I let the mask drop from one ear the exact split second I walked out of the store. I let it hang there until the breeze threatened to lift it off the other ear, so I grabbed it that I might be able to reuse it a couple or three (or ten) more times. There was a permanent berry-hued lipstick stain across the middle and I wondered to myself Why do I apply lipstick only to put on a face mask and then look like a kid with a koolaid stain when the mask comes off? I'll tell you why I put on lipstick: It's what I do. I am not completely dressed without my lipstick. In fact, sometimes it's the only makeup I apply. Sometimes I get busy and run out the door without makeup, but not without lipstick. It is my security blanket so to speak. It helps me think I look a bit more put together than I truly am and allows me to look healthier as opposed to not feeling well, which my best friend once told me I looked like when I didn't have my lips painted. But the face mask has cramped my lipstick-applying style. So I just put the mask back on the next occasion, lipstick stain and all, and go on my merry way. No worries, it's a perfectly lovely shade of red berry pink.
These are strange times...really strange times.
Last week I was in Athens, Georgia to do a little shopping and I had to wait in a line just to get inside the store. They were letting one or two persons in as one or two came out. The people waiting around with me were surprisingly patient with their masks on just talking as if the times were completely normal. There is nothing normal about this! But we have gotten used to wearing masks, social distancing, and making fewer shopping trips to the store. And when we get to the store and the store is at peak capacity, we just take it in stride and learn to wait our turn like preschoolers have to learn. We've learned to just "do what we have to do." Perhaps all this is helping us to slow down and take our time more, make each moment count more, enjoy the moments we do get to go out more, and learn to play nicely together. I would like to think that.
But speaking of preschool...
Most of the surrounding counties where I live are preparing to start back with virtual learning, then easing into the classroom in shifts. Then some are just jumping in the pool headfirst and hoping they're able to swim through this whirlpool of change. They're taking measures to lessen the threat, keep the faith, let the kids learn and grow in a normal surrounding, and come out okay on the other side. I'm sort of in that camp. You have to weigh the full picture and kids need to be in school. I think a lot of our children have suffered from being so isolated and are truly craving the company of their own kind because they are little social creatures. So let's just put on our face masks, folks, try to lessen our exposure, and live our lives! I'm just praying and keeping my fingers crossed that our preschool will start when they're saying but, who knows, this is a time of mushy foundations where nothing said is ever in solid concrete anymore.
Sooo... I've been a busy little preschool teacher-beaver preparing for my precious 15 or so 2-year-olds who will inevitably come bursting into the room on opening day like an overzealous t-ball team wholeheartedly expecting to win the game! I look forward to their enthusiasm, their 2-going-on-20 attitudes, their hilarious antics, and all the wonders a 2-year-old has to offer this world. It is a time of tremendous growth for them, a speed-of-light learning season, and the advancement of baby to big boy or girl. There is a tremendous change in how a 2-year-old enters preschool at the beginning of the year and how they leave preschool in May, and I count it a privilege and honor to help guide them in their journey.
Back to the face masks. I must confess that I truly hate wearing one. They make my glasses fog up, they make you feel as though you're talking from the inside of a barrel, they hide your facial expressions and don't allow you to see others', and I swear I cannot get the air I need to breathe well! (and did I tell you they mess with my lipstick?) But we keep putting them on (well, most of us), because if we can protect ourselves and others a little bit longer and they allow us to go on living out the other things in our lives more normally, like going to church and the doctor and the local eatery and the grocery store, then we're glad to do our part in the family of humanity to help out. A lot of people say that we are just not as friendly wearing masks all the time and they do kind of give us anonymity. We tend to walk straight ahead with the look of a horse in blinders and get on with our day in an all-business sort of way. And social distancing doesn't help either. I am a talker and (as you know) a hugger, and when I see someone I know out and about in the community, it's hard not to tackle them with a big bear hug and, if it's a really good friend, a peck on the cheek. All this has not only cramped my lipstick style, but my social style for sure.
But here's the thing. I've noticed recently that quite a few folks actually also smile with their eyes. If you look closely, these folks' eyes crinkle a bit when they're smiling and, even though you can't actually see their mouth, you know they're smiling because of their eyes. When I smile, my eyes pretty much go away, forming into tiny little squinty slits. I cannot smile behind a mask and people not know it. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and I believe it to be true. If you'll take a minute to notice, you can tell most people's facial expression by looking at their eyes, even with a mask on. Could mandatory mask-wearing be the tool that helps us to look more into a person's soul?
As we continue to move forward in these new and different times together, remember:
The human race is a resilient race.
We face the unknown with courage, we conquer our fears, and we plan for a better day but adapt to our new realities because this is what we do. God has given us the great potential of adaptation and we prove it over and over again every single day. So while you're putting on that mask, go ahead and put on a cape as well and be a hero to someone today. This world needs more heroes.
And don't forget to smile at someone with those gorgeous peepers!
In full disclosure, I saw the title of this post quoted on the DMV billboard on Interstate 20 and loved it! Also, the quote below from Dr. Phil refers to another another kind of mask...for discussion on another day for sure! Kinda sounds like social media, right?
"We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we're capable of."
- Phil McGraw
Most of us will never be famous. We won't write a best-selling novel. We won't become president or have a hollywood acting career. We won't invent a life-saving device or drug or discover a cure for cancer. We won't be well-read, extremely educated, or world-traveled. Most of us. We all know someone who can say they have done at least one or some of these things, but the majority of the people in the world today would fit into the categories of the unknown, the un-accomplished, and the unheard. The just-tryin-to-get-thru-the-day kind of folks.
But before you think this is a post about the insignificance of the average human on earth, let me reassure you -- it is anything but that! If you know much about me as a person, you know that (most of the time) I am extremely positive, very friendly, happy for simple things, and always ready to offer encouraging words. And that just might be enough.
We all have a following. We have followers who follow because it's their duty as our family or good friend. We also have unknown followers who are continuously watching us...to see how we act in trying and hard times...to see how we "re-act" in the face of adversity...to see if we're practicing what we're preaching. So for the sake of this post, I'm gonna say we all have our own personal fan clubs. We all have people for whom, even though we may not be famous or accomplished, we might just be the best person they know... the person who's trustworthy... the person they run to when there's trouble and need a prayer... the person they think of when they need a good example to follow. And I consider that kind of life one that is worthy and making a difference...even if it's behind the scenes -- well, especially if it's behind the scenes.
Milestones have always thrown me into "deep-thinking" mode. And as much as I'm wary to admit it (I mean, what is the alternative?), I've been in deep-thinking mode since I passed over into the official "twilight" years. I turned 65 recently and, even though I consider myself a "spry" senior and in fairly good health, I know that there are only so many more birthdays I will celebrate on this earth. So it's had me thinking...Have I done enough in my life? Have I accomplished my goals and have I even had worthy goals? Have I stepped up to the plate and tried my best to love unconditionally, be kind, and pass those traits on to my children, grandchildren, and others? Well, I can tell you first and foremost that no, I have not done that a good portion of the time. I've had many moments of selfishness instead of selflessness, many harsh words instead of kind ones, and a million other things I could wallow over in regret. I've had crappy attitudes (for which I've paid a great price), made crappy decisions (for which I've paid an even greater price), and at times been just plain ol' crappy in general. But now I'll get to the good part. I can see a lot of good times, good efforts, good relationships, and just good ol' life in my 65 years. I have a million memories of being in the right place at the right time, making good choices, saying the right thing in the right timing, and just overall moments that thankfully stick in my heart more than the crappy ones. We are all human and, just like the Good Book says, none are perfect and we are all crappy (well, not said exactly like that!).
There are so many things in my life today that I could not do as a younger person. I can speak my mind (nicely, with kindness of course) and feel no guilt because I have learned a lot about what is truth and what is best, and I've gained a lot of wisdom. When you know truth, it really doesn't matter if people agree; it just matters that you share it and take responsibility for passing it on to others. I do the work I love now because some of the things I thought mattered when I was younger (like prestige and applause and impressing people) no longer wear me down. I know they are fleeting anyway and never bring happiness. I don't worry nearly as much about what people think because I can't change it anyway. Some will not like you no matter what you do. And if you think everyone will like you, then you, my friend, need a little more time on this earth to learn the truth of that one. What brings happiness? Just being yourself. Being the person God created you to be (warts and all) and allowing Him to mold you into that person who will be someone's hero one day.
And that is the key word. Someone's hero. It doesn't matter if you're everyone's hero, just the ones God has put in your life along the way that He assigns just to you. Did you know that you might be the one person who can make a difference in certain people's lives? I know, sometimes that feels a bit daunting. But if we focus on the ones God allows in our circle and the ones he pushes us toward outside our comfort zone, then for the most part you can feel fulfilled and accomplished as you enter your twilight years like me. And, believe me, it will be here before you know it! I work with children now, something I never thought I would want to do when I was younger, but now feel it just might be my calling. A hard day in preschool is better than a great day somewhere else! Those babies give me life and what I invest in them is never-ending. I write because I enjoy it for myself -- it's my outlet and if someone chooses to read along, then all the better. I spend a great deal of my time reading and traveling to those exotic places in the stories. I take pictures when I'm inspired and only when I want to and never because I have to. I renovate houses not because I want to impress someone but because I enjoy it (and also for the $!). I mean, a girl has to make a living!
And one of the best parts of being older? I can eat that second cookie or that bowl of ice cream and not worry about my middle too much! So what if my waist is no longer swimsuit-ready, who cares?! Life is short -- eat the cookie! But "take a little exercise," as the old folks used to say. I even make exercise something I enjoy. No running miles or treadmills for me. Give me some soothing yoga stretches or a long walk in the woods. Watch out, Medicare, here I come!!
Whatever your age, I wish you blessings as you morph into your beautiful one-of-a-kind butterfly, as you grow more solid and sturdy as an ancient sequoia, as you do the things that truly bring you joy and give life to others, and as you share those things of life with your unseen fan club.
Because they're there...somewhere...watching and waiting for their hero to step up.
"We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up ... discovering we have the strength to stare it down."
- ELEANOR ROOSEVELT
I am a hugger. I come from a long line of huggers. We hug hello; we hug goodbye; we hug when we're happy; we hug when we're sad; we hug every chance we get. I am not a tree hugger, however.
I love trees; I just don't hug them.
I'm not sure you have come to understand this in your life, but there is definitely a correct way to hug. Please don't even get me started on side-huggers and back-patters. The correct way is to fully embrace belly to belly and hold as tight as you can. When Preston was a newborn while Hollie was living in Central America, Abbie and I went to visit to be a part of the blessed event and Abbie told me (as we were saying our goodbyes to leave) that I was hugging baby P so tight that she was turning red. I would not suggest this as an excellent way to hug a newborn, but what can I say? I was a grandmother saying goodbye and not knowing when I'd see her next. I have always, since the day they were born and until this day, hug my children and grandchildren unashamedly. We never had a moment when I felt I could not hug them in public when my kids were growing up. I just simply would hug them. I kept hugging them even if they were embarrassed. Ditto for my grandchildren. So what if they're embarrassed? Hugs ARE NOT a shameful thing!
When Hollie was little, a new line of dolls came out called Hugga Bunch. Do you remember those or am I telling my age again? Maybe you've at least heard of them. But Hollie got a Hugga Bunch doll for Christmas. There was really nothing special about these dolls that made them anymore lovable (or huggable) than any other doll; in fact, a few of them were a bit scary-looking! But they were made of the softest velour-like fabric so they were indeed huggable if for that alone. No sharp edges or hard plastic; just 100 percent lovable squishy-ness. And Hollie truly loved her Hugga Bunch. She loved her so much that she rubbed her little velour nose right off her face! I still have her today, and will include a picture of her if I can dig her out of the archives. I just cannot get rid of that babydoll she loved so much! I also still have Abbie's American Girl doll, but what can I say?
Some people think hugs are only just for those they love. Not true. I have hugged complete strangers when the circumstances called for it. I have hugged acquaintances, even those whom I might not have even especially liked but, if they seemed to need a hug, I gave it. Desperate times call for desperate hugs. A hug is the ultimate show of kindness. They say that touch is crucial for people, that babies need physical contact from Day 1 and may have emotional issues later in life if they do not get it. Why do you think they lay the naked baby on the mother's naked chest right after birth?! So my thinking is this: If I feel so inclined to hug someone, I do it. Who am I to say that a hug won't just be what gets them through the day. As a preschool teacher, hugs are huge part of my role. I hug those babies hello in the morning, if they cry or get a booboo, and hug them goodbye at the end of the day (if I can squeeze one in before they are whisked away; carline pickup can be a bit chaotic!).
But there are people out there who do not get their daily dose of hugs. Hugs are essential like the right amount of vitamins and minerals! Sometime it's children who are in a less-than-loving household, or elderly people who have outlived all their family and friends. There are a million other reasons why someone might not get the physical touch needed because they are isolated. This moment in our society is a time when that is probably especially true. Being quarantined is taking a toll on the hug quota! Even I have suffered. I get a lot of my hugs from my children and grandchildren (whom I've not seen in awhile), my preschool babies (whom I've not seen in a while), and my other family and friends (whom I've not seen in awhile). I tell my grandchildren that when I get to hug them again I am never gonna let them go. I'm sure they're dreading that moment! Thankfully I have my sister nearby, and we hug as much as we possibly can. Coronavirus or not, I don't want to die from a lack of physical touch either! You gotta pick your battles, people.
Hopefully you have a loved one with whom you're holed up right now and can hug on a daily basis. Don't you dare go through a whole day without hugging them. A hug can turn toleration into pleasurable cohabitation. A hug can turn a frown into a smile. A hug can make the difference between being blessed and being a blessing. When all this quarantine is behind us, why don't you plan to increase your hugging capabilities? Hug as much as you can, as often as you can. Because, really, it's a win-win for everybody. They benefit and you benefit and even those watching benefit. Watching someone give or get a hug inspires us to pay it forward in the hug department. I've heard many people say of a loved one who has passed, "I just wish I could hug their neck one more time!" Even I have said that about my own dear mother and father. Physical touch really is a basic human need, like water and food and shelter. Someone disagrees with me I'm sure, but that just proves they don't know nuthin.'
If you're not a hugger, commit to becoming one. It might annoy some people, they might even try to pull away, but don't you dare let them! They most certainly will get over it...
...and will even be a better person for it. Guaranteed.
I have learned that there is more power in a good strong hug than in a thousand meaningful words.
- Ann Hood
How do you like your coffee? Black -- cream & sugar -- a hint of vanilla? Maybe you prefer hot tea with a splash of honey and lemon...or hot cocoa...or maybe a strong soda on ice that tingles a bit as it goes down. Whatever you have in your life that constitutes a simple joy, I hope that you're making it happen every day.
In this strangest of times that most of us have never lived through, we are finding new ways to stay connected, keep busy and active, and find joy in each new day. I know I've had to "readjust" my thinking on more levels than one because, even though I am a person who enjoys a significant amount of alone time, I consider myself a people person, and it's been really hard not to be around the ones I love, the ones who make me laugh, the local clerks at my favorite stores (well, mainly I miss the stores!), even the ones who challenge me, like my 2-year-old preschool class! I miss those babies so much! I've missed going to the places that give me constant inspiration and unparalleled support, like my church and meeting up with friends and family for a leisurely lunch or dinner at a local dining spot.
How are you trying to stay healthy?
It goes without saying that social media has become our constant daily companion in light of social distancing. It's comforting to me to be able to FaceTime with my grandchildren and, even though I can't hug them or touch them, it a-l-m-o-s-t feels like I'm there with them. I can see their beautiful faces, take in their expressions, watch them playing, and hear their insatiable laughter. How can you not feel better when you hear children laughing and playing? This simple act gives me hope for the days to come when we're able to be together again.
Going to the grocery store has become the "social event of the week!" It used to be that grocery shopping was something I simply had to endure if I wanted to eat. Now, it's more of a contemplative planning on when I want to go, where I want to go, what favorite foods are on my list, how many treats should I really buy, and how long I dare stay in the store. That mostly depends on the time of day because if I go during a busy time it's pretty much an in-and-out event...get what you gotta have...ring it up and pay...and get the heck out of dodge! Sometimes I hit it just right, enter a store that is practically empty, and take my time perusing the gardening products or even the anti-histamines -- it doesn't matter, it's just good to be able to take a moment, even if it's on the cleaning aisle. And it's become an ongoing challenge to find that elusive roll of toilet paper or container of antibacterial wipes. Who knew we'd face this conundrum?
Having a date with a good book has also taken on a new role in my life. Whereas I used to feel a bit guilty and indulgent when I read, always feeling like I should get up and do something more productive, now I take my time to linger over a good book and don't have one iota of guilt about it! Books take me away from the everyday humdrum...in a book I can go to some exotic place, visit another time period in history, or learn about a person who's had a very storied life. Ditto for magazines...I'm a self-professed magazine junkie. Not that I spend my precious hard-earned dollars on a lot of them, but the ones that provide me with a reading get-away and inspiration are always on my to-do list for the day. When I get a new magazine in my mailbox, I'm like a kid!
And I can't forget the simple pleasure of nature. Just getting to go outside in my yard every day, or taking an evening walk, or simply sitting in the sun with my face turned heavenward helps to broaden my day and extend it from "just getting through it" to "it's been a really good day." There have been myriad articles written on the benefits of fresh air and sunshine, how it helps with depression and anxiety and makes us feel more connected to the world around us. I think in many ways I've taken this for granted in the past, but now realize more than ever what a blessing it is to get outside and breathe the fresh (sometimes pollen-filled!) air. I am especially thankful that his quarantine has happened in the spring...I don't even want to think about being stuck in my house all winter long, if it had happened that way!
Some other simple pleasures I've allowed myself to indulge?
Oh, wait, hang on...
I had to go brush my hair and change out of my pajamas because one of my preschoolers wanted to FaceTime me. No time to brush my teeth so glad there's no smell on FaceTime!! The call was so precious...see what I mean? Unexpected little joys in the moment!
Back to the other simple pleasures...Binge watching a fave TV series...sending snail mail...music blasting through the house with impromptu dancing (the Spinners, anyone? Best dance music ever!). And did I say chocolate?!! Then there's my cup of java. Every morning when my feet hit the floor, I shuffle straight to the kitchen to brew my one perfect cup of coffee (only one a day for me!). Two small sugars, one huge dousing of half&half, thank you very much! Then I go back to bed and sit there savoring it...good way to start off any day.
I'm sure you, like me, have had to forgo some plans you'd made for this spring. I missed a trip to see my daughter in Houston, haven't gotten to see my grandchildren in months...don't know when I'll get my annual beach trip (or if I'll get my annual beach trip)... And I know you like me have had to do the same. My heart goes out to all those who have had to reschedule weddings, cancel graduation ceremonies and proms and lifetime milestone celebrations. I'm especially saddened by those who have lost loved ones during this time and can't even properly mourn them with a service.
But during this time of uncertainty we, as in most things in life, have a choice. We can move forward reflecting on all the positive coming out of this season -- like all the people stepping up to help their fellow humans -- or we can get stuck in the negative. I hope you, like me, will choose the former. Life is too short not to take every day and squeeze all the goodness out of it that we can. This is the perfect time to spend minutes if not hours reflecting on good things in your past and feeling grateful, and dreaming about the future when things are better. If you're reading this post, you're breathing, and that's enough to remind us of all the possibilities we have if we embrace the day and what it brings, even if it's just enjoying a perfect cup of coffee.
What are your simple pleasures?
Postscript: During the writing of this post, I did a grocery store run. I left the store with a large pack of GOOD toilet paper, unlike the last I bought that was about like using a brown paper towel. SCORE!!
Flowers are absolutely one of my simple pleasures! I don't have them all the time, but most of the time...and when some blooms start to fade, I reduce the large bouquet to a short cute bouquet (or several maybe:). I make them last as long as I possibly can!
We are truly in strange times right now.
For the first time in my 60+ years, I am seeing new things! Like the present quarantine because of a scary virus that no one knows much about and everyone is going a little crazy to make sure they don't get acquainted with the intruder (and have enough toilet paper while they wait this thing out!).
I have been inside my house for exactly 84 hours straight until this morning. Not only is the coronavirus something I don't want to come in contact with, I have been sick with a bad case of bronchitis trying to get well so I could get out a bit and not cause someone to have heart failure when they heard my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cough. I didn't want to end up being quarantined somewhere other than my own house because I was perceived a threat!
So I've been thinking...what could I do to encourage some folks?! We have a lot of doomsdayers out there on Social Media and people who wouldn't know a good word if it fell from the sky and conked 'em on the head. So since I consider myself a positive, half-glass-full kind of person, I would like to get on the bandwagon here and inject a little positivity into your day to hopefully counteract a bit of the negativity.
First of all, the human race is a resilient body of beings. We sometimes forget our past and how our forefathers and mothers had times of testing that make some of these days look like a picnic in the park. They struggled through harsh winters without enough to eat, didn't know during Civil War times if their whole family might be slaughtered in their home while quietly eating a meal, risked their lives for freedoms that no human should have to fight for but is their right just because they are a human being, sent their sons off to foreign wars where those on the foreign fields and at home had very little to eat, struggled to stay warm and well, lived under the fear of invasion, and enjoyed absolutely no comforts as we know them. They suffered strange new illnesses that were unchartered territory and caused thousands of deaths of not only adults but innocent children. Now, that's the hard truth.
But here's the positive that I can pull out of this time in this day at this hour:
We live in a day where medical breakthroughs are happening every day and give us hope for cures not just for coronavirus but for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and so many other diseases. Did you know that in the early sixties being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was a death sentence? My aunt died from it at a young age, but today someone can live a longer, much more productive life with MS because of the advances in treatment. We have the best of the best working tirelessly to research cures for disease and the spread of it. We are so blessed!
We live in a country where human life is valued, whether we are a helpless special needs baby or a very frail elderly person who can no longer be productive in the way a lot of the rest of the world judges human worth . We have leaders who care about human dignity and work tirelessly to promote that basic human right to live and be considered. Too many lives have already been lost to coronavirus, and one is too many, and there are compassionate people who are giving their time and skills to stop the spread. We should be thanking them, not criticizing them.
We still have food on our shelves and the infrastructure to get it there!
We still enjoy luxuries that some people in developing countries can only hope for and have lived their entire histories without...like clean water, indoor plumbing, central heat, accessible food, the right to vote because we live in a democratic republic...services to help you no matter your social or economic status. I call these luxuries and indeed they are; we just take them for granted. Those are just a few for starters.
But most of all, we still are free, even during this mandatory self-quarantine! We might be having to stay closer to home, economize, and use our resources more sparingly, but we can take a long walk in a beautiful park, call and
FaceTime our loved ones, and take a walk or a ride in the country if we so desire. It's a time of thinking of others and their wellbeing first and pulling together for the common cause.
Just my two cents' worth.
The other thing I thought you might enjoy is to see a few of my favorite pictures I've taken over the years as a photographer and that are still some of my favorites and bring me joy, even though I am technically retired from photography. I hope they make you smile! Here ya go...
“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
--Franklin D. Roosevelt
, *On this post's title...desperate times call for desperate measures...I've been stocking up on my favorite foods to carry me thru, like P-A-S-T-A, hence Corona Macarona! My first restaurant venture after the restaurants open back up will have to be Olive Garden...or Provino's...or Carraba's...wherever there is pasta, I'm in!
Also, I did finally get out for a drive today and a quick grocery store run. I saw fields of green and cotton stalks, trees budding the most tender spring colors of green...hot pink azaleas...cows and goats and blue sky...even a few human beings. That was my favorite part.
Life is good.
Recently I was talking with my aunt on the phone and she said she would love to see some pictures of my little house...this post is for you, Auntie...
Ten months ago I bought a tiny brick mid-century ranch (848 sf) in which I planned to camp out and find self-renewal. I say "camp out" because it's not quite the type of house I would've purchased in the past to live in. I guess you could say I've lowered my standards in the space I need, the decor I accept, and the amenities I feel I need. Years ago I would have required that something be super-deep-cleaned, painted from head to toe, fairly modern and updated, and a bit coiffed in a certain way for her majesty to move in. But in recent years, as I've grown older and realized what I really need is a quiet space that nurtures my soul, I have also realized that some things I used to regard as a necessity are no longer a necessity. So I bought what I could afford, but I did have a few requirements to check off my list: 1) Did I say affordable? 2) Safety and location (go together), 3) Move-in ready (i.e., working plumbing, working HVAC, decent roof with no leaks), 4) Something with potential in case I later want to do some upgrades, which is (if you know me well) what I do. So I gathered up the necessities I need for daily living, hired some movers, and moved right on in. I spent the first night in peaceful bliss as I made up a twin mattress on the floor, praying there was not a resident mouse family nearby who would like to get better acquainted.
In the last ten months, this little house has been a haven of rest for me. It's provided me with shelter, quietness, solitude, and solace. In many ways, it's been sacred to me...a sacred place set apart for renewal, healing, finding direction, and a place where I could feel God's presence again in my life. I cannot put a price tag on the progress that has been made in my physical and mental health as I've lived here, single-handedly taking on the world for really the first time in my life. I can't deny that there were some scary moments, some uncertain days, and at least a million tears that flowed out of my broken heart. But as I've healed and nurtured myself, I've reached far into my soul to look for the person I am meant to be and with whom I had lost touch in the last two decades of my life. It's been good to get to know me again...what inspires me, what brings me health and wellbeing, what produces joy and hope and contentment in my heart, and to recognize those things that are unhealthy for me, and be able to say "not anymore" to those. Because, unlike my opinion of myself in recent years, I now know that I am a person worthy of love and joy and respect, and I do have the ability to make my own happiness. I don't blame anyone for the sad state that I had become other than myself, because it's been way too long that I've allowed myself to forget what I really want in life. I will be forever grateful for this time I've had to heal and move forward in so many positive ways.
So back to this little house.
I started in right away making it mine, as I edited furniture and belongings...some of which I'd carted around for years as I moved from house to house to house, never really feeling that I had a place where I belonged or where I lived long enough to really make it my own. I had had stuff in storage for so long, I'd forgotten what I had and re-bought some of it. Such a sad waste of money :(. But let me tell you, if you've never really edited your "stuff," keeping only those things which provide usefulness or that you find really beautiful and life-giving, it is freeing! I have never felt so free as I do in this little house with just what I need, but no longer surrounded with stuff that I'm hanging onto for all the wrong reasons.
I didn't get to paint before moving in (and still haven't), so what did I do? I scrubbed and cleaned and hung pictures over unsightly places on the walls. I covered the bad spots on the wooden floors with adorable rugs. I prepared food in the dated kitchen on a stove that has seen better days and bathed in the shower that has also seen better days. But I'm clean, fed, cooled and heated, and as content as a little baby swaddled in her blanket. I have found true peace in this little place. I'll never forget my precious mother-in-law and her philosophy she held many years ago. She would not hang a picture on the wall until the walls were properly painted; she would not paint until the floors were re-done. She had an order in which she thought things should be done and she wouldn't budge. But do you know what I think? I think life is too short to be so rigid. Sometimes we have to accept "good enough," break out of our "I can only do it this way" mold, and just live life! My sweet mother-in-law passed away before she hung one picture on her walls in the last house where she lived, and that is something I was just not willing to do. Pictures of family make me happy! Favorite artwork gives me joy and inspiration! I want to enjoy them now before I die, don't you?
I am solid proof that you can take what you can afford, make it your own, and overcome less-than-favorite wallpaper, imperfect walls and floors, a slightly crumbling driveway...and feel like it's heaven on earth... You just take what you have, put with it what you can afford and makes you happy, a little hard work and, voila, before you know it you're living the good life. Here are a few pictures to show you what I've done with this heaven-sent place...
But mostly they're for Aunt Martha.
"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."
- Charles Dickens
It never ceases to amaze me what people are willing to pay for a house...or a car...or a dress for their daughter's wedding...or a cake for their daughter's wedding...OR THEIR DAUGHTER'S WEDDING!
We see people in the news who spend more on their car than I did on my first house...or every house since then for that matter. I see wedding dresses for thousands and thousands of dollars when I know for a fact that you can buy one for under $1,200 -- beautiful, classy, well-made fairytale wedding gowns. I know this because neither one of my girls spent more than that. One was a princess dress with puckers and poofs and one was sleek and fitted with the back cut to the waist. And they were absolutely beautiful brides. And this is the craziest part: YOU'RE ONLY GONNA WEAR THAT GOWN FOR ONE EVENING AND NEVER PUT IT ON AGAIN! By the time you get to your 25th wedding anniversary, you'll pull it out, get depressed because you can no longer zip it, and decide to get rid of it. Come on now, you know it's true!
I don't know if it's because I grew up in a household that ran on a shoestring budget or that I made just $2.00 an hour at my first job, but somewhere along the way I realized that money didn't grow on trees. I'll never forget my mom picking us up from school and we'd all go to the grocery store and she'd purchase groceries for that night's dinner with the $3.00 my dad had given her that morning! You cannot even buy a pound of hamburger meat for $3.00 now, let alone the entire meal. Of course, it stands to reason that people who have tons of money don't need to think twice before they drop $100 on one steak for dinner. But, I mean, is there any steak out there worth $100? I think not, and I've eaten a few good steaks in my time. Growing up we were regular patrons of the local library -- well, the bookmobile in that day, where a portable library would make stops in neighborhoods where there was no library, and that's how we got our summer reading. We loved books but we couldn't afford to buy them. I still am a faithful user of my local library!
I probably can attribute my frugal mentality to my sweet daddy. At the funeral the pastor (my brother-in-law) kept lovingly referring to my dad as "cheap," for which my sister kept correcting him, reminding him that daddy was "frugal." And she'd be right...there is a difference. There are those who have plenty of money but because they're afraid of losing that money, they're cheap and won't let go of it. For. Anything. Whatsoever. Frugal people have the same mindset no matter how much money they have. There is only so much money you should pay for an item, and that's that. No compromise. That was my sweet daddy. He would not agree that something was worth more than it was, that is, until my mother wanted do do something for one of their kids, and she won out every time. Daddy became a real softy when it came to his family. But generally speaking Daddy was very frugal and that is why I can probably attribute my "thrifty-mindedness" to my dad. I never ever pay full price for anything, because I saw how he could stretch a dollar and growing up we always had everything we needed and some things we just wanted. Even into my dad's latter years, he would go to the grocery store and take two or three hours shopping for the best deals. I'm not kidding! I also shop for the best price on an airline ticket, for the best prices on anything for my house and the houses we renovate, for the best prices on my clothes and shoes, and, yes, I still frequent the library every single month!
I've heard it said that by the time you learn how to be a good parent, you're out of a job...the kids are grown and off on their own. I also think that's true of learning a lot of life's lessons. It's taken me years to realize that a big ol' house is nice when you have company at the holidays, but it can become a burden every other day of the year when you're having to keep it up. Ditto for a lot of other things people think they "need" in life. I mean, how many cars or boats can you really drive or ride in at one time? And don't even get me started on shoes. My shoes are at an all-time high right now because I need to dress professionally for work, but that comes in at a cool 15 pair, and that includes winter boots and summer flip flops (it's true, I just went in my closet and counted them!).
I've been thinking about my dad a lot since he passed away. I learned many great things from the man who gave me life and took care of me, even into his last days. He always wanted to know if his kids needed anything and there is nothing he loved more than taking us out to a big dinner. I think of his frugality now with endearment, but there were times growing up when it totally irritated me. But he knew something I obviously did not, that money did not grow on trees.
But now we have the Dollar Tree in most small towns. And it amazes me that you can go into that store and they will take one dollar for an item and actually a pretty good one if you're willing to look. So that brings me back to my lipstick. I am such a believer in lipstick making me look better that I actually would pay up to $10 for a tube that I really loved. But don't even talk to me about $40 tubes. Why should I pay one penny more when I've found one I love at the dollar store? And a few other things as well, I might add.
Nowadays I think money just might grow on a tree...at least at the Dollar Tree anyway. I think Daddy would agree.
"My parents valued books, but they grew up in the Depression, aware of the quicksilver nature of money, and they learned the hard way that you shouldn't buy what you could borrow.”
― Susan Orlean, The Library Book
Every family has issues.
Whether it's something as simple as sibling rivalry or as serious as substance abuse, every family has them. I believe that family is forever and is the crucial foundation for a society that is lacking in so many moral issues these days. So we take family and embrace it with everything we got...the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, the crazy along with the normal, and the tiny moments in between that make up most of our days. Family is everything and forever.
It's been six months since I last blogged. Christmas a year ago was ushering in a new year full of unknowns for me: my health; my marriage; my work; and my securities as I had always known them...I must confess it was a time of great hardship and sometimes utter despair and confusion. I didn't know it at the time, but I would also lose the man who brought me into this world in the coming months. The past six months have found me striving to be in a better place. I've been working hard trying to get healthier, making better choices for my life, and deciding what I want to do when I grow up (!!!), while at the same time trying to maintain family connections and connections with friends who are like family. And, believe me, you drag all those people through the mud with you. But isn't that what family is all about? Six months of praying, pondering, crying in the nights and facing doubts in the days left me a broken person but a person with a desire to be whole again. It's been a time of hurting and healing, tears and laughter, and immense soul-searching. After all, Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything under the sun. I hope to share more about that at another time.
But back to family. My siblings and I have joined the club this week of 'no longer having our parents with us.' It is a club we didn't want to join because we are so blessed to have had the best, loving parents. We have absolutely no choice who our parents will be when we come into this world and, if you're blessed enough to have a mama and daddy who truly love you, well, then you're very blessed. And our family really can't complain because they were with us longer than most people get and, as we laid my father to rest this week, we felt such love and peace remembering the sweet times we had with him, the joy and goodness he showed his family, and the promise of being together again some day on the other side. It's so wonderful to be able to say that and to truly believe it in our hearts.
My father believed in family and there was nothing more important to him than family. Everything he did in life was secondary to his family. He was not a greatly educated man, but he had the knowledge and wisdom of what it meant to have family and to be family and to cherish family. If me and my siblings were ever at odds, he felt the need to help us mend it. If he ever thought he'd hurt one of us (which he never did), he was troubled until he knew everything was in harmony again. His relationship with my mom was far from perfect but he loved her unconditionally and longed to be with her again in his last days. I believe he is with her now and that makes me smile. I believe my dad was ready to go be with his Lord. My family was in a peaceful place and he was ready to say goodbye because he knew that we were all okay. My brother saw him Christmas Day, and me the next. He was waiting on my sister to get there and, when she arrived on the 27th, it wasn't long before she kissed him goodbye for the last time. There is no greater connection than to share blood with another human (or make babies with them!). If you are estranged from a family member, I implore you to make it right. If you tend to take your family for granted, I urge you to learn to cherish them no matter how rotten they may be. We have no promise that we will get one more day together on this earth, and we must live like today is our very last one.
As for the new year that is upon us, I am looking forward to the new year with hope and anticipation. I feel inspired to write again and I owe that to my sweet daddy because he always always always supported me in everything I did and made me feel valued and worthy of someone who has something to share. I pray that your year will be a year of blessings, hope, and new beginnings for you. I pray that you will see the value you have as person in this great family we call humanity We have a fresh new set of months and weeks and days and hours to dream and improve and move ahead and make better and , even though this year ended with having to say a hard goodbye for me, I say hello to the future, and all its beautiful possibilities.
And I plan to keep family closer than ever because another year will be over before we know it. Here's to family, friends, and all the love our hearts can hold in 2020 !
For all the wonderful friends who have sent me condolences for the passing of my father, I sincerely thank you. Many of you have shared memories of my father from many years ago...how kind he was or something he did for you that you've never forgotten. I am so honored to have had a father who people remember in those ways, and it makes me love him even more.
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
- Proverbs 22:1
A couple of posts back I quoted a saying about gratefulness. I have seen this quote, or something of similar wording, many places in recent months. Gratefulness has become a new way of life somewhat for many, and I think that's great. But I sometimes wonder What took us so long? With Independence Day on the horizon, we as Americans have so much to be thankful for. You might say what is that? I'm so glad you asked.
For one thing, I'm grateful to be free. Now, some may say we're not really free, because we have to obey laws and pay taxes. But when I remind myself that those unpleasant duties protect our freedoms and way of life, I realize they truly are necessary evils. I mean, why do we have to drive 55 when 80 would get us there much faster, right? Our taxes pay for many communal things and, even though I'm sure a lot of it goes to "pork" as they say, I'll just keep paying and enjoying the well-maintained roads, amazing infrastructure of this great land, and all those wonderful politicians who provide us with such ample subjects for heated discussion.
Another thing this great nation provides: Opportunity. Now, opportunity is just that...the opportunity, or chance, to move ahead, be better, be rewarded for hard work, live out your dreams. I know circumstances for some even in this country are dire but we all know stories of those who have worked with tireless hope to pull themselves out of the pit into the dream that awaits them if they work hard enough, believe hard enough, and dream big enough. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important thing we enjoy as Americans is safety. I'll be the first to say that sometimes our judicial system fails people. The crazies and haters are out there, and people are killed in the streets for no reason and justice might never be served on the perpetrators. People go to jail for crimes they didn't commit; people are accused of things they didn't do; people are slandered every day of every month of every decade and never recover from the hate of others. Unfortunately, social injustice is alive in America.
But, if we're all honest with ourselves, we have to admit that this nation is the best of the best. We take so many things for granted. If you've ever wondered if capitalism has failed its people and socialism would be a better fit, just read Forty Autumns by Nina Willner. It tells what her family endured as they lived behind the Iron Curtain after WWII, how she was fortunate enough to escape to America during that time, and the agony of not seeing her family for 40 years. It was an eye opener for me to read a true story of what folks really went through with the invasion of communism into East Germany and the infiltration of socialism where they had very few choices about pretty much anything in their lives. Socialism might seem like a fair way to live, but it limits the freedom to dream, to move forward to hope for more. It not only limits hope, I would venture to say that it just might completely destroy it. Hope stirs the soul and drives you forward. Hope is life-giving and, in fact, life itself.
So the attitude of gratitude transfers into our daily lives as a noble and satisfying way to live. If we want to buy steak and cannot afford it, we are grateful for the hamburger that fills our plate and it tastes just as good. If we're grateful for the old comfy sofa we sit on every night, we don't always pine for something new and better and the latest style. If we're grateful for the four-room house we have, the 12-room house loses its luster a little bit (besides, you have to clean that monster!). If we're truly grateful for the family and friends we enjoy every day and the satisfaction of giving to others and make that our number one priority, all the material things that we long for somehow miraculously fall away, and what we have becomes enough.
I have not always been such a grateful person. Back in the day when I was quite young and a whole lot more stupid, I pined for more...the pretty car, the bigger house, lots of great clothes, the larger diamond...all the things that fade in their lure over time. I still love nice things, but I've learned to appreciate the true necessities of life...a safe place to lay my head at night, food (whatever that might be!) on the table, good health, and love and friendship. I also thank God every single day for running hot water! During the few times I've been without it in my life, I cringed at what my great great grandmothers had to endure while raising their families. On my many trips to Honduras, I marveled at what little those folks have. Most don't have running water, let alone running HOT water. One day a friend visited and, as she washed dishes at the kitchen sink, she tried to ask me in what little English she could speak to please turn off the hot water, it was burning her hands! They clean and bathe in cold water, and take chances every day that the water they drink will not be filled with parasites.
We take so many things for granted.
To live in a country where we can be or achieve pretty much anything is a dream. But to remember that we don't necessarily need everything we can dream up is a lesson that has to be learned over the years as you grow in wisdom and experiences and a lesson that ushers in the gratefulness of which I speak. I've had the big house, the newest cars, and latest of pretty much everything. Right now I have a tiny house, a capsule wardrobe, an 8-year-old car that gets me around just fine, and a very curated collection of some favorite things. I have everything I need...maybe not every little thing I want, but every thing I need.
And I call it very fittingly...my Happy Place.
Happy 4th of July next week, and remember to be grateful!
The simple act of gardening with their mama is a joy in itself. Kids learn that gardening is not so simple though...it takes hard work to grow food. They say if kids help grow their own food, they'll eat more veggies. I noticed after baby girl had carried around the bell pepper in her supergirl cape for awhile, she had taken a big bite out of it! She was gonna at least try something she helped grow!
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
Happy June to all, and happy summer! It has arrived in Georgia with all its 95-degree fury. Just when I was getting used to the 75-degree glorious days of late spring, -- bamm! -- I find myself sweating profusely, and even my sunscreen runs into my eyes with a personal fury of its own -- ouch! I've heard it said that we southern ladies don't sweat, we glisten. But I say call it like it is, sweating hard and fast like any man is what we do (not that I'm proud of it, though). And that's because we work just as hard like a boss, right?! Even my lawn guy tapped on the door to say he wouldn't be mowing this week because he didn't want to leave my yard a dust bowl! Or maybe he was just hotter than a firecracker and was sick and tired of working in a sauna and needed a break. Needless to say, everyone is praying for rain around most parts of Georgia.
As I've been settling in to my little cottage, I've been doing quite the paring down and "getting rid of," and I must say it feels pretty good. But just as I was admiring the order and simplicity of living with less, we cleaned out a 10 x 30 storage unit and, yep, you guessed it, a whole new slew of "stuff" that I forgot I had came my way and I've been trying to figure out what to do with it all. Those blogs about having a "keep" pile, a "throwaway pile," and a "giveaway" pile sound so good, but it's easier said than done for me. I might decide to give something away, only to retrieve it from that pile and place it in the "keep," because, who knows, I just might need it one day. But here's the thing...if you only have 895 square feet, there isn't a whole lot of room to store stuff -- well, really no room to store, just room for everyday stuff and that's a squeeze itself. So what to do? I switch it back from keep to giveaway, and my mind is once again free of the thing that has tried so hard to find a permanent residence with me. I hope in the future to not wanna hold on to "things" so tightly. After all, things are just...things.
Why is it so hard to let go of "stuff"? I've been thinking about that a lot lately, as I've sorted through not only my stuff, but items my mother left behind when she passed away that I've not yet been able to part with. We hang onto stuff out of nostalgia, for one thing. I think for me that's the biggest reason I don't wanna let go. To that item is attached a memory, good or bad, that has somehow tried to make itself a part of my psyche and, to let it go, would be like letting something go that defines me. As I said before, we also hold on to things because we think we just might need it one day. Who knows, we just might need an extra can opener or shoehorn or 9x9 baking pan one day, even though we have three of each. And do you really think you'll ever use those curtains you've had since 1990? I mean, dusty rose and mauve are making a comeback, so they say. I seriously doubt I'll ever want mauve curtains again in my lifetime. So in the future, as I embrace "living with less," I hope to learn the fine art of not holding onto things so tightly. Hold onto people, memories, and experiences, but NOT THINGS!
In trying to purge, we did something that I truly hate and dreaded with all that was within me: We had a garage sale! I got over garage sales back in the early 2000's when we had a sale so big that I vowed never to do it again. I knew it was one way to get rid of stuff and put a little cash in my pocket...money I didn't have and I am not in the practice of giving up extra cash! But, once again I succumbed to its pull, and it proved to be a good way indeed of thinning out the inventory created by the emptying of the storage unit. This stuff had been in storage for going on three years and some of it I had seriously forgotten I had (don't you dare judge!). I mean, this is a fine example of my inability in recent years to let things go. I had this white glossy Siamese cat that I painted in a pottery class back in the seventies (very mid-century). My mother, for some reason unbeknownst to me, loved that cat and kept it until her death in 2014. Of course, since it was my artwork, I inherited it and have tried my best to incorporate it into my decor and honor something in the keeping of that cat (what, I do not know). But the kitty went to a new home this week. A lady from a local junk store scooped her up like a hot commodity and I'm sure by now she's living in a new home making someone very happy with her cool green eyes. Bye-bye, kitty. Hope you're still here at the turn of the next century...just not living at my house. Well, I won't be here either but that's a whole other story.
Little by little I'm taking on small projects that I can do myself here at the "cottage." I recently painted the wood floor in my tiny master closet and it looks so fresh! It was a test run for the possible painting later of the hardwoods in the entire house. I know, I know, I might be a nut even considering painting these 60+year-old oak floors but I love painted floors and they are SO cottage-y. So this is a trial to see if I can live with painted floors. I am enjoying dreaming about how to make this little place mine-all-mine without having to consider re-sale anytime soon or maybe ever. Such a wonderful feeling to have stability and so much fun to do what I like instead of decorating for the buyers to be!
I hope you, my faithful readers, will understand the few and far-between posts I've been able to upload recently.The last few years have been really hard, and some of the changes I've had to make have been as hard as letting go of the aforementioned items. So the last month has been a time of settling in, resting, recuperating, and the beginnings of a healing process that has been a long time in coming. Sometimes taking time away from everything you've known to push forward for what you know is best is equally as hard and comes with it's own set of new challenges. But if it's necessary, then it hopefully proves down the road to be an overdue exercise in healing and self-care. For me, that is exactly what buying this little house has been. It's been a refuge, a place to renew my health and invest in body, soul, and spirit. And it's a lot like its new owner... a bit older, a bit creaky, and full of quirks.
Now, excuse me while I go sniff the bottle of 10-year-old Red Door cologne my mom left behind. You're never too old to need your mama's comfort and, for that reason, I may never let that treasure go.
Painting of the Hardwood Floor in Closet...
Such a simple thing, but made all the difference :)
I've added a couple more pieces to the tiny living room...my wicker bench I found in storage and a much-needed book shelf. It's trial and error, placing and re-placing things to get the just right arrangement that doesn't feel cluttered. Also, family pictures and momentos and ALWAYS fresh flowers make it instantly feel like home!
"The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."
- Maya Angelou
Posted by CC
I love to write; you love to read...let's share!