Hello. It’s Been A While. (A Ten Things of Thankful Post)

It’s a good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to post here more.

Somehow I got out of the habit of delivering any finished product to this page. It’s not for lack of ideas or inspiration; I have a ton of things drafted and scribbled in my notebooks. They somehow just don’t make it to the page. If a messy desk is a sign of genius, I should be producing a whole lot more brilliance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s probably more that I got distracted (not that distraction is new for me). It goes without saying that the headlines of late have been pretty overwhelming and that has definitely affected my state of mind. I had to back way off of the Internet and social media. So if I seem absent…I am. On purpose. Let’s call it self-care.

I’ve also been distracted by my physical state lately. There is no question that for the last week I have been in the throes of an active RA flare with a whopper of an eczema flare thrown in for good measure. A result of stress associated with the news? Maybe. Hard to say. At any rate, I’ve been trying to focus on what my mind and body need to be more at peace. It’s only fair to say here how thankful I am that my Hub and Zilla have been more than understanding, even though I’ve been pretty horrid.

So what else has been going on…?

Well, I guess my biggest news is probably that I entered a writing competition. Yup, I did it. I just put up a post about that experience if you want to check that out. If not, then keep moving along…

I actually have been doing a bunch of writing, but so far most of it has been for my eyes only. What will become of these efforts is yet undetermined. But the writing feels good. I have started a ton of things to join my semi-usual link-ups – Six Sentence Stories, Finish the Sentence Friday, and Ten Things of Thankful. But despite those efforts, I haven’t managed to join. I plan to remedy that moving forward.

I’ve also been reading a lot more lately than I have in recent months. More self-care, I suppose. That feels amazing. I read three of Bradbury’s books in a row – Dandelion Wine (a re-read), Farewell Summer (stunning), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (completely creepy in an awesome way). Right now I’m working on finishing The Martian by Andy Weir (loved the movie – book is even better) and I have about five things queued up to hit next.

Absorbing others’ words has been good for my mind and my soul. I’ve joined a couple of writing challenges for 2017 and choosing books for those has been fun and also helped me continue to take advantage of the offerings at my public library. I’m doing a handful of reads for folks I know who have published their books and I’m thinking maybe I’ll review those here on the blog and introduce you to to their work. Stay tuned.

What else?

Thanks in part to the accountability factor provided by the Graviteers, I’ve managed to hit a weight loss goal (again) so I think it’s safe to say that I am steadily working toward my weight loss and health goals. I’ve been walking more regularly and upping my number of steps each day (insert eye roll). That feels good. Next stop: The Bowflex machine. I’m laughing just thinking about it, but sure enough one has joined the team in our basement next to the treadmill and I’m planning to get on there regularly. Weight-bearing exercise is important for women, especially as middle age creeps closer on the horizon. So I’m pretty excited about that.

Kidzilla is kicking butt and taking names with her school work and all related sub-topics. That little girl works so hard and loves learning so much. I love that she sees hard work has tangible rewards. And speaking of school, the Hub is back in school working on a new degree – one more step in this journey of career change that was forced upon us. He’s also doing a fantastic job and just a few weeks in is already ahead of his projected timeline for this term. I am so proud of both of them. Shameless gushing. <3

I’m happy to report I’ve found my groove again in the kitchen. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I pulled away from cooking anything decent at home and we resorted to bring-home or go-to options far too often over the last several weeks. Granted, the holidays are a strange time and then we were all so sick during and right after Christmas and into January, so maybe that’s just it. But even with my flares lately I’ve been happily tossing pots and pans around in the kitchen again. We’ve tried some new things and I’ve gotten back in my habit of rolling leftover parts of one meal into the next.

We’ve had pinto bean tacos with cabbage slaw, oven-baked lime butter cod served with the leftover slaw, some awesome Mexican street corn as a side – that was delicious. We tried mujadara – lentils and brown rice with caramelized onions – which is a new favorite here. Red beans and rice are always warming and satisfying, Salisbury meatballs were a hit for my meatball-lover daughter. Up tonight is a basic roast chicken because I’m out of chicken broth and need to make some. So I’m out to get that little bugger in the oven. Besides, I think I’ve rambled on here quite long enough.

I haven’t counted or numbered, but I’m certain I have at least ten things in here. For these and for so many more…I am thankful.

I’ve missed chatting with all of you here. What’s new and exciting in your life? What have you been doing the last few weeks? How are your self care habits? Talk to me…

 

So I Did a Thing…

I did it.

I entered a short story writing competition. Yes. I. Did.

I’m not sure what I was thinking, exactly, other than maybe “why the hell not?” And so I did it. At the last possible second, of course, right up against the deadline. But anyone who knows me at all will not be surprised in the least. I’ve always claimed that I work better under pressure. (Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.)

So what was it like?

Excruciating.

Of course I drew the genre that I absolutely did not want – political satire. Yes, I’ve read it. Yes, I know what it is. Heck, I’ve even dragged students through it in my other life as a high school English teacher. No, I do not particularly enjoy reading it and no, I most assuredly did not want that to be my first foray into competition writing. But whatever. I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste the entry fee and submit nothing. Even if I get knocked out of the game right away, at least I did it.

The process of writing was…difficult. Seriously. Trying to fit my story into a neat little package of assigned genre/topic/character in 2500 words or less was no easy task. But I wasn’t completely intimidated – except by the satire genre. That just sucked.

I’ve been writing Six Sentence Stories and other short fiction – mostly to a prompt – for a number of months. I’d like to think the experience of doing that helped me to feel at least somewhat prepared to tackle this contest. I don’t think I really got nervous until I realized I was hyper-tinkering with some edits at 20 minutes out from deadline and started to get worried that I’d miss the deadline. I had to finish title and synopsis 1-2-6 and get that baby uploaded. I made it in with literally less than five minutes to spare. So if it stinks, too bad! It is what it is now…

And now we wait to hear the results of the first round. Until March 20th. (I know – forever.) In the meantime, I plan to do a whole lot more writing and hopefully some of it will actually make it onto the blog here.

What about you – have you ventured into the world of writing competitions? Share your experience with us here? I’d love to know your thoughts. 

 

The Turning of the Page

I don’t necessarily believe in putting the past behind me.

I suppose I do to a point; there are simply some things upon which it is fruitless to dwell. We certainly cannot change the past, but for better or worse, our past remains forever a part of who and where we are today. At the same time, though, we need to turn the page and move on to the next part of our story. It is not progress to throw down the book and stop reading because the events of a particular chapter are not as we might like. If we do not continue to move forward, we will never find out what the next chapter brings.

Making the transition from past to future feels much like turning the pages of a book. Once we’ve moved beyond each paragraph, page, and chapter, the words we have read remain part of our experience. They affect us, change us, and help us make sense of the next thing we read. Likewise, the words we have yet to read lie before us waiting to be taken in, savored, and made part of our experience. The only thing that comprises our present is right now, the moment in which we turn the page and move from what has been to what is yet to be.

As we turn the page from 2016 into 2017, I find myself tremendously grateful. This has been a good year for me and for my family in so many ways. We are healthy. We are safe. We have enough of all the things we need to sustain us and then some. We are blessed with friends and family near and far who love us. We have grown as individuals and as a family. I could not be more thankful. And while my little brood has certainly had our share of challenges and disappointments, I know that we have soldiered through and made great strides toward accomplishing our goals.

I am painfully aware that there is much trouble and sorrow in the world right now. I am aware that many people have found 2016 to be a harrowing year in many respects. Too many are not healthy or safe. Too many are lonely and separated from loved ones by distance or other means. Too many live in fear and pain. I suppose knowing this makes me appreciate even more the good that we have felt this year after several years of challenges for all of us.

In 2016, I chose the words Calm and Control to guide me through my days. While I will very likely never call myself a calm person, I definitely think that I have found a better sense of both inner and outer calm this year. I also realize that it is nigh unto impossible to be in control of every (or really any) aspect of life, but I have found strategies to help me better manage what aspects I can. I am better for it. My family is better for it. Better is good.

I would not say that any of us is “finished.” Like Franklin and Thoreau and Emerson and so many others, I believe that living life as a work progress is a good thing. Rather than striving for a state of completion or finality, the human spirit thrives when striving always to better the Self. As I look back over the words I’ve chosen each year for the last several, I can see how each one continues to weave in and out of the ways I think and live. Focus. Focus. (Yes, I chose this one twice.) Progress. Calm and Control.  Like all else, while they may not be my primary tasks, they remain with me.

And now it is time to look and move forward. As I turn the page on this year and begin the next, I know my word for the year will be Balance. I find myself saying it often lately and so it must be on my mind, at least subconsciously.

Balance is necessary in all things and balance exists in all things. There is no darkness without light, no failure without success, no sadness without joy. We all worry about how to balance home and work life, kids and relationships, work and play, family time and alone time, eating well and enjoying a pizza…and so much more. As we move forward in a world filled with so many things to worry and frighten each of us, I know it is important to seek the good and the positive, to find the balance that absolutely exists.

To focus solely on what is terrible can only prove harmful, just as never turning the page of a book can only leave the end of the story unknown. I, for one, would rather keep reading. I want to know what happens. I want to know how the story ends. And then I want to read another…and another…

At this time of year it is easy to talk about starting over and making goals. But I believe that every month, every day, sometimes every hour is an opportunity for a fresh start and a new goal. If moving through life is like turning the pages of a book, then there is always another page to turn, another story to tell, another book to read.

There will be challenges ahead; I believe they are necessary to help us find the victories. And so I wish each of you a story filled with challenges that will ultimately bring you health, happiness, love, and (perhaps most of all) peace in the days ahead.

xo.

 

 

 

#10Thankful – Another Year Older

So my blog and I both had birthdays this week.

My blog is four years old. Imagine that. And me? Well, I’m four and then some. Birthdays have a way of prompting retrospection, don’t they. At least for me. I often find myself reflective around birthdays – take time to consider where I’ve been, where I’m going…just think.

So for starters, I’m thankful for another year of life and one that has brought many changes and surprises. It’s been a year of progress (my One Word, as I recall) and that is always a good thing. I spent time on my birthday with the people closest and most dear to me. I received many thoughtful cards and messages and gifts – all of which really touched me in so many ways. And the Hub started the day off by leaving me several little birthday notes in places he knew I’d find them. Too cute.

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I am thankful for CSA produce! I know I put that on here every week lately, but it really is awesome. I love having the fresh produce straight off our local organic farm fields. And it makes meal prep kind of easy, too. The ingredients are supplied; I just have to put my creativity to use and figure out how to use them.

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This week we had another round of the sugar snap pea pasta we had last week. It was delicious. Again.

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The new carpet on the stairs remains (knock wood) unspoiled by Rotten Cat deposits. We are very happy for that. And the dark color keeps the stairs from looking filthy the minute one of the Rottens drops even one black hair on it. I suppose the down side to that is that it’s easier to forget to vacuum…but we’re working on that not being the case.

I am thankful for things like Shark Week and Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament week during which they show Christmas movies on TV in July and fireworks and summer theatre excursions…all the things we enjoy together as a family that help maintain and strengthen the bonds we already share.

We’ve accomplished a few more small projects around the house this week and have plans in place for many more as the summer unfolds. Maybe it’s a throwback to my years as a teacher or just to having time off from school in the summer as a kid, but to me summer is the time to work on projects and improvements. I’m not much of a spring cleaner, but summer gets me going.

I am very glad to be tackling at least one of my writing projects this month. Yup, I signed up for the CampNaNoWriMo thing during July and have committed to getting a few of the books I want for my kids’ book series written, edited, and illustrated before summer is over. My goal is to start shopping for some readers and (hopefully) a publisher come fall.

I’ve also been doing a tremendous amount of reading just for pleasure, something I used to do quite voraciously and over time due to college and work and marriage and work and buying a house and having a kid and grad school and just all the things I fell out of the habit. I have a huge list and pile of things I want to read and I’m so very happy to be working my way through.

I am always thankful for Kidzilla and the Hub. They are my loves, my life, and they make every day beautiful.

And now I am thankful to finish this list and get on to other things. I didn’t do so well at getting around to read other posts last week (sorry!) so I hope to do a better job in that department this time around. It won’t be until after the long holiday weekend, though, for sure. We’ll be off doing…

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Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? What are your favorite summer activities and habits? You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in the link-up by clicking that blue button down there.

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#10Thankful – Fragmented

Fragmented. That’s the best word I can come up with to describe my week.

It’s been one long stretch of a whole lot of jumbled pieces and small bits of time, none of which have added up to much of anything. But of course, if I sit long enough and think about it, I know I will realize that there is something in there. Perhaps we’ll get there by the end of this post. I have to be honest, though, and say I really don’t feel much like thankful-in tonight.

It’s not that I don’t feel thankful for so many things. I definitely do. And I’m not sad or bothered by anything. I’m just…mentally fatigued. All that fragmenting this week has left this girl exhausted.

So let’s see what we can come up with…

fragments-1274804_1920 Continue reading “#10Thankful – Fragmented”

TToT – A Full Spectrum of Thankfulness

I’ve had a colorful week. A full spectrum of things for which I am thankful.

I’d love to show and tell you that I snagged a photo of every hue and every experience. But I did not. I was too busy soaking in the moments, living the moments. And truly, the color thing didn’t occur to me until this morning, so…

How about this?

We saw the first pink blossoms on the trees in our neighborhood this week. OK, this photo is actually a couple of years ago, but it won’t be long before they look like this again! And, in yet another weather shift, are expecting a bit of snow tonight and tomorrow. Not much, but still…seriously?

 

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Continue reading “TToT – A Full Spectrum of Thankfulness”

TToT – The Never-Ending Cold

I still have a cold.

I think this must be the cold from hell, brought on by the unbelievably inconsistent weather here – unseasonably mild, then sub-zero wind chills, then up into the 30s, then down to the teens, then up to nearly 60 degrees, then a plummet to the 20s. No wonder my head is a mess.

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I’ve done all the home remedies – sick tea, my new favorite sick soup. Nothing is working so far – unless it’s all keeping it from getting worse, which I suppose can be Thankful #1 this week. How’s that for a silver lining?

Spring can come any time. Continue reading “TToT – The Never-Ending Cold”

TToT – I’m Back!

Did you miss me?

I was a little surprised when I looked at my last TToT and realized that I skipped two weekends in a row. TToT is not something I skip. But I did say I was taking an Internet break during the holidays and apparently I was serious.

I really did take a break – I barely thought about the cyber world and just barely paid attention to messages. I missed the people that I usually connect with. But overall? The time away felt freaking great.

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That said, 2015 is in the bag, so are the holidays and all of their stress, and by the end of this weekend all the Christmas decorations will be stored away for another year. I’m done and ready to move on.

So let’s commence with the thankfuls… Continue reading “TToT – I’m Back!”

Calm and In Control

I swore I wasn’t going to do this.

I was not going to write an end of the year wrap-up post, or a list of my favorite books, or favorite moments of the year. I was not going to make any New Year’s resolutions (aside from the perennial one I make to stop swearing) or post any goals related to weight, writing, water consumption, or anything else. I find the whole concept – much like all of January – just…ugh.

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But I have done the word of the year thing for the last few and I definitely liked it. I suppose I didn’t do much with my 2015 word, Progress – at least not here on the blog – so I figured picking a word for 2016 was probably a wasted effort. But it’s not.
Just because I didn’t actively or regularly report on my word doesn’t mean I did not make Progress in many ways throughout the year. And as I recall, I chose Progress as a theme for me, the Hub, and Zilla – whether they liked it or not. In many ways we have all made significant progress in the last year. I’m calling all of that success.

But I’m kind of done with 2015 so let’s move forward, shall we?

See? Progress… Continue reading “Calm and In Control”

TToT – Finding My Groove…and Peace

Wow. Just wow.

Well, I muddled through OctPoWriMo – sorta. I somehow anticipated having more time, producing more words, posting more posts…then life happened. I even missed a TToT or two which I truly never do. And now, here we are a week into November and NaNoWriMo I’m feeling a bit like I’m trying to climb a very slippery slope. All good intentions fall to the wayside, unexpected things fall in my path…you know…things fall apart.

But it’s not bad … in fact, things are rather good, I think. I did get some poetry posts in for October. I am writing for NaNoWriMo, albeit slowly. I’m just having a very hard time finding my groove right now, in all respects. It will come. I will get there.

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In the meantime, I am just enjoying autumn (well except for this last week of ridiculously hot and muggy temps…ugh), continuing to find my way, and keeping my eyes focused on the path ahead. And even though the sun does not always shine through the trees, there is much for which I am thankful…

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Continue reading “TToT – Finding My Groove…and Peace”