Sometimes I wonder if I am the only person in the world trying to hold down the fort. I wonder if my hardships are the same hardships that others face. I wonder if they think my hardships are less than theirs or if they think they’ve pretty much got it together after talking to me and hearing of mine. But truth of the matter is, we’ve all got our hardships. And just like everything else in life, hardships are relative. What’s not hard to you might be hard to me and vice versa. But when we open up and talk about our hardships, something magical happens. We feel better. We feel more understood maybe. We feel less isolated in what we're going through. We feel like things will get easier soon or things will change for the positive. This is why I blog. I blog to hopefully make the reader feel just a little bit better about themselves, the rotten day they might be having, the rocky circumstances they are enduring in their life at the present, or maybe just to pull out a heartfelt smile if I can inject a little humor into this complicated thing we call life. I blog because life can be downright crappy sometimes and we need to know there’s someone out there going through the same thing. I blog because I want to be real. Okay, and yes, sometimes I blog because I just need to vent. There, I said it.
I’m gonna be honest. Life has been a bit difficult lately. Now, this is where the “relative” part comes in. I know compared to some lives I see where there is always hardship in the form of abuse or hatred or moral or financial decline, my life is wonderful. I have love in my life. I have a great family and great friends. I have a measure of comfort when it comes to daily needs, daily pleasures, and the ins-and-outs of what we Americans consider “the norm.” I am just plain blessed, so I really can’t complain. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to see myself in a totally different light. I’ve begun to meet myself in the middle. What do I mean by that? I mean where I fall short sometimes, I am more gentle with myself where in the past I would bring myself to the total brink of emotional meltdown before I’d wave the white flag of surrender and admit that I wasn’t able to do something or think a certain way or measure up to what others expected of me. As you get older, you realize that to be your best possible self you have to have borders. Borders are a good thing. Borders are where you walk right up to the door and, even though technically you could go through because you have all the necessary paperwork, you realize you are not willing to go there or do that and you decide to honor that deep-down inside voice that says, hey, wait, this is not what’s best for you. Borders keep in the things that are private and sacred and necessary for life and growth and keep out the things that are unnecessary, unproductive, or life-threatening as opposed to life-giving. And those borders will keep those life boundaries clean and clear and precise if you maintain them.
So today I will share with you the things I need in my life and will not compromise and the things I will not do in my life and not compromise. I’ve narrowed it down to five in each category. Here they are.
I do take time for myself. I take it when I need it and when I want it and when I am able, which is most times when I want it and always when I need it. And I no longer feel guilty for doing it. I make time for doing nothing at all if that’s what I need or want. I get enough rest. I just say yes – yes, to time for me. Yes!
I do say “no”. I don’t always say no, but many times now I do. No, I will not keep your animals. I don’t keep animals. I mean, I am a woman who gave her cat away, so I have no problem telling you that I will not keep your animals. I am an animal "liker," not an animal "lover." I love you, I just don’t necessarily love your animals. Just ask my close friends and my kids.
I do something every single day that brings me happiness. I have learned life is entirely too short to not be happy. So if it is a movie I want to see, a book I want to read, a walk in the park I want to take, a cookie (or two or three!) I want to eat, or a little retail therapy I need, I just do it. I also love decorating magazines. I am a decorating magazine junky.
Decorating magazines bring me happiness.
I do tell myself most days (still working on this one) that God made me just the way I am and I’m okay with that. This one has taken me a lifetime to learn. But I am who I am, warts and spider veins and all... and it’s all okay. This doesn’t mean I don’t try to grow and improve, I just have accepted myself in its imperfect form in the process.
I don’t always answer the phone or go to make-up/Tupperware/jewelry parties. If you call me, you might not get me. If you invite me, I might not come. Immediately answering the phone every single time it rings or going to a party for items I don’t really want to buy is not something I do on a regular basis. And this is the very reason I don’t host make-up/Tupperware/jewelry, etc. parties. Plus, other people don't really want to go them either, so then I feel bad if only two people show up. If possible, I don’t let others dictate how I spend my time or money. If you leave a message however, I will almost always return your call and I will very politely RSVP (in the negative usually) for your party. Sorry. But if you wanna just get together and hang out, I’m your girl.
I don’t let others make me feel guilty. Now, if I have wronged you or crossed a moral line, please give me a stern talking-to. But you’re just wasting your time if you try to make me feel guilty because I don’t think, believe, look, dress, or act the way you think I should. You’re not the boss of me.
I don’t do things just to please others. Now, I might do something for another because I want to and it pleases me to please them, but I don’t do things for others just to please them alone. Unless I want to please them. But I have to want to please them and in turn that pleases me as well. Does that make sense?
I don’t lift heavy furniture. Or semi-heavy furniture. And I definitely for sure do not haul said heavy furniture up any steps. Will someone please tell my husband this? He keeps forgetting.
I don’t burn bridges and take relationships for granted. If I have a disagreement or a misunderstanding with someone, I don’t rest well until it’s fixed. All my do’s and don’ts rest squarely and heavily on the shoulders of this moral rule. I do not like to have confrontations, be confrontational, or have to settle confrontations. So I try to avoid them. Don’t ask me why I’m this way; I just am. I would’ve made a terrible litigator.
So…in one short blog entry, you have learned my life mantra. It's what's helping to keep me sane at this season in my life. It’s a formula I’ve calculated over many years of saying and doing things the way others expect me to, but losing a bit of “me” every time I haven’t been true to myself. Not willing to do that anymore. Nope.
And you gotta love me for that, right?
After living out of a suitcase for a month, there is hope that this is my week to settle in with real furniture and all the comforts of home!
"Life doesn't have to perfect to be wonderful..."
- author unknown (but it totally could've been me!)
Our journey in life occasionally takes us places we’ve never been but think we might want to go, only to bring us back to a place of comfort and security where everything is familiar and reminding us that, even though we were glad to visit that new place, situation or scenario, there is a place we consider home. It's not so much a physical place as it is a set of circumstances and being surrounded by the people and things that make us feel a "sense of place." And it is there where we thrive and feel most alive. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try new things – on the contrary. It’s only in trying new things that we expand beyond our narrow little worlds to experience something that will broaden our horizons in ways we never thought possible. And in that process we learn just a little bit more about the person we are and the person we want to become. I returned to visit a fellow camper recently and she invited me in to see her travel-trailer. She commented as we walked in that she knew I hated RVs but maybe I’d like to see hers anyway. I responded very explicitly that I did not hate RVs and that I did not hate camping. It simply was not for me at this time in my life to live in an RV full-time. I even have fond memories of the little place we called home for nine weeks. But, no, I would not want to go back there just yet. Maybe one day...
The next leg of our journey actually brings me back to one of those familiar places. The search for a rental has been difficult to say the least. Just as in the housing market, the rental market has turned and it’s a vicious cycle trying to find a place to rent and not get beat out by someone who happened to slip in with their deposit check literally five minutes before you brought yours…for the very same apartment! Another contender bit the dust! The housing industry has found itself in a precarious situation with an usually-low inventory. And I’ve never in my years seen a time where so many rental properties have such long waiting lists! The good side of this is that I see contractors picking up where they left off in 2008 – starting to build again. And as much as I love to see the economy perking up, it definitely puts people who need housing in a competitive race, not to mention those of us who are looking for an under-market diamond-in-the-rough to renovate. I know of situations where people have gotten well past their asking price as buyers have entered a bidding war of wills. It has flipped from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market. But God’s timing has a way of reminding you that he surely is in control of the universe. Through a very odd set of circumstances and auspicious timing, we landed back upon a familiar apartment building where we’ve actually lived three other times (all different units) while searching for our next reno. I had thought I didn’t want to move here again (it has a million and two steps) but, now that we’re back, I’m feeling very peaceful with the familiarity of it all. Did I mention that it’s an old, old building that was a hotel in this small mill town many years ago? I’m not talking 1980’s-old, I’m talking early 20th century. And even though, yes, old buildings have their quirky pleasures – high ceilings, intricate moldings, large rooms, and huge original windows with sashes large enough to sit on – they also have their quirky dis-pleasures. Like the tiny and not-so-tiny holes in the walls where mice can get in and you don’t even know the hole is there till the mouse finds it first and makes his unwelcome presence known. Once before when we lived here, a bird got caught in the wall. I listened to it fluttering for a couple of days not knowing what it was until maintenance checked it out, only to find the bird had given up its battle to be freed. I felt so bad. I don’t have the same affection for little furry gray critters, however. The deader the better in my opinion. Old buildings have squeaky, uneven floors, and are not the best for energy efficiency. But, alas, this is home for now, quirks and all. And anywhere we live I truly try to make it home. I love sitting in the window imagining what cotton-mill executive might’ve looked down on the busy street below through the very same window so many years ago. Oh, if these walls could talk, the tales they would tell. And, yes, one of my first orders of business after moving in was finding a cushion that could turn that window seat into a true dreaming place.
Our plans have also taken a sharp turn as to the house-renovating we’ve done the last 10 years or so. After much searching (over 100 houses and counting), we have decided to try our hand at building. This is a new endeavor for us, and is yet another change that is bringing us to unfamiliar places and probably somewhere down the road will threaten to drive us once and for all completely out of our minds! But somehow we’ll get through it, we’ll learn new things, experience fresh adventures, stretch ourselves just a little bit further. And eventually we hope to enjoy the fruits of our labor as we attempt to put our very own personal mark upon a brick-and-mortar edifice (well, maybe more like a cottage), one that we’ve labored over and birthed from the ground up. I look forward to putting my design skills to work over my very own baby. Will you follow us on this journey? I hope so… It’s gonna be hard work, challenging, but hopefully fun and rewarding as well.
Hubby made the comment the other day about building something that will stand the test of time and outlive the hands that built it. Interesting to think that something made from brick and stone (and a million other things) could outlive the person who birthed its vision. But then I think of the person who designed and built this old building I’m living in now, how it still a hundred years later is the shelter that protects so many people day to day, month to month and year to year as they rest, work, and make life happen here. And I think to myself...that person would be really proud to know his building continues to provide for the needs of people.
I think he’d be really, really proud.
Window seats...are good for so many beautiful things...
For as long as I can remember, spring and summer (and maybe fall and winter as well if I’m honest) have been marked by one thing: ICE CREAM. The buying of it, the making of it, the gathering around of it, just the overall consumption of it. I’ll venture to say that I don't know one person who doesn’t like the creamy rich concoction. Sometimes I think men are bigger fans than women because literally every man I know is an ice-cream lover - and I mean LOVER…my husband, my son, my son-in-law, my dad, my brother, my brother-in-law, my nephew, my grandson -- they all adore the stuff. And as long as you have ice cream in the freezer, there is no need to prepare an elaborate dessert; ice cream, like love, is all we need. This heavenly combination of milk or cream (or both) and sugar plus a few other magical ingredients like vanilla extract or cocoa has accompanied many a cake to celebrate birthdays, has been the base for milkshakes enjoyed by lovers through a shared straw, and has been served at literally every special occasion known to man, including weddings! It could possibly be considered the food of royalty. One thing is for sure: it is the ultimate comfort food and heals pretty much anything that ails you. It has been the medicine that's cured many a tonsillectomy and the mender of many a broken heart.
Growing up it seemed that folks made ice cream at home more often, especially in the summer. I don’t know if store-bought ice cream was not as readily available or if (like many things in the ol’ days) we just knew that homemade was better than store-bought. But there was hardly a Memorial Day or 4th of July celebration where old-fashioned churned ice cream was not the star of the show. Yes, it was trouble. Yes, it was work. Yes, it took what seemed like hours to freeze and then it was gone before you could lick your spoon for a second serving (those darn tiny little freezer compartments). But it was always – always – worth the wait. There was simply nothing like mama mixing up her own custard recipe; it had a flavor like nothing else. Sometimes we added peaches or bananas but plain ol’ vanilla was okay by me. Over the years, it’s been imitated but never duplicated. I haven’t been to a gathering in a very long time where homemade ice cream has been churned and it’s a crying shame. Oh, the pouring of the custard; the packing of the ice and salt; the hours of cranking. But the delight of that first creamy spoonful…heavenly.
But in case you think I never got to go out for ice cream, we did have our favorite places to go for a summertime treat as a kid. We had our ice cream parlors and burger joints that served up the good stuff. We had a place called Dipper Dan in the seventies who created crazy flavors like pink bubble gum and grape (as in Kool-Aid grape, yuk!), and to this very day Baskin-Robbins' peanut butter & chocolate will pull me in every time I go there. It has some kind of a weird hold on me. The local Dairy Queen has gotten more of our money than the power company if truth be known, what, with their Blizzard temptations and such. If I had the cash for every Blizzard I've bought in my lifetime, I'd probably have enough for a deposit on a small house. But growing up, there also happened to be a hamburger place called Zesto's nearby and I think there might be one left in Atlanta, but nowhere near where I live now. I have great food memories of that place and I remember first of all the burgers with their coarsely-chopped onions, but I also remember the ice cream. Chocolate-dipped vanilla cones were my favorite and to this day I still love a good chocolate-dipped cone. I’ll never forget one time when my mom took us kids for an ice cream at Zesto’s. We piled into mama's big green Chrysler (affectionately nicknamed the boat) and I informed her I wanted the biggest cone they had. My mom probably should've denied that request because I was already sporting a few more pounds than I needed for my tween frame but I got my huge ice cream and, when they handed it to me, needless to say I was quite embarrassed. It was at least ten inches tall, if not a full foot! I felt just like I did when I had made myself two sandwiches for my school lunch and a girl (part friend; mostly enemy!) at my table said, "Oh, you eat two sandwiches for lunch?" I wanted to morph into someone with invisible powers or maybe just crawl under the table, but I guess it wasn't the norm for a lady to indulge in two sandwiches in the presence of other more discriminating and disciplined folk. Again, where was my mom when I was making those sandwiches? But without remembering completely, I am quite sure I got over my embarrassment and scarfed the entire ice cream cone down without an ounce of guilt (not sure about the sandwiches).
Over the years ice cream has gotten a bad rap with all the fat and sugar, so we've tried to make it healthier by creating low-fat options, fat-free options, sugar-free options, and even substitutes like frozen yogurt, which ironically has just as much sugar but something about the yogurt name makes us feel like it is healthier. We've tried to highlight the benefits of dairy products, including ice cream, and its calcium and vitamin-D attributes. And just like chocolate, it can be considered a part of a healthy diet, as long as it's consumed in moderation. Well, where is the fun in that? That word moderation gets me every time! But folks love the frozen delight and they're gonna continue to eat it and I feel quite sure that fact will never become fiction. So much to my chagrin, it appears that the rule of moderation totally applies to ice cream like so many other things in life where we are prone to overindulge. But I guess if I have to choose, I'll take a 1/2-cup serving over none at all. None at all is not an option.
As summer swings into full motion officially in a few days, I wish you summertime delights of every conceivable kind...days at the beach...burgers on the grill...pool parties with the kids...evenings roasting hotdogs and marshmallows over the fire pit...and ice cream -- lots and lots of it.
But only in 1/2-cup intervals unless, like me, you want to wear it like a built-in life preserver around your mid-section when you have your pool party. I am a really good floater. Ugh.
Happy summer, y'all!
This week has not been hell, but I’ve felt the fiery roaring of it nearby, threatening to pull me down into that burning ring of fire Mr. Cash sang about so many years ago.
After nine weeks of living in an RV, we’ve decided to call it quits – not us, but fulltime RV-living, that is. I’ve tried; I really and truly have tried. Some days the stars have aligned just right and I’ve been totally at peace, but most days I’ve been a ranting maniac just trying to figure out how to live in such close quarters with another human being and the two of us survive the experience without shooting the other one dead. Now, in case you’re feeling a bit disappointed in me and my inabilities to complete what you and others may have considered a fun adventure, join the crowd. But let me first set the record straight. There were parts of living in a state park that were wonderful: endless trails to hike; a beautiful lake calling my name; moments of solitude and reflection; nature and wildlife abounding; sweet, fine campers to meet with campfires to gather ‘round. But the cons eventually won out over the pros and, for my sanity, I simply had to get the heck outta Dodge. One huge disappointment in the RV experience? The constant rocking (even if ever so slightly) wore on my nerves. One does not get up to pee at night without rocking the boat a bit and waking up the other. And it was dark…so dark. Most of you know that I am a creature of light – and lots of it. The low ceilings, tight quarters, and dark interiors were not conducive to my need for space and light. It was a pressure cooker, and the lid was about to blow (the hubs would say yes, it did indeed, definitely and without a doubt, blow). But I gave it an earnest shot. And maybe in a different time and a parallel universe, I might even could enjoy the RV experience…for short periods of time and after retirement when we have nothing else to do except sit around that campfire and invite everyone who passes by to join us. So exactly seven days ago, we pulled up stakes and began the next leg of our journey, which very simply is to find a new place to live while we continue to search for a house to renovate. The last seven days have been a flurry of hotel stays (heading to my third one today) and continued beating of the bushes to find a house into which we will infuse new life, and an apartment while we house-hunt. Sounds like a crazy week, right?
Yes. Yes, it has been. I officially once again feel like a vagabond, searching for a place to land, carrying everything I need to exist packed into my car with me, as we wander from place to place wondering what pillow my head will land upon next. Let’s pray that it’s a fluffy one and the sheets are extremely fresh and comfy; that always helps. Hopefully my poor houseplants will survive the chaos, but they’re looking a lot like me right now…withered and weak with their tongues hanging out, a tad bit in shock. This morning I put an open umbrella over them in the car to protect them from the unusually hot June heat. I’ll bring them in tonight for a drink and a few days of a temperature-controlled environment. I love my little plants and they love me. Well, maybe not…I have put them through a lot. But hang on, babies, mama will find you a landing spot yet.
So I might have just aged another five years in one week. It is entirely possible I believe. The pouchy bags under my eyes testify to that. My weary body too. My cloudy mind as well. Even though I am usually a snorer, hubby said he almost poked me last night because I was so still and quiet. He wanted to make sure I had not given up the ghost completely. Or maybe he’d hoped I had – who knows?!! But by the time we checked into the hotel around 10:00 pm, I was done. I had completely exhausted every last ounce of energy I could muster up, except to crawl into bed. I climbed into the fluffy king-sized wonder and let sleep catch me as I watched The Middle marathon on the telly. I just love Patricia Heaton in that show, don’t you? She played a similar role in Everybody Loves Raymond years ago, and I can totally relate to her in both programs…a mom who loves her family desperately and wants the best for them, while constantly trying to tame her wildly crazy life and survive, just trying to do the best she can and attempting to make ends meet somewhere at the crossroad of self-dignity and compromise. Aren’t we all there?
But there is always a silver lining to every storm cloud, you know. One of those silver linings for me is the hotel-hopping we do sometimes for weeks at a time: large beds; large TV at the foot of the large bed; eating dinner in that large bed; housekeeping to make that large bed and change those large sheets; endless shampoo and soap; endless hot water; the list goes on and on. But even though too much of it can definitely wear me down, it’s usually quite fun and we are able to enjoy some pleasures along the way that only hotels can afford. The Graduate Hotel in Athens is one of those delights, so you’re getting a free hotel review with this post.
You’re very welcome.
The Graduate is just as its name says. It is housed in the college town of Athens, Georgia in a historic building built in the 1800’s and has been totally renovated with college-themed memorabilia. Not so unusual maybe being in solid Bulldog country, except that the college theme is married to a retro theme and it makes for a very quirky place to stay. I’m talking vinyl headboards, bulldog lamps, rotary phones (they really are push button, but totally look the part), vintage radios and artwork, all tied together with a mix of plaids and bright hues for what I consider a lot of fun and quite different from anywhere I’ve ever stayed. The staff is friendly and accommodating, there is a spa and restaurant on site with live music some nights, and the bed is extra comfy. What else could you want? Oh, yeah, free wifi too. I could’ve spent a few days in that bed with my laptop, napping inadvertently.
It’s getting close to check-out time and I must gather all my belongings and head out, continuing the search for a place to land for more than nine weeks this time, and trying my very best to count my blessings as I go. Sometimes when you’re tired and in the midst of troubles, trying to muddle through the thick sludge of life, you can see in the distance a glimmer of hope that soon things will return to a normalcy that you’ve grown to depend upon and thrive in the midst of. The experience with living in an RV has been yet another of life’s lessons on our way, and it has taught me yet another thing about myself as well. This experience has revealed to me that, even though I would like to consider myself one who embraces change and adventure, I have to do it on my own terms to be healthy and complete and also that, when I see something is not working, I have to let it go. And sometimes I have a way of taking others with me in the chaos but, hey, that’s not by intention. Sometimes folks don’t understand and sometimes you struggle to even understand yourself, but you just know it’s something that you have to do. But as long as we’re doing our best to move forward, our best to embrace growth, and using our gifts no matter how small to bless others, we can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.
Except maybe an extra-fluffy pillow to sink into at night. A good pillow will take you a long, long way.
"All who wander are not lost..."
Posted by CC
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