Trusting In The New Year Ahead

As a child I moved constantly. My dad was an architect/ home builder and we often lived in half built houses while he finished them off and then sold them. It was a pain of course having to change schools, leaving “best” friends behind, and feeling my way during those first weeks in new schools and neighborhoods. I did it though, often missing what I’d left behind. It wasn’t until I was in highschool that I stayed in the same school with the same classmates that I finally felt I really had a home. But when I graduated I moved to Vermont with my parents and went to college there. Another new beginning. Bill and I met there, got married there, and that’s where our kids were born.

We left Vermont in 1979 and came to Virginia where we’ve been ever since. For the most part I love the weather, except for  hot and humid July and August. The rest of the year is pretty awesome though. We moved here to the Charlottesville area in 1985. Since then we have moved three times within this community. Each place we have landed was perfect for us at the time and when we needed something new we moved on.

We’re still in Charlottesville and continue loving it. The new home we moved into in November is perfect for us right now. We’ve been able to simplify and find that aging is easier than it would have been in the lovely home we recently left. This place is smaller, better organized, and easier to take care of. And we continue to still have the friends we made here.

We’re still getting settled, but we’re warm and cozy and enjoying the array of birds at our new birdfeeder. Even the resident blue birds come to feed. I’ve never had them come to a seed feeder before. When summer comes I’ll be offering them meal worms to keep them around. Our aging kitty, Lilliput, is now an indoor cat and is no longer a threat to the avian and rodent communities around us.

All of us have just moved into a new year. There will be more fresh starts and adventures ahead. What are you hoping for in 2018? What will bring all of us joy during the next 12 months? What will we bring with us that will sustain us during possible trials ahead?

I’m bringing TRUST as my word for the coming days and continue to work with last years word, PAUSE, which I still need to work on. I trust that the days ahead will be filled with love, kindness and ease. I hope to continue to pause when life gets tough, remembering all of the things that I am so grateful for … including family, friends, and you, my followers.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Cleaning House

DSCF0734.JPGThe holidays are upon us, life is crazy, and there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve cleaned out all of the blue mold in my refrigerator, put all the summer clothes away, and have begun to file the huge stack of stuff in my studio that’s been steadily growing for at least three months. I was under the impression that it might disappear on its own. Of course I know better. But once in a while I think maybe things have changed.

I cannot start 2016 with a life overflowing with everything I’ve been allowing to pile up. There certainly will be more of that to come. And if I let it go any further I’ll be in deep trouble and I won’t be happy with myself.

IMG_0477So, I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging in order to get organized and ready for the approach of a new year which already appears to be filling up with challenges … like my husband’s knee replacement surgery in late January.

I will not be present on Facebook and Twitter during that time. I’ve allowed them both to be distracting and somewhat addictive.

I will be back on December 1st with my next newsletter, a review of Brene Brown’s new book, Rising Strong, and how it’s helped me to see the progress I’ve been making in my life. There will be other goodies within it as well.

I will begin posting again here on my blog on December 8th.

DSC00399.JPGIn the meantime I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Among the many things I’m grateful for, are you, my readers. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me here and leave comments.

What are you most grateful for this year?

How To Be Sane In An Insane World

Virginia Creepeer

Virginia Creeper

“All through our gliding journey, on this day as on so many others, a little song runs through my mind. I say song because it passes musically, but it is really just words, a thought that is neither strange nor complex. In fact, how strange it would be not to think it — not to have such music inside one’s head and body, on such an afternoon. What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift I should bring to the world? What is the life I should live?
Mary Oliver (from “Flow,” Long Life)

While beautiful and amazingly wonderful things lie all around us, we often forget to notice them, finding ourselves angry, depressed, grieving, living in fear, and unable to make a difference in our horribly screwed up world.

How do we stay sane while thousands of human being are turned back as they seek refuge from war, death, and destruction in their home countries?

Why must we worry about school shootings, bomb threats, and other horrific events that have become a regular new kind of normal?

What can we do about the political voices spewing hatred, prejudice, and racial slurs over the airwaves?

There seems to be no end in sight of things to fear and worry about … the economy, global climate change, finding work, and keeping our families clothed and fed. But instead of making our lives miserable and filled with angst, we can become extra mindful, notice the good things, and spread the gift of positivity every where we go.

Notice the way the wind tosses the autumn leaves about. Hear them as they drop and hit the ground, sometimes silently, other times with a crunch.

Watch the birds gathering together in preparation for their long migration to warmer climes.

Say, Hello, to people you pass on the street. Give them the gift of your best smile. They may be angry, sad or depressed. But knowing that someone has seen them and recognized them as a fellow human being may help them find respite from their troubles, at least for a moment.

Point out the glorious rainbow arcing over the mountains to those who are complaining about the rain.

It doesn’t sound like much, and it may seem like a losing proposition to those who can only see the dark side of things. But being positive amidst the mess we find ourselves in, can make a difference, not only in our own behavior, but in those around us. Laughter is the best medicine and if we can find the humor in a situation and begin to giggle, we’ll often find others joining us, laughing so hard they can’t stand up straight.

We need to stop complaining and when the time comes, go out and vote for those who respect humanity and the struggles we all face. We’re too taken up by the loudest voices who bring us down, rarely noticing the good things happening behind the scenes. Change takes time. Begin to trust that amidst all of the chaos, noise, speed, and destruction we see around us, things can change for the better.

Every day watch the sun rise and be grateful for new beginnings. Hope and trust is present in every moment. Be there to experience it.

These are the things I practice to keep myself from giving up and expecting the worst.  What do you do to keep yourself happy and sane in this maddening world?

 

My first monthly newsletter will be sent out on October 1st. Do sign up and let me know what you think.

Do You Take Time For Self Care?

Feeling Crappy!

How I look when I’m feeling crappy!

When I took a long break from social media this past winter I found there was a good reason to have the extra time to just plain deal with life. That was when Bill’s knee blew out and I needed the extra time to take care of him. He is slowly improving after his surgery to repair a torn meniscus and to remove the arthritis that had been building up in the knee. But he still isn’t 100%. His doctors are telling him it’ll be another four or five months before he’ll be back to normal. So he goes to the gym, works out on a recumbent bike to keep his muscles working and puts up with feeling frustrated and the almost continuous pain.

Our acceptance of what seems like a major intrusion in our lives is growing and we’ve settled in, taking the summer one day at a time. This week he went off to Ukulele Camp in North Carolina. He drove himself down there stopping every hour or so to keep his knee working. He’ll be bringing home new tunes with which to serenade me and hopefully this adventure will help with his frustration level. Yes, our minds needs care, too.

Now after another three week break, I’m back. It was a much needed time in which I took care of some loose odds and ends I’d been ignoring … like the chronic pain I’ve been experiencing for years and my sometimes complete exhaustion. I am one of those women who takes care of everyone around her but herself, though now those lessons are beginning to take hold.

After spending almost two years watching my daughter deal with Chronic Lyme disease and feeling helpless because I couldn’t help her in any way, I finally caved into the fact that my symptoms were very similar to hers. Because I didn’t have major deadlines for a while, I decided to go see the Lyme Disease specialist here in Charlottesville. It turns out I do have Lyme Disease, along with the Epstein Barr virus, a parasite in my gut, and Adrenal Fatigue.

Finally knowing why I’ve been feeling so crappy has been a blessing. I must say I had an inkling of what my problem was. But still the aha moment was dizzying and very much needed. My unpredictable joint and muscle pains had been getting worse, along with headaches, and lots of brain fog. I needed long naps in the afternoons so that I could stay awake in the evenings. No amount of yoga, pilates, massage and chiropractic helped.  I pictured Bill and myself limping into the future unable to take care of each other.

IMG_1626But the news is good and I’m already beginning to feel like my old self. I’m on a homeopathic protocol. My joint pain is gone, as are the headaches. Though I still have a few sore muscles, I have much more energy and little brain fog. This week will be the third week of eight that I will spray a number of different homeopathic remedies under my tongue three times a day. I will then go to using the sprays twice a day for another eight weeks, and then go to once a day, until I meet to discuss the outcome with my care-giver. That I’ve been gluten free for several years and have recently gone lactose free has helped a lot. Most of the time I watch my sugar intake and try to keep added sugars to a bare minimum, using only honey once in a while. It’s been pretty easy. Though I miss ice cream and cheese, I’ve taken to having one or two pieces of dark chocolate when I’m feeling starved for the things I’m not supposed to eat.

I’ve always vowed I would not allow myself to become what I call a Rocking Chair Granny, unable to do much but rock on her front porch watching the world go by. When I go down I want to be doing something I love to do, still filled with curiosity and the need to learn and experience everything that excites me.

I’ve been at work, too.  I finished rereading my manuscript and sent it off for its copyedit last week, have finished reading a number of books, and am ready to go back to doing some serious work. The big difference between then and now is that I’m listening to my body and giving myself lots of time to let is rest, eat well, and get exercise.  Those things are at the very top of my What is Important list.

When was the last time you gave yourself some time to just be and see how you are feeling? Do you have a list of your most important things to take care of?

The Gifts Of Friends And Time

Janet opening uncorking wine.

Janet opening uncorking wine.

Just a week ago this past Sunday, I found myself on Chincoteague Island. The day time temperature was about 60 degrees and the sun was sparkling away on the water. I was with four other women, who I’d first met on the internet as I began my journey as a memoirist.

Known for the book, Misty of Chincoteague, written by Marguerite Henry, and illustrated by Wesley Dennis, Chincoteague is where every summer the wild ponies of Assateague Island are sent swimming across a narrow inlet to Chincoteague, where many go up for adoption to families looking to make a child’s dream of owning a pony, come true. It’s a way of managing the ever growing herd, leaving space for the next year’s babies.

Shirley preparing Waldorf Salad.

Shirley preparing Waldorf Salad.

There was Shirley, who I’d met first a couple of years ago. I’d been following her blog and knew she lived about an hour away over in the Shenandoah Valley. I was considering taking a class about book marketing and knowing that she had taken the same class earlier, I called her hoping she would give me an honest opinionn of her experience. She was just finishing work on her memoir, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. I invited her to come and stay with me during the Virginia Festival of the Book, held here in Charlottesville, every March.

She came and spent several nights with me. We enjoyed the book festival and spent lots of time talking about our writing projects. Shirley’s generosity in sharing what she knew about publishing and writing memoir was beyond anything I’d dreamed of. A few months later, I visited her for several nights in her home. She read the first couple of chapters of my book, made extremely helpful suggestions, and provided encouragement. I will be forever grateful for her views and her friendship. On this trip she was a awesome roommate and my chauffeur extraordinaire.

Janet was the second of these women I’d met in person. We’d been following each other’s blogs and chatted by email about dealing with aging mothers. I discovered that she lived in a town in Vermont where I had lived for thirteen years, and had recently written a memoir about her Peace Corps years, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe. I knew I had to meet her. On a trip to up north last fall, I gave Janet a call and we met for lunch. I read her book, and loved her story about her experiences living and working in Kazakhstan for two years. I hoped we’d get a chance to get together again. Finding out that she had a home on Virginia’s, Chincoteague Island, about 5 hours away, I invited her to come and visit anytime she was in the area. We talked briefly about how much fun it would be to get together with Shirley, and several other memoirists we both knew on the internet.

Magnificent Chef Kathy!

Magnificent Chef Kathy!

One of those other writers was Kathy, whose blog, over at, Memior Writers Journey, is one of best places to learn about blogging and writing in general. Her interviews with other memoir writers have been invaluable for me as I continue to work on my own book. She invited me to write a guest blog for her, which I did, and I cheered her on as she published her memoir, Ever Faithful to his Lead, a story about her experience finding her way our of two abusive marriages. When I asked her to be a beta reader for me I found her generosity and willingness to help me  far beyond any expectations I had. I knew I had to meet her someday.

Marian, the charming and entertaining writer over at Plain and Fancy, a blog I’ve been following for over a year, was the one I knew the least about. But her stories connecting her childhood to present day happenings is delightful, as is her use of old memorabilia, from photos to recipes, as the basis for her enchanting writings. She has just begun writing her own memoir about growing up Mennonite and her move away from being plain to a fancy member of the world. Captivated by Marian’s sense of humor and openness, I’m happy to have been able to spend time with her, and get to know her better. Despite our different backgrounds, we have a lot in common.

Marian, Kathy, and Me.

Marian, Kathy, and Me.

I know the moon and the tides played a part in sweeping us all ashore together for an unforgettable week of writing, eating healthy, home cooked meals and sharing unending laughter. Janet’s log cabin was a perfect place for such a retreat and her hospitality was unending.

Just over a week later, as snow is falling and accumulating outside my window, I’m remembering those seven days I spent on Janet’s warm sunporch, where I set up my computer and revised seven chapters of my upcoming book. Inspire by Shirley and Kathy taking a hiatus from social media for Lent, this will be my last post until April. I will not be present on Facebook or Twitter, two places that take too much of my writing time. I plan on continuing the revisions of my book, shoveling snow, and watching the crocuses and daffodils reach for the sun when all the snow is gone.

For information about renting Janet’s cabin for your own retreat go here.