite bark-howls that could wake the dead, stubbornness unless there are treats in it if he obeys, and long, grey hair everywhere). I am blessed to have him. He warns me of strangers. His racket deterred an attempted break-in. This dog of many nicknames and many faces makes me smile. When he leans in for more scratches, I know he loves me fiercely and forever (despite cranky days when his excitement annoys me, or grumbles when he has to go out at 3am, or laziness that makes him wait until the end of the movie before he can go out).

If you are blessed with or are considering getting a dog (or any pet), I ask you to remember that a pet is forever. Eventually, puppies become dogs. Kittens become cats. They won’t always be as adorable. Sometimes they will misbehave.   They’ll get old and weak. They might become sick. But they will love you more completely than you can imagine, and are more than worth the trouble. Please do your part. Adopt from a shelter instead of a breeder (and never a pet store, unless they are partnered with a shelter). Spay and Neuter your pets. Keep collars on them, with updated tags with at least your phone number. Have them microchipped (if you do a little research, you can find groups that will microchip inexpensively; don’t let the cost deter you as it did me for a few years). Scratch them behind the ears. Let them give you kisses, at least once in a while. Take them to the vet if they don’t feel well. Play with them. Talk to them. Love them.  And don’t give up on them.

Grown up

Thankful – May

Month 2 of my Thankful posts. 🙂

Today I’m thankful for:

  1.  A new month, when the days will get longer and warmer!
  2.  A long-overdue visit with a friend!
  3.  Seeing my talented and beautiful niece play Beth in her high school’s production of “Little Women.”  Girls, you made me cry!  🙂  (Bonus:  Ikea!)
  4.  A quiet and restful Sunday, during which I allowed myself to just relax.  (Bonus: Star Wars day – “May the Fourth be with you.”)
  5. Hudsonville Deer Tracks ice cream.
  6. Recognizing a potentially cranky day and somehow stopping it before it got too bad.
  7. #2 of 3 “First Readers” has finished reading my NaNo novel.  She has lots of notes, but said she liked it!
  8. Enjoying a beautiful afternoon outside watching a couple neighbor-dogs play with my big mutt.
  9. Payday.
  10. A lovely spring morning, relaxing on my deck with Strider (and trying to teach him not to bark at all the neighbors).
  11. A beautiful afternoon at the greenhouse to pick out flowers for my deck, followed by ice cream on a dairy farm.
  12. Modern medicine.  Praying for my sister-in-law as she has her gall bladder removed today.  (Bonus:  My 25th follower on this blog!)  Update: all went well!
  13. In unit laundry.
  14. This first look at the CW’s “The Flash”!
  15. Celebrating the AMAZING Season Finale of the CW’s “Arrow” via a long-distance viewing party with my brother and sister-in-law.  Wow!!!  (Bonus:  The extended trailer for “The Flash.”)
  16. Friday.  Need I say more?
  17. A late night visit of my muse, which put me in good shape to start writing the next story I’ve been kicking around in my head.  Actually, this might have been on the 18th.  I don’t remember which side of midnight it started on.  (Bonus: New shorts, capris, and t-shirts that fit.)
  18. A fun day with family at Fifth Third Ballpark (go Whitecaps!).  This surprise was part of the 40 days ’til 40 countdown to my brother’s birthday!
  19. A quiet day at work.  I could get used to this.  Maybe I should have been a librarian.
  20. Being able to open my sliding door & windows to enjoy a beautiful late afternoon, and then listen to an evening storm!  In my prior apartment, I couldn’t open my windows even briefly without getting swarms of bugs coming in, so this is a big deal!
  21. Being able to take my dog to a professionals to trim his nails.  (Bonus:  Star Wars dog toys are a thing!  Strider has his own X-Wing now).
  22. A listening ear.
  23. The office closing early for the Holiday weekend!
  24.  My brother Tom & his wife Gina, on their shared birthday!
  25. A wonderful dog park, where Strider has the chance to be “all dog” for a while.
  26. The men and women, past, present, and future,  who put their lives on the line for our country.  Today, on Memorial Day, I honor and remember you.
  27. A day of beautiful contradictions.  Silence and Song.  Sunshine and Rain.  Motion and Rest.
  28. My 25th blog post (even if finishing it kept me up way too late)!
  29. Reading on my little deck, while neighbor kids play and adults chat, feeling the warmth of the evening sun balanced by a cool breeze, listening to the rustling leaves of the trees, and realizing that here, in the fourth apartment in 7 years, I’ve found a place that feels like home!
  30. Gathering just the right amount of courage to do something that to anyone else would be no big deal, but to me was well outside of my comfort zone.
  31. A small loss at Weight Watchers weigh-in for the second week in a row, which meant that I could build the second level of my Lego Tower of Orthanc.  BONUS: an absolutely gorgeous morning for a 3.1 mile walk on the Paint Creek trail.

Now that I’ve completed the second month of this thankfulness exercise, I’ve found that it really does have an affect on my attitude.  Just taking a moment to find and acknowledge something, however small, to be thankful for in every day not only brightens that particular day, but helps me to be more mindful of those things every day.  While this, as anything else, is made easier by practicing, it is still not easy to find something every day.  Sometimes all I can find is something mundane, like in unit laundry or payday, while other days there are a few that make it hard to pick just one.  That doesn’t matter, as long as I’m remembering that even the roughest days are worth giving thanks.

What are you thankful for today?

Thankful – April

I’ve recently been inspired by a friend on Facebook, who posts something to be thankful for nearly every day.  I’ve read articles as well that tout the benefits of having an “attitude of gratitude.”  I’ve come to realize that this is an area where I can definitely use some work, so I have decided to compile a “thankful list” each month, with one item per day, and post it here at the end of the month.  So, here we go!

Today I am thankful for:

  1. Naps.  Even short ones.
  2. Jeans and Sneakers.  Yay for being comfortable at work (and going for a 1 mile walk for National Walking day)!
  3. iTunes and excellent storytelling in the form of the CW’s Arrow.  Wow.
  4. Fridays, and the start of the weekend.
  5. Music teachers: my own of years past, and friends & family who are currently music teachers.  I wish I could list you all, but there are so many.  All teachers are amazing, but music teachers have a special place in my heart!
  6. A long walk on the nature trails, mud included!
  7. The 20th post on this blog, and my 20th follower!
  8. A chance at work to actually catch up and have a moment to breathe for the first time in months.  Even if it only lasted 30 minutes.
  9. A new shirt that made people at work smile because it is the exact color of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and Shamrock Shakes.
  10. Scheduling a visit from a friend I haven’t seen in too long!
  11. A quiet evening at home and going to bed early.
  12. Spending time with my sister at an amazing nearby county park.
  13. Enjoying open windows for the first time in way too long.
  14. A beautiful golden retriever who encouraged my people-shy Strider to (reluctantly) make a new human-friend.
  15. Doritos Locos tacos from Taco Bell.
    ****A little mid-month note here.  This is harder than I anticipated it would be, and that’s even knowing it wasn’t going to be easy.  There are days when I forget to check in on my draft of this post.  Then it slips into 2 days, or 3, and then I have to try to think back, remember my days, and try to find something in them worth being thankful for.  However, it is well worth the effort.  On the other hand, I already know what I’m going to be thankful for 10 days from now!*****
  16. Packages that deliver earlier than anticipated! I’m especially thankful for this because it also means that a little surprise I have for my brother can hitch a ride with my sister who will see him this weekend, and he’ll get it much sooner than my procrastinating self would have gotten it mailed to him.
  17. The magical power of a laser-pointer in getting a stubborn kitty out from under the bed.
  18. The fact that my sister’s escape-artist dog always stays relatively nearby and always comes home.
  19. 3 watchful doggies.
  20. An empty tomb.
  21. Warmth, wind, and rain.
  22. The first tiny bit of feedback from my NaNo novel first readers.  She was mad.  This is a good sign.
  23. Home.  That unique place where I can be fully myself.  Bonus: Being able to watch Arrow on its actual air date instead of 1 day later!
  24. My nephew, Colin. Happy 3rd birthday, little guy!
  25. A hard-earned day-off, mostly spent catching up on sleep!
  26. Celebrating with family – Colin’s birthday party!
  27. Sitting down at Panera with the first first-reader to finish reading my NaNo novel!  My faith in my little tale is being built up.
  28. A job that keeps a roof over my head, my car payment made, and food on the table/in the pet bowls, even though I have to continually remind myself to be thankful for this one.
  29. Spring showers and verdant grass.  Also, thunderstorms.
  30. An apartment complex that gives back – I won a $25 rent credit in a drawing for paying my rent early!  Bonus: finishing this post, since I’m overdue on posting anything here!

This has been an adventure.  Some days it is harder than others to come up with something to be thankful for.  As with most things, it also started out fairly easy and then got more difficult as time went on.  It has been a good excercise, though, and I intend to continue in the coming months.

What are you thankful for today?

Thoughts on “Entering”

On Thursday night I was feeling a bit poetical.  It is spring, after all, and my guess is almost everyone has dabbled in poetry in the Spring: we just can’t help ourselves.  That I actually felt like writing a poem, however, was significant.  It has been a long time since I’ve really felt “the muse.”  What little I have written in the past couple of years (I could probably count the number of poems on one hand) has been far from encouraging or uplifting.  On the contrary, the scattered handful of poems of the past few years have been the result of my own need to open the floodgates of my anger, hurt, and sadness and let all the junk come rushing out.  Chances are good I won’t be sharing any of those raw and deeply personal words.

While I love winter, cold and snow included, the length and extremes of this winter took their toll on me, as I am sure they did on many others.  Even I was praying for spring to come, for a chance to get outside again and breathe deep.  I felt as if my soul had filled up with gunk that needed to be washed away. There have been days in the past few weeks when I felt so discouraged, as if my hope had been stripped away.  In truth, it wasn’t all the weather, and I am working on the aspects of that gunk that I can’t blame on lack of fresh air and sunlight.  I’ve been struggling for a long time, but I am trying to reset my thoughts towards better, more positive mindsets.  It is very hard work.  It is ever-so-slowly starting to get a little easier, but it will continue to be hard work for some time.

On Thursday I finally felt hope again that we were truly entering a new season.  Spring was finally here.  I took Strider for a short walk, as the forecast was for rain at any minute.  I wore my spring jacket, just in case the rain started, but I really didn’t need it.  The wind against my face as we walked out was strong and warm.  I felt the cobwebs inside me stirring, but reluctant to give up their hold.  Coming back, the wind was at our backs, and strong enough to blow my hair into dancing tendrils reaching beyond my face.  There was just enough sunlight seeping through the clouds to bring out the color of my misbehaving locks.  And I laughed at the thought.

I came back inside and felt life stirring within once again.  I felt like writing, either starting a new story or preparing notes for one, but needed to tidy up my writing-space first.  Tidying-up turned into full-fledged cleaning, and 2.5 hours later, it was almost bedtime and I didn’t have enough time to really work on anything.  So, I decided to try a few verses.  I had to think about it.  A phrase had popped into my head earlier, and I knocked it around in there for a several minutes before it started to germinate.  After that it didn’t take long for it to become “Entering.”

As poems go, perhaps there isn’t much to it.  It is short and unpolished.  I published it here with only two minor tweaks from the original draft.  But, it is a first glimmer of a hope that I intend to grasp and nourish if I can.  It is the hope that I am not just passing from nature’s winter to spring, but that I am personally leaving behind one season and entering another.

The Magic of the Moment

As something of a storyteller, I love to throw myself into anything that has an interesting tale to it: a good book or series of books, TV series, movie or series of movies, even music or an anecdote told around the lunch table. Offer me a good story and I am there, sometimes with an overzealous interest or somewhat intimidating (I’m told), quietly intense focus. From there, as mentioned in a previous post, I usually want to know everything.

Interestingly enough, though, it is often a single moment that stays with me. It might be an emotional moment, or something quirky or powerful that caught my attention. Often, it is that “ah-ha” moment when something suddenly makes perfect sense, or a new fact is revealed that makes so many other hints and pieces fall into place.

Here are a few examples of recent favorite moments:

  1. The CWs Arrow. Arrow is one of my big “loves” right now, so I could probably come up with at least a dozen favorite moments, but there is one that almost always comes first to mind. In the episode “Crucible” (Season 2 Episode 4) Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle are in the Arrow Cave, and Oliver is being a little bit taken to task for keeping yet another secret. His constant control breaks for a moment, and all the pain and struggle he feels rise to the surface for a brief, glorious moment of humanity as he exclaims “These were five years…five years… where nothing good happened!” I’ve watched this episode at least 4 times, and that moment still gets me.   Felicity’s little “Do you have any happy stories?” in that scene is also a perfect moment.
  2. No list of mine could possibly be complete without at least one Lord of the Rings or Hobbit reference. For the purposes of these moments, the one that comes readily to mind takes place after Gandalf falls to the Balrog in the deep of Moria. While staying in Lothlorien, the fellowship hears the elves singing laments for Gandalf. “But if Legolas was with the Company, he would not interpret the songs for them, saying that he had not the skill, and that for him the grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song.” (JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring). This is one of my favorite moments of the books, and I love the interpretation it was given in the movie.
  3. On a recent drive to visit family, I was listening to John William’s music from the Star Wars movies (episodes IV-VI). It had been a long time since I’d just listened to the music, and I’d almost forgotten just how amazing that soundtrack is. At various times I found myself laughing from the pure joy the music gave or having to shake off a bout of the chills at a particularly moving theme.

As I’ve been pondering my love of moments recently, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t just movie/music/novel moments that move me. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. Our lives are made up of an endless succession of moments. And I’m coming to realize that it is the little moments that are most important. We can plan a long vacation, or an extra special outing and these events will always be important to us. But details will fade over time, until what remains are the memories of moments, rather than the whole event.

The family vacations of my childhood have blurred together until what I remember is just bits and pieces. The bunk beds of our camper. Playing board games as a family. Dad’s perfect marsh-mellow toasting technique (which my brother has inherited, thank goodness!).

Countless long drives, which boil down to three things: 1) falling asleep on the back bench seat of the van that folded down into a bed and getting gum stuck in my hair. 2) having my own little bag of things to do on the drive, none of which included batteries or the need for a charger. 3) pretending the van was the space shuttle, and my brother and I were the astronauts flying off on some grand adventure.

A trip to Kentucky/Tennessee became the reluctant admission that Opryland was not as boring as we thought it would be when Mom and Dad said we were going there. Experiencing The Stephen Foster Story musical at an outdoor theater was, at the time, hands down the most wonderful, amazing thing I’d ever seen. I can still remember, albeit somewhat distantly, the awe and wonder I felt at the end of that show.

My sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner (I was 11) was the Pastor’s warning about the heat and what to do if anyone felt faint. On her wedding day, all of us girls sitting on the floor of the dressing room in the dresses my mom made for us, with the skirts flounced around us so that we all looked like flowers and sweating so much throughout the day that the navy blue of our dresses bled through onto our rented petticoats.

More recently, there are moments such as watching a movie with my five-year-old niece. She snuggled up against my arm, with one hand resting on the fur of the world’s softest kitty (my little Luna) who snuggled up on me too. The excitement of my little nephew when he sees me coming, and the sweetness of a little boy voice praying before breakfast or saying “Aunt Becca.” Going on a brisk not-quite-spring walk with my sister and getting my feet completely muddy and drenched despite valiant efforts to avoid ridiculously deep puddles.  Sitting quietly in a room with 3 others, all of us reading separately but sharing a wonderful, peaceful moment. Running around mid-party because I put the treasure hunt clues in the wrong places.

I’m starting to realize that it is all these little moments, woven together as the threads of a tapestry, that make a life.   I am also learning that the moments can happen anywhere and under any circumstances. It doesn’t take an elaborate plan or extraordinary event to build a moment worth treasuring. All it takes is a conscious effort to be present and aware. Not all of the moments will be happy or wonderful, but I can make an effort to retain the positive and good moments and let the others slip away.