Freedom in the now

Where does your freedom find you today?

As I traveled over 3,000 miles across 9 different states in my yearly girls road trip with my bestie, it occurred to me that everywhere we went, people were doing life .. in the now.

Some of our trip was intertwined with family, suffering from age, infirmity and the isolation that comes from having lost a spouse.

The isolation contrasted the feeling of driving the many miles, viewing uncluttered and some undeveloped roads in America, where a small shack is a home, and laundry hangs between the trees on a limp clothesline at noon.

Majestic mountains hugged each other with forests that seemed eternal, even enchanted.

Freedom to a woman living in a nursing home is different than that of someone who has the means to move about the country and go to the store, or church, or even a hair appointment.

Those of us who are free to move about sometimes forget that not all are free.

How many moments do we waste complaining about small things .. the weather, other people, and maybe even things we do not have?

So this Independence Day, I ask myself, “What am I doing with my freedom? And am I using it to help others?”

A thoughtful, inspiring, and uplifting 4th of July.

I cherish the heritage of those in my family’s genealogy who fought for freedom. I also cherish that we all live and love on this earth together, a celebration of humanity.

The more of this beautiful world I see, the more I desire to explore it.

Have a blessed Independence Day!

There goes the light bulb again

Oh bother.

After requesting to cancel my gym membership, a very sweet marketing text came from the company telling me they could just freeze my account until I felt like returning to the gym.

A workout outfit.

Saw a lady all jazzed up in her workout clothes and thought just how stinking cute workout clothes are and how much fun they are to wear.

And you know what happened.

I sent a text to my bestie and said I changed my mind and after our girls trip, I will get serious about working out.

“What made you change your mind?” she asked.

Everyone needs that one friend who untangles your mental spaghetti.

And lays it straight.

“Well, I need it,” I said.

Not to mention when I am at home I can think about a billion other things to do.

The list.

As we have been talking about hopes, dreams, goals and plans, I penciled a list in a small wire bound castaway old notebook that got mashed in the bottom of my camera bag.

Worthy notes, indeed, on dog eared pages.

Exercise today was supposed to be “walk around the yard.” Instead, it was send some cards to friends and tote stuff from the front passenger seat of my car to the trunk so I could take my car to the car spa.

If cars could talk, she would sigh, chew her mint gum and file her nails as she batted her eyelashes at me.

She clearly knew I was not going to fetch out my box of tools, two beach chairs, small bag of newspapers, one overstuffed choir folder and a few pairs of shoes and who knows how many sweaters are hanging around in there. There might even be a roll of toilet paper. Lol. (Duh, fishing bait, or a square to spare if in the middle of nowhere or something like that. Grandma said it was essential and I in my adult life has never used the bathroom outdoors, we just don’t do that any more !!) Nevertheless, it’s there. Along with a battery-less flashlight. And a jar of peanut butter. And a beach towel.

And a few cloth grocery bags.

(Says me to the people reading this laughing, don’t judge me.)

So I made my list and put my chores on there, quiet time with prayer, write articles and make phone calls, visit the hairdresser for root color and a trim, visit the car spa for an overall cleaning, go to the grocery store, write another article, return to the house and cook a batch of turkey to freeze, two pans of meatballs for supper with spaghetti, bread and salad, freeze five bowls of chili, pet the cat multiple times, eat supper and run downtown to shoot photos for a magazine.

For sure, a productive day.

Anyway.

I guess my tennis shoes are running to catch up to me today.

My plan worked.

I got my steps in.

A Dream is a Hope Planned in Advance

Today I awoke with a plan.

Life things, you know. Laundry. Wash dishes. Clean the bathroom. Return phone calls. Check emails.

I love cleaning house and I know that seems weird.

Who doesn’t love the smell of soap? And clean laundry swishing about in the dryer?

Anyway.

My bestie and I are just a week and a half away from our yearly girls trip to my home state and also to another state where my oldest daughter and her family live.

This is the time of year when all my creativity dances like fireflies on an Indiana hill in the summer.

I love to travel and see new things, and explore our country and its people.

Things like a painted barn make me smile. So do cows. And chickens on the run.

Old houses. Apple orchards. And more.

I love visiting my family.

My annual trip is a must for me. In a perfect world, I could make that trip, in various capacities, a few times a year.

Instead of saying see you next year, it would be a few months.

So one of my dreams is to make enough money to both take care of my usual and do several trips a year. And perhaps wrap some book signing into that, and maybe a couple speaking engagements, to help fund that.

Everyone, I believe, has dreams beyond the ordinary.

Over dinner tonight with friends, we all discussed what kind of cars we would have if we were wealthy.

(I don’t prefer the word rich. I am rich because my life is richly filled with church, family and friends. Wealth is material and money based.)

One said a friend of theirs saw a Rolls Royce they’d like to have.

I said no way.

Give me a king cab pickup truck fully loaded and a Jeep Wrangler the same, and we are good.

Well my friend reminded me, that hey you need your everyday car.

Hmm. Well. Maybe a Dodge Charger.

Lol.

But given the present cost of gas, I am so glad I don’t have a truck or a Jeep.

Wealthy to me: I want to be established enough that I not only take care of my own bills (which I have been doing for years), but also being able to contribute in great ways.

A philanthropist.

Dreams run on hopes and as long as hope exists, we have dreams.

So where does planning come in?

If I have a dream to take an extra trip next year, or send a special gift, or fund an activity, I have to plan. Scribble some figures, save a little here and there.

I can’t tell you how often I have heard people say if I only had the money for ….

And these days, it seems to be more of a challenge.

Some dreams don’t involve money.

Sticktuitiveness. (There is a red line under this word as I type. I assume it is not a word. But I have used it for years.)

When I think of people who go to work the same job every day for years and years, I see someone who whether they meant to dream that way or not, already is accomplishing their dream just the same.

They showed up. Again. And again.

There are authors I know who started with a notebook and pen, literally. They would submit and submit and resubmit, until being rejected again. And then they resubmit.

Another try. And another try.

Moves are as valuable as a monetary resource.

How many of our goals involve money? How many require consistency? And how many simply unfold as we take the first step?

Dreams really matter

I stood and stared at the aquarium tanks, feeling as if I too was floating and exploring the depths .. of what .. my soul? My purpose?

The Florida Aquarium is one of my favorite places to visit. Although I am not adventurous enough to go scuba diving, I love the idea of being so close to marine life, and safe 🤩

(As opposed to swimming away from a hungry shark or being stung by one of the millions of jellyfish I admire.)

One might look at me and say (with a droll mouth, as some would do) well you live a boring life.

Anyway.

I told you yesterday we’d talk about how to get started with making a dreams list. Believe it or not, there are many who have never contemplated anything beyond this day. Not that it’s a bad way to live, and yet ..

“I want to travel,” said my friend. Having already put her foot in well over twenty states (or more, perhaps?) she still has places she wants to see.

So a dream list starts with things you find interesting. Your passion. Things that make you smile or that you find relaxing. Chill.

Add to that a few curious things. You know, those things you have considered but never seriously.

Ask a friend for a suggestion or two and add it to the list.

Cut out magazine photos of the places or things you would like to see. Paste them all on a board or tack them to a bulletin board.

The sky is the limit.

But when will you find the time?

Find we must.

More on that tomorrow.

Add that one to the list

The small cork board tacked to the wall is dotted with notes of to do items and reasons why we want to do them. And magazine clippings of waterfalls and hopes of traveling to intriguing places and community festivals.

Would you believe I have an entire shelf full of journals (some of which I may combine in typed form for my kids some day, just not now)?

Much of journaling is a purge of thought and feeling, pondering the what if and stewing in the oh I should have done that differently, peppered with the by the way I forgot that and yes, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

I have written prayers and written the answers to the prayers. I have questioned my existence and also praised God for it.

And I am in this season of hey I want to go see a splendid teapot race, I want my picture taken in front of real magnificent sunflowers, I want to paint rocks and finish writing the two books I am working on.

(Make believe counselor yawns and the glasses slide to the end of said nose. No not really. But maybe everyone needs a life coach. Maybe that is a good idea for me to pursue.)

Our church has a Stephen Ministry.

(Look up the concept .. Episcopals offer it as a way of tending the flock of parishioners through either trying times or maybe just because they need an ear, a voice, a sounding board that is impartial.)

I have used one before and she helped me for months to navigate a number of questions rolling through my head.

What I want to know is this:

Why don’t we talk? Why is everyone so bound up in hey let’s keep this all surface conversation (i.e. wow the weather is crazy lol, as one example.)

I do have friends where the conversation is two sided. I am blessed with my family and my bestie and a small circle of other super close trusted friends. I know I could call any one of them and they can do the same.

But I am talking about every day life.

Once upon a time, people talked a lot more than they do now.

(This is just my opinion. You may have a different opinion and perspective and I respect that because we are all different and perceive things differently. And we can grow by sharing perspectives. I have a couple friends known as my voices of reason. Not every friend you have needs to have the exact same life knowledge or approach as you to be a blessed friend.)

Anyway.

Some days I find myself longing to hear people share their true hearts and feelings, and stories of the past and dreams of the future.

Or maybe they are, and I am distracted, chasing the pondering of my own heart.

Maybe I just need to listen.

And then maybe I would hear.

Add that to my list of goals.

To listen more, and observe more, and let myself enjoy this moment of life as it unfolds.

Whether in the coffee shop, or nestled in a book over lunch, or on my knees at the garden shop checking out the half price gardenias.

I might be on to something here.

Goals and then some

“Enjoy the journey,” a New York Times reporter once told me.
(Photo provided by free Word Press Media Library.)

Having had a befuddled day yesterday, my inner self was determined not to have a repeat episode, so everything I needed for my day, I laid out ahead of time, as is usually my custom.

The next few days are going to be very busy for me. If I blog tomorrow, it will clearly be at lunchtime, as otherwise the day is packed with activity.

Do you enjoy life?

Like the little things, like washing and drying clothes, maybe cooking a little, perhaps joining friends or family at an event or for a meal?

Do you enjoy your work? Your side hustle, if you have one? Do you take a deep breath of life and say you know I am thankful for this moment?

I love what I do, and I love my life. Everyone has challenges, things still on the to do list, day to day tasks that must be done, as the dust will not carry itself out, nor the trashcan trot to the curb? (Although that would be a sight, wouldn’t it, lol?)

There is a metal wall hanging I have had for years inscribed with the saying “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”

So what do you love?

Well, there are many things I love to do. They say if you really want to find your passion, look back at your childhood. What did you love?

My treasured possessions were my books and journals, paper supplies, stationary, scented apple erasers, a large tin of crayons (which smelled so wonderful), blank art journals, school supplies, my dolls, magazines, jewelry boxes, a recorder (since I had no flute), and as I got older, I loved all things girly .. makeup, perfume, nail polish, purses and shoes!

The loves? My bicycle. The outdoors. Mud puddles. Tall trees with low knobs to climb. Nearby lakes, rivers or oceans. My grandmother’s wooden rowboat. Baking cookies and making homemade bread of all kinds. Cooking. Sewing. Smelling the fabric store as all the fabric had this unique smell. I still love that.

So yesterday, if you remember, I talked about the teddy bear boss I met. What a sweet lady. She said she used to crochet, but as she got older, her hands hurt and she could not see nor keep up with where she left off. But she sure could still see to sew and manage a number of other teddy bear makers.

I feel like I am in this phase of life where I am looking both backward and forward. Where have I been and where am I going, and what things would I like to do that I have not done.

A piggy bank.

So I am not sure where the proverbial piggy bank idea started, nor how it was that a pig was selected to hold a bunch of coins for young folks saving money for a rainy day.

And I don’t have a piggy bank. Probably should.

Yet it is an illustration for me.

A bicycle. I want to save enough money to buy a reasonable (i.e. not competitive, just serviceable) bike. I am going to install a bike rack on the back of my car. And when I get time off here and there .. as often as possible, find places to ride. I am not sure if I want to lean over or ride the prissy upright bike, but in either case, it is something I want to do.) And a basket. I want a basket on the front. Maybe one on the back too. Will see if it is practical.

I have absolutely no aspirations to compete, ride in races or any of that. Just to feel the wind in my hair and enjoy the weather as it is, and maybe someday, if time permits, ride in a slow roll our town has from time to time. Depends on the distance.

Enjoy the journey.

As I write, it is late, and dark thirty comes early tomorrow. May your day be blessed.

The Right Rain

Someone once told me, “Someday, you are going to have a faith crisis. You will doubt God loves you, you will doubt that He wants good for you, you may even think He has forsaken you.”

I laughed it off, and said “You’re crazy. Just because it happened to you doesn’t mean it is going to happen to me.”

But it did.

After two years of having been exposed to thousands of people who had covid and did not know they had it, the dreaded virus came to our home.

As you know, I have lived with my best friend and her family (rent a room) for almost six years now.

We have six people in a large farmhouse.

When covid came to call, one by one we became symptomatic. I knew right away when I had it because the smell in my nose smelled like burning rubber tires. Two days later, I lost my smell and taste.

Every symptom on the list displayed its ugly head in my body. Probably the worst initial symptom was the fainting when I would stand up.

My daughter brought me a box of soup, two healing bath salts bags for my covid muscle pain, peanut butter crackers, Boost shakes and a large bouquet of flowers and a card. A drop and leave, she said. Same thing I did when she and her house had covid several months ago.

I didn’t get out of bed much in five days.

I had no strength and felt like I was dying.

It sounds gross, but for three days of that five, I did not take a bath nor brush my teeth. I was that out of it.

Mama called. Friends messaged.

One week later, I felt like I was getting better, and my smell returned such that I could smell breakfast.

(I had burned my toast one morning because I could not smell it, and that is when I realized that my smell is my number one sense.)

But the weekend before I was to return to work, a stomach virus component of this Delta variant ravaged my insides.

Hanging off the side of my bed, as my bestie checked on me, I started praying out loud.

“God, are you trying to kill me? Do You hate me that much? All I can pray right now is My God My God, why have You forsaken me? You would understand that prayer, because even Jesus prayed that,” I said as I wrote, being so tired of being sick.

My bestie grabbed my Bible and said you have not read your Bible in a month. “You need some fresh air,” she said. We went to the porch, (which I have now named “The Healing Porch,” because of how God touched me out there.)

Fighting nausea, as my smell returned and breakfast was cooking, I struggled to run out the door, afraid I would hurl before I made it outside.

It was almost like being pregnant again.

Three days later, I sat on a chair in a side “covid” hall, waiting to be seen in the ER. It was just me and a girl halfway down the hall, stretched out on three chairs she had threaded together. She couldn’t even sit up.

Dear Jesus, please don’t take me out yet. I want to see my children and grandchildren. I love them so.

One of our deputies was on a ventilator. (His memorial service was this week.)

God help us, Lord. Please, I prayed.

Later, I was told that covid is also a weeping virus. It messes with your emotions.

One IV bag of anti-nausea meds and two hours later, I was sent home on seven days of steroids.

“You are one of the lucky ones, though you may not feel like it now,” the doctor said.

I only had a little congestion, and would heal quickly with the steroids to blast the inflammation.

There are people in this life that God has gifted as lifesavers. My bestie is one of those people.

She read the Bible to me every day, and played Rick Warren’s series on how to pray.

After my prayer about God forsaking me, I thought God would surely strike me down. Instead, a silver thread of mercy came down from heaven, a strand of hope.

It took a few days, but I reconnected with God. And had numerous revelations about my life “pre-covid” versus “post covid.”

Thinking back to my life patterns, I realized I was a person who was often critical of people, things, and situations. Instead of glorifying God, I was all wrapped up in my own negative emotion.

The Saturday after I returned to work, I was off and spent the whole day in my garden. The Florida humidity is a great healer for respiratory and illness of all kinds. For about six hours, I talked to God, out loud, not in my head. I sang worship songs. I confessed sins (everyone has em). I watched the squirrels and talked to my “happy peppers.” First time in my life my peppers have done well.

That day was a turning point for me. I had a few conversations I needed to have with various people. Apologies or whatever was on my mind. God reminded me it was ok to do that.

Rick Warren says that at the beginning of your day, you should have worship time with God, where you just focus on your blessings and God’s goodness, and not your problems or the issues in the world at large. Then pray over your needs and prayer requests at lunch. He admits being “over” people sometimes by lunch. That’s a good time to ask God for help, he said. Then in your mid-afternoon bathroom break, confess your sins. “That’s what I call taking out the trash,” he said. And at night when he comes home, he says you know your blood sugar is low. You don’t want to bring your work day home, he says. So he has an antique milk jar on his front porch to remind him to drop his troubles at the door. He prays and says I will pick them up tomorrow morning when I go to work. So he spends his evening with his family, minus the work thoughts. And ends the day the same way he started it, by reading a scripture and going off to sleep thanking God for the day. “Good night, Lord,” he says.

I share this with you here because I feel like being real is a good thing. I know there are those that will say to me that “you would never have had that faith crisis if you would have spent more time with God.”

And I would say, you are right.

I felt like God spoke to my spirit that Saturday.

Like He was saying, “I gave you a voice for a reason. I want you to audibly talk to Me like you talk to your one million friends.”

I cried and danced, I restored my tangled garden, both literally and figuratively. I feel lighter than I have in years, like a boulder has been removed from my shoulders.

I am so grateful for God’s love. For His mercy. For living to survive covid. I have lost so many friends this year to this horrible virus.

If I can share anything to make someone else’s load lighter, or to infuse hope, I am going to do that.

Selah.

Thank You, Lord, that though I suffered, You restored, renewed and gave me a new birth.

P.S. Besides focusing on my blessings and following his prayer model, which has helped so much, I have also spent much less time on social media and reading news. Instant mood boost ☺️

The enthusiasm of success

Here I am, curled up with a cup of coffee, contemplating the Olympics and the stories of those who let nothing stand in the way of their dreams.

One look at their faces and you can sure see the training it took to get this far.

Several Olympians have made the statement “I am proud of myself for what I have accomplished.”

Tears have gushed, crowds have cheered, history is being made via virtual channels in probably the most unusual Olympics we have ever seen.

The proverbial “which came first” quiz .. were they enthusiastic before getting this far, or was this fueled by qualifying for the team, and in some cases, taking home the honorable medals?

Some had the dream as early as childhood.

Imagine.

All your friends doing their thing .. going to parties, sleeping in, taking trips.

Training took precedent over every other option of how to occupy your day.

How many “catch you later” and “we’ll do that someday” occasions .. how many early mornings, throwing on those running shoes to get to your gym or country road, or the town’s only high hill, how many late nights, just one more triple twist, one more .. one more.

How many people doubted they would make it?

How many times did they have to find the grace to not reply to naysayers.

“Don’t give up your day job.”

“You’ll never find a sponsor.”

“It’s just not possible.”

And life went on, with the pandemic, and family members that had challenges, life’s ups and downs, sprinkled with splinters of little irritations .. the equipment that didn’t arrive on time or the vehicle that broke down.

Some found time for personal lives. Others had less of that.

But at that moment, the shine of accomplishment illuminated the faces of those who would not under any circumstance, give up.

“I’m so glad I did not give up,” one Olympian told news reporters.

And you know what?

I am so glad they did not give up. That their smiles and determination are showing the rest of the world the meaning of true enthusiasm and passion for what they are called to do.

So where are you tonight? What are you contemplating? May tomorrow bring success to you as you likewise walk in the light of your calling.

I have a list of dreams ..

How to make a list of dreams

A yellow butterfly .. like really bright solid yellow .. chased me today while I was working a back to school backpack giveaway. I smiled and thought, aww, butterflies love me. It seems that everywhere I go, I come across their path.

Might be my perfume, duly noted that wasps and bees seem to chase me as well!

Not welcome.

Bees are cool if they just do their bee thing. That pollination makes the world go around, and we are grateful.

But the weirdest thing was that this yellow butterfly was some distance from any flowers or bushes, a distance from a usual resting place for a butterfly.

Not that butterflies rest much either.

Anyway.

Sometimes you can talk to a person about goals and dreams, and they say, “you know, I do not know where to start.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Establish whether you are going to have a bulletin board as your dream board, or do a dream book. Either is good because you can clip out a magazine photo of some cool place you would like to visit.

2. Think about persons, places and things. What makes your world go around? Spending time with lots of people, or just a few, or by yourself?

3. What would you like to do .. go to a ball game, visit a museum, have a beach day?

There are a number of group activities to be enjoyed.

Or perhaps you prefer an alone project. Something you do alone. Maybe go for dinner at your favorite restaurant, or shop for new parts for that car you are restoring.

4. What was the last place you visited that ignited your senses? Why not do that again? How did you feel afterwards? For me, a trip downtown to the coffee shop, the library and culling the local shops for something unique is a very relaxing afternoon. I feel inspired to write more after visiting a library.

5. Things. There are people who say it is wrong to be materialistic (and for sure it is good to enjoy the fruits of your labors), while others receive that as an expression of love. Things can be cool and also not having a lot of things can be cool as they are easier to maintain. What is your choice?

6. Maybe add your item or items to that dream board or dream book. Photos and prices, make a goal.

I have a couple of things I would like to have when the price is right.

Dream.

But you can also dream about your occupation. I feel so blessed to be where I am now, as a Crime Prevention Specialist. I also lived the dream of becoming a professional writer. But it all started when I was a customer service rep at a local hospital.

I had been there about three years and loved my job, but at the time had a dream of becoming a reporter and writer.

Having received one rejection after another for some of my poetry from publishing companies that closed, I now chuckle that I really did meet that goal, and not just a little.

As a customer service rep, I started getting serious about my writing and was working on a book, so when people asked what I did, I said I am a customer service rep and a writer.

“Are you published?” they would ask.

I smiled and said well not yet, but I am working steadily toward that.

7. What dreams do you need to speak into existence? Is there a career change you have in mind? Maybe you want to go back to school?

8. Put your book or board where your dreams are in front of you. This becomes your why. This is your motivating plan to get you to where you are going.

Well, I’d better go check on dinner. Chicken and rice and vegetables tonight. Looks like it is going to storm, and I don’t mind. The sound of a soft rain as I go to sleep would be glorious indeed.

Happy with the ordinary

Are you happy? I mean really really happy?

If not, why not, and what will it take for that to happen for you?

Tonight I feel like I should be expounding on some great bestseller I have read, or announcing fantastic plans for my next vacation, or presenting something worthy, ponderous, beautiful, creative, notable.

I have been happy for several days now. Not that I am unhappy on many days, just that some days I take more note of the fact I am happy.

I wonder what would happen if we substituted words for what we believe happiness is.

Time? Connection? Relief from pain? Unannounced excursion to a really cool place? Debt relief? Epiphany? Great food? A clean house?

And then I think about how most people have some commonalities when it comes to happiness, like everyone loves a good movie or book ending, or everyone loves a hero kind of thing.

Yet what is happiness to one does not matter as much to another.

Chocolate used to make me happy, a splendid thing indeed!

Does.

Does what?

Does happiness have to manifest itself as the extraordinary?

Cows. Cows make me smile.

Coffee cups likewise. And teapots. Nature. Pretty flowers. Friendships. Laughter.

I was in the store this weekend and heard two little girls in a shopping cart giggling.

It made me smile.

Today, had a great day all around. Worked hard and came home to a hot cup of coffee.

I think of my family, and how everyone in my family works hard. Dependable. Stick with it, kind of people.

I love that heritage.

The other cool thing is I never got the feeling that we would all be happy “someday.”

Joy in the moment. Lighten your heart, laugh a little, dwell on the positive.

I never really thought about how the ordinary days were meaningful and beautiful as a kid. Maybe we muse these things as we get older.

Meanwhile .. what are you doing to increase your happiness?

More on this in upcoming blogs. Explore new things indeed.

The frogs were singing this morning as it rained last night .. and I wonder if tomorrow will be the same. Their song is beautiful to me, raw and real.