thankful & grateful

thankfulIt is the season of gratitude and thanksgiving.

So today I will attempt to list ten things that I am grateful for…but with a twist.  Since I am in a creative mood today, I have decided that I will not fill the list with the easy things like family and health and friends.

(Not that there is anything wrong with being thankful for these things and no judgment is intended. These are certainly valid things to be grateful for, but they will not find a place on my list today.)

And by writing this list and joining in on the season of thanksgiving, I am not condoning or validating the original Thanksgiving celebration which may or may not be represented correctly in our traditional telling of the Thanksgiving tale.  I wasn’t actually at “the first Thanksgiving” and I do not know anyone who was so I don’t have anything factual to contribute to that debate, nor do we discuss it over dinner on a certain Thursday in November in our home.

Those legalities being out of the way, here goes:

  1. I am grateful that I may have broken my toe on Sunday when I tripped over the vacuum cleaner cord that I left lying on the hallway floor. I am grateful because I normally only think about my feet when I happen to glance down and observe that they are not particularly attractive. Having a toe that is painful and not functioning optimally reminds me that I am fortunate to have toes and feet that work perfectly well most of the time.  There are many who are not so fortunate.
  2. I am grateful for slightly smelly shelter dogs (including the one who is frequently incontinent and the one that barks randomly at nothing at all hours of the day and night).  These dogs of mine of profoundly imperfect and loyal beyond all imaginings. They love without reserve and forgive all. They remind me on a daily basis that I’ve got the imperfect part down pat, but have work to do on the rest.
  3. I am grateful for being able to write that I am grateful for anything today.  In periods of depression – sometimes profoundly dark – I am often unable to think in terms of gratitude or thanksgiving.  In those times it is not a choice. Today, it is and I can so I will.
  4. I am grateful for books and blog posts to read and connections to be made.  I am grateful that today I have eyes that work well enough to read. I am also grateful for being hopeful that in the course of my reading and connecting I will find answers to my health issues. (I think I threw in enough gratitude that this does not simply mean that I am thankful for my health.)
  5. I am grateful for running water and flushing toilets.  I think we take this for granted all too often.  For years we had an issue with toilets that stopped working often…usually when we had a house full of friends.  Many cold and dark evenings were spent trying to clear septic lines. Eventually it turned out to be a toilet paper issue.  A simple solution to a really crappy problem.  Yes, I went there.
  6. I am grateful for a  regular trash pick-up service.  I don’t realistically think that we will ever be a zero-waste home, but you never know.  We are recycling regularly and have reduced our trash by about half.  We are thinking about packaging and ways to avoid producing garbage much more than we used to.  Still, garbage happens.  I am thankful that I have a place to put it and for someone to pick it up and take it away.
  7. I am grateful for my washer and dryer.  I have washed clothing on a concrete washboard with carried water.  I have helped my mom wash clothes in a wringer washer on the front porch.  I have carted laundry to the laundromat. I have hung clothes on the line to dry (and actually enjoy it although not in the rain when clothes have to be draped on every available surface throughout the house and you wear damp jeans – enough said). Washers and dryers are awesome.
  8. I am grateful for being able to cook.  I learned from my mom who learned to cook during the depression.  She taught me  (not from recipes) but how to make something edible (and sometimes even delicious) from what you had available.  There have been many times when that ability has served me well.  Empty pantries or lack of transportation to the store doesn’t mean that we  won’t have a meal on the table. Thanks Mom.
  9. I am grateful to live in these United States of America.  Don’t ever talk bad about this country around me.  It isn’t perfect and how could it be when it provides a home for a diverse group of people who have a multitude of rights and opportunities and choices.  The very things that makes this a great country are the ones that can result in less than optimal situations.  Given a choice, I would rather live here and have the freedom to solve problems than live with no freedom and choices.
  10. I am grateful for all the luxuries that I enjoy:  a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in and a blanket to cover myself with.  I have electricity and running water.  I have clothes to wear and a closet to hang them in.  I have a car in the driveway and access to gas to fuel it.  If I lost my home, I could find a place to go for shelter.  There are days when I worry about having enough and days when I compare my life to others and find it lacking in material things.  On those days I try to remember that I am comparing my life to a select group and not the whole world.

There you have it. My list.

I thought it might be hard to fill, but in reality, since I started writing this I have continued to think of more and more and more.

Gratitude is good.

An awareness of all my blessings is even better.

I think I’ll start a list and keep on adding to it.

Maybe in the times when I can’t find joy I can refer to it and be thankful.

My life is good and I am grateful.

give thanks
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Amen.

 

Live. Create. Tell the Story

 

live create tell th story

I’ve been asked how hard it is to write and share personal details of my life on this blog…

(and the tears start now)

To be sure, some of what I have written has been difficult to share. Some of what gets typed never gets published. Sometimes the mouse hovers over the publish “button” and time passes…and more time passes…and I take a deep breath…and “send” what I have written out into the world. And I worry that it sounds stupid or that I shared too much or that nobody will read it or care.

One of the things that I know to be absolute truth (and there isn’t much that fits into that category) is that, as human beings, we are called to share our stories. It’s why I once believed that I was called to the pulpit as an ordained minister. Now, I tell my stories here to a different audience.

I don’t know who needs to hear what I have to say…that I struggle daily with the uncertainty of whether I have value and purpose and am deserving of continued existence.

Writing a blog is an interesting thing.  To sit down in front of a screen and keyboard and “talk” to an audience that you can’t see.  There are no reactions, no head nods, no eye contact that allows you to gauge how receptive your audience is.

You just have to believe that your stories…

and by extension, all of our stories  – of our experiences, successes and failures, the documentation of the steps we take are what matter.

The relationships, the sharing, the moment when our being on this planet for just another day makes sense…that’s why I write…

– for myself and for someone out there who might be needing to hear what I have to say

– someone I will probably never meet

– someone who is wondering if their story matters

We are all important and we are all part of the story that is being written every moment of every day…

sometimes by what we do (or don’t do), by our words, our brush strokes, our act of kindness, our prayers, our presence.

Some of us accomplish big things that attract attention and praise…

most of us will never be noticed or acknowledged or even know that what we did today mattered…

So, let’s try this –

Tell your story today.  Share.

Let someone know that the “words” they wrote (or are writing) in your life matter.

And  (most importantly)  if someone who was a part of your story has somehow disappeared in the midst of all the busyness of life, find a way to let them know that their words are important..

That they matter.

They made need to hear it.

Live.

Create.

Tell the story.

Repeat.

P.S.  This is not at all what I sat down to write today.  The words just took on a life of their own and this is what happened.  Life and stories are funny that way…

 

 

 

Possibilities

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Yea!  I’m writing three days in a row.

Things must be going better.

That’s not the only sign.  Optimism is definitely the word of the day.

My laundry room has been tidy and clean for over a week…

and I’m able to see and appreciate the tidiness and organization instead of the unfinished plywood covering the floor that needs replacing. Well, I see the plywood but have hope that someday it will be fixed along with all the other stuff…that’s progress enough for now.

I went out with my sister and we visited the thrift store…something that I’ve been avoiding lately because I don’t want to undo the de-cluttering progress that I’ve made.

And (holy crap, batman) they were having a half-price clearance event to get ready for all the Christmas stuff.

(Insert a brief moment of panic when I saw that sign)

But, I did okay.  I held some things and made good decisions. Only a few things came home and most were on my mental list of things I need (or really want) but can’t afford.

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  1. A can for storing pet food.
  2. A whole foods cookbook that has been on my Amazon list for a while.
  3. A trashcan for next to my chair in the living room where I do a lot of cutting while watching t.v.
  4. A new wallet because my old one is almost worn out.
  5. Fiesta saucers to go under the herbs I’m going to start growing to save money because they are called for in every recipe I’m cooking lately. These were cheaper than actual thingies to go under plant pots and are colorful.  Win, win!
  6. A curtain tie-back because two went into the storage closet and only one came out and there are two windows in the bedroom.  They even match!
  7. A good book for homeschooling that I’ve looked at several times but couldn’t afford
  8. Pencils, because who doesn’t always need pencils?

I’m happy because I don’t see any regrets there and I actually saved a significant amount of money.

It’s been a good day.

Dinner is in a crock pot on the counter.

Today is payday and we made it through the last pay period without going in the red.  We barely (and I mean barely) maintained a positive balance, but that’s enough for now.  The important stuff got paid and by that I mean we still have electricity and water and food.

I read an article today that indicates we aren’t middle class. That was kind of a bummer…

But, today I am able to focus on the good.

We have a floor and a roof and walls all around.

Many don’t.

We have food in our pantry and refrigerator and a means to prepare it.

Many don’t.

And today, I can see my blessings.

With depression, that is not always possible.

With depression, optimism is not always a choice.

Without hope, the world is dark and lonely and impossible.

Today, things seem possible.

May your day be filled with light and possibilities…

 

A “What If-er”

 

Mood swings, irritability, frustration, guilt and self-recrimination.  That seems to be my constant lately.

Some days I wonder if it’s worth the effort of maintaining any sense of optimism.

Some days, hope is hard to come by.

And then, something happens that turns things around and lightens the load…

On Mondays, I teach a class of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders at a small private, Christian school.

I pretty much teach a process over product class and place the emphasis on the “what if” idea.  What if you try this…what will happen?  I emphasize creative thinking.  When the class project is done, the kids get to work (play)  in their journals and work with all of the scraps that we have collected in what they have dubbed the “what if” box.

Yesterday, as we were working on a owl drawing and painting project, I shared a story from my own early elementary days.

A long, long time ago when I was about your age, I was working on painting a plaster owl in art class.  We didn’t have an art teacher or classroom at the school I was attending at the time.  It was my regular classroom teacher and she wasn’t an artist. We had red, yellow and blue paint.  I remember that I wanted my owl to look like an owl with lots of colors and texture.  I was young and didn’t know how to achieve that so I kept layering on paint…lots and lots of layers.  The paint began to muddy and crack. My teacher told me that I was doing it wrong and took my owl and washed all of the paint off.  She returned it to me and told me to start over and do it the correct way.  I didn’t want to finish the owl because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it right.  It’s important to follow instructions, but it’s also important to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes because sometimes that’s how we find the answers we are looking for. 

After I told the story, my little artists finished up their project for the day and  moved on to their journal time.

As they were working, one of the boys in my class who I often suspect doesn’t listen very much because he is always talking, stopped drawing in his journal and said to me…

Miss Kelly, what if God gave you that teacher who messed up your owl so that you would become a “what if-er?  What if you were supposed to become a “what if-er so you could help me be one to? ‘Cause I think I’m a what if-er like you are and we’re supposed to figure stuff out.  Is that even a word?  What if-er?  I think it is and I think that’s what we are.

Well.

What if I’m supposed to be a what if-er and I have just forgotten what that means?

What if it took a child to point out to me that there is a purpose and a meaning to my life that I have lost touch with?

What if I just keep trying things out and remember that life is a process and not a product?  And that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay.

What if I quit striving to reach the destination and spend more energy on seeing the joy in the journey?

The destination is a mirage that you never actually arrive at.  The journey is the reality and there are magical moments to be found…often when and where you least expect them.

Here’s to what ifs and the what if-ers who explore them…and to the joy to be found in the exploration…

And here’s to the purported wisdom of owls and some art teachers (including myself) and the actual wisdom of small children…

 

– and to following the instructions (mostly) and then celebrating the beautiful, varied and sometimes messy results of our “what if ” life.

I Once Was Lost

Hello.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t wanted to write very often and when I did, I couldn’t.

This has probably been the worst I’ve ever been.

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It hasn’t all been bad, of course.  It’s honestly been a roller coaster ride.  Bad and good.  Highs and lows. Fun times and disasters (literally).  We’ve had hurricanes, a Carnival cruise, new health issues for my sister, unimproved health issues of my own, a worsening financial situation, unemployment and job searches, and car troubles.  Some of it was our life, some of it our children’s.  All of it managed to bring forth a serious depression that I am just now dragging myself out of.

There are, of course, a lot of stories to be found in the past several weeks (or is it months?), but it is late and I need to sleep.

Suffice it to say that I have been very lost.  So lost that I was not sure that I would find myself again.  I couldn’t write.  In fact, there were days I couldn’t think my way through the most basic of activities.

There were even days when I didn’t care if I made it through the day.  I didn’t care about anything.  I especially didn’t care about myself.

I felt nothing and everything.

As with most challenging times, lessons can be learned.  Experience is the best teacher or so I’ve heard.

Over the last couple of days, I seem to be in an upswing.  During the times that I did feel a sense of hope, I’ve continued to research my current health issues that I am coming to believe are all related.  I think stress is a common denominator and still believe that diet is key to resolving a lot of what is going on.

I’ve started a journal of sorts that chronicles what I’m eating, exercise, stress, and mood swings.  It will be interested to see if a pattern emerges.

I have been lost and not for the first time.

But today, for the first time in a long while, I believe that I can find the answers I am looking for.

And so the journey continues…and so does this blog.

 

 

The Next Step

It’s been more than a month since I’ve posted here.  I’ve written (or tried to write) a few times, but the words sounded negative, without optimism, and frankly, more than a little whiny.

Why did things keep going wrong?  How unfair that the harder I tried to simplify and improve our quality of life, the worse things seemed to get…

  • a car accident that totaled our paid for truck…the only functional car that we owned
  • another emergency surgery adding thousands of dollars to our debt, not to mention the cost of the stress for our family and the damage to my health
  • the auto insurance for the person who caused the accident determining that our vehicle was worth less than two thousand dollars
  • the same company deciding that my husband’s health expenses could total $300.00, but no more
  • my husband still in physical therapy for the pain in his neck and back
  • my husband developing hypertension – possibly as a result of the stress
  • my daughter who is not yet thirty getting blood pressure readings that are way too high

and the list could go on…

See what I mean about feeling like a miserable, whiny person whose life was out of control?

I’ve not been in a good place.  This next sentence is hard to type, but here goes…

I’ve been so depressed and without hope that suicide has seemed like a real and viable option on more than one occasion.  I share that only because I know I’m not the only one out there who visits that “place” occasionally.

I don’t remember where I initially came across the phrase “treating the symptoms instead of the cause”, but I did happen upon it somewhere…probably in researching health and weight loss because I am determined not to have surgery again.

And that phrase triggered some pretty deep thoughts, reflection and insights.

Yes, I can be a victim and take medications for my blood pressure.  And I can blame my health issues (past, present, and future) on my genetics.

Or, I can take responsibility for my choices and choose the type of journey that I want to make.

I can make choices and have some control over my life.

This same thinking applies just as well to the condition of my home.

I can treat the symptoms of a cluttered, untidy home that does bring me peace and comfort…I can clear this counter or tidy up that pile.

Or, I can exert my energy on resolving the cause of the problems in my home.

I feel that my journey has renewed life.

Changes are already being implemented.

Some are scary and against standard societal norms.

I’m working on being ok with that.

The stuff I’ve done so far has been good.

Now, I’m going to the next level.

I’m excited, I’m scared, I’m optimistic, I’m apprehensive…

And I anticipate that I’ll be back tomorrow to post again…

I am writing today because writing is a good thing for me to do…not because I can think of anything that really needs to be said.

That parallels my day today also.  I am doing what needs to be done although none of it seems to be particularly important or relevant.

I washed clothes so that my husband has something to wear to work and as a result I am rewarded with an empty dirty laundry basket.  Looking at that empty basket brought a small smile to my face.  A “win”.

And so life is.

I long for peace and serenity and joy right now.

What I have is chores and responsibilities and a total lack of control over circumstances that I can’t even talk about here.

I feel like I’m trapped in a little bitty life and that none of it is particularly important or relevant.

But our little bitty lives are important, aren’t they?

A load of laundry, a note in the mail, the right word at the right time, a simple meal…

We may never know the significance of what we do…but we do it anyway…

and trust that somehow it all weaves together for good to make a difference in the lives of those we love…

somehow.

And we do it because it’s what we do…

because we aren’t great big people with great big answers.

We are just who we are

and we keep trying even when it doesn’t seem to matter

and it doesn’t seem important

and we keep breathing

and struggling

and looking for that little “win”

Peace

 

Today

Okay, maybe recovery from a depressive episode isn’t a one and done deal…

And maybe honesty with oneself about how hard life has been is a good idea…

I think I’m really back in the light again this time.

I feel good.

I’m writing.

The past days have been about rest and art and changing bad habits into better ones.

My eyesight isn’t better and I have a stack of medical bills that have increased the debts I’ve worked so hard to reduce.  I calculate that every trip to a new specialist will add thousands of dollars in debt.  We have insurance.   It doesn’t cover everything. Since I’m not dying of a brain tumor and I don’t have multiple sclerosis, I’m taking my health into my own hands for a bit.

So, the plan is to work towards improving my overall health and continue to work towards reducing stress and changing the way that I react to the stress that is inevitable.

Step one…acknowledging that life has been challenging the past year.  Most of those challenges are here to stay.  My sister’s health will continue to be a responsibility.  We haven’t won the lottery.  The house has not improved itself.  My son will be jumping out of an airplane in a few months and then will move on to being shot at.

But, I have the summer off from teaching and that allows for rest.  And I have come to understand that ignoring the reality of the stress or pretending that it is not a big deal is not helpful.

Step two involves removing as many chemicals and additives from my environment and diet as possible.  Label reading has taken on a new priority!  Our grocery bill has increased, but I figure that I’m either going to pay for healthier food or more medical bills.  The junk food is gone and vegetables and fruit are filling the majority of my plate.

The transition has not been as hard as I anticipated.  If I were to be completely honest, it’s possible that in the past I might have considered a box of Little Debbie snack cakes to be an adequate meal.  Let’s just keep that little confession between the two of us…okay?

Step three relates directly to the house and yard.  I am continuing to declutter and assess the amount of stuff in our house.  But, more importantly, I am trying to be more realistic about how the house looks…and worry less about what other people might think.  A lot of living happens here.  It’s not a magazine photo shoot.  And I am not Suzy homemaker.

Honestly, some days I don’t know who I am…or who I want to be when I grow up.

So, I’m going to keep trying to figure that out.  And work towards being the best “me” that I can be.  I’m acknowledging that looking like Cindy Crawford is probably not realistic. I’m working on that expectation.  I working on a lot of things…

including this..

Still a long way to go.  I’ve figured out the meaning (for me).  I don’t normally comment on what a work means to me, but I might make an exception this time…once it’s done.

Today I am doing laundry.  And making more paper.  And sanding and scraping off the paint that I just added to the canvas above.  And (sigh) figuring out our finances and paying bills.

and reminding myself that life is good and that I am an okay person most of the time…

and that I will write again tomorrow even if it’s hard.

 

Live Today

So.

I’ve been depressed.  If you understand depression – that’s enough information.

If you don’t – a thousand words couldn’t explain it to you.

I’ve been getting up in the morning and doing the stuff that needed to be done.  I’ve had good days and not so good days.

Unless you know me well, you might not have even noticed that something was wrong.

I’m doing better.

I think I’m feeling free of the “blues”.

Life has more color.

So we shall start the blog with today.

Some of the yesterdays may find there way here in stories.  Maybe.

I’m just planning on living today.

A month or so ago, I bought a paper-making kit for my art classes.  It turns out that it was more for me than for them.  The paper-making classes turned out great, but the last few days have been even better.

I have become obsessed with making paper!

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I’ve cleaned off my desk and shredded junk mail.

I cleaned out my studio and shredded scrap-booking paper and old artwork and leftovers from previous projects.

I’ve shredded all the scrap and left-behind artwork from school.

I’ve shredded old magazines and journals.

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And I’ve been making paper.  Lots and lots of paper.

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And I’m starting to have some ideas for how to incorporate it into an art project.

I’d tired of using other people’s artwork for my mixed media and collage projects and this is the next step.

I’m getting braver and am using confetti and glitter and grass and whatever else I can find.  Some of it works…some of it doesn’t.

I watched the starter video on how to make basic paper (so my class would think I knew what I was doing), but I haven’t done any other research.  I’m enjoying the process as much as the product.

It’s great fun to see how it turns out!

I hope that you are doing some living today and not worrying about yesterday and tomorrow too much.

And I hope that, today,  you make the time to spend at least a moment doing something that helps you smile.  The joy is there.  We just have to take the time to embrace it.

Peace…