Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Path is Visible

I feel more than a bit pretentious as I draft this end-of-the-year post. I mean, seriously! I blogged so sparingly these past 12 months that I'm not sure such a post is warranted.

Truth be told, though, my life has been a bit like the proverbial duck this past year. At least as it pertains to decision-making and blogging. On the surface, there have been periods (a la the duck) where it appeared to the outside world that I was stagnant. Just sitting. But there have also been periods when I've been frantically busy, barely keeping my head above the ocean of new-job-acclimation tasks, lesson planning, and paper grading that kept me from making life changes, writing, and blogging.

To an outsider, it would appear that my focus on simplifying my life, charting a new path, etc., was lost this past year.

That isn't the case, though. In the quiet time, I contemplated and dreamed and researched and prayed and contemplated some more. In the busy period, while my conscious brain was focused on taks like responding to a stack of student essays, my subconscious brain was slowly, without fanfare, processing things that, if I slowed down to focus on them directly, seemed overwhelming.

And now, as 2017 draws to a close, I'm ready to put into practice -- as much as I can, at least -- what this past year has taught me.

I can only do that because my vision for what I would like my life to look like is finally very clear. The two concepts of "home" that I was torn between, and upon which everything else would be based, have come together so seamlessly that I am embarrassed to admit that I ever thought it was a one-or-the-other situation.

While finances are a huge issue (aren't they always?), my dream would be to find a 2-car garage here in my hometown that either already has a living area above it or that has an area above it that I could affordably convert to a one-room (with bath and kitchenette) loft. That would be my home base. No yard or garden or anything to maintain; just a nice, comfy & cozy nest to come home to.

Coupled with that, I want (and have been searching for) an affordable, used but low-mileage class B RV in which I can comfortably travel around the United States. I dream of Alaska and Michigan and Idaho . . . well, those cold, Northern states . . . in late Spring through early Fall and of warmer states in Fall and Winter. Short trips and longer ones interspersed with visits back home to visit my children, catch a St. Louis Cardinals game, and enjoy my beautiful hometown.

My vision includes exploring this great country of ours, of course, but also of writing and of learning how to scrapbook digitally and then creating wonderful bound books for my son and daughter. Evenings spent with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, reflecting on the day, knitting socks (acquiring that skill is also part of the vision), reading a book, sitting in a local coffee shop and journalling and people-watching. Blogging more regularly.

That's it. That's my vision in a nutshell.

Nothing fancy, nothing complicated. In fact, a very simple lifestyle.

But it's going to take a leap of faith, which I am ready to take.

And it's going to take doors opening. Big doors. Doors that I can't even see. The garage. In a price I can afford. The class B RV. Again, in a price I can afford. Those are huge, huge doors.

But I am looking for them, laying the groundwork to open them when they appear.

It's taken me quite awhile to get to this place. To a place where my vision is clear, I can see the path, and I'm ready to act.

I hope you'll travel along with me as I move forward this year. Even more so, I hope that you'll stop for a few minutes while you're here and share your own thoughts and ideas and dreams and visions.

As I close this last post before Christmas, I want to wish you a very blessed and wonderfully-magical Christmas. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


I am one of those people who processes issues by either writing or talking about them. As I journal or recount, sometimes ad nauseum (apologies to my kids, closest friends, and sister), an issue I'm grappling with, I find clarity.

That was the case this past week when I called my sister and shared with her my thoughts on retirement. As I discussed the possible "whens" and "hows", she remained quiet. 

I'm not totally insensitive. I noticed her lack of response, her lack of excitement for me. I sensed that she thought that my retiring before the age of 65 -- when I would be eligible for Medicare -- was unwise, so I rushed to explain why I was even considering this step.

I tried to explain that it's not "them" -- my job, coworkers, etc. -- and that it's "me". I felt silly, foolish. Even selfish and lazy.

I mean, retiring when I have a good job and work with some great people and am physically and mentally able to continue working? How irresponsible of me to even contemplate the idea! 


And then the words tumbled out. Words I hadn't even allowed myself to consider. And once I said them, I knew without a doubt that they were true.

I am depleted. 

Depleted not of physical or mental energy but of emotional energy.

Depleted    transitive verb; empty of a principal substance

As much as I despise psychobabble and self-help book catch phrases, my own "emotional tank" is depleted daily -- hourly, in fact -- and rarely refilled.

Instead of coming home every day to a husband with whom I can share my day -- ups, downs, and just the normal stuff -- and share a laugh or get a sympathetic hug, I come home to a dog that wants me to take her out (repeatedly) and feed her. Once her needs are met, Dazey is off to one of her favorite cozy spots. 

No longer am I 1/2 of a partnership in which each partner cherishes the other and makes the other feel loved and special. 

I have friends, but they have jobs, husbands, children, and even grandchildren who occupy their time. And while I've shared a bit about my fatigue with two of those friends, it's not something I want to dwell on in our all-too-rare times together. 

Every other day or so, I call an elderly family member who is lonely and mourning the loss of his own spouse. We talk for anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour at a time, and I am so glad that I am able to do that. The other evening, for the first time in 3+ years of phone calls, when he asked how I was doing, I didn't respond with "fine". Instead, I was honest and said, "Well, I'm just having a cruddy time right now." His response was, "Yeah, I know what you mean" before he went on to talk for 20 minutes about his (house) plumbing issues.

It was funny, and inwardly I was laughing. He's a guy, a guy from a different generation, and I've known him long enough to know that this is just how he reacts to emotional topics. 

At the same time, I wanted to bang my head on my desk. 

My daughter is wonderful. She texts almost daily, and we have great text-chats. She calls -- not every day, but every few days. But she also has her own life -- a full-time job and two part-time (note to self: buy winning lottery ticket and pay off daughter's student loans with part of my millions) -- an old house she's remodeling, and her own social life.

I'm not complaining. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I'm not trying to guilt people into rushing to give me a hug or to spend time with me.

I'm merely stating that I'm tired. I've done the "put one foot in front of the other" thing on my own for over 8 years now. 

I've gotten up and gone to work and cared about my students and tried to make them care about themselves, their academic success, and their futures as much as I do for over 8 years.

I can do it for 5+ more years, until I'm eligible for Medicaid. 

The question is . . . . at what cost?

I mentioned that I don't want my daughter to be concerned, feel guilty, etc., about me. She has told me she doesn't read my blog (she doesn't like to read {gasp} and doesn't "get" the whole blogging idea -- who writes unless forced to?), so I know it's safe to share this here. :)

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Mini-Whirlwind (aka The New Job)

My oh my, but what a whirlwind these past 6 weeks have been!

I started my new job and thought I was somewhat prepared for the change back to the high school classroom, 5 days a week, and all that entails. I wasn't. It was less the number of classes and days in the classroom, though, and more an issue of how much as changed in regard to the massive incorporation of technology and the new (again, technology-based) teacher-evaluation model used here in Missouri.

But I am adjusting and staying caught up on everything so far.

What do I love about my new job? The students, the wonderful sense of community and wonderful community itself, the classes I teach, and my room.

Hi-lites of the past 6 weeks:

1. I hesitate to post this in the off chance that it will be read someone like the lady in Minnesota who had never been to my hometown but saw an online article about a small concrete cross-memorial on the side of the road (on the easement -- gasp!) and proceeded to threaten my community with a lawsuit if the cross was not removed. So if you are one of those very unhappy people who do not have enough on your own plate to keep you busy, please hit your "back arrow" now.  You've been warned.  A night or two before the first day of classes, 3 area churches collaboratively held a prayer service at the high school flag pole. Church members, community members, faculty, staff, and students of all ages sang a few hymns and prayed for the children, teachers & staff, parents, and community.

2. My first hour class asked on the 3rd morning of school why we weren't saying the Pledge of Allegiance; they noted that the principal or someone had led it via the intercom every morning last year. I'm not sure why the ritual was stopped, but my students seemed concerned about it, so I said that we would -- for the moment -- act as a democracy and vote. I was so moved that, by unanimous vote of 20+ students, a group of patriotic Sophomores elected to say the Pledge every morning. And I continue to be moved every morning when, without fail, after I finish taking roll and the lunch count, they arise almost as one, with no prompting from me, and someone -- never the same person -- leads us without hesitation. There is no big to-do, no self-righteousness. There is, instead, very sincere, simple, and heart-felt patriotism, and I am privileged to be a part of it.

3. High school girls' volleyball and boys' & girls' cross country. I have always loved high school athletics and the opportunity they afford for students to exercise school spirit. I especially appreciate the opportunity athletics provides for students and I to see each other as more than student-teacher -- as individuals who share a common interest and who care about and want to support students, school, and community. Students wave across the gym, come over to show me their "costume" or face paint, or just sit (or stand, at cross country meets) and chat for a few minutes.

4. The change I already see in student behavior in regard to asking questions or conferencing with me about their writing. Although from the first I explained to them that I truly do want to work with them one-on-one, give feedback on writing, etc., they were slow to respond. There are lots of reasons for that. They didn't know if I was just spouting the company line and would actually get cranky when asked for help. Of course, there's sometimes the "only the dumb kids ask for help" issue. Eventually, early in week 3,  two very good students asked for feedback on their paragraphs. As they -- they came up as a pair --  neared my "cart" (I don't use a podium, but an audio-visual cart on wheels), I saw out of my peripheral vision that other students were beginning to watch. I smiled, asked what they wanted feedback on, and we went from there. That broke the ice. I'm not getting a deluge of students every day, but I conference with students -- a variety of them -- on a daily basis now.

5. Last Friday, I received flowers at school. When the student delivered the beautiful arrangement of roses and other flowers (yes I'm flower-variety clueless) during home room and carried them to my desk, my students began saying things like "Oooh, Mrs. Miinch, someone sent you flowers" and "who are they from? Who sent them?"  I was clueless, but as I opened and began reading the card, my eyes filled with tears. That day would have been my 33rd anniversary, and my ever-thoughtful daughter had sent flowers with a card saying that she wished she could be with me and was thinking of me. I blinked back the tears and explained that it was my anniversary and the flowers were from my daughter. The students sobered, there were lots of "I'm sorry's), and then one of my students -- a gregarious & enthusiastic boy -- piped up with, "Mrs. Miinch, if you want to go out in the hall and cry or something, I'll make everyone else behave!" It was, in that moment, the perfect thing to say. I laughed, everyone else laughed, and I told him I'd keep his offer in mind. I was rewarded with a huge smile. It was a perfect moment.

It hasn't been perfect, of course.

Hands-down, the new (to-me, at least) teacher-evaluation model. It is beyond clunky and unnecessarily time-consuming, ridiculously-full of busy work. It is, in a nutshell, my state's DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) up to its usual level of, imho, bumbling incompetence.

Adjusting to a new school with new-to-me routines and procedures has been a bit unsettling, even stressful at times, but I know that will ease with each passing week.

A six-week whirlwind, to be sure. But a whirlwind with so much to be happy about.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My People

Until a few months ago, I didn't know a single person who was living the lifestyle I dream of. When I mentioned to family or friends what I was hoping to do, they were supportive, but none of them had ever done anything more than camp for short periods of time.

Now, though, I can chat with hundreds of full-time RVers at any time of the day or night. And if everyone else is busy or asleep, I can still be inspired by and learn from them.

In my search for others who were living the life I dream of, I first looked where I always look -- books. On I found a couple of books that looked promising and immediately ordered them.

While waiting for them to arrive, I googled "full-time RVing blogs" and similar terms; they yielded several blogs that I bookmarked and began reading.

Two of the bloggers mentioned a couple of different Facebook groups they are members of, so I immediately logged onto Facebook and requested to join those groups. Each group accepted me, and I now had blogs and Facebook groups to read.

When the books arrived, I read those and discovered a few more great blogs and another Facebook group.

Within the course of a few days and by following leads given both on Facebook and the first blogs I'd found, I had surrounded myself with hundreds of people who had the same dream I have and who acted on it.

Over the last few months, I've gradually added to and deleted from my list of blogs and groups as I figure out which ones best fit what I am looking for and which ones have the "atmosphere" I'm looking for.

I left one group, for example, because its most vocal members were often snippy and snide. Another group was less about the RV lifestyle and more about homeschooling while RVing. One of the blogs I stopped following focused primarily on photography, and another was filled more often with survivalist and anti-government talk than conversation about life in an RV.

I've whittled my Facebook groups down to four and the blogs down to five.

That may seem like an awful lot of reading, but I skim the Facebook posts very quickly, looking for topics that are of particular interest to me, and I only read a small fraction of what is posted overall. The writers of the blogs I follow post once or, at most, twice a week, and their posts are never very long. On the average, I spend about 20 minutes a day reading about the RV lifestyle.

This has proven to be time very well spent. I keep track of information about the reputations (quality and reliability) of various makes of RVs, and I've learned all kinds of great information that has led me to better narrow the parameters of my own RV search.

I've also created a few "documents" and cut-and-paste useful information from posts and blogs into those documents for future reference.

Being part of these Facebook groups and reading about other people's experiences on their blogs has been inspirational, eye-opening, informative, and entertaining. It's also fueled my own desire to purchase an RV and begin traveling as I can.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded, positive but realistic individuals can be immensely helpful. If you haven't yet found those people for yourself, I encourage you to search for blogs and Facebook groups of people who are doing what you dream of doing.

Go find "your people"!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Changing My Ways

I have a close relative who hates having a birthday. She always has. Even when she turned 30 -- over 30 years ago -- she greeted her special day not with smiles and happy anticipation of the year to come but with a crankily snarled "Don't even mention that number".

I never understood that.

Until this past Spring.  When I turned 50-something. I won't even mention the number.

When I realized in early May that I wasn't looking forward to my birthday, I began contemplating why I was not only dreading the day but even feeling downright depressed about it.

It didn't take me long to figure it out.

First, I'm aging. There, I've said it. No matter what the upbeat Facebook memes declare about the glories of the senior years, my "best years" are no doubt behind me.  My knees ache, my shoulder hurts, the wrinkles grow more pronounced every day, and don't even get me started on the state of my upper arms.

Another reason is that I felt as though I've lost the last almost-8 years. I was alive and productive, yes. But I was in a fog or depressed or just putting one foot in front of the other. I wasn't living fully and or with any sincere enthusiasm. It's nobody's fault, Heaven knows, but it saddens me to think that such a large chunk of my life was spent merely going through the motions.

Try as I might, I couldn't stop time. My birthday came and went. But the dissatisfaction with the state of my existence didn't lessen when May 22 passed into the history books.

It lasted a few more weeks until one morning when I was on my 45-minute cardio walk, a once-familiar but now almost-forgotten emotion gripped me:  determination. 

The intensity of the sudden commitment to change the status quo literally caused me to stop where I was. Which was pretty ironic, given that I decided right then to stop going through the motions and start making things, positive things, happen.

It felt pretty heady, actually.

I went home and spent hours, that day and the next, taking stock of where I was, every single thing I spent time on, and how I felt physically and emotionally. A whole-life check-up, if you will.

The results weren't pretty.

I came to the conclusion that I had been doing far too many things for the wrong reasons. I'd been doing things because this or that expert said I should. Trying one thing and then shifting direction when someone else said I should be doing something else. Not living true to myself.


For years.

But no more. Gripped with my new-found sense of determination to change my life and to live authentically, I pulled out a single large piece of unlined paper. At the top, I wrote, "What do I really want? What do I want to accomplish?"

Answering those questions was easy.

The next part was not only easy, it was also fun.

I chucked everything. All the advice and admonishments of experts. All the hoops I was clumsily trying to jump through. All the shoulds and musts.

And on that large piece of paper, I wrote what I instinctively knew was right for me to do.

That large piece of paper now hangs on the bulletin board above the desk in my home office. A photo of it is the wallpaper on my iPhone. I look at it every day, and I ponder it every Saturday before I plan the coming week.

Changes have been made.

I deleted my electronic to-do app. Almost three years of using an electronic planner because that's the "efficient" thing to do was gone with a few taps on my phone screen.

I've stopped mindlessly watching television.

I've stopped reading books just to read them. If they aren't well-written or don't contribute positively to my life, back to the library or off my kindle app they go.

I've stopped reaching out to individuals -- friends and family -- who have made it crystal clear that relationship with me isn't important to them.

I won't be blogging every Monday with a "52 Lists Challenge" post or (nearly) every Friday as part of the Five Minute Friday community.

But I haven't just discarded things. I'm revamping some things, adding others.

I'm back in a paper planner. That's ----------------------------------------->
a stock photo (courtesy -- isn't it gorgeous?!

I'm getting up at least an hour earlier and walking first thing every morning.

I'm participating every Monday evening in a Fight Back With Joy women's study at my church. Oh, and I changed church membership to the church in which I was baptized, confirmed, and raised.

I'm committed to blogging once a week. Not just to write, but because I finally have clarity about what I want my blog to be and do. Oh, I may write more often, but only if it feels right, not out of a sense of obligation. Not to check another item off the far-too-long to-do list. So you can check in every Tuesday for a new post.

I've cleaned out my closet -- again -- and gotten rid of everything that I don't actually  love to wear. So, yes, you may see me in those denim capris and asymmetrical coral top more frequently, but I'm more than okay with that. 

More changes are coming, as circumstances and finances allow. 

I can't wait to see what happens!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Inspire (fmf)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "inspire" takes me.

  1. 1
    fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
    "his passion for romantic literature inspired him to begin writing"
  2. 2
    breathe in (air); inhale.

It's interesting, the variety of things and people that serve as an inspiration. Pieces of art, music, the world around us, poetry, problems or challenges . . . the list is almost endless.

It can be argued that most people know what inspires them. In fact, many people acknowledge that they have "go to" things or activities they rely on when they need a creative spark. 

Words . . . those already recorded on the pages of books and my own, written in journals . . . have always inspired me. 

As a child, books created in me a desire to travel, to become a teacher, and to do a variety of things forgotten with time. More recently, recorded words have inspired me to attend conferences, long to journey Route 66 in a vintage red convertible, and endeavor to write a book. They have driven me to embark on a more healthy eating plan and to exercise 6 days a week, to visit Alaska, to search for hours for an affordable class B+ or class C camper in which I can travel throughout the United States.

I've found in the past few years another, new-to-me sources of inspiration. Although I'm a minimalist and have never had any issues with weight, televisions shows like Hoarders and My 600-pound Life motivate me. Those brief, 30-minute or so glimpses into a person's struggle to battle their own eating habits or their compulsion to collect stuff sparks in me a desire to accomplish something. Oh, not to exercise or lose weight or even to clean out a closet. But to do something with my life. 

More morbidly, perhaps, is the motivation to accomplish something I receive from the obituaries in my local newspaper. My eye flies down the on-line page, honing in on the age of the recently-departed. If they are much older, my body relaxes with the subtle reassurance that a long life is often a reality. And I'm inspired to do something with those years ahead of me. When I see a number near my own age or even, tragically, lower -- even much lower, I'm gripped with an urgency to do something now. 

Inspiration . . . 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is (A Life Redesigned)

Determine my dream life. Check.

Analyze my budget and identifying items that can be cut or even eliminated. Check.

Until last week, following Warren and Betsy Talbot's blueprint for identifying and living the life of my dreams was proving to be easy and enjoyable.

Last Wednesday, though, I ran into a roadblock. Let me explain.

My next mini-steps in the larger step of saving were on my to-do list, and I knew as soon as I glanced at it that I was going to have trouble.

My first assignment was to "secure the vault". In other words, I was to designate an existing account or create a new one to do nothing but hold (no withdrawing allowed save for the most dire of emergencies) the money I hope to accrue in order to live my redesigned life. That took a quick trip to the bank and about 10 minutes with a very helpful account representative there.

Afterward, I stopped by My Daddy's Cheesecake, a wonderful bakery and cafe here in my hometown. I slid into a booth with my slice of the ultra-scrumptious Scarlett O'Hara cheesecake and considered my next assignment -- putting a number, a dollar amount, on my dream life.

In other words, I needed to figure out what it will cost me to live in an RV, traveling as whimsy and the weather moved me. That proved to be a very difficult task.

Countless numbers of hours spent researching led me to the fact that monthly expenses will be quite variable. Finally, though, I arrived at a dollar figure for monthly expenses that I think is fairly realistic. I divided that figure by 30 (days in a month) and then again in half.

I wrote that number on my notepad, circled it, drew stars and curlicues around it.

My sense of satisfaction at completing another step in the process toward living my dream was very short-lived. Gone in less than a minute.

It was obliterated by an emotion I couldn''t quite put a name to. I still can't.

I tried to banish it, and at times this past week I've been fairly successful. Other times, though, it rolls over me like a huge, angry ocean wave, knocking me off-kilter and leaving me unsteady and unsure of myself.

And that is where I've been for the past few days -- vacillating between anticipation and ennui.

It's something I must work through before I can go on to the next step in the process, so I'll be pausing here until, I hope, next time.

Until then, I hope you'll spend some time considering what constitutes your own dream life. I hope you'll share it via a comment. I would love to be inspired by hearing your dream!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Forget that Rainy Day (A Life Redesigned)

Redesigning my life after the death of my husband almost 8 years ago has been a long progress, marked by the proverbial one step forward and two . . . or three or four . . . steps back. But once I finally had the vision of what I wanted (The Dream Defined), it was time to start making it a reality.

The Talbot's plan, as outlined in their book Dream, Save, Do, calls for specific steps completed in a specific order, but they also acknowledge that while that order made sense to and worked well for them, others in search of a different, better life might deviate as their situation and personality dictates.

With that in mind, I skipped ahead a few steps to "Save". I was eager to get started, to make tangible progress toward my goal. I also knew from reading the book completely through to get a lay of the land, that I could do the intervening steps at the same time as I was implementing steps to prepare financially.

I also did the mini-steps within the larger "save" step out of order, and that has worked well for me.

I already had a budget in place, and most months I stayed under or at budget in every category (housing, utilities, food, fun, etc). To be honest, though, my income at the time allowed me some latitude, and I knew there were ways I could cut my spending.

I pored over my budget, looking for ways I could cut back. Some items were easy to eliminate (so long Starbucks), and I haven't missed them at all. Others are a work in progress. For example, I have about a year left on my DirecTV contract and will be checking tomorrow to see what it would cost to get out of my current agreement and if there would be any long-term savings by doing that.

As a result of funneling the newly-freed up money elsewhere, I'm debt-free except for one credit card and my mortgage. My mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is less than the rent on even a much-smaller apartment in my area, plus I appreciate the deduction on my income taxes, so until I've found the RV I want and am able to live in it full-time, the mortgage isn't going anywhere.

One part of me is ecstatic about these changes. Another part of me is absolutely disgusted with myself for not doing this before now. I shudder to think of the money spent for things that didn't last materially and have no lasting value. But that's the past, and I'm determined to only look ahead.

While it may seem that I'll be living my dream life fairly soon, I made a ginormous life change that will in many ways make my life safer, more positive, and less mentally and physically stressful. In May, I resigned my job as of July 31. In mid-August, I will begin a new job . . . at about 22% less pay.

So my dream may be deferred a bit, BUT had I not made those budget and lifestyle changes when I did and unloaded debt, I wouldn't have been able to take this new job.

Perhaps once I'm settled into the new position and know better the amount of work I'll be taking home on a regular basis and how much time that will consume, I'll be able to think about getting some type of part-time job. But that's a thought for another day.

All of that -- reevaluating my budget, adjusting my spending, and applying freed-up funds to debt, has kept me busy for the past 7 or so months.

And I still haven't completed all the mini-tasks under the larger step of "saving"!

After months of employing my left-brain skills, I get to play around this week with some right-brain activities.

I hope you'll come back next Wednesday to see what the left side of my brain comes up with!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nice Job! (52 Weeks Project, Week 29)

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

Week 29: List your childhood and current dream jobs.

When I was a child, I wanted to be:  

  1. a nun
  2. an attorney
  3. a teacher
  4. a writer

My current dream job:

  1. best-selling author
  2. travel writer/blogger


Friday, July 14, 2017

Comfort from Within

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "comfort" takes me.

From without.

For 50+ years, that's where I sought comfort when life was having its way with me, when I was weary from the struggle or hurting from some jab, when my carefully-organized life with it's planner and checklists hit a snag

When I was a child, I sought -- and found -- comfort in books. 

Eventually, though, I also sought comfort in other people. In their friendship, their company. 

Books were always there, of course, and I even had favorites that I could turn to. And I did. Other people were less reliable, but still . . . I sought them, their understanding, their empathy.

But the day came, as it always does, when the outer things simply weren't enough. Oh, they provided a temporary respite from pain or disappointment, but when I turned the last page of the book or when lunch with a friend ended and I was back home, alone, again . . . 

Now you might wonder why, as a Christian, I didn't find comfort in my faith, in God. The fact is, I didn't try. 

But then, in the span of three years, I suffered two blows, the second significantly stronger, more devastating than the first.

I needed comfort.

And I've finally begun to look for it not from the outside, but from within.

From my faith, yes.

But also from learning who I am, from being true to myself, from being comfortable in my own skin.

I'm a work in progress. 

But the process . . . even that is a comfort. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Trailer Park Princess with her Knickers in a Twist (Book Review)

With The Trailer Park Princess with her Knickers in a Twist, Kim Hunt Harris offers readers a cozy mystery that is refreshingly unique and extremely-well crafted. 

Just as in the previous three books in the "Trailer Park Princess" series, Harris has constructed a plot that is complex enough to keep the reader's attention without being overly-complex and convoluted. Fast-paced without feeling rushed, the storyline quickly captures the reader's attention and keeps it until the very last page.

In Knickers in a Twist, a prominent newsman has been murdered, and Salem Grimes, dog-groomer and recovering alcoholic, and her senior citizen sidekick Viv are back in action. At the same time, Salem adjusts to changes in her relationship with Tony, the man to whom she is "somewhat married", and Viv tries everything in her power to capture the attention of the newly-arrived and dashing Brit, Nigel.

Harris has created in Salem a character that is realistic -- complex, imperfect, struggling at times to make sense of the world and her role in it. In Knickers in a Twist, she continues to mature as a Christian, and her struggles are ones readers will no doubt identify with. 

Other characters -- Tony and Tri-Patrice, in particular -- are equally realistic and believable. On the other hand, in this latest book Viv's antics become more outlandish, almost to the point of distraction. At the same time, glimpses of the real Viv emerge, and it is in those moments when she reveals her vulnerability that Viv is at her best and most realistic. 

Harris' deftness in incorporating issues of faith into the storyline sets her apart as a writer. Elements of faith and how it impacts peoples' lives are smoothly and naturally integrated into the story. Never is there a hint of preachiness or heavy-handedness. 

The dialogue is sometimes witty and others quite serious, but consistently fresh and believable. Additionally, the book is well-edited and free of grammatical and mechanical errors that are unfortunately so prevalent in contemporary fiction. 

In short, Knickers in a Twist is a delightful book, a welcome breath of fresh air in the world of cozy mysteries. 

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have provided here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wildest Dreams

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

Week 28: List the wildest things you want to try.

1. Living full-time in a Class B+ RV and . . .

2. Staying in each state a couple of weeks

3. White-water rafting on even "wilder" water than we encountered in Alaska

4. Section-hike the Appalachian Trail

5. Participate in some sort of extended bike ride -- across a state or on a specific themed route

6. Slowly drive Route 66, stopping for whatever catches my eye

7. Knit socks, two at a time, toe-up . . . . and not with a magic loop!

8. Get a small tattoo seashell on the top of my right foot or the inside of my left wrist.

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Hi, Mrs. D. Can Mary Come out and Play?"

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "play" takes me.

Summertime when I was a child growing up in a mid-sized mid-western town in a fairly close-knit community with only one road in/out was filled with play.

Once I'd exchanged my jammies for shorts and a t-shirt, waited impatiently for my Cheerios to reach that perfect place between crunchy and mushy, and then scarfed them down, I was out the door. It was time to play with my best friend, Mary, and the other kids in the neighborhood.

Hop-scotch, Red Rover Red Rover, Mother May I, Barbies, bike-riding, freeze tag, hide-and-seek, jumping rope. Just a few of the activities that consumed those precious hours between running out the door after breakfast and returning for lunch eaten with my mom, sister, Chris and Nancy Hughes, their son Bob and wife Kim and his son Tom, and a whole cast of interesting characters in Oakdale.

By the way, I'm somewhat surprised that Tom didn't cause me to have some sort of inferiority complex. He was born to Bob and first-wife Lisa when I was 3 years old. But by the time I was 12, he'd been shipped off to boarding school (twice), used drugs, joined the Army and served in Viet Nam, and well . . . done all sorts of things. All I'd been doing was playing with my friends, reading Tiger Beat,  and daydreaming about Davy Jones, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy.

But I digress.

After lunch, I was out the door again. More bike-riding and other activities, popsicles eaten while hunched over slightly-spread legs, and drinks from a garden hose in the back yard until my dad's car pulled into the neighborhood. A foolproof sign that dinner was almost ready. I'd hop on my bike or run home to help set the table. But again, after I'd eaten (left-over-from-Sunday-dinner fried chicken or roast on Monday, meat loaf on Tuesday . . . ), it was time to play again until the streetlights came on. 

Play. I could play for hours.

I quit playing for many years. Laying out in the sun with my friends, coated with iodine-enhanced baby oil, became much cooler than bike riding and Barbies. And then there was college . . . and work.

But then I had children, and play became part of my life again.

But they moved on to high school and college and work.

And it occurs to me this morning that I haven't played in quite some time.

I have chores to do and errands to run today.

But while I'm out, I'm going to buy a box of 64 crayons and some coloring books.

On my way home, I'm going to stop at the park and swing on the huge playground swing set.

Then I'm going to buy a chocolate milkshake and come back home and color.

I'm going to play. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Do-Overs and Living the Healthy Life (52 Weeks Project, weeks 26 & 27)

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

I'm not sure why, but I didn't post a list last week, so I'm posting two this week. I'm a little late, but I was working feverishly on a project with a looming deadline. 

Week 26: List the things you would change in your life right now if you could

The biggest, most-obvious change I would make is that my nest would have more than one occupant. My late husband would be here and my son & daughter would visit frequently

But since the first is impossible and the 2nd one very difficult (due to their location, jobs, etc), I'm going to focus on changes in my that are more doable.

1. I would not live in this house.
2. Instead of a "normal" job, I would have adequate income from writing and other creative
3. I would travel extensively, primarily in a Class B+ rv (see next change) throughout the US and
    Canada, with some trips to Europe and a few other places
4. Instead of my Prius, I'd own a very reliable Class B+ rv and a hybrid soft-top Jeep (do they even
    make them??)
5. I'd be totally debt-free.
6. My shoulder and knee would be completely healed and discomfort/pain-free.
7. My arms would be toned.
8. I wouldn't need reading glasses, or any type of glasses.
9. I'd be completely finished with both my son's and daughter's scrapbooks, and they would be digital
    works of art!
10. I would be filled with joy -- not because of all of these changes, but just because.

Week 27: List the things that make you feel healthy: mind, body, and soul

1. Prayer
2. Attending church
3. Fellowship with family and friends -- in person
4. An uncluttered environment, both home and work
5. Checklists, and checking off items as I accomplish them
6. Exploring new things -- new places and new things/topics
7. Being around large bodies of water -- large lakes and the ocean
8. Better yet, being on the beach
9. Eating healthy -- I'm sure it's a body thing, but for me it's more a matter of mind. I feel pretty
darned proud of myself and have a sense of accomplishment when I forego the candy bar and eat
an apple instead. :)
10. Exercise -- Like eating healthy, although it's really more a body thing, I like knowing I did
something I didn't want to do but know I should.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bless You

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "blessing" takes me.

Did you notice? Did you notice that the word this week is "blessing" and not "blessings"?  I know that "s" may not seem all that significant, but it really is. The addition of the "s" would, of course, made the word plural.

I'm glad we're not focusing on the plural of the word.

If we were, I know I would probably written about the many people and things I consider to be blessings. It would have been an easy post to write. No doubt about it.

I'd have started with my kids and my friends, moseyed on to my home and job and . . . 

You get the point. A really easy post to write. 

But the word is singular. Blessing.

And now a glib, albeit accurate, listing of the many blessings in my life just won't do.

Instead, I'm called to ponder two things.

First, do I praise and glorify (Merriam-Webster definition 4) the people in my life? 

Oh, it's easy to praise and glorify my children. But do I praise and glorify my coworkers, my friends, and others I come into contact with? I do . . . sometimes. But is "sometimes" enough? 

And what about conferring prosperity or happiness (definition 5) on others? 

It's easy to say I'm not wealthy, so the first one -- prosperity -- is out. But prosperity doesn't apply just to money. What about my time and my talents? Do I give both to others on a regular basis?

I'd love to say I always confer happiness on others, but let's be honest here. I don't . . . not always. 

Am I a blessing?