Wednesday, May 30, 2018

road trip

     Started by Delores a long time ago, this rotating celebration of words and the magic they make was begun to encourage creative writing. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of. Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage. The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child blog this month and are provided by Margaret Adamson, and her friend Sue Fulton. They also include photographs taken by Margaret's friend Bill Dodds.
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com

       Annalisa's had been open for almost a year when Nate finally proposed to Merribell.  It was Christmas, and her little brother, Stephan, had come home from university for the holidays.  Nate had asked her father's permission to marry her in July after he first got Stephan's approval.   He had nearly broken a rib or two in Poppa's bearhug "yes" to his request.  

     He had given Nate the engagement ring that had once been her mothers.  Nate, with Poppa's approval, had taken the diamonds and designed a ring for her also using diamonds from his own late mother's engagement ring, and incorporating Merribell's birthstone.  He felt that by combining the rings into one, he was joining the two families and that both of their mothers were giving their blessings on the union.  It had taken him almost the full six months before he was satisfied with the jeweler's design after sending him back to the drawing board more than a dozen times.  The ring had to be perfect.

     Merribell had been so moved to tears that for several minutes she couldn't even speak, and Nate had worried she was going to say no.  The rest of the holidays were a blur as the two of them talked and made plans.  She wanted something simple, and it was decided that they would have a small, intimate ceremony in the garden at Annalisa's in the late spring.  The roses she had planted, favorites of both their mothers, would be blooming.  It would be a perfect time to get away for a honeymoon since business would still be at a steady pace but not the chaotic pace that summer would become when all of the tourists arrived.


Image Source: Bill Dodds
     Their honeymoon was spent almost the same way they had first met, riding a train south along the coast, then renting a car and driving back through the Grand Canyon, something both of them had talked about doing before.  Merribell wanted to try some of the smaller southwest restaurants to expand her menu to include a variety of foods that she could feature for special occasions.

     All of Merribell's dreams and those of her mother had finally come true.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Annalisa's Patisserie

Started by Delores a long time ago, this rotating celebration of words and the magic they make was begun to encourage creative writing. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of. Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage. The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child blog this month and are provided by Margaret Adamson, and her friend Sue Fulton. They also include photographs taken by Margaret's friend Bill Dodds.

Image Source:
WeHeartIt.com
     Merribell set her towel on the radiator to warm while she turned the water on for her shower.  In the months since she and Nate had met on the train, they had talked every day and spent nearly every weekend together.  A week ago Friday, they had gone to her little brother Stephan's homecoming football game and played chaperone at the homecoming dance afterward.

     She had stayed home from her own high school dances while her mother had been sick.  When he found out, Nate had insisted on treating the night as if it were their senior prom, and it turned into a fairy tale evening for her as Nate swept her off her feet.  She wore the same ball gown that her mother had once worn to her own senior prom with Merribell's father.

     "M'bell, you look like a princess!  You remind me so much of your mother in that dress.  She would be so happy to see you in it."

     "I miss her so much, Poppa."

     "I know you do.  I miss her too, but I know one day we will be together again.  Dancing among the stars and clouds!"

      Now she was preparing to go to the ballet with him wearing a gown she had bought just for the occasion.  She'd never been one to play dress up as a child and wore jeans more than anything.  She had a few dresses that she would occasionally wear, but nothing formal or suitable for a night at the ballet.

     Just as she got her hair lathered up with the shampoo that was beginning to run into her eyes, the electricity went off and the small bathroom was plunged into darkness.  She managed to get her hair rinsed out and finished her shower before carefully stepping out of the tub.  She quickly dried, wrapped her hair in the towel and pulled on her robe before opening the bathroom door.

     "Stephan?  Poppa?"

     It was still early afternoon and the light from outside filtered into their small house.  She wandered from room to room calling for her father and brother.  Finally, Stephan burst in the back door from outside, making Merribell jump as she heard the door slam closed behind him.

     "Stephan! What on earth is going on?  Why are you slamming the door, and what happened to the power?"

     "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean it to slam.  There was a wind storm that suddenly came up and it  knocked over several trees.  One of them hit the transformer down the road aways.  Poppa and I ran down to see if anyone was hurt.  A car was hit by one of the trees, and the people are trapped inside.  Poppa had me run back to call 911, and to see if I could find a crowbar."

     "Who was it that was in the car?  Anyone we know?  Are they hurt?"

     "No, they don't seem to be hurt, we just can't get the doors open.  I think they are tourists.  The car has a Wyoming tag on it.  Poppa thinks we should get them out of the car before they try to turn the power back on."

     "I'll call 911 from my cell phone because I don't think the house phone will work with the power out.  You go find a crowbar from the shed."

     Stephan and her father had been able to get the car door open, and paramedics made sure none of them were injured.  It had taken only an hour for the electric crews to get power restored, but another five for road crews to clear the fallen trees.

     Merribell had been so busy cooking meals for the workers that she hadn't heard Nate's car drive up and the front door open.

     "Smells delicious in here.  What's cooking?"

     Merribell smiled as she turned to greet him.  "Well, aren't you Mr. Debonaire tonight?  I'm so sorry we missed the ballet.  They just got the road cleared a few minutes ago.  I've been making dinner for all the workers in appreciation for everything they've done today."

     "Yes, I've been waiting on the other side of the closure."

     "Oh no!  This entire time?"

     "No, only about an hour.  I heard about the storm and fallen trees on the car radio earlier today, but didn't realize the road was still closed.  So, what are you cooking?"

     "I have a roast resting on the top of the stove right now and was just about to slice it for sandwiches.  I made four loaves of bread earlier,  a special homemade sandwich spread my great-grandmother used to make, and the apple crisp bars for dessert are just about ready to come out of the oven."

     "All this afternoon?  You've been busy!"

     "Once I knew the people trapped in their car were alright, I got busy in the kitchen.  Would you like to help by slicing the meat while I slice up the bread?"
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com

     The two of them moved around the kitchen together preparing the sandwiches and dessert bars while music played on the kitchen radio.  Occasionally they would stop working to do a mambo dance together, laughing and swaying with the music.  Her father and Stephan set up tables and chairs on the front lawn for the workers, occasionally passing through the kitchen to get plates and glasses.  Her father would smile so wide at his daughter's happiness that new wrinkles formed almost instantly around his eyes.

     "If I was transported to Heaven right now, I would be a happy old man knowing M'bell has found love, Momma." he whispered to himself.  Later he pulled Stephan into a tight bear hug.

     "Poppa, you're suffocating me!"  Stephan laughed and hugged his father back.  It had been a long time since there was so much laughter in their house.  It felt good.

     "Come!  Let us feast with the workers and thank them for all they have done today, and give thanks to God for there not being any injuries today!"  Poppa put on his beanie cap and set it jauntily to the side of his head as he carried a tray of sandwiches out the door.
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com

     Nate pulled Merribell aside just before they went out.  "I'm looking at a small patisserie next week that I think would be perfect for you to open your bistro.  That is, if you still want to do that.  I think you would be a great success."

     Merribell looked up at him, her hand over her mouth.  "Really?"

Nate nodded and Merribeth threw her arms around his neck.  "Oh!  I'm so excited!  Wait till I tell Poppa!"

Friday, May 18, 2018

is there an answer?

     There have been more [school shootings] this week.  I've been out of school now for 30-something years.  While school wasn't a great time for me, and life was stressful with my parents' divorce, the thought of hurting others was not something I, or anyone else I knew, thought of.  Whether it has increased because of our indifference to violence with all the television shows, movies, and video games, I don't know of a simple answer.  There is an [interesting study] on the possible causes, but the only conclusion I drew from it was that single white males ages 14-32 can't be trusted. 

(heck, I could have told you that!)  

     The stress and fear of just going to school ... I can't imagine.  Schools now are building ["in-place" shelters] into classrooms, and practicing shooter drills.  I remember hearing about nuclear bomb drills in the 60's and participated in hurricane and tornado drills in the mid-to-late-70's in Florida.  As an adult in California, we practiced earthquake drills at work.  All of which did more to make me feel more fearful and stressed than it did to make me feel safe.  Years later when I moved back to Florida, I would prepare for hurricane season like a crazy person, each year updating my checklist from lessons learned the previous season.  Did it make me any safer?  No.  Did it add to my stress each season?  Yes.

     Is there an answer?  I don't know.  I wish I did.  I can only pray for this generation and the next several, that they find a softer, gentler way to live.  Maybe if we, as an older (wiser?) generation, did more to listen to those who are struggling?  Encourage, not discourage?  Lift up, instead of put down?  Bullying (at all ages) has always been around, but now it seems so much more perverse and invasive with the introduction of cyber-bullying.  The sad fact is that most bullies are created by being bullied in another area of their lives, or seeing others be bullied and getting away with it, or as a way to get what they want.  Imitation can be a form of flattery, but it can also be very destructive when what is modeled is negative, aggressive, or abusive behavior.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

seaside holiday

Started by Delores a long time ago, this rotating celebration of words and the magic they make was begun to encourage creative writing. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of.  Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage.  The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child blog this month and are provided by Margaret Adamson, and her friend Sue Fulton. They also include photographs taken by Margaret's friend Bill Dodds.

     The owners of the Rocking Horse Inn decided to close for a week in early May before their busy season started, and Merribell took advantage of the break to get away for the first long vacation since her mother had died.

     Impulsively, she took a train along the coast, not sure where she would get off to stay the night.  She wanted for just one week to not have to think or worry about what her future held, so she had decided to just ride the train until she saw a town that seemed like it would be interesting to explore.  Never before had Merribell taken a trip without weeks of planning, packing, unpacking, repacking, and multiple lists for every day.  There would be a list of what to pack, what to bring, what to see, where to eat, what to do, where to stay ... and even lists of where she could be reached that she would leave at home with her father.

     This time she simply made sure he had her cell phone number and told him to leave messages if she didn't answer since cell service may be spotty while on the train.  Throwing another pair of jeans in a duffel bag with three other shirts and changes of underclothes, she grabbed a jacket with a removable liner and headed out the door.  Later on the train, she realized she hadn't even grabbed her toothbrush, and bought a pack of gum at the small snack galley on the train.

     As she watched the scenery change outside her window, she drifted off to sleep.  When the jolting of the train woke her suddenly, she was confused by the darkness inside the train and outside the window.  Looking at her watch, she realized that it should have still been daylight.

     "Don't worry, miss.  The train had to stop while this car was still in the tunnel.  Apparently, there is a large animal of some sort blocking the tracks ahead of us, and the engineers are waiting for it to move."

     The man's voice was coming from the seat facing her, yet she couldn't see him in the darkness.

     "An animal large enough to stop the train?  Is it dangerous?" she asked.

     "No, I think not.  It appears to be injured.  Probably was hit by another train and hasn't been able to get off the track.  They are trying to determine how to move it.  I heard someone say it was a moose, and another person said it was an elk.  But I also heard some young children saying it was Sasquatch, so I don't really know.  The conductor has his hands full trying to keep a passenger car of school children from getting off the train to run and see what it is, and I didn't want to bother him further.  But we are in no danger, other than perhaps boredom and missing a connecting train if you had one ahead."

     "No.  I didn't have a connection to meet.  I'm on holiday, so was just enjoying the scenery along the coast, although there isn't much to see in a tunnel, is there?"

     Normally Merribell would have been too shy to speak to a strange man but the darkness of the train car, and the kindness in his voice seemed to make her feel more comfortable and confident than she might have been in the light.  Knowing also that there were other people in the car also seemed to put her at ease.

     The man laughed gently.  "No, there is not much of that.  Although there could be bats along the roof of the tunnel, it would be difficult to see them.  Before we entered the tunnel the coastal fog was moving inland so you couldn't even see the beach anymore."

     "Oh.  I suppose then it is a good thing I napped when I did.  Are you on holiday also?"

     "No, I'm traveling on business."

     "What sort of business do you do?"

     "At the moment I'm actually between businesses.  I'm in the restaurant industry, and I invest in small local restaurants.  I believe in keeping businesses local, and so often large commercial chain restaurants come into an area and put the small locally owned restaurants out of business.  I help to keep them afloat by offering advice and sometimes refurbishing the buildings or rejuvenating their menus."

     Merribell smiled in the darkness.  "You sound too nice to be Chef Gordon Ramsay!"  Realizing that she may have just offended him, she gasped "Please say you aren't him."

     The man's laugh then was deep and pleasant.  "No, I'm not him.  But in a way, I do what he has done.  Only I'm much friendlier and better looking."

     It was Merribell's turn to laugh.  "Oh, thank goodness!  I was so afraid I had offended you."

     "Not at all.  Tell me now what you do, now that I've shared."

     As the two of them easily chatted in the darkness of the train car and tunnel, Merribell told him about her once-upon-a-time of becoming a veterinarian, her mother's illness and subsequent death, and her work at the Inn.  She talked about her father and younger brother and wanting to one day open her own restaurant named after her mother that would help support her father and put her brother through college.

     In turn, he told her more about himself.  Growing up with a single mother who taught him to cook in order to feed himself and his three younger siblings while his mother worked three jobs to support them.  His father, a Marine, had died during the early days of the Gulf War and how he had been forced to grow up fast to become "the man" of their family.  He had gone to work on the weekends, washing dishes at a local restaurant, when he was sixteen, the only two days his mother had off when she could watch his younger brother and sisters.  As soon as he got out of high school, he had begun working full time in the kitchen at the restaurant and part-time washing dishes at another so that his mother could rest and only work one job.

     He had been mentored by the owner of the restaurant who had expanded his cooking skills and interest.  Twice a year he would take charge of the restaurant while the owner went on holiday, and three times a year the owner would take him to a cooking school over a long weekend.  When the owner had died unexpectedly, he had been shocked to find out that the restaurant and a rather large investment portfolio had been left to him since there had been no other living family.

     Wanting to give back what had been so generously given to him, he had decided to begin a mentorship and investment business where he could give small local restaurants a fighting chance against larger chain restaurants.

     The train lurched suddenly, and the two of them found themselves back in the sunlight as the tunnel slipped behind them.

     Smiling, the man reached out his hand to shake hers.  "I don't think we've formally met.  I'm Nate."

     Blushing now, almost as red as the sun setting in the sky, Merribell took his hand.  "I'm Merribell.  I'm so pleased to meet you."

     As the train continued on its journey along the coast, the two of them continued talking.  Seagulls on the nearby shore chattered as if laughing at them and how fate, and God, had answered her prayers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Rocking Horse Inn

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
     Started by Delores a long time ago, this rotating celebration of words and the magic they make was begun to encourage creative writing. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of
     Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage.
     The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child blog this month and are provided by Margaret Adamson, and her friend Sue Fulton. They also include photographs taken by Margaret's friend Bill Dodds.


     The Rocking Horse Inn was Merribell's first job. After her mother had died she had spent the next four years taking care of her father, and her younger brother, as they all went through different stages of grief. While her mother's death hadn't come as a surprise, it had been a shock when the doctor's told her there was nothing else they could do.

     She had been offered a full scholarship to study veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis after high school, but her mother's illness delayed her acceptance. When she finally made the decision to turn down the scholarship, her father was livid.

     M'bell! Are you off your rocker? This is an opportunity for you to be more than what your mother or I ever had the chance to be. This has been your dream for your entire life. You cannot turn down this scholarship. I will not allow it."

     "Poppa. I cannot go to the other side of the country while Momma is sick. I will not. There will be other opportunities for me to go to college closer to home. I can take classes at community college to become a tech, and go to university later."

     Community college kept getting pushed to "next term" as her mother's condition worsened. After the funeral, it was never mentioned again as Merribell began to pick up the pieces of their lives.

     The Honeymoon Cake, as she decided to call it, had been a huge success at the Inn, and soon she was baking it three times a week as reservations for the Inn increased. She found comfort in the kitchen, baking and preparing meals with the recipes that had been passed down to her, learning more as she created recipes of her own. The thought of veterinary school slipped farther and farther away. Instead, she began to dream of one day opening her own bistro restaurant.

     Coming in one evening after a very full day at the Inn, her father met her at the door.

     "M'bell, you are working too hard. Isn't there someone else who can cook so you can take a few days off? You work from sun up to sun down all week long. Why can't the person who cooks on the weekend cook some time during the week for you?"

     "No, Poppa, there isn't anyone else. I prepare all the food for the weekend in advance so the owners of the inn can just heat things up. I like to be in the kitchen. It makes me feel close to Momma. I feel sometimes like she is looking over my shoulder."

    "But you don't have time for friends, or time to meet anyone special. I worry about you. I don't want you to be alone."

    "Poppa, I'm not alone. I have you, and I have Stephan."

     "That's not what I'm talking about, and you know it. You cannot spend the rest of your life taking care of your old poppa and your little brother. You have to have a family of your own. A husband. Children."

     "I'm too tired to argue with you, Poppa. I will have all those things one day when God puts a special man in my life. Until then, I just want to hit the sack and get some sleep before I need to get up and go back to work. I love you, Poppa. Can we talk about this another time?"

     "Yes, of course, M'bell. Go get some sleep. I love you, too."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wednesday's words...

     Started by Delores a long time ago, this rotating celebration of words and the magic they make was begun to encourage creative writing. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of
     Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage.
     The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child blog this month and are provided by Margaret Adamson, and her friend Sue Fulton. They also include photographs taken by Margaret's friend Bill Dodds.


It was a baptism by fire, as most new jobs are.  No matter how skilled you may think you are at a certain task, the first day on a new job always seems to make your brain dig into the deepest dregs of your mind to remember how to do even the simplest tasks.

Merribell stood before the kitchen counter with her new starched pinafore on, exploring a cookbook she had found in the cabinet above the refrigerator of the old Victorian bed and breakfast.  She wanted to impress the owner with something sweet other than a typical lemon sugar cookie, but instead using the honeycomb she had pulled from her beehive the night before.  
Source and Recipe!

Her three-greats-grandmother had passed down a recipe to each new wife in her family of a cake sweetened with honeycomb that she said had been passed down for every generation before hers.  She would whisper to each new bride that the day of their first argument, the cake should be made and shared for dessert with the evening meal to settle all disagreements and give them a long-lasting marriage.  No one knew where the recipe had actually originated from, and while some young brides thought that she was just meddling in their marriage, not one of them failed to make the cake the first time the newlyweds argued.

She had planned to tuck the recipe into her purse before she left that morning, but when her alarm had failed to go off ~ as in the rooster had slept in as well ~ her primary thought and goals for the morning were to get to work on time instead of as early as she had intended.

The house was an old Victorian boarding house that had been recently remodeled using a state-funded grant when the owners found it on the registry of National Historic Homes.  Contrary to some of the old-timers' gossip in town, the house had not proven to be haunted by the spirit of a young newlywed bride who had fallen from a third story balcony after an argument with her new groom on their wedding night.  But the rumors had served to dissuade some honeymooners from staying there and the owners wanted to change that reputation.

Merribell knew that her grandmother's recipe would be the perfect thing to add to the menu, but she couldn't remember all of the ingredients.  She had never made the cake for herself since she was still single, but her mother had passed the recipe down to her just before cancer had taken her four years before.  She could still hear her mother's whisper in her ear as she leaned into the hospice bed to give her one last hug.

"I left you Grandmama's recipe in the kitchen with the jars we use to collect honeycombs.  I know that it will bring you, true love, one day.  When you have found the man you want to be with forever, make him the cake.  Don't worry about the stories about just using it for when you argue or waiting until you are newlyweds.  It brought me your father, and I served it to him every Sunday dinner from the moment he first started courting me.  Fifty-five years we had until cancer took him last summer.  Fifty-five happy years filled with love.  Don't cry long for me, I know you will even if I ask you to not cry at all.  I'll be with your dad again, and I'll always be with you in your heart."

A tear fell into Merribell's coffee mug and she wiped the one chasing it with the back of her hand.  She did miss her mother deeply, and her father.  But she knew that they were together again, and that was a comfort to her.  Sighing, she decided to go home at lunch and get the recipe.  Maybe it would bring luck to the inn, and love.

Honeycomb Crunch Chocolate Cake

Course: Dessert
Servings: 8 -10
Author: Julia Frey of Vikalinka

Ingredients
For the cake
3/4 cups Guinness or any other stout
1/4 cup strong black coffee
1 cup/ 250 gr unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cups creme fraiche or sour cream
For the salted caramel buttercream
300 gr butter softened
397 gr Carnation caramel or dulce de leche
pinch of Maldon salt
50 gr crushed honeycomb

For chocolate ganache
1 cup whipping cream/double cream
1/2 pound dark chocolate chopped

For decoration
a handful of honeycomb pieces
a pinch of Maldon salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and butter 3 8″ cake pans and dust them with some flour to prevent the cakes from sticking.
In a large saucepan heat stout, coffee and butter together until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer.
Add cocoa powder while whisking continuously to avoid lumps until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Blend flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a different bowl. Mix eggs, vanilla and creme fraiche with an electric mixer in bowl no 3.
Now check on your chocolate mixture and make sure it’s cool enough to continue the process.
Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and creme fraiche mixture and blend them together. Add flour mixture a little bit at a time and beat on low speed until combined. Divide batter equally among the pans.
Bake cakes in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. (I baked mine one at a time.)
Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a wire rack. (Once cooled I usually wrap my cakes in a plastic wrap and chill my cakes in the fridge overnight.)
Make salted caramel buttercream by whipping butter in a bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy and then adding prepared caramel or dulce de leche with a pinch of flaky salt until completely incorporated.
Wrap honeycomb pieces in a clean tea towel and crush with a rolling pin or process in a food processor.
Fold in crushed honeycomb pieces into salted caramel buttercream.
(If Carnation caramel is not available in your supermarkets you can make your own by boiling a can of sweet and condensed milk in a pot of water for 3 hours.)
Fill the cake layers with salted caramel buttercream, then cover the entire cake with a crumb layer and chill in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make a chocolate ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil and take it off the heat immediately, then add your chopped chocolate into it and stir until melted! Cool it and whip it with an electric mixer until paler in colour and fluffy.
Cover the chilled cake with chocolate ganache and decorate with more honeycomb pieces and flaky salt.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

cloudy eyes ...

Revelation can sometimes come from the most unusual places.

A few weeks ago I found it in an episode of Swamp People when one of the gator hunters commented that he had been away from church for too long and "his eyes were cloudy."  When they went back to church, he said it was like "spiritual Visine®."

His words were so profound at the time that I wrote them on April's calendar to think on them for a while.

Recently I found a cute little journal at the dollar store that I started a "bucket list" of sorts in.  I have another journal somewhere in storage that I started almost 30 years ago of some 100+ things I wanted to have, learn, or do.  The last time I looked at it was probably four years ago and I was surprised at how many things on that list I had accomplished without even remembering that they were on my bucket list.

Last night when I opened the new journal up, I was surprised to feel stumped after just 18 items.  I realized that my hopes and dreams have changed dramatically in the past ten years.  Now my list is closer to home, without all the world travels and experiences that I once chased.  It contains things like gardening; relaxing afternoons on the boat drawing up the anchor when needed, and counting clouds.

Six years ago I made a drastic change in my life by walking away from my social circles.  My well-meaning "friends" and family had been telling me what to do, where to go, and how to live for too long and I no longer knew what was truly right for me.  My eyes were cloudy.  Eventually, I realized that "they" wanted me in a place that would benefit them, whether emotionally or physically.

I eliminated the drama-bringers in my life and began to focus on where I needed to be in order to be content.  It began with a 10-week prayer challenge from Beth Moore's book Whispers of HopeIt became my spiritual Visine and I was finally able to think and see clearly.

In the process, I lost virtually all of those "friends" and some family.  There have been times when I questioned my decision to do that and wondered if I should reconnect.  But I realized last week that it was a good thing.  Sometimes what seems like a selfish act is actually self-preservation.

My life is peaceful.  I have less, need less, and am content that it is actually more than I had before.