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: 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.

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.

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.

My Writing Routine

As a writer, unless I have a pressing deadline or project – or become spontaneously inspired – I don't have much of a routine. I know. I'm working on changing that.

I read this book that revolutionized my writing approach. Free writing and pomodoro timing was a brand new concept to me that I quickly worked into my writing habits. Free writing made the first chapter of my book possible, as I had all these stories and research to sort through – I was able to organize and write simultaneously.

Pomodoro time was essential to my technical writing course with all the reading and essays to write. It gave me a sharper focus, running against the clock knowing I could take a break soon. Without these skills, I would be struggling.

My sitting room is where my iMac lives and all of my writing takes place there. It's decorated in minimalistic Ikea furniture and stays uncluttered. The walls are cyan, my favorite color, and it has a calming effect on me. Pictures of my ancestors are everywhere you look.

For blogs, I write in a WordPress window. My book, and other large projects such as proposals, are conceived in the best word processing program of all time, Scrivener. While I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of all its bells and whistles, it continues to amaze me at what can do. The composition mode is my favorite: a beautiful background of a field in Germany with my writing overlayed on a page – nothing else to distract from the words at hand. It gives such clarity and focus. I'm not sure what I would do without it.

As for the routine, I simply need to write more and on a regular basis, not allowing weeks to slip by with no words on a page. My new job has helped to give me space to explore this, luckily, as time is at a premium in this season of life.

July: Break Dead Plant Cycle

I have a brown thumb. It is neither green nor black: plants either thrive or die for me. Most die, to be honest – but I have a prayer plant and several succulents still alive and prospering. Fruiting plants are my nemesis: they will make green leaves, flower, and fail to produce fruit.

The Dovecote is a blank slate in terms of landscaping and I am excited to get a design and plants in the ground. I doubt it will be this month due to travel and the heat of a Carolina summer.

I have a small garden of potted plants and so far they are happy. I hope to steward them well enough to break this cycle of dead plants and add them to my landscape design. I transplanted some ground cover (ajuga) and I am making every effort to water and check in on them. The smaller house I hope will draw my attention to them and not get lost in the shuffle.

My marriage, like some plants, has begun to wilt. It’s been a struggle lately, to the point of where we’re arguing even after a good day.

We need to break this cycle and restore the browning leaves and parched soil. I want bountiful green leaves, deeply seated roots, and soil conditions that encourage growth.

I want life to blossom on all fronts.

Writing Challenge Day 28: What I Wore Today

Today, like most everyday of my professional life, I wore my work uniform: scrub top and scrub pants, coupled with black socks and my new Dansko shoes. My hair is wrapped in a messy bun, still damp from this morning’s shower. Minimal make up and small button earrings adorn my face.

I started the day asleep in socks and sweatpants.

I’ll end the day with the same, but with a t-shirt, until I crawl into bed.
I wish I was more exciting in the wardrobe department. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to wear cute dresses and full make up on a regular basis.

Then again, showing up in the equivalent of professional pajamas isn’t so bad either.