My World at Night

I’ve never been good at sleeping.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping for one reason or another. Maybe it’s time to just admit I’m a lifelong insomniac. But whatever the cause, I often find myself awake at night when the rest of my immediate world is asleep.

I’d love to tell you something lovely and romantic like “I’m a writer; of course when I can’t sleep at night I get up and write all the things that swirl in my head.”

But that’s not true.

Well, sometimes it’s true. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I do have things swirling in my head that beg to be written down and won’t give me peace until I acquiesce to their urging. But other nights I can’t sleep because the words don’t come and I worry if they ever will.

Continue reading “My World at Night”

Reveille – A Six Sentence Story

There would be no battle today.

Try as he might to muster the troops, they were slow to form this morning and did not show face; they knew there was no real penalty for showing up late, aside from the steep one he would impose upon himself for failing to make them comply. But that was his problem, not theirs.

Minute after hour he coaxed, forced, and cajoled until finally they assembled, falling into haphazard ranks and files, letters becoming words, sentences, paragraphs, working in concert and flowing freely from his pen.

Still, they were in no condition for battle. The only battle fought today would be the one to save himself.

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Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is RANK.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

The Market – A Six Sentence Story

Walking into the market always felt like coming home.

As soon as she stepped through the swinging double doors, her feet knew precisely where to go. For the last fifteen years, they walked the same path, stopped at the same favorite vendors, and never really wondered why – maybe her mother walked the same path with her as a child and the memory was etched somewhere in her subconscious.

The market has a particular aroma. It is the scent of each individual offering drifting across the aisles and mingling with the scents coming from other stands. Individually, each is a perfect solitary experience, but combined, they make up the smell of the market – a hearty, briny, heady mix of life and memories.

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Hitting the cue “cheesy” was a bit of a stretch perhaps. I was really stuck on this one, but as I walked the market for real last week, I got my inspiration as I passed the cheese shop and was thinking about the particular smell and feel of the market. So, truth – that’s where my cheesy inspiration struck.

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

LAST week’s cue was CHEESY. I wrote a post, but never linked. So here it is.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

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.

 

 

 

Snow Days and Preparation – #10Thankful

Late Sunday evening and I’m finally sitting to think about my Ten Things of Thankful post.

That happens a lot lately. (OK, it happens all the time.) I start my posts early in the week, I plan to get in there on Friday evening, and then…life happens.

And I’m so very glad that it does.

I sometimes wonder if I’m too distracted to sit for a minute and focus on the moments and people that make me feel thankful each week. But it’s not distraction – it’s simply that I’m living my life and enjoying every last second of it. I am aware of the sense of thankfulness weaving and swirling its way through the moments of my days and taking its place in my heart.

I realized not long ago that what this means is that I’ve developed a mindset of gratitude and also of awareness. I don’t just go through the motions of my life; I live my life. That may be the greatest item of thanks there is for me.

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From a more practical perspective, I am quite thankful that I have several available leftover options for dinners this week. I have two choir rehearsals this week – both on Zilla’s karate nights, of course – which means dinner prep time is virtually non-existent. Dinner needs to be an absolute no-brainer and I’m prepared. I am also so glad that my family are willing consumers of leftovers and they never complain when a meal or a part of a meal shows up a second (or even third) night.

In these very cold days this week, I have been so thankful for a warm home, warm clothing, warm food on our plates, and plenty of fuzzy socks. I am painfully aware of those in the world, both near and far, who do not have enough of anything, no matter the season or temperature. I do my best to help where I can.

I have my week planned out and notes in my planner already. There is much to be accomplished this week, but having it all plotted gives me a sense of calm and control so I can wake up in the morning and hit the ground running. I just have to resist the urge to hit the snooze button and grab just five more minutes of snuggling before getting in gear…

Zilla was feeling a cold coming on today and asked for homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner and a batch of my “sick tea.” I love how aware of her self and her body she has become – not just about colds, but in general. She is growing into such an amazing person right before our eyes and it is exciting to behold. It is my hope and prayer that she continues to develop that gift of self-awareness in all things and use it to her best advantage. This weekend I witnessed again her beautiful and generous heart at work. I am blessed to know and to be mother to this child.

I am blessed with a wonderful husband and partner, too. We are a great team in all things from getting the chores and errands done to corralling three rotten cats to raising our daughter. I am grateful for all of the things we share as a couple and I am grateful for the things my Hub does for me every day, little things that mean a lot. He puts out my meds for me, he makes coffee, he makes sure we have the milk and creamer I like…and so much more. Those little things are huge.

While I still have a few tasks to accomplish this week and my house is far from picture-perfect, it is a place of love, warmth, respite, and joy.  I am happy here, even in the midst of a bit too much cat hair on the floors and a basket or two of laundry waiting to be put away. The chores will get done – they always do. We took advantage of the snowy day on Saturday and some empty hours on Sunday evening to simply rest, relax, and enjoy one another.  We read books, watched holiday movies and silly TV shows, did some decorating, and made some holiday plans and preparations.

Our hearts are ready.

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The Scent of Change – A Six Sentence Story

She hated the smell of Christmas.

Once upon a time, though, that wasn’t so. Christmastime had always provided a heady mix of memories, happy evenings spent listening to the pop and hiss of the fire as it warmed the room and all within it, breathing in the woodsy outdoors of a sledding day brought into the center of the room on snowy branches turned green and sparkling with lights and ornaments that reflected the crackling firelight.

Like her memories, the ornaments were a jumbled mess of handmade expressions of love and the store bought kind she always thought of as “fancy,” the pastel sugar-frosted ones with cut out spaces for Santa, snowmen, and angels. Christmas was always like this – a collection of perfect moments captured forever in their annual certainty.

But now, Christmas was different – still filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of years past yet empty in the moments where their smiles belonged, cut out spaces filled only with the certainty that Christmas would forever be changed.

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Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is PINE. 

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This Christmas

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

This is what my daughter told me this weekend as we brought out our Christmas tree, shopped for some new strings of lights, and hung the ornaments on our tree.

We’ve been easing our way into our Christmas preparations. We like to take it slow, focusing on one thing at a time. While many people love decorating and shopping for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, we spend the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying time together, reflecting on the blessings in our life.

Not too long after that, though, we start to bring out our special Advent and Christmas books. We read every night, but we save these books for this time of the year. In the books of Christmas, we’ve read about the legend of the Candy Cane, the life of Saint Nicholas, and many more. We have books that range from short and sweet and silly to more serious and lovely and deeply meaningful. She loves them all. And I can’t wait to introduce her to some new-to-her classics this year. I think she’s ready.

We begin December concentrating on Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas and she’s all over it. She helps find the Advent prayers to say as we light the candles each week. She insists that we bring out  our Nativity sets first – but no other decorations until later in the month. I don’t know how my eight year old child acquired such an appreciation for savoring each moment, each day, each individual joy, but she does and I am so glad to know her heart works that way.

Around this time of the month, we bring out the tree and start thinking about gifts for those we love. We’ve already gathered gifts for several donation collections and she has about three more she wants to help. She was bothered a bit that we didn’t take a food donation to church this morning – my fault, I forgot. How did my child gain such an awareness that there are others in need and that we are responsible for helping?

Her class worked on writing friendly letters in class over the last few weeks, adding a letter to Santa last week. Zilla finished hers this evening, asking only for two small things for herself. As she wrote, she asked my husband and me what “non-thing items” we would like for Christmas. I told her I’d like peace and happiness for my family, the Hub told her he would like the gift of time. She included those in her letter. I was floored. When did my little girl gain an appreciation for the gifts that money can’t buy?

We’re enjoying all the trappings of the season, things like hot chocolate and footed pajamas, warm slippers and cozy socks, candy canes and cookies, holiday movies and popcorn… And of course she is wound up and silly and taking full advantage of the slightly relaxed rules about weekend bedtimes and screen time and sweets, just like any other kid. But even in her silliness, there is balance, and it amazes me. Have I taught her these things? She teaches me always…

She gets it – all of it. She understands the fun and frolic and she understands the significance of this season in our faith narrative. She believes in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus and in the gift of the Christ Child. She believes in what is right and good and that those things will always triumph. She believes in love.

My daughter believes this is going to be the best Christmas ever.

I believe she’s right.

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Six Sentence Stories – An Unkindness

It was the grayest kind of day.

It was the kind of day when the sky presses low upon the earth, urging its denizens into attentiveness – every sound just a bit louder, a bit closer, the outlines of the everyday carved into distinctly sharper focus against the backdrop of something…unfamiliar.

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A ceiling of clouds hung close and heavy, locked in the restless wind so it had no escape, the tortured air twisting, wrapping, weaving its witchcraft around the physical world, drawing life and breath in closer…closer…until that darkest cloud of anticipation fell.

The peal of a bell forced its way through the choking thickness. Neither the happy expectation of a doorbell nor the warm beckon of a church carillon, its song a strong and persistent welcome home nonetheless.

One lone raven streaked silently across the sky.

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Six Sentence

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is HOME. Last week’s cue was CRAFT.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

 

 

Six Sentence Stories – First Draft

A half-balled wad of paper sailed across the room – whoosh – into the can.

The sun moved with purpose past the windows of the room and as the light waned, so did his confidence and page by page, chapter by chapter, words sailed across the room, the tightening wads a clear indicator of his mounting frustration.

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He looked at the clock; bloody hell, I’ve only got an hour.

He rolled his chair across the room and began reclaiming the discarded prose from the trash can page by page, chapter by chapter, lovingly smoothing and stacking each one in its proper place and collecting them with a black shoelace.

A sharp knock and a voice at the door: “Sir? I’m here to pick up your draft, sir.”

He opened the door, thrust the wrinkled stack at the messenger and sighed, “Here – tell them to start with this.”

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Six SentenceEach week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is DRAFT.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

 

 

The Morning After

So. Here we are.

The election is over and you would have to live under a rock to be unaware of the climate this morning. Sure, about half of the people in the U.S. are mighty pleased with themselves this morning, but the other half are devastated.

I don’t do politics here on the blog. Or at all, really. While I have very strong feelings about such things, I have always held to the philosophy that politics, religion, and sex simply don’t belong laid out on the kitchen table. These topics create so much dissension and anger among people – even people who love one another fiercely – that sometimes it is better to simply refrain from discussions in certain public settings.

But today I cannot be silent.

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I cannot be silent when so many of my friends and people I love are hurt, scared, and angry. I cannot be silent when my daughter stands before me and cries at the results of this election because even at the tender age of eight, she understands that bullying and hate appear to have been rewarded. I cannot be silent when the new president-elect consistently spews hatred directed at so many groups of people in this country (and the world) – people who are simply different from him.

I understand that this nation has problems. It always has; every society does. I understand that people want change, and I don’t disagree that some change is in order. But I sat in front of the TV last night dumbfounded – dumbfounded – that this country just put a man in office who has behaved as this man does and who is so uniquely unqualified for the office in both temperament and experience.

How in the world did we get to a place where so many people are willing to tolerate this level of hate? In all sincerity, I want to ask someone who voted for him these questions.

I want to ask parents of daughters how they can back a man who has treated and spoken of women the way he has. My daughter is a woman. What does this presidency mean for her?

I want to ask people who know someone who is Jewish how they can back a man who delivers not-so-cloaked anti-Semitic rhetoric and is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party?  My husband is Jewish. What does this presidency mean for him?

And the list goes on and on…

I have to say again that if you are unaware of all the insults and hate he has directed at African Americans, Latinos, Muslim and Jewish people, handicapped people,  the LGBTQ community, women, military personnel, and so many more, then you haven’t been paying attention. And if you are aware, why is that behavior acceptable?

Please don’t talk to me about deleted e-mails or pro-life topics or trade agreements or any of the other myriad reasons people cite as reason where this election is concerned. You’re going to have to come at me with something stronger than that. We can argue those points for the next four years and it won’t change the fact that above all, hate has somehow become tolerable. That is unacceptable.

This all reminds me of the movie The American President. Have you seen it? Watch it. Really. Set aside the love story angle and pay attention to the election angle between the incumbent President and the hopeful who is trying to unseat him. This guy spews hate at people, preys on their fear, and gets those who are dissatisfied with the status quo to buy into his attacks. One of the characters in the movie finally asks the sitting President, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?”

 

I feel like that’s where we are. And it frightens me.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, forward. That’s the only place we can go. But I will not move forward with the kind of hate and anger that has characterized this election season and continues to characterize discussions this morning.

I choose to do what I have always believed is the way to go – live with a focus on love, on kindness, and on compassion. Am I perfect in that regard? Of course not. But I sure do make the effort to be mindful enough to learn from any mistakes I make and continue to improve.

I choose to hold fast to my faith and to my personal belief that all things have purpose, even tragedy. We may not always recognize that in the throes of a challenge, but it has been my experience that ultimately, there will be an answer. If you’ve read here for any length of time you know how strongly I believe that even in the darkest moments, there is always hope for light.

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If you need a reason, look into your children’s eyes. Think of the people you know who are part of groups that have been insulted and oppressed in this country. If you need to know what to do next, think about all the similar instances in history where people turned fear and hate and disappointment into action. Do something. Join us at 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Be kind to people. Period. If you need something to remind you why we keep working and keep fighting and never quit, read Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, No. 1This is not the first time we’ve felt down and out and it probably won’t be the last.

Be sad and cry if you need to. Wear black or whatever helps. And then remember what President Obama said in the Rose Garden just a little while ago – the sun is going to come up again tomorrow. So get up and go forward.

And please…always remember that Love Wins. Even when that’s difficult to believe.

Peace.

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I’ve added this post to the Finish the Sentence Friday link-up hosted this week by  Kristi at Finding Ninee and Denise at Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy.  

This week we’re talking about change and the unexpected.

The results of this election certainly qualify.