Monday, June 29, 2015

I Stubbed my Toe . . . and, by the way, my Knee Still Hurts (5 Trunks and a Tote)

No sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies & and a movie for me this week. Not only did I not achieve my goal of going through the few large plastic bins of my stuff that are sitting in the basement, I didn't sort through even one of them!

I was all prepared to claim that having a house guest this week is the reason I didn't check of this task this week, but that simply wouldn't be true. My friend left every morning to spend the day with her father in the nursing home, leaving me with plenty of time to go through those bins. My knee (more on that later) also wasn't so bad that I couldn't make a few trips up and down the stairs. I simply didn't do it.

The real reason is that I absolutely hate spending time -- or at least, more time than it takes to either load the washer or unload it and hang the clothes that need to be placed on hangers. This dislike of basements began when I was a small child and we only went into the basement on two occasions. The first was when the weather was too rainy or too cold/snowy to play outside for any real length of time. When those dreary days arrived, my sister and I (or a friend, if I was lucky) went down to the basement to play with our "inside toys". Inside toys consisted of anything we had almost outgrown but still played with in a pinch or anything we didn't normally play with outside -- board games, Lincoln Logs, etc. Inside toys and basement days will forever be associated with rainy or bitterly-cold days.

I should explain about "inside toys" for those who may be younger than I am. Back when I was small, we played outside most of the time. We rode bikes, played kickball or hopscotch or Red Rover or some other game, or invented things, or played with Barbies (which we stored in our closets), or simply did any of the variety of things kids our age did back in those days. 

Now, if that had been my only basement experience as a child, I might not hate spending time in the basement now. It's most likely the other occasion that found us heading to the basement that caused my basement-avoidance tendencies. Once we moved to Southeast Missouri when I was in early elementary school, our basement also became the place we retreated to when it appeared we were in store for heavy storms or (in rare instances, a tornado). At the first hint of severe storms, my mom herded my sister and I down the stairs to the basement. Instead of simply letting us play, though, she'd suddenly notice the mess we'd left the last time it had rained or been too cold to go out, and we'd spend the next hour or more "cleaning the basement".

I just didn't see the point of picking up an area we hardly ever used -- and only then to play with the very toys were sorted and placed in a few large cardboard boxes set around for that reason. Ironically, my mother didn't mind clutter upstairs, and I can't stand clutter in the rooms I normally live in.

So between the nasty weather and the cleaning detail, I learned quickly that the basement was not my kind of place. As a result, I absolutely detest the idea of spending any part of a beautiful, sunny day in the basement. To be completely honest, though, I wouldn't to tackle this chore on a rainy or snowy afternoon, either -- those are reserved for pajamas, a good book or two, possibly a favorite movie, and a bowl of popcorn!

The solution is quite simple. All I need to do is bring the 3-4 bins upstairs one morning and sort through them in the family room. And I could -- and should -- have done that last week. I just didn't.

So . . . my "5 Trunks and a Tote" goal this week is to bring up the bins and sort through them.

Evidently, the "stick" of having to confess my not completing the task here isn't as big a deterrent as I'd hoped, because it didn't really bother me to confess my failure. :)    Likewise, my carrot -- a sleeve of Thin Mint cookies and a movie -- weren't enough incentive. So this week I'm simply determined to get it done, without the carrot or the stick.

I'll let you know how that turns out. :)

I just realized that I didn't explain the part of the title about my stubbed toe. My father had a saying that he'd toss out when we played cribbage and was dealt a hand in which he was unable to move his peg forward at all or perhaps just a few spaces. On those times when he didn't make any progress, he'd inevitably say cheerfully, "Well, I stubbed my toe that hand."  So that one's for you, daddy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Update and an Upcoming Day Trip (Dream Save Do, week 26)

I didn't update last week on my Spending Fast. It's a bit hard, I think, to write about not doing something! :)

With just under a week to go, I think I'm going to make my goal of spending only on necessities the entire month of June. I must confess that I did buy what many would consider a non-essential last week. Before visiting a friend's father in the nursing home last week, I picked up the latest "National Geographic"  to take to him. I have to admit I felt a bit odd giving a 97-year-old man a magazine with a cover article about "weed" (yes, marijuana) on the cover, but his daughter had told me liked to read NG, and I figured the cover would give us a good conversation starter.

I don't consider that magazine a non-necessity, by the way. I cannot imagine many things more difficult for a vigorous, very intelligent individual than being confined to a nursing home; it would have been unconscionable to not bring him something to occupy his mind and while away at least a little time.

I've briefly considered extending the spending freeze another month, but I haven't yet made a decision. It's tempting, but I've also had my eye on a thing or two, so I'm going to wait until the very last minute to make a decision, I'm sure.

***************

I'm very excited to be traveling this Saturday morning to a tiny home builder's open house to see some of the homes he and his team build. After a couple of years of reading about tiny homes, poring over floor plans, and trying to imagine myself living in one, I'll set foot in an actual tiny home for the very first time!

I'm not sure if a tiny home will be a good fit (yes, the pun was intentional -- lol) for me; I hope that this trip will equip me to make that determination.

If you're interested in attending and live within driving distance of the Memphis, Tennessee area, google Tennessee Tiny Homes and check out the open house. A reservation is required so they may send you directions to their facility (the address is not provided on the website).

If you go, look for a middle-aged woman hobbling around on a bum knee!

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Awww . . . the Sweet Feeling of Success (5 Trunks and a Tote)

A week ago today, I committed to sorting through all of the stuff, other than photos and memorabilia, stored in my home office. I selected a target date of Saturday afternoon so I could cancel my massage appointment (aka, the "carrot" I was holding out to motivate myself to get this task done) if I hadn't completed the task.

I not only completed the task, I completed it well ahead of my self-imposed deadline! Wednesday afternoon I marched into the office, determined not to leave again until I'd gone through all of the craft and office supplies and other odds & ends that had accumulated there since I moved in in early March.

I placed 2 cardboard boxes -- one for donations to a local charitable organization's thrift shop and the other for things that would go in the trash -- just outside the door and got to work.

The job didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, but that's due, in large part, to the fact that I put in one of the two boxes everything except photos and memorabilia, 4 ink pens, and a Pottery Barn wicker file box that, after a quick go-through, now contains only 10 files of crucial financial and personal papers.

I donated every single craft item that could either be sold in the thrift shop or used by the women or children who sought shelter in my community's Safe House for Women. The rest? I tossed it in the trash without a single qualm. No more "I know I'll use that some day when I get around to making . . .".   No more, "But I might need that!"

Two full boxes of stuff went in the trash; two more boxes and a plastic grocery bag of stuff went to the thrift shop the next morning.

Even so, I cancelled my massage appointment. Instead, I very happily put the money I would have spent on that into my mortgage-free-house fund. Every little bit adds up, right?

And now I'm moving on in my quest to reduce what I own to what will fit in 5 trunks and a tote by committing this week to going through the few large plastic storage bins sitting in the basement. Like last week, I'm hoping you'll hold me accountable by checking in next Monday to see if I followed through and to chastise me if I didn't.

As for the carrot? I'll take a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies out of the freezer, brew a cup of Earl Gray tea, and spend an afternoon on the couch watching a favorite movie!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Fear

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "turn". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set, 

Fear. Talk about a word that has a bad reputation. And I think that's a mistake.

Yes, fear can be a bad thing. But let's be totally honest -- *any* thing, done excessively or inappropriately -- is bad. Not to overstate the obvious, but even eating -- an act that is absolutely required for the sustaining of life -- can be problematic. Overeating, poor nutrition, not eating at all . . . You get my point, I'm sure.

It's the same way with fear. Google the word "fear", and you'll no doubt find thousands of hits to sites expounding on how to overcome fear, how fear inhibits us from realizing our dreams, etc.

My grandfather often said, "A moderate does of healthy fear is a good thing", and I agree, but try as I might, I can't find a single article or cute little image that praises fear.

So today, I'm speaking up for "fear"; in the time I have left, I'll do my part to convince you that fear shouldn't be . . . well, feared.

It was, when I was a small child, my fear of those cars zooming down the street that had me holding tight to my grandmother's hand on our weekly Saturday walk from her apartment down my town's busy Broadway to the downtown shopping and lunch at the Woolworth's counter. That fear overrode my impatience when we stood on the sidewalk, waiting for the light to change at each intersection.

It was fear of a big fat red "F" on a paper, my teachers' reactions, and, eventually, not getting into college and becoming a teacher, that motivated me to do my best in school. My parents didn't pay my sister and I for good grades; they felt it was simply our job to do our best, stated the natural consequences of not doing so, and let us make the choice *and* live with the consequences.

It was fear of my parents, the risk of being caught and arrested, and of being "out of control" that overpowered my typical college-age desire to try new things and to "live a little" and stopped me from ever -- not one single time -- ingesting any kind of recreational drug.

It was fear disappointing my parents, getting pregnant, being thought of as "easy", and a myriad of other things that helped me resist more than one boyfriend's pressure to have sex before marriage.

It is fear of ill health and premature death that causes me to eat a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, and stay away from risky behaviors.

The list could go on and on.

Most importantly, though, I fear the Lord. Yes, many commentaries and "ministers" will say that in this case "fear" does not mean what it means today. It means, they explain, to revere and respect God and to hold him in awe.

But dig a little deeper. The word "fear" appears in the Bible 300+ times, and while some of those passages say things like "Perfect love casts out fear", quite a number of them are in the context of someone (such as the Pharaoh's servants upon finding baby Moses) not doing something out of fear of displeasing God.

In the New Testament, Jesus says, " Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

My understanding, from reading carefully, reading the context in which the word "fear" is used, and reading the thoughts of highly-respected Biblical scholars, rock-solid Christian men and women, is that we should worry less about the natural consequences of our actions and far more about God's. The world's "natural consequences" pale in comparison to God's power, to the consequences God can (and has -- remember the Great Flood? the original Passover?) dole out.

My worry of my parent's reactions, the response of my teachers and the police was misplaced. Instead, I should only fear God's reaction to my thoughts and actions.

Grandpa was right.

A moderate dose == the amount that motivates one to do the morally-correct thing (without crippling a person to no action at all)

Healthy == of the right Person

That's a good thing.

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tackling the Home Office . . . or Not

When I envisioned writing this post, I saw the blog title "The Office has been Conquered" and a blog post that began with a photo of my home office, devoid of everything except the furniture and and a few files (tucked neatly into my wicker file box/ottoman) and a drawer of office supplies. This gorgeous picture would be accompanied by text in which I shared, in a non-nonsense, aw-shucks manner, how I had swept into the home office, tackled each drawer and stack and bin and box with ninja-like intensity, leaving nothing behind except absolute necessities.

Alas, as you can see, there is no such photo. Keep reading, and you'll discover there is no such narrative.

Instead, I must confess that I have barely begun to tackle the home office. I'm hanging my head in shame here, but I want to be totally honest with you. Even the phrase "I have barely begun" is in correct. In the 3 weeks since I've been out for summer break, I've only ventured into the home office to file medical receipts and get a new ink pen when my old one ran out of ink.

The start truth is: I haven't even begun to tackle the home office. And I don't want to tackle the home office. In fact, even thinking about sorting through all the stuff in there makes me feel . . . well, like this

cryingbaby


So, instead of putting on my big girl bloomers and getting the job done, I've been nursing a hurt knee (rest, elevation, ice, and Advil), reading, working on my novel, and watching baseball and basketball on TV.


But I need to get that office done. I know that when I finish that office, I'll be filled with such a sense of accomplishment . . .


So, I'm forcing myself to do it with both a carrot and a stick.


The stick first. I'm committing -- here, on this blog -- to having the office sorted and simplified by this time next week. That won't give me time to scan all the photos and memorabilia, but it's certainly enough time to get everything else -- craft supplies, files, office supplies, and various "stuff" sorted and all but the absolute necessities gone. Donated or thrown away or shredded (and thrown away). So where's the stick? I want every person who reads this blog entry to come back next week and, if I haven't accomplished this task, post a comment expressing your disappointment. If you really want me to feel bad, post on your facebook wall that I failed to tackle even one small room in an entire week.


The carrot? Well, I have a tentative appointment for a week from today for a massage. I will only call and confirm the appointment this Saturday afternoon IF I've sorted and simplified the office. :)


There you go . . . my confession and my vow to get the job done this week. Wish me luck because I really need that massage!

Redesigning within Redesign

Today, I'm breaking one of the cardinal rules about blogging -- Thou shall not explain changes in focus in a blog post. As Nike sayeth, "Just do it."

That's just not my style. I'm an explainer. Often I explain ad nauseum (just ask my kids), but it's through explaining myself, by thinking through a process, that I better understand it myself and become more accountable. So, to start off today's post, I'm going to briefly explain that, after considerable waffling and soul-searching about what I want this blog to be and what I don't want it to be (a source of income), I've decided that what I really want to write about boils down to 3 or 4 things: simplifying, living my dream, sharing with others, and being part of a larger network of women who write.

So, my tentative new "schedule" is:

  • Monday:  5 Trunks & a Tote -- focus on simplifying physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally

  • Wednesday:  Dream Save Do -- living my dream

  • Friday (or late Thursday night): Five Minute Friday -- post focused on one word as part of a group of women blogger

  • other days as the mood strikes -- sharing . . . interesting things I've found, what's on my mind/heart, etc.


So there you go! And now, I'm off to write my Monday post in which I share about my forays into my home office. :)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Five Minute Friday: World

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "turn". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set, 

When I first saw this week's word in the announcement, my first thoughts were of the geographical sense.  I pictured a globe. And that was it. I was stuck. There was, I thought, no way I could write for 5 minutes about the world, other than to say that I get a little freaked out when I think of the world. It's vastness, the fact that it's sort of floating out there in space spinning around with me and millions of other people stuck to it. I began to feel a little panicky about that image -- yes, I'm a bit odd in that respect (seeing ivy growing rampant and covering huge trees also bothers me lol) -- so I pulled back and tried to approach the word from a different perspective.

And then it hit me. We've all heard the expression, "XXX means the world to me" or "YYY is my whole world".

What is my "world"?

For the majority of my adult life, my world was my children & my family *and* being in control. I spent enormous amounts of time making sure that what I thought should happen was what actually happened, that my plans for my family came to fruition.

That didn't take just physical effort. Heck no! I expended much of my emotional and mental energy on this pursuit.

That led to a train wreck of sorts about 9 years ago. My life derailed in very unpleasant way, and I began to see for the first time that something was wrong. My world wasn't ordered correctly, things weren't aligned as they should be.

I survived the train wreck, made some changes, and carried on. Yes, I made some changes, but they were primarily superficial. I still had so much to learn.

Then, almost 6 years ago, something happened that made that train wreck look like a 40-mph drive over a parking-lot speed bump.

In the aftermath of this life-changing, horrible event, I've come to see that I had it all wrong for far too long and that the changes I made 9 years ago weren't enough. More fundamental change needed to be made.

And so, I'm slowly learning that

Ahhhh . . . out of time. But I do want to finish that, so here's the rest:

my "world" -- what I focus on, what is of primary importance -- is to be God.

Instead of my agenda, His.

Instead of my thoughts, His.

I'm sure I'll write about this more at a later time. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Take it Off!

Don't be alarmed or afraid to scroll down the page. There will be no "Magic Mike" type of taking it all off here. Heck, I haven't even tried on a bathing suit for over a year, and if I did there certainly wouldn't be any publicly-displayed pictures or description. Lol

But aging and appearance have been on my mind lately. I moved "back home" in early March and have had occasion to run into people I graduated with. Some of these folks have gotten old! lol  Others look better -- healthier and more radiant -- than they did in high school (and a stroll down Memory Lane via the color photos in my senior-year yearbook confirms that).

I'm no beauty and never have been; on the other hand, small children do not take one look and run shrieking to hid behind the safety of their mother's skirts, nor do the neighborhood dogs take one look at me, shrink back, and begin howling piteously. I've always been average, I think.

Of course, time has taken its inevitable toll. I also am firmly convinced that the the past almost-six years have done their part. Grieving the loss of my husband, 4 moves (from house to apartment to house to loft to house again), the stress of a new and quite stressful job, etc., have marked me, as have changes to my physical routine. I used to eat regularly and enjoy a fairly-decent diet (as in eating, not as in weight-loss) and active lifestyle. That changed significantly when my husband was diagnosed and even more so after his death. There were many days I barely had the energy to get out of bed, much less go on a walk or to the gym, and I won't admit how many nights my dinner has consisted of a large bowl of popcorn adorned with plenty of salt and melted butter. Comfort food, easy-to-prepare food has been my staple.

I look in the mirror now, and I see a tired, gray, dull woman looking back at me. And I don't like it.

I've already made some changes. I've been going to the gym every other day for 3 weeks now, and I'm convinced that my arms will eventually be without the batwings that having frozen shoulder for a year & not being able to work out resulted in. I'm also eating better -- most days -- and forcing myself to drink 64 oz of fluid, primarily water, every day.

After chatting with a few ladies who are my age and who look radiant, I've also decided to make two other pretty significant changes.

First, no more highlighting my hair. My hair has been color-enhanced for 30+ years now, since my once-blonde hair began it's shift to light brown somewhere around my senior year in high school. I don't like the expense or the upkeep that goes with highlighting, but I also don't like the mousy-brown color my hair has become as I've aged. I actually went color-free two years ago, and the color was so blah that I couldn't stand it. Now, though, I have some gray sprinkling here and there, and I really like how silver/gray hair looks on other women, so I'm going to try the no-color look again and see what I think.

I've found a wonderful, wonderful facebook group of women who embrace their own silver/gray hair, and I've enjoyed reading the posts from women who either stopped coloring years ago and love their natural color or who are currently transitioning from color to gray/silver. If you're interested and are a facebook member, check out the "GGG Going Gray Guide" group.

I'm also changing my make-up routine. In all fairness to you, I must confess that my haphazard (at best) make-up routine would be no doubt be considered a horrible disgrace by anyone in the cosmetic industry and even by anyone self-respecting make-up user. From the moment I was allowed to use makeup (entrance to junior high), I've only worn make-up to school/work, church, and out with friends. Also, I was not blessed with the "make-up gene" so my application methods were self-taught and not anything to emulate. Foundation applied with either my fingers or a sponge or a brush (depending on what phase I was in), blush, and for a night on the town, eye shadow, did me well for several decades. I recently found a lipstick/balm combo I absolutely love and wear both fairly frequently. That's it!

A year or so ago, I noticed that my skin looked dull and blah (how many times have I used those words today?) and tired, so I stepped up my skin-care routine from "when I remember it" to every day, hoping that (and drinking more fluids) would do the trick. I saw minimal change. Recently, though, I went out to eat with a former classmate whose skin looked radiant and fresh without looking overdone. While we were eating, our discussion turned to aging and change and lifestyle, and she mentioned that she had pretty much stopped using make-up. Thinking she was just one of those women who really knew how to apply cosmetic artfully, I was shocked and intrigued.

She told me she'd read numerous articles from reliable sources about how traditional make-up causes most more mature women to look even older, and I knew I'd read the same type of information. Then she explained that she had switched to a product line with only 3 products -- a moisturizer stick, a color stick, and an enhancer/glow stick, and that she also sometimes puts on a touch of mascara. I was intrigued, checked out the company website, and will be ordering the 3 products when my no-spending freeze ends on July 1. By the way, the products are very reasonably priced!!

Once I've received them and tried them out, I'll share a bit more about them.

Until then, I've put away my my make-up except for tinted moisturizer, mascara, and my newly-found and much-loved lipstick/balm. And I'm committed to using my skin-care products -- cleanse, tone, moisturize -- as advised.

I'm excited about shedding the hair color and the layers of cosmetics that, admittedly, I wore haphazardly at best. I'm invigorated by the elimination of stuff in this area of my life, and I'm ready to embrace who I am naturally.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Spending Fast -- Week 1 Update (Dream Save Do, week 25)

Week 1 of my June Spending Fast brought a few unexpected situations that involved spending.

First, I had planned to attend the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on Wednesday; I had a free ticket to attend with my daughter, her boyfriend, and one of their friends. Shameless brag: my daughter's boy friend was honored (on the big screen, no less) as the Serviceperson of the Game. He proudly serves our country in the US Army, and I was honored that he included me in this special day.

Typically, when I attend a Cardinals game I park in a parking garage a 10 or so-minute walk from Busch Stadium; the charge is more than reasonable at only $5, and the walk is a pleasant one. However, because I'd hurt my knee the week before, I was worried about walking . . . well, limping along . . . that far in the heat. I checked into parking at Ball Park Village, just across the street from the stadium, and discovered that reserved parking is $20. Parking for the game was a necessity, of course, and I decided that the knee injury made the additional $15 expenditure a necessity as well. I made the reservation.

On Tuesday, I learned that the father of one of my daughter's best friends had passed away unexpectedly. My husband and I went to church with this wonderful man and his wife for 4 years and knew them fairly well. The funeral was planned for Friday, and I knew the ladies of the small rural congregation would prepare a wonderful meal for the family and those who attended the funeral. I wanted to help in some way, so I offered to bring a dish.

I scrounged through my cupboard, but I didn't have enough of any one thing to prepare a dish large enough to take. I picked up 2 large tubs -- one of cole slaw and another of potato salad -- at a local grocery store and took both to the church.

Was that a necessity? Absolutely not. Was it the right thing to do? To me, yes. And that made a non-necessity a necessity.

In both cases, I felt  confident that I had not "violated" the spending freeze. Other than those expenditures, I only purchased gas and personal groceries, so I consider week 1 of the freeze to have been a success.

A couple of things I learned during this first week:

1. Big ticket items don't tempt me at all. I can't think of a single non-necessity over $7 that came across my radar those first 7 days.

2. Staying away from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com, and Starbucks are crucial if I want to go the remaining 23 days without purchasing a non-necessity. :)

3. I love a challenge! If you want me to do something -- even something I don't necessarily want to do -- turn it into a challenge with a time frame and I'm in!

Today marks the beginning of week 2 of the spending freeze. There's still time to jump in and join me! If you do -- or even if you don't -- I'd love for you to share your thoughts, experiences, tips, etc., either as a comment below or on my facebook page (Patti Miinch).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Gift

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "turn". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set, 

It's not uncommon to hear someone reference the gifts they've been given. Their children, their spouse, living in this wonderful country (USA) and enjoying so many freedoms that residents of far too many other countries are denied, etc.

Take me for example. Much of my adult life, I tossed the word "gift" around quite liberally. You may know what I mean. I'd glibly say, "I'm so grateful for the gifts God has given me". Or I'd be praying through the ACTS acronym (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) and rattle off a quick "thank you, God, for" this or that so I could zip along to telling Him all the things I needed Him to do for me that day.

Between you and me, I bet God got a little tired of me thanking Him for my kids. I mean, I am grateful for them and always have been, and they are the most wonderful, fantastic gift I've ever been given. But honestly, they were my go-to gift to be thankful for when praying. If it was early in the morning and not much had happened to me that I could think of to be grateful for, I'd trot out my son and daughter and often, my husband.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I reminded myself that I was to be thankful in all things, and I tried. I thanked God he wasn't in lots of pain, I thanked Him for the time we'd had together. But I wasn't really thankful. I was just saying what I knew I was supposed to say. In the back of my mind, I was hoping God would reward my wonderful attitude with a miraculous healing.

He didn't. I stilled tried to be thankful. A year or so after my husband passed away, I read a wonderful book (the clock is ticking so I can't go to the bookshelf to check the title) about a woman who focused on the gifts she was given and kept a gratitude journal.

I followed her example, hoping that by focusing on the gifts I had and was receiving, I could escape the blanket of despair to weighed me down.

Some days I was tempted to fall back on my old stand-bys of kids, country, and health. But I resisted 99% of the time.

Slowly, sometimes with a one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back dance, the despair lessened.

I've become more aware of the many gifts I've been blessed with. Some -- seeing my son graduate from medical school and my daughter with her Masters, for example -- are huge. Others, not so much.

But by focusing on gifts, and on being grateful, I've . . .

Time's up!

 

Creativity . . . and Varieties Thereof (Thankfulness Thursday, week 2)

I've decided to focus each Thursday on something specific that I am grateful for. Today, I'm focusing on . . . 

Creativity! For much of of my life, I lamented the fact that I was not creative. I wasn't being humble or trying to invite protestations from others followed by their assurances that I was/am creative. I honestly didn't see myself as a creative person.

Creative people wrote music, sang beautifully, or played a musical instrument in such a way that others asked them to perform. I tried writing a few songs -- it wasn't pretty; I sing -- as long as the radio is louder than I am, you'd enjoy my performance; I can play the piano, but I'm mediocre at best.

Creative people produce beautiful pieces of art. Not only do I not create them, I'm not even interested in creating them. I have tons of respect and admiration for those that do, but doing so simply does not appeal to me.

Creative people string together words in ways that reach into the hearts of readers; their words evoke strong emotion, stir the reader to action, even. Creative writers produce fiction. While I've always loved to write and knew I had the technical aspects down pretty well, I've never -- no matter how hard I've tried -- been able to master the craft of fiction.

So there you have it. Not creative.

Several years ago, though, I discovered scrapbooking. At first, I poo-poohed the notion that scrapbooking was creative. After all, I wasn't doing much more than (using acid-free adhesives and paper, of course) adhering photos to card stock and then journaling about the experience reflected on the layout. I loved playing around with the elements of a page -- photos, journalling, card stock, etc -- to create layouts that reflected my style and that I felt were aesthetically pleasing.

One day I realized that what I was doing was, in fact, creative and that I was, despite many years of denial, quite creative myself. And my creativity isn't displayed only through scrapbooking.

I've often been told by those I work with and by friends that I'm a creative problem-solver, and I realize now that that's true. I'm actually quite good at analyzing a problem and coming up with interesting and, to those around me at least, unique solutions. I see this particularly in my job, but it pops up in other areas as well.

The more I write, the more I recognize germs of creativity in that area as well. Non-fiction, expository text still "comes easier" to me, and my writing has been recognized in the workplace as being strong and creative. I've even begun branching out a bit and am planning a novel. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

As I wrote those last four paragraphs, I winced, squirmed, deleted, put back in, and 2nd-guessed my decision to share this publicly. I was raised to be humble, to never "toot my own horn", if you will. Nobody likes a braggart, right?

But I don't just recognize that I am creative; I also know exactly where that creativity comes from. It's a gift from God. I'm not bragging -- not at all. I'm acknowledging His gift and expressing my gratitude.

I'm also thankful for those who are creative in ways I am not. The musicians, the artists. Those who are mathematical whizzes and electronic geniuses. The individuals who are creative with chemicals and medications, and the list goes on and on.

There are many forms of creativity, and I'm thankful for each and every one of them.

 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Well, That was a Bust!

I began last week with great anticipation. My bulletin journal planner had a reasonable amount of weekly to-do's, and I had a really nice plan for eating well, getting the appropriate exercise, etc. Monday and Tuesday went according to plan, and then, out of nowhere came a major road block on Wednesday.

I left the house mid-afternoon for a nice leisurely walk to the city library to return a few books. I walked east a 3 or 4 blocks, then north a few blocks,  and then turned west. I strolled through one of our community's beautiful city parks and then another 4 or so blocks, then south for several blocks to the library before heading back to the house. I was just thinking how blessed I am to be able to live in this house, within walking distance of so many things, for the next 13 months, when I realized my left knee was feeling a tad sore.

I wasn't concerned. At that point, I was about 2 blocks from home and figured I'd rest for a bit when I got there. About 1/2 a block later, sharp pains were shooting across my knee and I was limping profusely. I hobbled the final block or so to the house and stood on the sidewalk, eyeing the fairly steep (but, thankfully, short) driveway. For a moment, I thought I might have to scoot up the driveway on my bottom, but I managed to drag myself up the hill and into the house.

I'll save you the long drawn-out story of my texts to my son, two trips to CVS (I had no ibuprofen aka Advil -- I didn't even know they were the same thing! -- in the house, nor did I have a knee brace), and trip to the doctor on Friday where, thankfully, an x-ray showed no damage. The words tossed around were "tendinitis" and "strain"; neither sound too serious.

However, while waiting to see the doctor and afterward, on his instruction, I've spent much of each day on the couch with my knee elevated, wrapped, and under an ice bag. As a result, I didn't get in my 10,000 steps each day, nor did I carry boxes of stuff up from the basement and go through them. The items that were on my to-do list last week remain undone.

I'm okay with that; those tasks can easily be absorbed into the remainder of my summer break.

What I'm not okay with is the forced inactivity. I've become lethargic and have resorted to taking naps! I'm tired of the pain, and I'm past the point of "ready to be back to normal", and I'm chomping at the bit to implement my get-into-better-shape plans.

In short, I'm impatient. And bored. And getting a bit cranky.

My doctor said that if my knee isn't back to normal by the end of this week, I should come back in and get a shot of either cortisone or steroids -- I don't remember which.

But between you and me, I doubt I get that impatient or that bored or that cranky. :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Spending Fast, day 1 (Dream Save Do, week 24)

I'm participating in a 30-day spending fast. The plan is to purchase only necessities -- food, gas, etc -- the entire month of June. Feel free to jump in and join me; if you do, I hope you'll share your own experiences and thoughts via a comment. 

Today is day 1 of my 30-day spending fast, so I thought I should explain a bit more about this self-challenge.

Overall, my plan is to purchase only necessities such as food and gas.

More specifically, within the necessities, I can only purchase necessities. That sounds a bit redundant, so let me explain. This morning, I was feeling sorry for myself because of my hurting knee and the physical limitations it places on me; I really, really wanted to go to Starbucks and order my favorite comfort beverage -- a venti soy chai tea latte. But  even though food and drink are necessities, a venti soy chai tea latte, specifically, isn't.

So, instead of spending around $5 at Starbucks, I brewed a cup of Earl Gray tea and got a few cookies from a sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies in the freezer and enjoyed a special treat without spending a dime. I also didn't use any gas (which would have resulted in a gas purchase sooner rather than later), so it was a win-win solution.

This spending freeze doesn't mean I won't eat out at all during the month of June. For example, I already have plans to eat out Tuesday evening with a new friend (the owner of an adorable yarn shop here in town). Part of the proceeds from the sales that evening go to a local church (for a mission trip, I think), and I need to both eat and to socialize, so I'm okay with this outing.

I realize that my ruling on what is and isn't okay is somewhat arbitrary, and that's okay. I'm open to refining this challenge as needed, as long as the revisions are true to the spirit of the challenge.

Until next update . . .