Friday, June 23, 2017

in five ... steady

Joining the mix of talented, creative and beautiful writings for Five Minute Friday this evening ...

I'm tired. The past few weeks have been steadily busy at work, so much that more than once I realized it was time to go for the day and I hadn't even finished one full mug of coffee.


My husband was promoted to a shift supervisor - and so while I'm steadily working, he sleeps. While I sleep, he steadily works.


I get home from work, trying to tip-toe around as not to wake him, or get the dogs started barking. Yet with an arm's length list of do-do-to-do just for me to stay steadily on top of the meals, laundry, and chores.


We are steadily trying to rebuild our lives so that we can own a home of our own, yet every week there is something else that demands priority. This week it is brakes on what is now our only vehicle, which squeals and grinds steadily as I drive it. I grimace as people turn to look, and I want to get a bullhorn and yell at them, "Yes, I know! But we can only do so much in one pay period!"


I feel as if I am falling steadily farther and farther away from Adonai and I want to just be able to breathe in His word, His love, His comfort, and I know that something has to give soon.


I realize that nothing will change unless I change. I pull out my journal. Again. Delete all the mind-numbing games and apps that had been filling time better spent with Him. Steadily, making a difference, even a small difference in my day can be what I need to remain


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

If a picture could paint 1000 words ...

Joining again with Elephant's Child and Words for Wednesday. Only this week, no words, just images from which to feed our imagination.

The room was almost a silvery blue when she woke.  She couldn't tell if it was day or night since she knew they were due for a full moon that weekend.  Had she slept for that long?  Her face felt cold, so she knew the fire in the small wood stove in the bedroom had died at least a few hours ago. Long enough for the heat from the room to have dissipated.  Fortunately, the down bedding was still keeping all but her face warm. For the moment, at least. She knew she would have to get up and light a fire before going to light the larger one in the living room that would heat the rest of the house and kitchen.  She could see the pine trees outside the window heavy with snow, but they weren't moving at all. Perhaps the storm had ended.

She stayed in bed for a little longer, not wanting to brave the cold just yet.  She could see the silhouettes of the silk flowers and toy bear he had bought her when she got sick with the cancer. They had thought she would be the first to go, but instead, she had rallied, and it was him who had gone first.  He had taken ill after falling through the ice while fishing one morning. He shrugged off his cold until it had become pneumonia in both lungs that caught both of them by surprise.  That had been nearly five years ago. Why she didn't leave after that, she didn't know. Well, she knew. This had been their dream home, a little off the grid cabin in the woods with a lake and a two hundred acres to hunt on.  For almost twenty years they had been happy there. She didn't really have anywhere else to go. 

There had been an old school house in the middle of one of the acres. They probably would never have found it if he hadn't been tracking a buck through the woods to fill the freezer.  It sat in the middle of an open field surrounded by woods in all directions as if it and the field had dropped from the sky.  No roads or trails were leading to it; it was as if it had just been waiting for her to find it.  She had him clear a trail to it, and their weekends that fall were spent exploring the school house and field. He told her she wasn't to go there alone since they didn't know how old the building was or how sturdy.  They could see signs that various animals had inhabited it over the years, maybe even a century or more since it had been abandoned. 

It became her healing project, and together they had fortified the walls, roof, and floor from the elements.  After the first winter, they decided to add shutters to the upper windows that they could close in the winter, but they left the bell tower open for the birds and bats to come and go. They added covered porches to the front and rear of the schoolhouse help keep snow and rain from getting in and to give shelter to any animal not wanting to brave the inside. During the winters, they shuttered all but a front and rear door so that any animal finding shelter from the storms would never feel trapped.  Old wooden feed troughs found at a farm estate sale were put both inside and out and he would occasionally haul hay for the deer when the winters were expected to be especially harsh.

When he had died, it became her healing project again. Each season, she had planted perennials and bulbs for the spring, and apple and cherry trees until there was almost no longer a field but an orchard.  She had spent too many winter nights filling pine cones with peanut butter and rolling them in birdseed to take to the schoolhouse when the snow began to melt. She had watched countless fawns, fox kits, mice and chipmunks that had been born in the schoolhouse grow up and come back to raise their own young. Baby birds taking their first flying lessons and return again each spring to nest in the eaves. Gradually they had all gotten used to her presence and so when she sat in the shade of the porch, or in the doorway watching the rain, she would often feel a nudge at her side of someone looking for an apple or a treat.

She opened her eyes again. She must have fallen asleep in the silence. The room was much colder now, creeping under the covers with her. She should have gotten up the first time she woke and started the fire.  Now she would be sore as her arthritis wouldn't like leaving the warm comfort of the bed.  She sat with her woolen socked feet swinging off the edge of the bed, and pulled the robe she'd worn to bed closer around her.

She knew by the calendar that spring would be coming soon, and she felt in her bones that it would be her last. The thought made her both grateful and sad. She'd been dreaming about him more often lately, hearing his voice call to her, and she did miss him so much.  She just hoped that she could make it out to the schoolhouse one last time.

Listing to the powerful side ...

I'm tapping in and tagging along with Patti Miinch's List of Lists for her Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project. For Patti, it is week 25, and for me... Week 2: List the Things that Make/Made Me Feel Powerful

The first day of that first cruise.
I was so freakin' excited!
1. In late 2004 I suffered a retinal tear and lost a big chunk of vision in one eye. The thing that made me realize it wasn't going to hold me back from anything I wanted to accomplish was when I took a Rhine River cruise *alone* for Christmas in 2007. More than anything I'd done before, or have done since, it was mastering the train schedule and station from Frankfort to Passau with far more luggage than I needed to bring that made me feel I could do anything.

2. Growing up a military brat, always being a newcomer * a.k.a. outsider * with red hair, and bifocals.  You kind of sort of have to have thick skin. Libraries became my safe havens, and books my armor. Written words have always made me feel strong, and to be totally transparent, not always in the best way. I've had to learn to bite my fingers just as much as I bite my tongue.  But it was the written words in my first books that helped me to face some fears and conquer some demons.

3. Between 2012 and 2014 my life changed drastically, and there were two significant things that happened in that time. The first was that I cut ties with 98% of the people I had known for most of my life, including family.  I did it because I needed to hear God in my life, and not those who would distract me for their own agendas or without having God's best interest at heart. It was at times terribly isolating, frightening, and lonely. I questioned myself constantly, and I questioned God. The second thing was that I moved away from everything familiar, everything that once signified "safe," and to a part of the country not known for being hospitable in the winters or welcoming to outsiders.

Knowing that God had my back and that I had His ear, and He heard every cry and prayer, that was powerful.  Today, my life is better than I ever imagined it could be when I left Texas and returned to Florida in 2012.  He has blessed us profoundly since our move from Florida in 2014 to the Michigan Upper Peninsula and then again to Wisconsin where we are now.  My life is still very different from what it was before 2012, but for all the right reasons.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

In five ... worth

Participating this evening (a day late) with Five Minute Friday, because you can never be too late in discovering your worth, or letting someone else know theirs.

In my Our Daily Bread reading this week, I took the time to underline something that made me stop and think of my life. There are times when I wonder if it has been worth it.  The loss, gain, pain, laughter, tears, struggles, successes. Will I get to the end of my days and feel that it was all worth it? Or will I wish I had done more? Less? What is one's life worth?

And then I remember the cross and the sacrifice that was made on it and realize that no matter what comes and goes in my life. No matter the ups and downs. He believed I was worth it.

So to show Him that I was worth it, I hope to live my life in a way that would honor Him.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wednesday's Words

I'm joining with Elephant's Child and Words for Wednesday a day or two late depending on which side of the world you are on.  In any case ... "Hold onto your hat" while I give you my two-cents worth ...

If you offered me a penny for my thoughts this week, I would have to give you change back.  As I wrote [here] the week has been a chaotic mix of trauma, drama, and exhaustion. I keep meaning to write a list of things that I need to get done this week and weekend, but then forget where I put my pen. Or paper. Or thoughts.

A blogger I follow, Patti Miinch ~ A Life Redesigned, has been taking part in Morea Seal's 52 List Project. One of the thoughts that keep circling the drain in my brain is to add making a list to my list. (see, I told you I was exhausted) I know if I add it to my do-do-to-do list for the new year, it will never be remembered (or that list found) and then I remember a creative journal I started to read last year.  Start Where You Are. Exactly. I should start right where I am ...

I don't have the list prompt from Morea Seal's journal, but I did manage to catch one of those random thoughts before it slipped down the drain.  Here is my list of things I have learned about myself and "growing up" after I turned 50. Mind you, take notes (or make a list).  Some of these might just save you from suffering the same fate I did while I was learning them.

  1. I have found that I worry less about what others think of me and more about how I feel about myself. I wish I had learned that 45 years ago.
  2. This may sound like a cliché, but it's true. The really important things in life aren't things. It's people and moments in time that you may never get again. It's memories, laughter, tears, hugs, letters, and whispers in the dark. It's puppies, kittens, babies, and smiles. It is everything a thing is not, and nothing that it is.
  3. If what you do to earn a living is keeping you from living, find something else to do. Don't let your job define you. Let your life.
  4. When life seems the darkest, and hope seems the farthest away, remember that it will always get better. Don't ever give up. The rain will stop, the clouds will clear, the darkness will fade, the sun will come up. It is those dark days that we will one day look back on and realize that even though those lessons were hard or painful, we survived and were better for them.
  5. Don't swish soda around in your mouth trying to get a piece of food out from under your partial while you are driving back from lunch. It will fizz up and come out your nose.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

May's lessons ...

 Water relaxes me.
 Spring flowers thrill me.
 Small hidden windows intrigue me.
 Summer homes on a lake call to me.
 Fish with sharp teeth or with horns worry me.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday's Words ...

Joining again this week with Elephant's Child and Words for Wednesday.  Join me here in October when I will be sharing the prompt words and pictures.

She sat in front of the typewriter, tapping a pencil on the table and staring at the blank sheet of paper between the rollers. She felt feverish from sitting in the sun all day. She knew she should have moved under the trees, following the patched shade as the sun moved across the sky. But throwing caution to the wind, it had been the first nice day since the snow melted and she wasn't going to waste it. What was it her father had said once? "Be willing to pay the penalty for your bad choices." She grimaced as she shifted her back against the chair, her sunburnt shoulders painful to the touch.

They wanted the truth, but she didn't want to tell it. She wanted to be sensible and safe. It was easier to give them a fabricated story, a lie, rather than admit what had been done to her. Saying it out loud was something she would never be able to do. She knew the words couldn't hurt her, but by speaking them, she was afraid they would come alive and haunt her. Some things just shouldn't be spoken. 

Thinking about them was painful enough, and it was hard at times to keep her thoughts under control. Sleep only came with a mix of prescription drugs, carefully monitored to be sure she didn't take too many. Some nights she prayed for early senility when all she would remember was life before it happened. She chuckled at the irony of that. Most people prayed that they wouldn't get something like Alzheimer's, and she was praying that she would.

A breeze from the heater coming on moved the paper in the typewriter, and it seemed to wave at her. "Yoo hoo! Here I am! A blank piece of paper just waiting for you to tell the truth!" She reached for it angrily and yanked it out of the rollers, balling it up and throwing it across the floor. A line from a movie came to her mind. They couldn't handle the truth, and neither could she. The truth was that while she was no longer "his" prisoner, she was still a prisoner held captive by the memories of what he had done. 

She looked out the window. The sun was finally starting to set behind dark clouds.

It was snowing again.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday's Words...

[I am linking with the Elephant's Child for Words for Wednesday tonight]

The boat ride had been a sudden decision, and she had to rush to get ready. She had been under such stress the past week that she really hadn't wanted to leave so early, but the quirky weather was perfect for the first time in several weeks and who knew when it would be this nice again?

Just the day before, a violent rain storm had come up that had caused several rivers to flood over the roads. Yellow signs warning of the danger had been posted, but the winds had been so tenacious that many had blown over, and the warnings went unseen.

The day had been beautiful and warm for the most part, but there had been spots along the bay shore where the air seemed to suddenly chill, and she had been glad to have brought along a jacket.  He had fished for a while, letting the evening wind push the boat closer to shore, and at one point thought he had hooked a large fish but lost it.

She had been napping in the bow of the boat, listening to the wind in the trees and the birds. Occasionally the water would gurgle under the boat and waves would slap against the sides. She realized suddenly that the wind had stopped, and the birds had gone silent. She opened her eyes and could see him standing with his back to her at the back of the boat, watching his line. She started to call out to him, to ask if he was alright when she heard a sound under the boat that sounded like a man laughing. She held her breath for a moment, listening intently for the water, the wind, or the birds. Anything that would sound like it wasn't her imagination playing tricks on her. He turned and looked at her, and for a brief second his face seemed to change into someone she didn't know. The air turned cold and she shivered and reached for her jacket again.

The moment was broken by the sound of a larger boat approaching, and the wake of it rocked their smaller boat. The wind blew loudly in the trees, and she heard several ravens calling to each other. She shook her head and sat up. She must have been dreaming it all. She always did have nightmares when she slept on her back.

It was nightfall before she had a chance to look at the pictures from the day, and she sighed as she thought about what an odd day it had been.

A small spot in one of the pictures from the bay caught her eye. What was that? She looked over the series of pictures in which it appeared. In the first photo, it appeared faint and weak, a miniature oval just at the water's edge, almost seeming to be both in and out of the water.

The Orb seemed to move up and down in the series of four photos, but when she looked at her camera, there was no spot on the lens, nor was the Orb in any of the other twenty or more pictures she had taken that day.  She had heard that Orbs were often spirits that visited or haunted a place, and she wondered if there had been a life lost in that particular spot.  Perhaps it was a fisherman who came back to visit the site of his greatest catch.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nancy Drew

Image Source: A Random Google Search
I have a day job now that mentally exhausts me. Don't get that wrong. I love my job with a Nancy Drew-ish fascination. I even like my bosses - both the two and four-legged ones. The hours are great, and the flexibility is rare. I can even walk to work now if I want to when the weather stops being cold, snowy, wet, or muddy (which may be only for a few weeks in late summer, but hey, I can dream).

I spend my day doing quality assurance on background checks. Which in plain English means that I spend my day looking at the worst of the worst to make sure they aren't our client's hope for the best of the best.

I review criminal records trying to verify names, birthdays and addresses to match or exclude a subject. Sometimes I have 601 records to scroll through trying NOT to find a link to a subject. I see traffic offenses, like speeding, running red lights or parking (don't ever have a parking meter violation in Minnesota! Bam! Misdemeanor!).

But I also see charges like animal abuse, child abuse, rape, and murder. I see repeat offenders who spend years in prison, get out, do it again, and again, and again. Like a twisted version of Groundhog Day.

I also search the National Sexual Offender Registry, hoping to NOT find a match with the subject's name, but having to scroll through all those with the same or similar names, or AKAs.

Just when I think I've seen the worst, up pops the face of a 15 year old boy or a 40-something woman, grinning at the camera as if they think being labeled a sex offender for the rest of their life is funny. Or as if whatever it was they did to get on the list was something to laugh about, and wouldn't leave their victim with hidden scars that might never heal or nightmares that would never go away.

I've known for a long time that I'm especially sensitive to the emotions of others, and just looking at some of these crimes and profiles can suck the joy right out of me. I get home at the end of the day emotionally exhausted, mentally tired, and overwhelmed with sadness for humanity. I think of broken lives, broken families, and broken hearts.

I wish we could buy a home in the middle of a thousand acres and build a barbed wire topped brick wall around it all. To be able to live totally off the grid, growing or raising our own food and away from society, yet at the same time, I'm longing for friendship. I miss having a close girl friend to laugh with ~ the Sara or Maureen kind of friend that I used to work with.  I want to write another book, but don't want it to be as dark as the world makes me feel at times. I know that some of the things I have seen in the past four years here will make their way into the pages.

Most days I can reset my emotions with mindless games on Facebook, scrolling through travel pictures of Germany on Instagram day-dreaming about going again, crafts, journal prayers, reading about angels that change lives, and playing tug-of-war with Charlie or cat & mouse with Lucy. I nap more than I used to, call my mom, and hug my husband.

I'm grateful for the big things in my life, the little things, and everything in-between. I'm also grateful for the things no longer in my life, the losses, the changes, and the lessons.

Life is short and precious. Cherish it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Words for Wednesday

Participating this week with The Elephant's Child and Words for Wednesday.
Image Source: The Elephant's Child/Words for Wednesday
She watched his reflection in the window of the boat as it glided across the water with an agile grace that was surprisingly smooth against the consistent blast of winds from the north. It was the first day of summer, and the two of them had been eager to go fishing and leave the stress of the last few months behind them on the shore.

He turned to look at her and she saw his lips moving, but could not hear what he was saying over the cacophony of waves slamming against the sides of the boat. He pointed behind her, and she turned to watch as eagles dipped in and out between the waves, coming up with salmon heavy in their talons. As she watched, an eagle that had missed its mark dove talons first at another carrying a large salmon, desire apparent in its flirt with danger to steal away the catch.

She held her breath as they fought in the air, both tumbling towards the water before they parted and flew in different directions. Empty talons, the only winner in this battle was the salmon.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

April's lessons

 Baby chicks and ducklings are the best mood lifter.

 Watching the sun set is the best way to relax after a frustrating day.
 Spring does come.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

what I learned in March? enough!

Lady, the boss's dog.
I'm linking with Five Minute Friday and catching up with my monthly lessons learned.

March was a hard month for me.

On the one hand, it was great - a new job I love, great bosses, interesting work. Adonai, (my Lord) really blessed me by opening that door.  I find myself going in early, staying late and liking it! It is challenging, and for the analytical side of my brain, it's like steroids!

And then ... there was the rest of the month.

Our landlord - the owner of the house whose dungeon we rented - decided to give the house back to the bank, and was going to give us just two weeks to get out. However, his email informing us of the sudden change said 30 days and I held him to it.

But that didn't stop me from being angry about it, and angry I was. It was as if all the demons that I had fought so hard to get out of my life over the last several years suddenly came back, bigger and worse than before. It was overwhelming, and to be honest, sometimes still is.

Rentals in this area are difficult to find, especially one that would allow pets, and wouldn't cost more than we were prepared to pay to move in. My stress level topped the charts and then some. I couldn't sleep, and when I did ... nightmares.

My husband began having chest pains - anxiety - and about the same time we found out he would need surgery to repair two hernia tears.

I knew the anger I was feeling was eating me alive, and I kept praying that Adonai would once again help me to let it go. It wasn't who I was anymore. It wasn't who I wanted to be again. I'd had "enough."

The lessons we learn during difficult times often push us to our knees in humble repentance. My "aha" moment about it all came while I was driving and "discussing" my feelings with Adonai. I got a spiritual smack in the back of the head!

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

Wow. Talk about a humbling moment. I realized that by holding onto my anger at our former landlord, I was actually being angry with God. Who was I to question His plans for me? Or that perhaps all of this, the move from the dungeon (which to be honest was an answer to prayers, just not how I expected them to be answered), wasn't something that was in His plans all along?

God was telling me "enough" of the anger already. Enough.

Finding joy in life sometimes means recognizing when enough is enough. When holding onto negative feelings isn't in His plan for us, and that letting go of anger, hate, and hurt is how we can have more than enough joy, happiness, and love in our lives. More than enough of the good things. Isn't that what we really want? Isn't that what He really wants for us?


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

what I learned in February ...

... is that snow eventually melts.
 It might come back ... but it will melt.

 February was a busy month. I was working nearly full-time hours at my part-time job. I was also trying to check off items on my do-do-to-do list at home. Projects that I had been overwhelmed by when we moved last October that became more overwhelming in December and January.

I realized that I have really become a "foodie," creating recipes for my husband, and trying new combinations.

One of the other things I learned was just how much I struggle with being A.D.D.  I always just thought it was multi-tasking, or getting distracted easily ~ for example when trying to clear clutter, one thing taken to another room will find me doing things in that room until something brings me back out with something else in hand. So I have been trying to focus more on I still have my do-do-to-do lists, but they are not dated and act more as just reminders. When I come home I choose one item on my list, or one item that needs to be done, and take as much time as I need to just do that one thing.

It has been working, I'm getting more done, with less stress. Sleeping better. Feeling better.
And that's a good thing.

I've also learned that I don't have to explain my choices, justify my decisions, or share who I have become over the past seven years with those whom I no longer have anything in common with. These winter months of isolation and depression have opened my eyes to what is important ... my faith, my marriage, my husband and myself.

Most importantly, I came to the realization that this year will be one of my best ever!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What I did on the last day of my old job ...

Today was my last day, and I could have come down with a case of short-timer. But one thing I've learned in my work career is that sometimes how you leave a job says more about who you are as an employee than your resume or references can.

She'd had the "Help Wanted" sign in the window for months, but hadn't gotten any applicants serious about working. Some people came in and expressed an interest in learning how to prepare tax returns, but when they saw the three-inch thick tax law book to read and learn from they didn't come back. They wanted a paycheck but weren't willing to put in the effort to earn it. So it was just her, answering the phones, greeting walk-ins, scheduling appointments, and preparing tax returns.

Until I stopped in one afternoon in mid-January and asked what kind of help they were looking for. I knew, and she knew, that it wasn't going to be permanent or full-time. She said that she couldn't offer me what my resume and experience said I was worth, and I told her it didn't matter. "Worth" is a relative term. When you have zero income it doesn't matter whether or not the pay is what you made in the past or what those letters behind your name cost you. A little money pays bills just as easy as a lotta money.

She was hoping I would be able to stick it out for the long run when she planned to purchase the franchise and offer me the Office Manager position that was one of the hats she currently wore. It would never be a full-time 40-hour a week job, and the money wouldn't be what I made before the economy and jobs flipped in 2008. But it would be a job and an income.

I started work armed with initiative and too many months of looking for a job to just sit idly by and watch the clock tick off the hours until I could go home.  I emptied the clutter in the storage closet, organized it, throwing out what was trash, sorting what were keepers, and moving the excess IT supplies to another shelf unit so they could be tested and resourced.

My days were spent shredding old documents, emptying trash, cleaning floors and windows. I took apart the vacuum, washed the filters and dust container, and cleared the clogged hose. The two lonely magazines from 2012 in the lobby met with the recycler and I went online to order several free subscriptions for the office. The bathroom was scrubbed down, and a filing cabinet full of disorganized desk supplies became organized.

I had learned about work ethics from watching my Dad when he retired from the military and became a carpenter. If you had a job to do, he told me, do it right the first time so that you aren't wasting your time, materials, and energy later having to re-do what laziness did the first time around. He told me to treat every job like I owned the company, and everyone I met from the top to the bottom with respect. Especially the customers. They might not literally sign my paychecks, but without them, I wouldn't get a paycheck.

Those were the lessons I tried to pass on to my students when I was teaching university level management courses. As a manager, if you want employees to respect you and love their job, they need to be respected and know that they can take ownership of what they do. If they see a more efficient way of doing something, a good manager will be open to new ideas and two-way communication.

Unfortunately, I've had more than one manager who could have taken lessons in communication and Continuous Process Improvement. I'm not proud of the fact that some of those managers highly influenced my decisions to leave rather than continue to try to find ways to communicate. There is only so much you can say to someone who is unwilling to listen.

When you don't have a job, it is hard to find one. In less than a year I filled out more than 278 applications. When you have a job, however, sometimes new opportunities fall into your lap.

She knew what was coming when I told her I needed to talk to her about something. She wasn't surprised. The money and hours were better than what she could offer me, now or when she owns it. As tempting as the increase in pay was to start immediately, I gave her a two-week notice because I knew tax season was her busiest time. She had finally been able to train and hire another person for tax prep and I felt less guilty about leaving.

Today, my last day, I shoveled snow and iced the walk (because of a momentary lapse of sanity that made me leave Florida in 2014 and take a job in the north). I made coffee using some of the filters I brought from home because she only had one left and I knew wouldn't have time to shop for more until the weekend. I printed client forms and got packages ready so she wouldn't have to worry about getting them done for a few weeks.

I cleaned off the loose hair that had found its way from my head to my desk chair (and wondered why I wasn't bald or if I had a bald spot I hadn't seen yet) because, eww! No one likes to sit on a chair with a bunch of someone else's hair on it

I patched and painted over the scuff mark on the wall where the back of my desk chair had rubbed a black mark and bubbled the paint.  I vacuumed the office, and then vacuumed again after lunch when my boots tracked in ice salt. I emptied the vacuum dust container, bagged all the trash and took it to the dumpster. I ran a damp mop over the entry tiles to clean up the melted snow and salt residue, and also in the bathroom where dirty, slushy snow had melted off boots during the week.

From my first day at work to my last day, I took responsibility for my job and what I did. Unfortunately, that isn't a course offered in a school or university. It is a life lesson. It is an example that you have to see ... and want to be.

What examples are you setting in your life? What lessons are you teaching others?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

5 slow minutes on Friday

I'm joining again with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday [here]...

There is probably a government study somewhere that cost millions just to prove that the best way to get your life to slow down is to be in a hurry to get somewhere or something.

A watched pot of water boils at the same temperature an unwatched pot does, but it feels like it takes longer when you are watching it.

Traffic lights are all synchronized to change at specific intervals, but the one time you are running late for work, they all immediately turn yellow as you approach and the red seems to take twice as long to turn green.

When you are out of work and looking for a job (rather desperately), it can be months to hear back on an application. But when you get a job ... it seems like the offers appear out of nowhere.

I was out of work for most of 2016, and recently counted the number of applications I submitted (278).  In that time we moved to another state for more job opportunities, and have been renting a basement apartment. Winter in Wisconsin (or the Michigan Upper Peninsula where we were) can be seasonally depressing just by itself. Winter in a basement apartment without any natural light? Time slows to an immeasurable crawl.  Seasonal depression, however, accelerates.  This winter has been like nothing I've ever experienced before, and I'm taking into consideration puberty, divorces (parents and my own), and the death of loved ones.

Slow is too short of a word to really encompass all that it can affect.

I was reading the March issue of Horse & Rider the other day (because it was a slow afternoon at work) and read a fascinating article about slow medicine.  It referenced a book "God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine."  While the article was about veterinary medicine and horses, it got my attention for its Lean Six Sigma/Continuous Process Improvement applications. Slow medicine is about learning about the patient, and instead of prescribing drugs or modalities that often mask the true problem, it is finding the root cause and making changes that will allow the patient to self-heal and prevent the illness or injury from happening again. Healing can be slow, but that is a good thing.

God works slow.

His timing may feel almost slower than winter in a basement, but He works in ways we don't often see until we begin to slowly wake up from the things that can keep us in the darkness.

This past week I've felt like my eyes have been opened to a new brightness. Not in a literal sense, but in seeing how His light has been filling me, slowly healing me. Flooding the dark corners of my mind and heart, His light has been showing me the lies of the enemy and how the hurt that I've been holding onto was hurting me even more.

Slowly healed with His love and grace ...

I have a new outlook on boiling water and traffic lights.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

what I've learned about love and forgiveness...

If I wrote a post for Valentine's Day about what I've learned about love, it would be short and boring to most because the most important thing I've learned about love is that it is all about forgiveness.

If I wrote a post for Valentine's Day about what I've learned about marriage, you'd roll your eyes and smirk, thinking to yourself "what does she know about marriage? she's been divorced three times!"

So this is a post about love and forgiveness and marriage because without the first two you probably won't have a marriage that lasts or one that is happy. Everything I know about love came when I was able to forgive. Everything I know about being able to forgive came when I realized I was loved ... and forgiven.

Love is much different as you get older than what you might think it is when you are in your teens and twenties (or thirties, and maybe even in your forties). Love when you are young is easily confused with that tingly sensation you get when your crush is around.

Here is a secret about love ... it won't start physically. Oh, you might get those butterflies in your stomach, and feel your face flush, maybe even get a faster pitter-patter in your heart.

But love, real love, grows over time.

It is a conscious decision to fall in love all over again day-after-day. It is a conscious decision to forgive ... and to be forgiven.

Love means making choices like forgiving someone you love even when you still feel hurt or angry. It can also mean making hard choices sometimes like walking away and not looking back, even if just for a little while. They don't call it tough love because it is easy.

It means standing by those decisions in the face of everything that others might say. It means sometimes getting out of God's way to let Him make the changes that you can't because the only person you will ever be able to change is yourself, and the sooner you realize that, the happier you and your marriage will be.

Here is a truth about marriage ... it isn't between you and "everyone else." It is between you, the one you love, and God. There may be someone else who has been through what you are going through, but there isn't anyone who has been through what you are feeling.

What I have learned about love and forgiveness and marriage, is that there will be mistakes made. Things said that weren't meant the way they were heard. Things that were done that shouldn't have been.

There will be times when you wonder what you are doing here ... or there ... now ... or then. And the truth is that there are no easy answers, no easy love, no easy forgiveness, and no easy marriages.

Marriages take work, commitment, communication, honesty, forgiveness, hugs, tears, dancing in the kitchen, late night hugs, reaching out in the dark and holding a hand.

They take faith, hope, desire, dreams, pain, sacrifice, compromise, road trips, laughter, messy hair, and smelly socks.

Marriages take patience, learning, growing, giving, taking, adventures, flowers, burnt cookies, and cleaning up after sick pets, children, or each other.

They aren't always pretty, they aren't always fun. They aren't the glamor of Hollywood or the ugliness of reality TV.

But when you find love and forgiveness, you figure out how to make it work. Because a marriage built with love and forgiveness ... is a marriage worth fighting for, working for, risking for, and giving it all for.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January creative ...

January was a busy month. Going back to work tried to cramp my creative, but didn't. These are a few of the projects I worked on, and some of my creative cooking (no one died!). Learned some things from my projects, some were wins and others not so much.

Charlie wasn't really impressed with a collar I cut off an old shirt, but I loved how cute he looked.

My upcycled jeans memo board turned out fun. I may look for an old leather belt to add or may make a macrame one. The snowflake on the right is one that diffuses oils, and I love being able to write while feeling lifted by the scent of citrus.

I've been on a caramelized onion kick and have been adding them to almost everything.  I made cabbage and sausage for the first time and it turned out delish! Next time I will cook the cabbage with a ham bone I saved from a spiral baked ham we bought.

Speaking of which ... my husband doesn't like the honey glaze that comes with some hams, so I didn't use it on the ham. However, I did save it, put it in an empty spice jar, added more white sugar and mixed it up. I use it in place of sugar and cinnamon on buttered toast and added it in place of just plain white sugar for a bread recipe I threw into the $6 breadmaker we found at the thrift store. Just enough spice to make it smell yummy, but not overwhelming in taste.

I finally got my crocheted coaster finished and loved how it came out. It is an easy enough project that I can do when watching a movie or just relaxing (as long as I hide the yarn and sequin thread from a tiny rotten kitten!).

I've also been adding soups to a lot of meals.
  • Shepherd's Pie: added a can of condensed Golden Mushroom soup, but think next time I will use Cream of Celery soup and add mushrooms.
  • Stuffing: added Golden Mushroom soup and reduced some of the water needed for the stuffing.
  • Chicken & Rice: (hubby's favorite!) added Cream of Celery soup and mushrooms to the rice while it was cooking.
And I made Scotch Eggs for the first time (yum!)!

Mom mentioned that she liked a brooch I sent her her at Christmas, so I made her one to send for next Christmas. I'm going to make earrings to match, but need to find an old pair of clip-on ones that I can cannibalize for the clip. The gold berries are balls of glow-in-the-dark glitter glue on gold sequins.

I found also in my cooking creativity, that sometimes throwing an unexpected spice into a recipe can be all that it needs to take it over the top.  I added cinnamon to my chili this month, and it gave it a smokey edge that made it taste amazing!

I've been keeping little slivers of soap stashed in a scrubby mitt and finally decided to melt them all down into new bars of soap.  Threw in a little bit of olive and coconut oils to help with my winter skin.  I'll let them sit for a few days and then put them in muffin papers and a zip-lock bag.

As much as I hate living in this dungeon ... it seems to have given me a creative thought process that is running 1000mph 24/7/365.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Stress Free with Plan Be

It may be a Danish way of life in the winter, but it is becoming my new way of living day-to-day.

I've always tried to have a Plan B for most things, but I've realized that sometimes it is better to have a Plan Be. To let some things just "be."

That may mean to let go of things that take too much energy, especially those that are negative energy or to just be content with the way other things are. Unchanged. Unstressed. Uncomplicated.

It may mean being creative, especially in the kitchen when I've realized that I don't have all the ingredients for something I wanted to make for dinner, or creating something new with what is on hand.

It means choosing to be happy, as much as we possibly can, without letting the negative words, actions, and emotions of those who are outside of our lives here have an impact on that decision.

I'm choosing to not let things stress me out this year by having a plan "be." 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

creating love in a new year

I've given up on writing out a list of resolutions that will make me feel guilty before the end of February. Instead, I've been working on setting goals. Short. Achievable. Things to check off in my new bullet journal ~ another new habit & goal that I'm setting for myself this year ~ and I've chosen my word for 2017.
I think for most people, 2016 was a year that everyone was glad to see over and gone. So much anger and hatred over the elections. So many deaths by terrorist activities, whether they were claimed by ISIS or not, I view any action done to cause terror, injury, and death as being done by terrorists. So many senseless abuses to children or animals that I've stopped even looking at the news.

I started the year with a lot of hope that was quickly smashed and by the end of September was just a lot of discouragement and disappointment. Gratefully, the last three months of the year gave me hope again and we were blessed tremendously.

Create can mean so many things, and this year I want it to mean all of them. 
I want to be able to create (with love) a home for us here in Wisconsin or wherever God plants us next.
I want to work with a new craft medium each month (learning new things) to create (with love) gifts and cards for next Christmas or other special occasions.
I want to create in the kitchen, baking (with love) for the holidays again like I did many years ago, and using German Christmas cookie recipes my Grandmother passed down to me from her own mother.
I want to let my words create another book (Winter Bear), and also update my first book (My Best Friends Have Hairy Legs) for a look at the last ten years of lessons that life and marriage have thrown at me.
I want to create cards again with some of my photos from the past three+ years, and maybe even enlarge some of my photos and mount them on canvas or wood.

This month, I am absolutely in love with [felted brooches and earrings]. (thank you, Pinterest!). I had ideas for my Mom(s), sisters, friends, and was just scribbling all kinds of ideas on a list.  I was super excited to find a website for the Ashland Art Center that offered classes in felting, as well as ceramics, painting, and other fun artsy fartsy projects. I signed up for their email newsletters and class schedules ...

... and then I realized it was in Ashland, OREGON.

Fortunately, between Pinterest, YouTube, and other websites, I think I will be able to learn how to felt without having to fly across the country four times a month. 
In February, I want to use [polymer clay] and not something to be fired a kiln. My goal is to upcycle as much as possible with [old sweaters, jeans, fabrics, empty glass jars, etc.]. When I do need to buy, I want to shop at $ stores or Goodwill. 

In addition to choosing a word for the year, my motto is going to be "making more with less."