Alone vs. Lonely

loneliness solitutde

People often make the mistake of assuming that because I am alone, I am lonely.

Not.

Everyday I am surrounded by people.  Conversations.  Ambient noises. Phones ringing.  When we have a class, it’s even more people.

Our cadre of instructors.  The students themselves.  Additional instructors.  Support staff. The number of people practically doubles.  More conversations.  More noise.  More mental stimulation.

By days end, I am exhausted.  I drive home, often having a personal conversation on the phone, but if not, then in silence.  I don’t even want music.  Just quiet.

When the weeks end arrives, I am generally peopled out.  I want to stay home where it is quiet and do my thing.  It doesn’t bother me to be by myself — I like it.  If I want to mix with other people, I can do so.  I have a wonderful neighbor with whom I can spend time.  I have co-workers who I can call on if I feel a desire to be social.

Those closest to me understand my 72-hour time limit.  It’s not that I’m prickly, or a hermit.  I just have a limit of “togetherness” before my nerves are jangly and I feel a smothering sensation and I get physically anxious.  I have always relished my own quiet times and past events have lent themselves to the build-up of anxiety that now takes place.

When I am alone, it is usually by choice.  I often find it indeed glorious to be . . . alone.

Evolving Self

Life is constantly changing. Turning. Moving. Never static.

The choice to move with the changes, find a rhythm or a purpose, change gears even, relies on you.

It doesn’t have to be a big change like divorce, or a job change, or even buying a house. It can be as small as realizing the medium-sized Pampered Chef scoop is great for spooning cookie batter onto the baking sheet.

Shrinking stairs

“Always expect the unexpected. You’ll still be surprised” ~ Karen Steele

An evening or so ago, I decided to finish unloading the furniture from my van. How I got it out is a whole ‘other story, but one piece in particular. . .

A chest of drawers. . .

Caused me to notice an idiosyncrasy in the structure of my home. Something I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Being smart (and alone) I removed each drawer and brought them inside. I cleaned and vacuumed them and then carried them upstairs. That left the skeleton or bones of the chest of drawers to bring in. My neighbor came and helped me get it into the kitchen. After she left, I cleaned it up and proceeded to move it upstairs.

The beginning was easy, as many beginnings are. I turned it sideways, tipped it and pulled it up the three steps to the landing. Doing good.

Seeing as how there wasn’t enough room on the landing to turn it sideways,

And the stairs were just a bit wider than the chest,

I decided to tip it back and pull it up the stairs one at a time. No problem, right?

Wrong!

As I got closer to the top, I began to question my sanity. Surely the steps weren’t more narrow at the top (because I sure knew the dresser wasn’t getting any wider). But the closer I got to the top, the less space I had to maneuver. It took me a few seconds to realize that between the extra bit of width of the newel post and the curve of the bannister, there really was less space in which to maneuver and manhandle my chest of drawers.

Two steps from the top I had to stop and balance the back legs of the chest on a step. One, because I was roaring with laughter and two, because I could no longer tip it back and get it through the space. The extra 1/2″ on each side of the top of the dresser was not going to fit.

I was in a quandary: I wasn’t sure I had the upper body strength to lift it straight up the steps. I knew that if I let loose my grip, it would teeter for a moment before dropping down the stairs and breaking. Neither could I get around it to try to turn it or push as the furniture itself was blocking the stairs.

After taking a few moments to gather my wits and my strength, and to explain to my sister who was on the phone what was happening. . .I got my “uuumph” on. I lifted that chest of drawers straight up and across the two remaining steps and onto the carpet.

Yes! I did it!!

Fresh, hot, flaky biscuits

“Biscuits, butter and blessings served here.” ~ Unknown

As a young girl, one of my favorite foods was fresh, piping hot biscuits. My grandmother made them every time we went to visit. I learned to make them at a young age, and when I was sick, my family knew when I was feeling better because I made biscuits and ate them with butter and honey. They’re flaky and soft and just a little bit of deliciousness to look forward to on a weekend morning.

This being a weekend when I stay home rather than drive to Missouri, I made plans to get my biscuit fix. Some folks like to stir them up and make them right away, but I prefer to mix the dough and let it sit overnight as it is much easier to pat out the dough and cut out the biscuits when the dough is chilled. No rolling pin used here, just my hands patting the dough on a floured surface.

Because I let my dough chill overnight in the fridge, this is an experience in anticipation of great taste. I set the butter out to soften while I’m fixing dinner the evening before. When dinner is over, I stir the biscuit dough together and set it in the refrigerator. The next morning there is just a few minutes between myself and my fresh biscuits as I wait for the oven to preheat while I cut them out. As you can see from the picture below, these biscuits rise up well with flaky layers perfect for making breakfast sandwiches or just eating plain with butter and/or jelly.

Southern Biscuits

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 c. self-rising flour, plus a sprinkle for the rolling surface

1/2 t. baking soda

1 T. baking powder

3/4 c. milk – I prefer whole, but you can also use buttermilk

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 sticks of butter (12 T.)

Directions

Let the butter soften at room temperature. Combine the self-rising* flour, baking soda and baking powder, whisking together. Cut the softened butter into 1 T. pieces and add to the dry mixture. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in the beaten egg and milk, mixing thoroughly to wet all ingredients. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat the oven to 400. Sprinkle the surface you’ll use to cut out the biscuits with additional self-rising flour. Scrape the biscuit dough onto the surface. (It will be sticky!) Using floured hands, DO NOT knead the dough but press it out until it is 1/2″ thick. Using either a 2 3/4″ biscuit cutter or the opening of a drinking glass, cut your biscuits out. Spray a non-stick pan with baking spray and place the biscuits on the pan with the sides touching. Bake 15 minutes until golden on top.

** self-rising flour is a MUST as it contains a mixture of all purpose flour, salt and baking powder. That is why there is no salt used in the recipe.

At least I remembered the pictures this time!

Letting Go to Move Forward

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. . . In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce his possessions cannot be my disciple.” ~ Luke 14:26, 33

time lapse photography of river

Photo by Max Andrey on Pexels.com

I have been pondering this subject for several days.  In actuality, it may have been more like several months.  Actually, since I first started deciding what I would move to my new home.

I truly and honestly feel that this is where I am supposed to be.  I choose to call it following God’s call on my life.  After all . . .27 years ago I made a promise that if HE could get me thru nursing school, I would go wherever he led me, doing whatever he asked of me.  It was an unconditional promise on my part.

In the past I have rushed ahead into what I thought were wise decisions that didn’t pan out.  Whose fault is that?  *hand-waving-wildly-in-the-air* Yeah, that would be me.  My fault.  Why?  Because I was impatient.  I wanted things to happen on MY timetable, the way I wanted.

I’ve been through some tough times.  I’ve been through some ugly circumstances.  I’ve wondered how I was going to make it through some of these times.  I’ve had to lean on friends for support.  Was all of the bad my fault?  Nope.  Some of it, yeah . . . all of it, no.

I hear people ask frequently, “If God is so good, why does he allow bad things to happen to people?”  The Bible points out that those that follow God will have trials and tribulations in this world (John 16:33).   Faith and Christianity, nor any organized religion, do not offer a “skate thru life with no problems-get-out-of-jail” Monopoly™ type card.

I have seen people hold onto possessions, people, relationships, homes, jobs and cars because the discomfort of giving those things up was more daunting than the excitement of letting go.  I have seen people who have wrecked cars, or traded them in for something newer, go back and purchase the same model car because they owned it during a good or memorable time in their life — in an effort to recapture that time.  It doesn’t work.  That time has passed and the memories will live on.  Let that make/model car go.

I have seen people pass up promotions, jobs and opportunities because they were so fearful of leaving the home they’d lived in for years.  Or (one of my favorites) because it was the home where their (now grown) children grew up and spent their younger years.  It’s a brick, wood, mortar, drywall building.  Home is created by the memories and the people inside the building.

I lament the friends and co-workers I have left behind.  I had hopes and dreams for the house I left behind.  I miss seeing my grown children and grandchildren frequently.  I especially miss the everydayness of living with my younger children: hearing about their days, seeing the homework, reading the bedtime stories, sporting events and practices, hearing them raid the refrigerator after school or with their friends.

I have to be optimistic.  Their dad and I were divorced when they were young, 2 & 4, and they have always lived with me with ample visitation with their dad.  He’s never had full and complete responsibility for raising them. They are now 14 and almost 12.  They are old enough now to (sort of) fend for themselves and know right from wrong.  Perhaps they need this opportunity for some long-term time with him.  I once said, after my son died, “Do not hold too tightly to your children.  They are not yours.  They are loaners for the length of time God determines.  Dedicate them to Him, and hold onto them loosely for when it’s time to let them go, it really hurts when God is prying your fingers off.”

It has been six months since I started the move between Missouri and Alabama.  Two months since I was able to get my van running and actually move furniture here.  In that six months I have learned that many of the “things” I thought were necessary in my life, simply aren’t.  Most of it was just that — “things” that took up space and were barely used and definitely not needed.

(That does not include the Keurig.  Although barring that, I do have a french press.)

There you have it, my rambling thoughts on how to view this move and be at peace.

Starting Point

screenshot_20190807-2305341496260246.png

Beautiful Sears & Roebuck house c.1923

I’m not sure how old this photo is, probably 8-10 years old, taken before the paint started peeling. This was taken from the real estate listing found by my daughter when I mentioned I’d had a job offer in Alabama.

I fell in love with the photos included in the listing. I fell in love with the house even more when I saw it. Four bedrooms, 1.5 baths. From the first moment I stepped inside, I felt as if I were home.

Structurally, the house is great! Original hardwood floors. Original French doors with the cotton candy glass. Original windows and doors, complete with glass doorknobs. The original coal-fueled steam boiler remains in the basement. Although the pipes have been disconnected and the radiators are long gone, it stands as testament to the changes thru the years. The old coal-chute door at the corner of the basement is present as well.

Most of the work required is cosmetic.

Some of the beautiful hardwood floors had been covered in carpet. The carpet was pulled up before I saw the house, but the carpet tackstrips along with the accompanying nails and carpet staples remain. One bedroom still has carpet along with the upstairs landing and hallway. It will soon be gone.

The remaining floors are sound but it appears as if a drunk person refinished them using a mop. Literally. It looks as if someone poured the polyurethane in a puddle on the floor and then used a mop to swish it around. You can see the swiping strokes across the wood. Those will have to be sanded and redone.

All the woodwork, windows, baseboards, stairs, railings, doors — ALL of it has been painted white. Not just painted mind you, “glopped” with white paint so thick you can cut your teeth on it. In fact, every window has been painted shut. Not sure if this is a Southern thing or what.

At one time there was a fire in the kitchen. The underside of some of the upper cabinets is black with soot as well as a portion of wall between the cabinets and the door leading to the basement. What appeared to be laminate flooring is actually linoleum. I can hardly wait to pull it up and see what lies beneath. The ceiling is plaster and lath and has a few cracks which will require some scaffolding and repair.

The exterior paint is peeling. Due to the age of the house and the lead content, that will require some care in removing. Underneath the siding is good. The detached garage on the other hand . . . it will require the replacement of some siding from the ground up. Not extensive, but needed.

The privacy fence, if you’ve read any previous posts, has already decided to come down on it’s own. Actually, nature has assisted with high winds.

The above-ground pool, having been vacant for over 10 years, is not capable of holding water. I have started removing it, and soon I will have more yard with which to work.

All in all, this is where the journey starts. Check back for updates and progress pictures. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Up for Review

“Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is.” ~ unknown

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  God did not bring me this far, to Alabama, to the job of my dreams, just to abandon me.  Last week’s events brought up some horrific memories.  And while the dust has pretty much settled in my head, I am still not sleeping well.  I am still feeling absolutely skittish – just quiet and low key.

I’ve had some inquiries from a friend about the why and how I came to choose the Catholic faith.  Coming from a background as a Methodist minister’s daughter, the change wasn’t all to drastic.  Okay . . . on second thought, it probably was.  I’m almost certain the day I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church there was some unnatural seismic activity where my very Wesleyan Methodist mother’s ashes are buried in Iowa.

The questions are thought provoking and caused me to re-study a lot of my catechism to be sure I was giving complete and truthful answers. Today I was asked why I chose St. Therese of Lisieux for my patron saint.

I suppose the answer to that lies in the simplicity of my faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” — Hebrews 11:1.  My faith just is.  I cannot explain it, but looking back over the events of my life, good and bad, I can see that I was never alone.  God was with me even at a young age.  After the birth and death of my oldest son, I promised God that I would go wherever he sent me and do whatever he asked.  I’m not saying the journey has been perfect, but . . . that is still my goal.  To do the most good for the most people that I can.

St. Therese was referred to as “The Little Flower” — she described herself as a small, wildflower in the forest, unnoticed and overlooked by most but glorying in God’s goodness every day.  I would like to go unnoticed.  I’m just karen.