Thursday, February 22, 2018

Practice What I Teach

As the facilitator for a writing workshop at the Ashley County Library, I should be very ashamed to notice it's been forever and a day since I posted here last.  I encourage my writers to write, write, write...every day, about whatever! I journal daily and write as part of my job, but writing just for me?  It's just not been a priority, until now.

Here, I'm going to start practicing what I teach.  I post a link to monthly prompts on the library web page (under programming) and I decided today to pick a prompt and write.  Since today is the 22nd, number 22 on the list is "A Good Thing From Today."  What a prompt...what a day!

A good thing from today?  I didn't get water in my house!  It rained most of yesterday and for land already saturated, the water had no where to go.  So, the creeks filled and filled and overflowed into our pasture, as happens on rare occasion.  This time, the water kept rising.  We've had water in our house before, in the ground-level utility room.  That time, we received over 20 inches of water in a 24-hour period, so it was unexpected and quite historical. The water, thankfully, never rose to get IN my house, missing my hardwood floors by a scant 3 inches or less, but everything else we had was covered with nearly two feet of water. Just seeing it rising today was enough to make me nauseous and teary.

We placed a post to measure the progress.  It rose.  We did a bit of work.  It rose more.  We called a friend with heavy equipment to make preparations for a levee if needed.  It kept rising.  We took a drive to the east and south to see the impact of the others creeks and bayous.  We got home a couple of hours later and it was still rising.  We ate lunch and it rose.  We made another necessary errand and arrived home to notice the water was finally decreasing.  Happy-dances all around.  Truly, it was an answered prayer.  The rest of the evening proceeded, with me marking the receding much like we marked the rising.

On a late afternoon trip to the patio to see if the troughs for our cattle were visible yet, I noticed a fluttering against the far fence.  Darting back in to grab my binoculars, I spotted two pair of wood ducks.  They must have been on a double-date, checking out all the new water.  They swam a bit, waddled around on a bit of high ground in the corner of the pasture, then back into the water and out of sight.  It was a touch of joy to an anxious day.

I love nature.  I've been on vacation this week and have enjoyed seeing all sorts of wildlife out and about.  I've watched bluebirds build their nests.  I've seen purple martins coming back for another spring and summer in our houses.  I've seen wild turkeys grazing about, accompanied by my peacock, of all things.  Seeing the ducks this afternoon just gave me a peace.  Amidst the storm, quite literally, there are still pockets of peace.

Knowing the water is receding, even beyond the beam of my flashlight as I go out to check every hour or so, and the previously forecast storms for this afternoon and tonight have blown around us, I will be able to lay my head down tonight and sleep.  I remember a night, not that long ago, I stood in my kitchen and looked down the steps as water rose against the washer and dryer and pantry shelves.  I watched my room slowly submerge as more buoyant items rose.  I remember the prayers and the helplessness and the sleeplessness.  Tonight won't be like that March night.  Tonight I will be able to lay down my head with thanks and peace and comfort and rest.  That is a good thing about today!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

30 in 5

30 in 5

Week One of 30 in 5 is down and life is good.
30 in 5 is my New Year's Revolution for cleaning.
30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
The weekend completely free to do what I want.
(So free, in fact, that I forgot to blog yesterday!)

I started this years ago when I was a full time-student
with a part-time job and a full-time husband who worked shifts.
I managed to keep the house livable while meeting myself
coming and going by employing a few useful tips.

As life settled, those great habits slowly faded away.
Now I'm a full-time educator with a full-time husband and
very little time for just doing what I want.
It's the perils of a grown-up life.

I decided to dig out my old schedule and see how it'd work now.
Let me preface this by saying, start with a clean house.
This is actually more of a maintenance schedule
than a deep-cleaning schedule.  
I'm so pleased to announce I've had a clean-free weekend.
It's encouraging enough to continue.
Here's what I do.

Every Day:
Check for laundry, dishes, trash, and assorted straightening
(sorting the mail, arranging my lists, shelving books & magazines.)

Monday & Thursday:
Dust, Vacuum & Mop

Tuesday & Friday:
Bathroom & Wipe Down Kitchen

Change bedding

Saturday & Sunday:
Enjoy the weekend.
I still cook, wash those dishes and maybe, 
just MAYBE a load of laundry.

Most of these can be done in 30 minutes, usually while I'm cooking dinner.
I may only do parts.  After scrubbing the bath on Tuesday, it doesn't
necessarily need it again Friday.  But, I do wipe down
all icky surfaces, check the trash, change the shower curtain
(I use a cloth curtain I wash weekly) and mop, one of those days.
Wednesday, I changed my linens before work.  After work = free agent!
Maintenance is always better than starting from scratch
after a week of neglect.  It's worth the effort daily to have a free weekend.

Give it a try!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016



"In the age of constant motion, nothing is so
urgent as sitting still."
Pico Iyer - from his TED talk.

I've developed the habit of listening to a
podcast every evening while walking or
cleaning or cooking dinner.
Today was "Quiet" on the TED Radio Hour,
sponsored by NPR.

It featured snippets of talks by
John Francis, Planetwalker, who did not 
speak for 17 years,
Megan Washington, Australian musician
and songwriter who stutters,
Gavin Pretor Pinney who started the 
Cloud Appreciation Society, and
Pico Iyer, novelist and travel writer who
spends time in stillness.

There were experts on introverts and
extroverts and how our society has changed
over the years, including the educational
systems who cater to extroverts.

I am an introvert.
I crave stillness.
I crave quiet.
I need it to function.

I've always known this, but haven't always
served my need for silence.
I take great delight in silence.
No television. No radio. No conversation.
Just silence with my thoughts.
According to John Francis, after a while,
even they grow silent.

My "revolution" this year is to have 
The Year of Me.
I think it may also include very large
and lovely pockets of silence.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Year's Res, er, Revolutions

My New Year's Resolution Revolution

Oh, the changed I want to make this year.
This is going to be The Year of Me.
(How conceited does that sound?)

I've been given one chance around this blue & green sphere we call home.
Why put off actually enjoying it?
Enjoying means doing more of what I love.
Which is why this is The Year of Me.
(Speaking of that theme, if you haven't read
Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes pick it up today,
It should be required reading for anyone over 35.)

I've done a ton of reading and exploring and gathering ideas.
I'm putting together affirmations and routines and healthy practices.
My basic list starts with:
Understand your habits.  I'm an obliger, (thanks, Gretchen Ruben
in Better Than Before.)  Obligers need accountability.
So, I'm going to
Make it public - (thanks, Stephanie St. Claire @ Blissbombed)
by updating and confessing every new moon.
I will be blogging every Tuesday and Saturday.
New Moon confessional to come on the nearest day.

Why new moon you ask?
It's not always the 1st of the month.
It's not always a Monday.
There is no "stigma" attached to missing a particular day/date.
It is a literal new beginning in nature.
A chance to start fresh.
So, successful and not-so-successful issues can be resolved each
month with a great big lunar start-over.

This year I vow to:
Live "a life driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear." 
(Thanks, Liz Gilbert in Big Magic
which should be required reading for anyone over 25.)

Take more risks because
"There is nothing more vulnerable than creativity"
(Thanks, Brene Brown in Daring Greatly...also required reading.)

Stay in the moment - and off the hamster wheel of multi-tasking
"While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes..."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Do more of what really feeds my soul...writing.
"I don't think you have time to waste not writing because
you are afraid you won't be good at it."
Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird 
(required reading for anyone who wants to be a writer)

More concrete are daily vows:
Meditate daily, multiple times (alarms already set in my phone)
Journal daily (work/home - alarm set for work reminder)
Revisit my 30/5 cleaning method - 30 min./day, 5 days a week
Exercise daily - elliptical or walking...or both!
Eat.  Eat hearty, but healthy, and regularly (more on that in another post.)
No devices after 7pm. If I don't respond via text, email, etc.,
it's not you, it's ALL me!
And read.  Read.  Read.
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoirs, everything. 

Most importantly, remember my motto:
(borrowed from someone I can't remember or I'd credit...)
"No Emotional Voting on Things That Have Been Decided"
And so it is.  Amen.
Stay tuned...I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Finally Home

Finally Home

My favorite part of the year was always shopping for school supplies.
I loved the feel of paper, the smell of pencils, and the clean slate of possibility.
Through the years, this craving hasn't abated.
Being an educator has only made it worse!
I justified journals and pens and stickers "for my kids."
Well, I've finally found a use for them all...since I didn't share with my students...

Enter:  Bullet Journaling

I discovered this strictly by accident on New Year's Day.
I was scouring Pinterest for planner ideas.
My goal this year is to make more "Me" time, and to do that, it must be scheduled.
So, I was going to create a calendar of my important things:
reading, writing, correspondence, meditation, and joy seeking.

I ran across an enchanting picture (and now I don't remember which)
by a beautiful genius named Kara (can't find her last name)
on a site called BohoBerry (.com which has more personal significance than you could imagine)
and my life has been changed forever.

Most people use their BuJo (for short) to plan and track and stay organized.
They can be simple, complex, plain or decorative.
The beauty of the system is that it is all yours.
I've finally found my happy place.

In reading Gretchen Ruben's book Better Than Before about cultivating habits,
I learned I'm an Obliger (with a strong Upholder tendency as well.)
One of the Obliger's biggest problems is accountability.  We don't work well without it.
Well, bujo is going to be my solution.

Youtube, Facebook, and Pinterest continued to educate and inspire me.
Most of the supplies I had already.
Great pens, a stash of color pencils and stickers I'd planned for my calendar.
Enter a $5.00 grid journal from Wal-Mart and I was good to go.

I started with the recommended index page and yearly calendar spread 
because I still need to see weeks/months, not just lists of numbers and days:

Then, I added the recommended key and a big quote
 followed by a page of affirmations and a started list of goals (16 for 2016)
I left space for blog ideas, studio plans, and quotes that inspire me.

Reading is my next big love, so space was allocated for
TBR - To Be Read books, focusing on those I've started but not finished.
I also included LOTS of pages for a reading log
something always I intend to keep, but never complete.

After that comes my monthly spread.
I borrowed, stole, liberated, and copied other's designs with abandon.
I think this is going to work for me.
Monthly, I get an idea of things I need to do personally.

I included a space for gratitude and tracking those things that make me better.

And finally, my daily section.  I loved the weather headings Kara added to hers.
I think she uses the little date flags too and I know others do.
I've looked at so many, I don't know who I took what from anymore.
This isn't so much of a to-do, as a what-I-did list.
A bulleted journal that takes the pressure from writing epic missives every day.

I am excited to sit down each morning and review my day.
It's a great reminder of the good things I'm doing for me.
I look forward to sitting down each evening and recording my day. 
It's a great reminder of the good things I did for me.

While it doesn't cover ever aspect of my life, it's a start.
Work stays at work, as does my work calendar.
Writing is all-encompassing and becoming more and more a part of every day.
I don't need to write that down, I'm living it.
This is an all-in-one place I can dream and wish and plan and create
(as soon as I learn to do that cool new calligraphy everyone else has...)

It's a link to a new tribe of friends.
It's an invitation to reflect with joy.
It's permission to create, imperfectly.
Which makes it perfect for me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Mysteries of an Internal Compass

The Mysteries of an Internal Compass

This afternoon on my walk, er, stroll, actually, I went sans music.
I heard squirrels scurrying away in the underbrush.
I discovered my "hawk" was actually a mockingbird 
masquerading as a blue-jay most likely.
I heard numerous planes overhead, but due to the cloud cover, couldn't spot them.
And I heard geese.

I have long held a fascination with geese and their navigational skills.
I have not researched and investigated due to the fact I enjoy the magic of not knowing.
I couldn't see them, but could tell by their calls they were circling.
Perhaps the dense cloud cover confuses their internal compasses as well.

I have a love/hate relationship with my internal compass.
It's often called the Still, Small Voice, referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling Christian believers.
Others call it the gut, intuition, soul, heart of hearts, and any other numerous names.
To-may-to, to-mah-to.  To me it's one in the same.

The questions I should ask myself is, do I ask of it and do I listen to it?
If I will retreat to the quiet stillness of my thinking spot and ask, it WILL answer.
This is a great opportunity.  Is it a great opportunity for me?
This relationship/friendship has possibilities.  Should I invest my time/energy?
Should I or shouldn't I?
It always answers in truth.

Do I like the answer?
Ha, ha!  Most of the time if I have to retreat and ask, I want my desire, not the truth.
 Sometimes I'm searching for guidance, looking for reassurance I'm on the right track.
Other times I want permission and justification for the wrong track.
Why don't I listen more?

It has never once led me astray.
Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes no. Sometimes wait. 
Sometimes it just laughs at me.
I often run astray by not asking and ignoring the niggling feeling that I should be asking.
The knowing I'm on the wrong path and either enjoying my folly or scared to turn around.
The confidence that I'm in the right place at the right time or
in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or even more confusing, 
the right place at the wrong time.

Cultivating an understanding of my internal compass is a journey I'm currently undertaking.
I have mixed reviews thus far.
It's calling for me to end some relationships.
It's calling for me to proceed towards others.
However, when I listen, it always calls for me to act.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

All They Needed Were Ribbons

This morning, my back yard looked like a scene from a Disney movie.
All that was missing were ribbons for the birds.
I counted 4 gray squirrels, 3 red squirrels, and
our resident black squirrel.

There were doves, cardinals, blue jays, and
what I lovingly refer to as "little yellow birds."
There were others that were so camouflaged I
could only see them when they moved.

Throughout the day we had a fox and a deer
join the mix.  The sun was shining and 
the sky was a brilliant blue.
It was cold and crisp and just what a late fall morning should be.

I stood at my kitchen window for the longest just watching.
I enjoyed my morning tea, until it eventually grew cold.
I need more of these days.
They make my truly enjoy my deep woods life.