Be Still . . .and Know

“He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~ Psalm 46:10, ESV

Photo by Mat Reding on Pexels.com

Ever have one of those days where anything that could go wrong, does? What if it extends into a week? Longer?

You fight to remain calm and upbeat, confident that God will provide for the need at hand. However, situations continue to build and mount and pile until you reach your limit and your frustrations spill over in tears and anger.

It’s been one of those weeks for me. Last night it all came to a head, I was overwhelmed with circumstances beyond my control. I was wracking my brain as to how I could afford the needs. Now . . .the anger is resolved because I chose to jot down those things for which I’m thankful. I can at least express my thoughts. Earlier, it would have been impossible.

First, I had taken the car to the shop – it was “wubbling” badly when it got up to high speeds — shuddering, shaking and making the distinct “wubble” noise. Worried that it might be a CV joint after hitting a racoon or a bent wheel, I was told that it needed all new tires. Breathe . . .

Second, we headed to Missouri to see the new grandbaby — leaving in a van that had over 200,000 miles and a newly repaired transmission. The first attempt to do so did not go well a few weeks back. We got 36 miles from home and had to nurse it along back roads and return it to the shop, under warranty for an auxiliary cooling unit to be added. This time, with a gut feeling of wary nerves, we made it 93 miles from home before it started shifting in fits and starts. We googled the nearest dealership and made it another 17 miles where we traded it in on a newer minivan with less miles – safer and more reliable. Or so we thought.

Throw in two phone calls from the mortgage company on two different days. One assured me that the process is being reviewed and the title came back clear so there was no need for additional documentation. (yay!) Two days later, a call from the same mortgage company stated that they needed additional documentation including quit claim deeds, etc to determine that the title was clear. (yada!) I figure, I’ll call back on Monday (because the third time’s a charm) and get a completely different answer on what they require.

Arriving in Missouri, there was the requisite dealing with the ex- whose inability to be reasonable as to sharing driving distance and time goes beyond the absurd. His insistence that I drive an additional 1.5 hours one way to spend time with a child that I was able to spend less than 24 hours with just sticks in my craw. But we chose to put on a happy face, enjoy the time we had together and hope it goes better next time. (Karma . . .baby. Karma)

It was on the way home from the drop-off that I reached my limit of exasperation and patience. The new van, with less than 70,000 miles, started revving and shifting down, revving and speeding up. We ended up pulling over several times, shutting the engine off and then re-starting it to roll a few hundred feet farther down a 2-lane highway until we could get to a populated parking lot. From there we called the warranty issuer and finagled with them to get a wrecker to come tow it to the nearest dealership. Of course, having only owned the car for four days, they didn’t have a record of my purchase and argued that they didn’t have to cover the expense. It then took an additional hour for the tow truck to arrive, and my older daughter graciously came to pick us up and drive us to the Oak Grove home (along with her newborn daughter).

By the time we arrived at the Oak Grove home at nearly 1 am, I was nauseous from motion sickness (sitting in the back seat), had a horrendous headache, was worried about how I am going to get back to the Alabama home, needing to contact my supervisor, trying to reserve a rental car online, and on and on and on. I ended up going for a long walk along the side of the road to cool off before I said some things I might regret later. It all felt so unfair.

This morning we got up to get a rental car and before leaving the house, the rental agency called to let us know they had no cars available. *sigh*

I messaged my supervisor to explain the situation and was told to just relax and do what I needed to do.

I contacted the dealership from which I purchased the car via email so they will be aware of the situation in the morning when they open.

So now I am left with nothing to do but sit, rest and enjoy my present company (which is a complete pleasure). In all things, God’s hand is present. While I do not know the reasoning, or the plan, I simply must trust that there is a greater plan at work.

Have you ever been in a situation or situations where you could not act but could only be still and rely on God to provide?

What Are Your Dreams

” . . .we have the power to make our greatest dreams come true. We just have to be purposeful, every day, in seeking them . . . ” ~ Big Spoon, Mile 445: Hitched in Her Hiking Boots

Photo by Spencer Gurley on Pexels.com

There’s a scene from the beginning of the movie “Pretty Woman” — a man is crossing the street and asking everyone passing him, “What’s your dream? What’s YOUR dream?” Everyone has dreams — hopes and ideas of things they’d like to do, goals to accomplish, or travel destinations. Dreams are different for different people.

We get so tied down with life sometimes, that we forget to dream. Disenfranchised with the sameness of everyday occurrences, we push our dreams to the side, or pack them away, deciding they will never happen. It may be finances. Perhaps it’s illness (either physical or mental). We may have taken the chance to share our dreams with someone only to be told we are silly or illogical or fanciful but not realistic.

I like things that push me to my limits. To have tried and failed (in my book) is much better than never having tried at all. I watched my mother work, work, work with the oft-repeated phrase, “when I retire I’m going to . . . ” Sadly, by the time my mother was able to retire, it was not by choice, it was because she was dying of metastatic breast cancer. All the plans she had to do this and that, and go here and there, never materialized. She sparked my first endurance event – a 3-day 60-mile walk to raise funding for breast cancer research. That was 2000.

In 2010, while at the fire academy, I started my bucket list. First and foremost was to finish the fire academy . . . which I did. When I was packing up things to move to Alabama, I came across the notebook I had used in my fire academy classes and sure enough, there was my bucket list in the back where I had first written it. As I glanced over that initial list, I realized I had completed everything on it.

Every.

Single.

Thing.

I also realized that since writing my first bucket list, it was not finite. While I may not have always written down my dreams and goals, I had a pretty good grasp of them in my head and had accomplished so much more than what was on that list. Not only had I done the “things” but I had also gained wisdom, a deeper appreciation for life and hard work and my faith had grown as well.

Chasing your dreams can be downright scary. People close to you may not understand your passion or motivation. Your family, friends, and co-workers may laugh, thinking it’s a passing fancy. You have to do a lot of research to see how to make it happen on your budget. There are options galore for travel – hotels, hostels, campgrounds, Airbnb, domestic help options (working for a family while living abroad) — some may require a work visa if international travel is your thing. If it is a sports related dream – training options, equipment costs, locations, fees. Doing the research can keep the dream alive and feed the passion.

Here are a few of my dreams – some of which have had to change:

  • A full triathlon – 120 mile combination of swim, bike and run. I was on track to accomplish this when my knee had to be replaced. Now with a shoulder injury, this may have to be whittled down to smaller distances or changed to duathlons or single events.
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) or Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). While I would love to hike one of them as a thru-hiker, done entirely in one 5-month stint . . . the reality at this point is that I would have to do some day or weekend hikes and pick up where I left off or just hit sections.
  • Midwifery – while I started studying and getting my prerequisites out of the way to become a certified midwife, I got sidetracked and ended up at the fire academy. I still have a deep interest in women’s care and childbirth, but I’m not sure I have the passion to go back to school and find clinical locations and hours. An alternative would be to become a certified Doula to help with births.

What are your dreams? What’s holding you back from reaching your dreams?

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” ~ Sharon Saltzberg

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I’ve spoken in previous posts about stretching to relax. I combine these periods of stretching with the practice of mindfulness. At times, I use my own choice of soft music, other times I will use either a Fitbit app with a soothing speaker or a YouTube video. Some of my favorite YouTube channels are Daily Calm, The Mindful Movement or The Honest Guys.

Depending on the time I have available this may take as little as 2-3 minutes or up to 30 minutes. It seems to help with my ability to take on the day in addition to pain relief. Especially after I’ve worked a 12-hour nursing shift or driven for long periods of time – my body needs this time to relax and get the creaky old joints back into a natural (or should I say, neutral) position.

While I would prefer to get a massage each day, that is financially impossible and/or never going to happen. But when it does happen . . .what bliss!! When lying on the massage table, my therapist uses a heated mattress pad on low to help the body relax. Generally the lighting is low, there is soft music playing and depending on my mood we either talk or we don’t. I can sink into the sensation of her hands moving my body, kneading the muscles, feeling them at first tense and then relax under the repeated pressure. There are moments, generally when she gets to my IT bands that I don’t sink, it takes everything I have not to scream because they are so tight, but eventually they too, loosen up and I can again relax. The first moment that grabs me is right at the beginning when she places her hands under my shoulders and then runs her fingers and thumbs up my neck, flexing my head up and off the table and holding it.

Much like that massage, my combination of mindfulness and stretching works in the same manner. Usually done with low lighting, on a yoga mat on the floor with my choice of background sound, choice oils in the diffuser — it can be done in three easy steps:

  1. The “I” step – how am I feeling, how is my body feeling in connection to lying flat. What hurts? What feels tight? How do I need to move to relax it? Because of my scoliosis, I almost always start with my knees bent, feet flat on the floor and bring my arms up over my head, pressing my spine into the mat.
  2. The “Here” step – I begin this by taking three deep breaths, letting my abdomen rise with each one. As I continue my deep breathing, I notice that each breath gets slightly deeper as my body starts to relax even more. While I don’t consciously choose specific yoga poses, I do stretch and hold for a few seconds up to several minutes – breathing and holding the stretch until I feel my body relax and the stretch becomes less and less painful. It never fails, when I take my first few breaths with my arms up over my head, I slowly roll back and forth sideways on the mat until my back relaxes and my spine can make contact without tension – about three rocks both ways. I slowly move my arms down and out, flexing and releasing the scapula. At times, I may bend a knee and place the foot on the opposite knee for a greater stretch in the lower back. I may bend both knees and bring them to the same side while leaving my arms outstretched. Between stretches, I just breathe and notice how my body feels to determine which way to stretch next, never planning it but going with the way my body feels. No two days are ever the same.
  3. The “Now” step – what am I feeling right now. Not thinking about my plans for the day, or the discussion I had the night before, or even what I need at the grocery store. Part of mindfulness is being present in the here and now — right now. Distractions are blocked. In addition to the feel of my body, I also use my senses to feel the softness of the mat, the firmness of the hardwood floor, the smell of oils in the diffuser with it’s slight hum, the soft lighting in the room as the sunlight filters thru the room darkening shades, the background sounds in my chosen video or app, the soothing sound of the speaker’s voice.

Mindfulness doesn’t simply apply to meditation. It applies to the rest of my day as well. When in discussion with someone, I am able to determine how I am feeling during the discussion such as emotional reactions. The “here” helps me focus on the person(s) I am with and the situation at hand. The “now” helps me survey my surroundings and stay focused rather than being distracted by other thoughts such as “what will I fix for dinner” or “don’t forget to start the laundry” or “did I write the check for the utility bill.”

When choosing oils for the diffuser, I have several blends I prefer –

Rosemary, Lavender, Orange and Peppermint

Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint

or Copaiba, Lavender and Lime.

If you would like to purchase Young Living oils, feel free to use the link HERE.

How do you practice mindfulness? Has it changed your life? If so, how? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Quiet Times

“Touch the earth and let it touch you.” ~ Barefoot Mama

Photo by Akshaya Premjith on Pexels.com

I’ve been quiet because I haven’t felt well lately. And when I don’t feel well, I tend to turn inwards. I put my energy into healing and feeling better.

Somebody mentioned that I must be very in tune with my body.

Well . . . yes. I spend at least a few minutes, every day, stretching and breathing and relaxing my body bit by bit. I get massages when I can. I started lifting weights when I was in my late teens/early twenties so I learned to isolate muscle groups to be able to flex and release them at will.

I remember clearly with my first pregnancy: we were at our childbirth class and the instructor was having us lie on our sides and flex and release different muscle groups to be able to help labor progress more smoothly. We were to practice these exercises in the ensuing weeks. The instructor encouraged us to flex our calf muscle. One of the other expectant mama’s asked, “How do you flex your calf muscle.” I remember thinking to myself, “how do you not know HOW to do that?!?!?!?”

In December of 2018, I wrote a post The Sensual Life. In it I talked about using all the senses to fully adapt to the surroundings. It isn’t difficult – it does take practice. Society has become so dependent on electronic devices that we are losing the ability to connect on a natural level with our surroundings.

This evening as we walked the dog, I noticed several things:

  • The scent of rain on the air
  • The puddles on the road and sidewalk reflecting the street lights
  • the difference in textures between the sidewalk, the gravel and the mud
  • the sound of the dog’s nails as she walked
  • the lights coming from home windows we walked past
  • the sounds of the leaves skipping across the trail as the wind blew
  • the coolness of the wind against my skin with a hint of moisture
  • her excitement at getting closer to home and subtle pulling at the lead

I have to be in tune with my body. Systemic Lupus flares can come on suddenly, but they can also come on gradually and noticing the changes and catching them before they blossom from flares into fires can be tricky. Because I still have to do the things (after I drink the coffee), prioritizing my activities is absolute. Social media, blogging, renovation activities – anything that expends unnecessary energy is curtailed. The replacement activities are frequent naps, periods of rest and meditation. more stretching than usual, muscle rubs with liniment, warm baths and audible books (becomes sometimes just holding the book is tiring or looking at the screen makes my eyes hurt). I try to get out and walk each day, but then I lay down for a wee bit when we get home.

I do know being barefoot in the grass or having my hands in the dirt or on the plants, does have the effect of making me feel more connected. There’s something calming about being in contact with the earth — a soothing quality of well-being. And here . . . The Benefits of Earthing . . . is an article discussing the benefits of coming into contact with the earth either barefoot or with the use of our hands (such as in gardening).

So, perhaps I’m not crazy that I feel more rested when I spend some of my Quiet Times outside, barefoot, talking to the tomatoes.

Go.

Outside.

You Don’t Always Have to Finish

“Don’t get me wrong; I like reading. But some books should come with warning labels: Caution: contains characters and plots guaranteed to induce sleepiness.” ~ Laure Halse Anderson

woman leaning on table

It was quite disappointing, actually. I just wanted a bit of what I call “fluff” reading. Nothing too serious, but enjoyable. It was one of my favorite “fluffy” authors, even. When I say “fluff” I simply mean non-scholarly, non-journal, non-educational good reading.

The premise was a group of American emergency physicians who traveled to France to compare terrorism response techniques and then in turn hosted their French counterparts in America. While it was clearly fiction, it was also clearly not researched at all . . . AT ALL! What I thought would be an interesting listen (it was an audible book) turned out to be frustrating and maddening. I kept giving it more and more chances, but by Chapter Eight I had to give up. It was so far-fetched and ludicrous it was nauseating. Fortunately, I was able to return it and get my credit refunded to purchase another book.

I would describe a book as well-written if you KNOW it’s fiction, but you believe it could be non-fiction. When you believe it COULD happen, but it hasn’t. This requires some background research into the subject matter, not an assumption of what occurs. In this case, the perceived response in emergency medicine and terrorism response was so far from realistic it was laughable. It was as if the book was written by someone who watched NCIS and CSI truly believing that crimes are solved in an hour’s time with four 5-minute breaks included. Most definitely not what I expected from a well-established author with several best seller’s under her belt.

In the past, I would have persevered and finished the book regardless of how I felt about it. I am very proud that I stopped . . . returned it and refused to waste any more of my time listening. Instead, I selected a book by another favorite author of mine which has had me in it’s grips since before the ending of the first chapter. It was also nice to learn that Kindle Audible allows books to be returned before being finished if they aren’t enjoyed. I was prepared to be out the price of my credit, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find they stand behind their service and want the customer to be satisfied.

Life is too short to waste precious time on those things which are unnecessary and don’t bring joy.

Thrift Store Decor

“I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living.” ~ John D. Rockefeller

What’s your decorating style . . . Thrift Shop!

A couple weeks ago, I posted here about some of our Thrift Store finds and plans.

We make it a weekly appointment to check out the thrift shops – not always the same day, but at least once a week. We have some lovely Thrift shops in a 30 mile radius as well as several antique shops. We also like to check out the Habitat ReStore’s wherever we can find them when looking for appliances and items such as doors. These shops take appliances and building materials such as wood, doors, paint, tiling, lighting, tubs, toilets, etc. from demolition homes and re-sell them with the proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

The first time I visited a Habitat ReStore was in Lawrence, Kansas (still one of my favorites) and where I lucked into my fireplace mantel and surround with the accompanying gas insert for a whopping $35. The price tag remained on the gas insert from a brand name major hardware line and cost $357 brand new. A couple of my daughters and I would make a day of it – first stopping there, then a particular fabric shop followed by lunch at Chipotle’s before heading back home.

Since my last post, we have scored a few more items — some personal and some for the home.

Eclectic storage TV stand

While I shared previously about the trunk and the brown suitcase, we really wanted a second suitcase to stack onto the trunk. We had bought a blue one that was the right vintage, but was the same size as the brown. It worked without quite lending the staggered effect we were hoping to achieve. Today, we found the green suitcase that is a better complement to the trunk and is slightly larger than the brown suitcase and . . . voila!

When we set out awhile back, we were looking for a sofa for the living room – something of the right period (early 20’s) that wasn’t worn too hard. That has been difficult. While we don’t mind some modern aspects, the sofa is a hard limit. An overall eclectic feel with some period pieces thrown in – if that makes sense. We had found one that was perfect . . . PERFECT! My van was in the shop at the time, and thrift stores don’t deliver. By the time we got the van out of the shop, the sofa was still there, but it had been sold and was awaiting pick up. *sigh*

Still on the prowl for just the ‘right’ sofa, we instead found these wooden rocking chairs. Not at all wobbly, but a bit weather worn. I sat in one and invited Jo to sit in the other. We sat and rocked for a bit, right there in the store. The salesman offered to mark them down to $20 each and I jumped up and said, without further ado, “I’ll take them!”

This is actually the five-panel door found in a Missouri flea market that came to Alabama with me when I moved. I had plans for that baby as soon as I saw it and those plans are coming to fruition now, but that’s fodder for another blog post unto itself.

This lovely table is another recent buy. I really wanted a long sofa table to set in front of my entry way windows for my plants to catch the morning sun. Tables abound, but they were either to tall, or too short, coffee tables or dining room tables, bar tables, bedside tables, and then snuggled between two couches, I found this! Originally marked $59, I passed it by until the following week when the salesman marked it down to $40 for me. (Yes, I know it’s not centered on the windows, but the paint stripper is there for the time being and . . .yes, it bothers my OCD self.)

Photo from personal collection
Photo from personal collection

The entire outfit being worn by my beautiful daughter is thrift store couture. She found the shoes for $3.50 and the dress for $5. Which then gives her more $$ to spend on make-up. She has found most of her jeans at thrift shops as well as using Kohl’s cash and percentage off coupons and shopping at Old Navy using their promotional offers.

Thrifting – part thrill of the hunt, part saving money, part repurposing and completely FUN!!!

Relationships End

“It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.” ~ Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

While the love story written by Diana Gabaldon in the Outlander series has won women’s hearts, and the television series has garnered fans from both male and female watchers . . . true-life love stories are few and far between. The end of a relationship is rarely easy, nor is it neat and tidy. Heartbreak is never as clean as the snapping of a flower stem.

So how does one maneuver through the end of a relationship without either looking foolish, stupid or insanely crazy?

Time – As time passes, the intense pain of heartbreak usually starts to diminish. Pining for months or years for a relationship that has clearly ended for the other person is a useless waste of time. When I say “clearly ended” I refer to that person who has moved on in life and is in a long-term relationship with another person. For years, my mother would sigh on a certain day in June and say . . . “If your father and I hadn’t gotten divorced, we would have been married (x number) of years.” Puhllleeeeaaassssee! The man was remarried, and had another child and she was STILL brooding over something that was OUT of existence longer than it was IN existence.

Integrity – Attempts to wheedle or cajole; chase or stalk; force contact or communication (including threats or harassment) — none of these things reek of integrity. Indeed, these actions smack of insanity if taking place at all, let alone for years (1-5-10 or more — doesn’t matter). Such behavior is expected of a teen or pre-teen, not an adult.

Respect – While it takes two people to make a relationship work well, it only takes the wishes of one person to end it. The relationship may not have panned out as hoped for, but having respect for oneself means that you move on, make friends, pursue your own passions (not including the passion you had for the person ending the relationship) and interests.

Class – Anyone can act out of anger. It takes a classy person to accept their losses and walk away, wishing well to the other person. Ended relationships aren’t comfortable for either person. Making a nuisance of oneself is not classy, not at all. Texting ambiguous dates or countdowns to a former partner is also lacking class. If the date is irrelevant to them, the reminder is also irrelevant. A passing congratulations or mention of condolence is acceptable, but otherwise . . . no bueno.

Grace – Allow grace not only to the other person, but to yourself. The relationship has ended . . . you may feel used, unappreciated, taken advantage and a myriad of other emotions. Karma is a wonderful concept – whatever you extend to that person will be extended to you and vice versa. It is not your job to exact revenge for perceived shortcomings. By allowing grace, you will also experience mercy.

As the partner of someone who has been in previous relationships, it is difficult for me to be stressed about those previous partners for several reasons:

  • At his age, if he hadn’t been in previous relationships, I’d worry.
  • At his age, knowing he’s been in previous relationships, I KNOW that there were photos, texts, shared memories, and events that don’t include me. That is his past and he is welcome to it, just as I am allowed to have my past.
  • I don’t hold him accountable for the actions of his ex-‘s. If they are rude or hateful, that is their choice to make and act that way, not his.
  • People change in their looks, actions, beliefs and ideas as years pass. I love and appreciate the person I am with in the present moment. He isn’t the same person he was five years ago, either . . . but he’s still the person I love today.
  • Our relationship involves two people: him and I. No one else.

While young people in their teens and twenties are just starting to learn these lessons, those in their 30’s and 40’s should be well on their way to being able to complete all of these things. For those in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond . . . only the truly imbecilic are not adult enough to be able to end a relationship gracefully.

Relationships end — fact of life.

Financial Fitness

“Financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It’s a reality if you are willing to pursue it and embrace it.” ~ Will Robinson

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Bills. Debts. Payments. Interest rates. Cash flow. Income. Expenses. Student loans. Bank loans. Credit cards. Taxes.

Those words have the ability to make people cringe. Finances and how to handle them are no longer taught in schools. I recall learning this important life skill in a class at school. I also learned a lot from my mother. As a single-parent, single income family, she had to learn to budget and thrift and save. She passed those skills along; I now pass them along to my children.

All of my children homeschooled off-and-on for different grades, and differing reasons. One of my daughters, with the exception of kindergarten, was completely homeschooled. As one of her high school classes, we focused on “Life Skills.”

She had to determine what type of job she was interested in, searching the want ads for listings. She then had to actually contact the job listing, explain that she was a student and, as part of her assignment, was required to complete a job interview. Putting together a resume was part of the assignment. Completing the interview, including choosing appropriate clothing and filling out the application was also required.

She was able to learn the rate of pay for the type of work that interested her during her interview including benefits and then proceeded with the assignment. Learning how to calculate her weekly and bi-weekly pay, included estimating taxes. How to select a bank account and checking account was next on the list. Then we got down to the nitty gritty.

We discussed renting versus owning and she was able to look at apartment ads and calculate her rent and whether (or what) utilities were included. Contact with the utility companies to determine what deposits would be required and what the projected monthly payment would be for the area in which she was looking was her next step. Of necessity, the housing would need to be near her job as she didn’t yet have a car (that was coming).

Next on the list after housing and utilities was looking for a car. She really enjoyed pricing different cars until we went to the bank and she discussed loan options with the bank and learned about interest. We also covered the cost of licensing and registering a vehicle as well as obtaining insurance.

All of this covered the course of a year. The first month was spent on the job search. The second month was spent on housing, and the third on car shopping. The fourth month, being December, we discussed budgeting money for gifts in addition to living expenses, since Christmas was an actual event in her virtual world of learning life skills. In January, we threw in having to prepare taxes. February we started with how to invest by learning the differences between stocks, bonds, money market accounts, savings, and annuities. She was told to choose several stocks from the NYSE and follow them for the month, charting the gains and losses based on a minimal investment.

By March, she had been calculating living expenses and taxes for 6 months. It was time to throw in the art of meal planning and budgeting for groceries. She became a sale ad aficionado for the grocery stores, comparing prices, looking for sales and cutting coupons. This was probably the most exciting month for me as her teacher — we did a lot of cooking and batch freezing of meals.

April brought with it the anticipated virtual tax return. While minimal for a first-time employee, she had to determine what to do with the money. By this point, based on everything she had learned so far, she decided to save part, invest part and spend a small part. Finally, the year came to a close, and in May she wrote a paper about the importance of life skills to a young high school student. This was probably the highlight of my homeschool career, and she remembers that year well and is highly successful as a wife, mother and nurse manager. Even now as we discuss things, she shakes her head in amazement at how little young people know about financial fitness.

Last night, I had a discussion with my youngest daughter. We have several unexpected expenses that have arisen. Her father has made noise about helping pay for medical and college expenses but the noise has never evolved into action, nor do I expect it to do so. While she’s no longer homeschooled, I have made no secret about our expenses and she is learning to thrift, use coupons, special offers, discounts and rewards programs as well.

Financial fitness . . . do you have it?

New Things

“I’m always trying new things and learning new things. If there isn’t anything more you can learn — go off and die.” ~ Morgan Freeman

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every school year, my son would come to me, worried that he wouldn’t know what he needed to know to enter the next grade. “But Mom, I don’t know 6th grade math.” or “I don’t know how to do 7th grade science.” And every year, I’d tell him, “You don’t need to know how to do it yet, that’s why you go to school . . . to learn how to do it.”

2020 has brought some phenomenal changes — some good, some not so good. Among the best changes? A re-evaulation of how we view education and the different modalities of learning. Prior to this year, the majority of people believed that children HAD to be in a brick-and-mortar school building. Homeschool was for the weirdos or the nerds or the super religious people who wear denim skirts everywhere. (For the record, when we homeschooled, I didn’t even own a denim skirt.)

Along came 2020 and with it the COVID pandemic – and everything changed. School was closed early, students were forced to do virtual learning from home. Parents were forced to deal with having children at home while also attempting to work from home. Now with the beginning of autumn and the return to school, there is virtual learning, on-site learning and combinations of both. Educators are realizing that some children do better in the comfort of their home, rather self-directed at doing their assignments. Other children need the discipline and routine away from home. Parents are realizing what their children actually have to accomplish in school, and it’s not what it was when they were in school.

The face of learning has changed for university students and instructors as well. Adults are having to readjust their expectations. As much as I am an introvert, I love teaching. I love the give-and-take between instructor and student, playing off each other, hearing their feedback and being able to see facial expressions and body language which relays to me the effectiveness of my lesson. Using an online platform such as Zoom or Adobe Connect removes the interaction that is so vital. No longer can I rely on my senses to pick up clues, I have to wait for questions or comments to be typed into a chat box. It is impossible for me to see all students on a screen. They can see me as I teach (when I’m not sharing my screen with my presentation) but the lack of face-to-face feels detrimental to the connection we make in person.

Tomorrow is a run-thru of a virtual presentation going live next month. We try to inject as many mishaps into these practice sessions as possible to prepare us for worst case scenario situations. It requires us to stay on point with our co-instructor. Your partner has a heart attack while teaching? Loss of internet connectivity? The presentation slides won’t advance? The student’s have audio but not visual? Or vice versa — they can see the slides but cannot hear the speaker? We’ll work on timing as well. Speaking in front of a class requires a sense of timing to stay on schedule. Teaching in a virtual room is disconcerting and distorts the amount of time — some will have to slow down their presentation while others will have to share anecdotes that relate to add padding and round out their presentation.

My first experience with virtual teaching was a two-day notice and while it was fun, it was a wee bit nerve wracking. The moderator assured me that my subject matter was interesting and even she learned something she did not know. I remember being nervous and terrified of blurting out something in a recorded session that would be horribly inappropriate. I’m happy to report that students and instructors alike, survived. With the planned rehearsals, nerves should be a thing of the past this go round.

Thanks to 2020 we get to try new things, new ideas, and new concepts.

Things That Make Me Smile

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

With all the negativity in the world today — COVID, elections, jobs loss, riots, murders, threats . . . . it would be easy to get bogged down in the ever present litany of fear and horror present in the news. The pessimists are out there screaming “the sky is falling” while the optimists are passing a joint and singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The realist is a fine combination of the two – aware that there are bad things happening around them, but confident there is still beauty and peace around them as well.

When I came to Alabama, I determined to surround myself with things that I love, things that make me smile. I suppose this is my version of the Marie Kondo of relocation.

The house, for starters. The age and history. The wood floors, the glass doorknobs. The cotton candy glass in the windows, the wood trim. The stairs and landing going between the kitchen and the entry way.

The area – the beauty of the mountains, the hues of shadows at sunset and the shafts of sunlight rising in the mornings. The humidity, the frequent bouts of rain. The proximity of the ocean and the beach as well as good friends.

The furniture I brought with me are mostly pieces I bought at yard sales, auctions and estate sales. Each piece, whether a chair or chest or bureau, spoke to me on some level and fits perfectly in this home.

My plants – I’ve always been told I didn’t have a green thumb. Then I realized that the person telling me that didn’t have a clue as I’d never attempted to grow anything. I now have several plants, doing quite well.

Sylvia, Hannah, Alvin and the Hussy (the only tomato plant to give me fruit)

The people – from my co-workers, to neighbors, to those who attend church, to the guy that mows my yard . . . everyone has been welcoming and friendly. My children, of course, are the delight of my life.

As we drive home, it starts as a smile and deepens into a grin, the closer we get to the Missouri home. Although we are miles apart, the time spent with family and loved ones also makes me smile. Memories made can never be taken away or lost. From my outspoken daughters, to grandchildren and seeing my sons success when we visit his store — all work to make a smile of pride light my face.

There is beauty around us. You just have to train yourself to look for it and once you do . . . you see it everywhere.