Attitude adjustment (courtesy of Willie Nelson)

I can’t believe that the month of November has almost passed and I haven’t made a single post. In my defense, it has been a difficult month to say the least, and right now I am clinging to the list of things I am thankful for in order to get through each day. To quote Willie Nelson, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

I am blessed: to have been able to move near my brother, his wife and children and her extended family.  After so many years without, this holiday season will be celebrated with family.

I am blessed: to have the basics of what I need. I read somewhere that instead of being mournful for what I don’t have, I should be grateful for what I don’t have that I wouldn’t want. Think on that a second. Oh yeah…so many things there!

I am blessed: to have landed in a community that has an active group of people who think like we do. People that believe that a healthy community is a strong community, both physically and in spirit. People who reach out to help each other in their times of need or just to lend a helping hand to get a difficult job done.

I am blessed: to be able to stay connected with those I left behind.  When we were preparing to leave, there were a few who I worried about and thought I would hear from more often; and others that I didn’t realize would care so much. The latter became the positive lifeline I needed as I have dealt with huge adjustments which often blind-side me.

I am blessed: by all the little things. Like pennies in a jar, they add up to more than I thought and more than fills the immediate need. Each little thing reinforces that we are where we are meant to be and that gives me comfort when doubt tries to sneak in.

I am blessed…to have a list of things so long that I couldn’t possibly put them all here. While I continue to be thankful for my list, tell me: what are you thankful for?

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In the middle

In the middle of October. In the middle of moving. In the mid…west? 

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What I didn’t say

If it weren’t for the fact that it was late and we were running out of time…I might have held the microphone and had an opportunity to speak at my high school reunion last night. This is an amazing prospect for one who liked to think that she was invisible back then (although most people are quick to tell me that I was sorely mistaken!).

In the split second it took to register that the opportunity was within my grasp, the emcee stepped in and moved us on to the raffle and recognitions time…and the evening came to a close.

But I still have something to say…

In this time of reconnection and festivity, we need to also remember those who were not with us. Those who had passed on, (too young! too young!); those who were physically unable to attend due to personal illness or like many, the responsibility of caring for someone – like children or even parents; those who, in this economy, were not able to come be with us not for lack of desire, but for the hard choices that have to be made to keep roofs over heads and food on tables. Their pain is every bit as real – and each one of us could be in that situation in the blink of an eye.

No matter what we might think and believe about ourselves, one truth remains: we are who we are because of and sometimes in spite of our circumstances.  I learned this in Mr. Peters’ freshman psych class, when we had to write our philosophy of life:

I had to go through what I went through to be where I am.

Funny how this is as true now as it was then…if not more so.

So many said to me, “You haven’t changed a bit.”
Yes – I am older, as we all are. Yes, this is my hair color – I paid for it – it’s mine! Yes, I have wrinkles and spots and scars. But they are what enabled me to be there to reminisce and reconnect with so many dear souls. I had to go through what I went through to be where I am. And I like where I am.

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The Learning Years

To quote a FaceBook post I saw this morning, “Those who say it can’t be done should get out-of-the-way of those who are doing it.” From our experience, we have had to deal with those Negative Nellies who tell us we can’t. We have had to deal with our own doubts and apprehensions. But after a few ‘learning years’ we are stepping off the treadmill in 2 weeks and embarking on our biggest adventure yet.

Our theory of years goes something like this:
First there are the learning years: These are the ones where the lessons are hard-won, and often cost more than the benefits, if any. But these years are crucial and can’t be avoided. Knowing this and accepting this makes the losses a little more bearable, especially if you commit to retain the lesson learned.
Next are the growing years: Still learning, not quite as painful. A few more rewards in spite of losses, but overall, a sense of hope that the lessons learned are going to pay off.
At last, the harvest years: By now you realize that the learning is never done. However, those things that were such a struggle are second nature, there are fruits of the labor, the blood + sweat + tears expended, and there is time to fine tune one’s actions.

Any given part of your life can be in any one of these stages all at the same time.
Isn’t that exciting?!?

So while I won’t be working 40+ hours a week for a paycheck, I will be working 40+ hours a week for our livelihood. It isn’t that I won’t be employed, I will have a different employer and a different set of tasks to do. Our goal of self-sufficiency doesn’t mean that we are pulling inward, to hide from the world. In truth, it is just the opposite. It is to make our life situation such that we can share ourselves more with each other, our family and our community.

Yes, the harvest we are realizing now is also the re-start of the learning years all over again…but I know that there are more harvest years to come…

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Where were you when the world stopped turning?

“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” sings Alan Jackson.

Today has been one of reflection on those moments that forever leave their mark on your soul. I remember exactly where I was that morning. Just as I remember exactly where I was when I heard that the USA was bombing Baghdad. And when the space shuttle fell out of the sky. Moments of our collective history.

I also remember where I was when my personal world stopped turning. When an airplane crashed into the Sunvalley Mall. When my brother and his family drove away from California, listening to the same Rascal Flatts song that was also playing in my car. The moment my dad died and I thought I would too, right then and there. When Tye and all my animal companions drove up the gravel road, and I held onto the gate and sobbed.

Today has also been one of reflection on the resilience we humans can demonstrate. How pride in our country exploded in showers of red, white and blue. How we rallied together and held each other up both physically and emotionally. How we shared tears, stories, memories and songs. How saying ‘see you later’ felt safer than saying ‘goodbye’. How it all of a sudden became just a little bit easier to tell our friends that we loved them for no other reason than to just make sure they knew.

As I tuck each one of these memorable moments back into the place in my heart where I keep them, I marvel at how they are still tender to the touch but not quite as painful as they once were. My world did stop turning, but then somehow, ever so slowly, it started up again.

glass brickGlass Brick at the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, CA

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In 30 days…

“30 days hath September…
April, June and November…”

I remember sitting with Grandma on the window seat in the farm-house, looking out to the eastern field, as she recited this mnemonic poem over and over to me until I learned it too. Truthfully, I thought she had made it up. It wasn’t until I was in school that I realized it came from somewhere else, much older than she. There is even a version in medieval literature, I’ve discovered.
We would sit like this and she would recite or sing to me little songs that are with me to this day. “Count your blessings” and Psalm 23. A poem about ice cream, because we were making up stories about the pictures we saw in the clouds, and she thought one looked like an ice cream cone. Grandma used words that others didn’t. Chesterfield (a unique northern CA term) instead of couch, bureau instead of dresser, or larder instead of pantry. She encouraged me to learn a new word every day. She firmly believed that a strong and large vocabulary was one of the keys of a successful person. She herself didn’t have opportunities for higher education, but she saw its value and made sure her two children (my father and my aunt) accomplished what she couldn’t. But I digress…

“Thirty days” has another meaning for me today.

In 30 days…my life will make a sudden turn. In 30 days, I will end one very long chapter volume of my life and turn towards the next new and exciting adventure.
In 30 days, in 30 days…a quiet chant in the back of my mind as I hang the laundry out to dry, as I sweep the floor, as I scrub the sink…
In 30 days, I will leave my employer of the last 21+ years and put the final touches on packing and preparing for a cross-country move. Two thousand-two hundred-twenty-five miles and some change, per the online map…from California to Indiana. From having a mortgage the runs my life to having a life without a mortgage. From the relative security of a regular job to being my own task-master. From knowing where the next check will come from to needing to make every penny count and counting it twice before letting it go.

Am I afraid? To quote Grandma, “There is no fear when God is near.”
Am I the least bit sad? Maybe a little – to leave what remains of family here, and friends who felt like family.
Am I excited? Absolutely!
I have been described as responsible and level headed…and this action, this 2,225+ mile trip is about the most opposite thing anyone can think of me doing. And yet it is those traits that I believe will help me the most as this new adventure begins.

In 30 days, in 30 days, in 30 days…

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Wishing for Fall

I am wishing for fall so badly that I got excited over dry leaves…but the day turned out hot and sunny, over 100° and smacking of summer. I should have known by the reflection that it wasn’t quite here yet…

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