The Hardest Word

DSC_0683 (3)Elton John got it all wrong.

For years, I thought he was right … sorry seems to be the hardest word.

But after this month and especially this week, I know better.

Goodbye is the hardest word.

The Times Square confetti had hardly been swept from the street, and life had already leaned in with a new lesson. We may decide to mark time or celebrate moments of significance like the New Year with hoopla, fireworks, and cake – but the truth is that life’s learning pays no nevermind to such momentary milestones. Lessons are learned during odd Tuesday all-nighters; clear, cold, and cloudless days; after supper; before sunrise; and even under the refreshing hope of a brand new year.

Whenever life’s good and ready … you’d better be too.

I’ve learned before how quickly loss changes life. For those who grieve, the loss – whether sudden or a long-time coming – changes instantly the day to day to day of living.  And once the loss becomes known, a moment of clarity pierces the grief with the realization that the time before … the living before the loss … should have been more appreciated. Celebrated. Lived with more gratitude.

We said goodbye to our beloved beagle this week.

And I suppose somewhere in between the highs of hope and the lows of despair, we knew the end was near. So we nursed and loved him every single minute, riding the roller coaster of a new reality. Emotionally preparing for the worst, but praying for the best. And we savored the time before.

Before goodbye.

So now we’re left a little wordless.

We’re wondering what comes after the hardest word has been spoken.

I’m hopeful it’s gratitude.  A thanks-filled heart for all the time before. And an understanding that this after … these days after goodbye … evolve into the next before -worthy of notice, deserving of gratitude, and a celebration of life.

I’m sharing this on Emily’s blog.

 

 

 

On Fitbits and New Friendships

I was up for a good three hours or so last night. Not that I need the backup, but my new Fitbit confirms I was restless about 29 times. I think restless means rolling over. And over. And over.

From about 10:30 to somewhere south of 1 a.m., I mentally paced back and forth taking dictation. Plans. Details. Memories. Reflections. Writing topics.

And I counted. Blessings. Things to do.  I even estimated the weekend’s loads of laundry.

As an aside, one thing I never counted on was my heart rate moving into hyper-drive with a touch of tachycardia.  My Fitbit can measure that too – which is why I bought it in the first place. My heart and I were moving along at a pace of 134 beats per minute for 15 minutes or so, and I have to tell you how weird it feels to be lying perfectly still in my jammies with the heart rate of a sprinter.

It got my attention.

I think the most notable thing about tachycardia is how absolutely random it is. Out of nowhere, it begins – almost as if with the flick of a switch.  My doctor suggested several strategies to re-calibrate a more regular heartbeat, but none of them worked last night. So I lay there listening and counting the breaths of my husband and beagle until the switch flipped off. Just as randomly as the episode began, it ended.

I tried my best to relax from that point on.

Wondering about whys and how comes.

Life, I decided, feels a lot like this experience.

I walk along through regular days and nights for weeks at a time.  My pace is as regular as my route. I can count on the predictability.

Until something – or someone – gets my attention.

This week, it was Linda Stoll who surprised me silly.

Linda and I don’t know each other almost at all. We connected at the beginning of this month via Emily Freeman’s blog . I’ve knocked on her virtual door, and she’s stopped by here. (For tea and molasses crinkles .)

And a friendship begins.

The surprise?

New friend Linda featured me on her blog this week along with several strong and special women and … and … wow. How incredibly amazing to feel such warmth. So welcomed into the circle of her very loving community. So included. 

As you may have noticed in my last post, I’ve been feeling a little lonely around here. And just like that … I’m not really alone anymore.

Thank you, Linda.

You, my new friend, are one of the blessings I count.

You can visit with Linda and her circle of friends here.

 

 

 

If A Writer Writes

DSC_0121 (2)When I logged onto the blog today, I checked my site statistics. I’d say I check once every couple of days or so just to see if anyone’s stopped by. It’s ego, maybe. Or hope. Writer’s hope.

Because I wonder: if a writer writes and no one’s around to read the words … is she still a writer?

Today I’ve noticed I’ve had four visitors: a fairly busy day. One from the United States and the others from Argentina, Brazil, and Italy. Sounds cosmopolitan, I know, but since I’m assuming these are mostly spam, what I’m hearing here on the blog is … the echo of my own voice.

It’s mostly just me, a few other kindly folks, and a couple of old friends reading ’round here. And my husband – who’s always faithful, loyal, and my number one fan.

There’s been a lot written about bringing more readers to your blog. Many articles have also been published about the demise of blogging as a communication tool between writers, idea generators, and the reading public.  Sometimes I read other bloggers’ helpful suggestions, sometimes not. In either case, I don’t have much time to “build traffic,” and what I’d really rather do is spend time on the writing. The craft. The dream-catching.

I guess one truth is:  I’m not sure who my reading audience is … or even … and this is especially important, if I’ve got anything to say that’s of any value to anyone else.  I’ve got a writer’s voice, but I know my content is mostly self-reflective.  If I’ve got a theme of any kind, I guess it’s teaching myself to feel hopeful in a world … that mostly isn’t. For a lot of people.  And for so many, many reasons.

When I speak to my students, my 32 miraculous, surprise-me-all-the-time writers, about writing every day, I believe in and try to follow my own advice. If I’m not writing here, I’m capturing the will ‘o the wisps of truth fleeting through my thoughts and guiding my life in a journal.  I want to write real and inspire my students to do the same. And here’s one more of my truths: Those kids quite likely motivate me more than I motivate them.

So in my writing life, the wind may blow me this way and that – but it always dies down after awhile.  Because there is one truth among those who write above all other truths … Writers write.

And so I’m a writer – even when no one else is around to read the words.

It’s A Good Day

DSC_0096 (2)

The sun came out today. And that already makes it a good day – as anyone settled into the winter grays knows.

So it’s a good day.

It’s a good day for fun because sunny winter days should be frivolous and festive. No obligations for me today. No have-tos, shoulds, or musts either.

Today’a a good day for putting off until tomorrow what should be done today.

It’s a day for dreaming, not doing.  A day for once upon a times. Today is it … that once upon a time, time. A day for romance and happily-ever-afters.

Get around to something. Whatever it is you’ve been waiting until today to make, do, or try. Today’s your day! A new recipe. A yoga class. Some peppermint tea and the Sunday paper. Pull that book down from the shelf you’ve been meaning to read. Or write the story you’ve been telling yourself for years.

Avoid decision-making and planning. It’s a day for experimenting!

Or lollygagging.

A sprinkle of random. A dash of unpredictable. Imagine. And become.

It’s a good day to be whoever you’ve always wanted to be.

Strong. Nurturing. Kind. Intellectual. Gracious. Forgiving. Gentle. Friendly.

Today, you can be that good friend who … the neighbor down the road who noticed … the spouse who remembered … the mother, daughter, son, sister, father, or partner who was just what was needed – today.

Because today truly is a great day to… and I’m hopeful tomorrow will be too.

Warmth

DSC_0107 (2)I just knew I’d come home from work today and preheat the oven.

There’s been a wind chill this week, each day’s been a little gray, and tonight it will snow. My family’s scattered again after the holidays and I’m in need of a little warmth.

I’ve learned the best way to find or feel anything  is to give it away.

And I want to pass along a little cookie hope, a tangible hold-in-your-hand kind of love. Simple. Sweet.  Warm.

One of my sons asked me to bake these cookies weeks ago, but life’s always busy I guess, until I make time to unbusy it.  I know some others too who could probably use a mid-January warm-me-up treat. And nothing – to me – inspires the warmth of home and family and love like a jar full of cookies.

And … I have a new cobalt blue mixing bowl I need to use. That’s right. Need.

You’ll pull these cookies from the oven and discover each cookie’s delightfully crinkled, almost uniformly round, and warm.

Here’s to spreading a little cookie hope wherever you find it’s needed.

Mimi Jane’s Molasses Crinkles

Mix thoroughly:

  • 3/4 cup soft shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Mix together in a separate bowl:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger

Gradually add and stir in dry mixture to wet.

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Roll into balls about the size of walnuts. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake just until set, but not hard in 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.

 

 

 

 

Resilience

DSC_0045 (3)

This morning – around 1 a.m. – I thought of at least ten things I needed to add to my to-do list.

Now that I’m more normally awake, I can’t think of a single one.

How truly important were these things to do? Apparently important enough to keep me from sleeping, but not important enough to remember now that I’m upright and walking around in my day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience, specifically my ability to live – and live well – under pressure. Is it possible? Is it possible to stay sane despite bucketloads of stress?  Is serene even a real word?

Sometimes life bends, twists, pokes, and stretches us  just this side of our limits and still, we get up and do it all again and again, day after day. I’m thinking about my personal threshold. Feeling around for the line. Fearful I’ll cross it one day and pay the consequences.

I’m sure they’re expensive, those consequences.

So how much resilience did I use up in 2015? Can it be restored or do we each have an allotment? Once it’s gone … good luck? Is resilience held in reserve for when we really and truly need it most?  Can I gather it up around me like a child’s protective blanket when stress comes knocking at my door in the middle of the night?

Or Is becoming more resilient a choice? Some sort of faithful trust that I’ll be able to handle whatever comes my way?

Faith’s always been a bit of a challenge for me. I’m more apt to work harder or try again when life gets a little overwhelming and difficult. Sometimes my refusal to accept defeat – of any kind – is my greatest and most stubborn strength.

Clearly I have more questions than I know how to answer and lots more thinking to do. Sitting here after a long-ish vacation from the regular day-to-day, I feel strong and capable. I’m rested. Ready to contemplate these questions.

And hopeful I’ll find my own truths to answer them.

All the Senses of a New Year

DSC_0041 (2)

What does the New Year feel like?

The New Year is moving. Thoughtful movement. Deliberate and decisive. Unhurried. Stretching. Walking. Breathing.  Movement warms me, inspires me, fills me with unapologetic power and hope.

And when I stop … when I’m still … a return to the rhythm of breath centers me – solid and strong. The rise and fall of my breath is my new rhythm.

What does the New Year taste like?

Crisp.  Fresh from a garden.  2016 tastes like clear, clean, cold water. Minty. Nut crunchy and heart healthy.  Warm.

What does the New Year smell like?

2016 smells a little spicy. Like the snap of cinnamon and the tickle of ginger. A dash of citrus. The New Year smells soapy clean.

What does the New Year sound like?

It sounds like cooking in the kitchen, laughter in the backyard, and the steady lake -lap ripple on the shore. The New Year sounds like the sparkle of hand-held light on the 4th of July, the whisp of a turned page, and the heavy breath of a runner.

What does the New Year look like?

A stack of nested mixing bowls.  A made bed and folded laundry. I see the New Year by candle light, by fire light, by the sun’s rise and set.  I’ll look for the New Year through the lens of my camera on weekdays and holidays and happy days and gray days.

The New Year challenges me to look at my everyday choices as I travel down familiar paths and pushes me to take a turn around brand-new corners.

The New Year would love me to learn.