Birthdays of 2018

November has officially arrived in my world and brought the chilly air with it. A mere few days ago, I was sweating on my lunch walk, basking in the warm sunlight, thankful for the last sweet days of summer. It’s a reminder that winter is near and a new year will begin soon.

I spent 2017 being introspective with my project of picking a theme each month to focus on, and with the roller coaster ride that was my year, it gave me an anchor for my restless soul. By keeping my focus on the Lord, I was insulated by the current and sparks 2017 created: I am still standing.

With 2018 not far away, I wanted to do something else as a year long project, but with less focus on myself. I wanted to take the lessons, trials, and encouragement from this crazy year and apply it to others. I also wanted to focus more on my writing to benefit others. How could I accomplish that?

The idea had been rolling around in my head for awhile, but in 2018, I am going to put pen to paper and make it happen. I will send a birthday card, snail mail, to those in my world. The card will be a blank cardstock with a personalized message to the receiver. Store bought birthday cards are super expensive, blandly impersonal, and are usually thrown away. I hate those. The ones I buy are from Hobby Lobby, 48 for $10, which comes out to 21¢ a card. In some cases, I also plan to send a postcard – another perk of living at the beach. If it’s thrown away, so be it. If it’s kept, I hope it will bring a smile, a comfort, and a tangible reminder that someone was thinking of them on their special day.

I have this knack for remembering dates, I love writing, and this may be a great way to reach out to others. It also keeps me on a deadline.

I’m excited to do this, and if all goes well, I may make this an every year thing.

November: Embrace Emotions

I saved the hardest towards the end. I thought maybe the focuses of the previous months would be a good foundation with this one. It is time to test that theory.

I am going to embrace emotions in November.

Back when I was in counseling, my therapist made the observation that my “emotional crayon box” only held about 8 colors, like those small cheap boxes from the dollar store. With my age and experience, my box should closely reflect the big 64 color crayon box with the sharpener in the back. Instead of just green, I should also have jade, mint, emerald, and chartreuse. To help, she gave me this list of emotional responses:

scannd

When talking about things, I referenced the sheet to better gage my experience. For a writer, it was a great tool. For me personally, as an introvert who struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a non-confrontation mindset (I’m an INFJ, Ennegram 9), it was a bit daunting. It’s time to start looking at this sheet again as I go through November.

My husband has seen me cry about 4 times in the 10+ years we’ve been together, and all those times involved heavy situations of infertility, a family emergency, and one major fight. There’s no one, except when I’m alone in the presence of Jesus, with whom I feel I can cry. And even that is stunted. I hate crying as much as I hate throwing up: I will hold it in until my body overrides my brain. I’m so good at not crying that it’s nearly automatic suppression.

I’m pretty even as my character goes. I’ve never been in a screaming match. I’m really good about letting people – like my husband – gad about on things that upset me. I like the situation to pass and then bring it up when I have had time to process it and have ample evidence to prove my point.

I know that cannot bode well for my emotional health, but like the morbidly obese person who constantly eats fast food and doesn’t exercise, I too am in my own little prison of my own doing.

Things, for the moment, are good with my husband and I. As always, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

How will I embrace this? No freaking clue. Outside of going back to counseling, which is not in the plan – mine nor insurance, I’m hoping the Lord moves me into this awkward embrace that I strive to keep at arm’s length.

My only plan is to end each day with the Examine app. I take stock of my day, describing the physical, emotional, and metaphysical parts – and how God fits into that narrative. The last part is writing a prayer to the Lord based on all this information.

If nothing else, simply paying attention to my emotional health should make an improvement.

October in Review

October wasn’t was fruitful as I had hoped it would be in giving time and talents.

I started crocheting plarn mats for homeless folks several months ago, but I haven’t touched it in awhile. I meant to get back to that this month. I’m making an Afghan for my sister-in-law who taught me how to crochet a couple years ago, and the deadline for Christmas is approaching quickly, so my energy has been focused there. I really hope I’m able to get it done in time.

I helped at our church’s mission night, and it felt good to serve a ministry with organizing their workspace. Of course, my ghostwriting project took time and talents – I still l love doing it! Perhaps in time, I can branch out to other projects. I brought a dear friend of mine dinner and we caught up on each other’s lives.

Despite my 50 hour work weeks and my unrelenting need for time to be alone, I feel I should have been able to do more. But I am thankful for what I did accomplish.

To God be the Glory!

October: Give of Time & Talents

In the few free moments I have, I started watching Highway to Heaven on Netflix. It’s the story of an angel and a human in the mid 1980’s who go to various places God sends them to right the wrongs and bring comfort to those suffering. This inspired me to spend October by giving of time and talents.

As an introvert, I am perfectly content to stay home and be alone in my own little world. Life as a Christ follower calls us to be in community with those around us, helping wherever and however we can.

Goals for this month include showing up to my small group, participating in our church’s monthly mission outing, and other yet unknown projects the Lord leads me to serve Him and others.

September in Review

As hypothesized at the beginning of the month, I didn’t plant my grape vines. I did, however, grow in other areas.

My husband and I had a couple over from church for dinner. Despite the main course not turning out 100%, dessert was perfect and they didn’t leave until after 10pm because we were having such great conversation. It was really good for us. Seeds of friendship were sown.

While we downsized our stuff before we moved, there were a few items that we couldn’t place in our new house. They were sent to a resale shop that benefits women of domestic violence, in hopes they could help grow someone else’s new beginning.

I began my second assignment working as a ghostwriter, and it has stretched me as a writer and challenged my abilities. We’re still working on setting the right voice with the literature, but I love helping others reach their goals from behind the scenes. My ghosting benefits many by tilling the soil for others to grow – it’s a good feeling – and I am happy to be a part of it, even though my name is not on it.

In the vein of gardening, I paid entirely too much money for a full landscape of my house, but now it looks amazing. The final frontier, also know as the backyard, is a work in progress. The many years of debris are cleared and I hope to rescue the remnants of grass and coax it into a lawn in the spring. The amount of weeds is simply astounding. But pulling each weed by hand has been a salve for my panic attacks. It’s quickly becoming a sanctuary for me. Between work and marriage, I need a place of solace, and right now it is among the weeds.

Next year, there will be grapes.

September: Grow Grapes

One of my goals this year was to grow grapes.

Muscadine grapes are indigenous to the Carolinas and I thought this would be the perfect variety to grow. They need sun, 20 feet of trellis, and a friend to pollinate. My backyard, like the rest of my landscape, is in a sad state of affairs. There is so much work to be done, grading the yard, removing weeds, and getting a plan together – I will need professional help. Because of time and money, I can’t plant this year.

I made this list of focus points for the year back in January, in our old house. Moving was still a “maybe someday” conversation. I had no idea how much of a roller coaster 2017 was going to become and how much would change in my world.

My September focus is indeed “growing grapes” – what other goals did I have for this new minimalistic life? What was I going to accomplish here that I did not/could not do in my old huge house?

Live with less stuff. Invite people over for meals. For tea. Focus on my crocheting, spend time on the deck, get out into the garden, focus on my health, my husband’s health, and those around me. Travel more. Get back to those free spirit days I had in a 1 bedroom apartment in a midwestern cornfield. Gone are the days of maintaining and cleaning a huge property: I have always been content with less stuff. It’s time to start living that.

I am going to share this contentment with those around me. I’ll always be a shy introvert – it’s who I am at my core – but perhaps it is time to blossom in being about the Lord’s work through hospitality.

Perhaps I will serve muscadine grape juice to my guests next year.

August in Review

My goal in August was to exercise everyday and get back to being physically healthy.
Because of life, I was unable to exercise everyday. One weekend I needed a break from the rat race of life. Another weekend was in the midst of a 14 day stretch of work with a double shift in the middle of it. My body revolted after that with waves of sheer exhaustion that forced me into bed at 5pm on Day #8. For the first time, I’m realizing I’m not 23 anymore. It’s rather sobering at 35.

I did manage to get to the yoga studio and I felt like a new person after that workout, with my unlocked hip flexors. I made a point to run more through the neighborhood for cardio: I made it a priority instead of an option. I’m still slow and lumbering; sometimes I walk more than I run. I can’t seem to get in the groove with my playlist. I think it is just where I am in life.

I’m also realizing that despite cooking at home, we eat a lot of meat. I need to find some more vegetarian recipes to add to my repertoire. More fruits, veggies, and grains I’m sure would make a world of difference as well.

August made me focus on my physical health, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was needed in my world.

Michigan Musings: Port Austin

The morning ride to Port Austin always started before dawn in the western suburbs of Detroit when I was a kid.

My younger sister and I would pile into the car with my dad; my mom would drive up at a more respectable time with my grandparents. I was always enchanted by the sunrise. This time of day was foreign to me and it only added to the adventure. We’d barrel through the city’s interstates before taking the exit for M53, or as my ancestors called it, Van Dyke; this artery would take us to our final destination. As the road retreated back into suburban Detroit, the further we drove, the more country it became. The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by fields, microscopic one stop light towns, and signs reminding us to share the road with Amish buggies.

2 hours later, we’d come upon the largest city in the thumb – Bad Axe. Van Dyke turns here, so you have to follow the signs, otherwise you’ll be lost among an endless cornfield heading in the wrong direction, as we did one year. We’d stop here for food, now that our bodies were fully awake, as was the sun. As one who hated breakfast food, my dad managed to get me hooked on McDonald’s breakfast burritos on one of these trips.

A half hour and more fields later, we’d arrive at our destination: Port Austin, Michigan. Population: 800. Van Dyke ended at a T stop for the simple fact that Lake Huron and the city marina were directly across from this main intersection. You could see the lighthouse, which warned ships of the shallow waters since the 1800’s. We always turned left.  My heartbeat would quicken the moment I saw the lake.

I rolled into this town for the first time in summer of 1989. I had never seen the ocean, but to me, this was the ocean. This was amazing. I belonged here.

August: Exercise Everyday

As my sweet summer begins to wind down, and the scale is a few pounds heavier than it was in May, August’s theme is to exercise everyday.

While I believe the sheer amount of stress I was under this spring helped keep my waistline trim, I want to maintain the weight in a much healthier manner. I used to walk 2 miles on my lunch break, but the hot summer air has kept me from that. I sacrificed running, rock climbing, and yoga to paint the house so I would have some semblance of order in my life. With the bulk of the house preparation complete, it is time to focus on my health and keep moving forward with life.

I am still carrying the stress from earlier this year. I tend to keep all my stress in my hips, and my hip flexors are so locked now I don’t remember what unlocked felt like. The only way I know how to unlock them, outside of a chiropractic visit, is Bikram yoga. I need to get back on the mat.

There is a 20 pound kettlebell weight in my office; I don’t use it as much as I should. My arms and back are proof of this. Everyday, with the exception of something on fire, I am going to pick up the weight and do a few reps.

I’m hitting the jogging trail more often, but I walk a lot when I run, probably due to all the muscle tension. Rock climbing needs to be a priority as well.

My husband and I have 2 big hikes planned for the fall: one in the mountains and one on an island, so there is preparation involved to keep this exercise ball rolling after August fades.

I am ready to be physically healthy again.

July in Review

July highlighted my brown thumb tendencies, as well as the noxious weeds that seemed to pop up in my marriage.

Plant wise, I did well. I kept my ajuga transplants watered and so far they’re still green. I transplanted an upset, poorly placed gardinia, but it hasn’t quite decided to live or die yet. Nonetheless it has been given ample amounts of water and soil.

Having a smaller house with less to manage has improved life in other areas, namely the garden. I’m more inclined to walk outside to check on things than my old house. There was so much surface area to clean, walk through, and maintain. My next feat is to get the yard landscaped. But first, gutters!

As for the marriage bit, things got better as the month progressed. At first, even after a good day, we were arguing. Sometimes I think he just likes to pick fights. His love language is words of affirmation, perhaps more acutely so, which probably exacerbated an already flammable situation. Every time I think the worst is over, we hit another rough patch. It’s almost like clockwork. I really hope we have turned a corner; I think the vacation helped. We never used to be so ugly to each other. I must learn to respond by standing up for myself and not defaulting to complacency when he’s in my face telling me to go….well….you can fill in the blank.

As with growing plants and marriage, time tells all.

And fertilize/mulch as required.