Close or Open the Books, Any Day

Soooo…it’s been 7 months since my last confession. I mean blog post.  Twelve years of Catholic school just makes that confession phrase pop right out.  I wasn’t keeping a tally count of the months of no blogging.  Word Press kindly tells you exactly how long you’ve been slacking when you log back in after a brief hiatus.  Thanks for that, Word Press People.

I wasn’t exactly counting the months of no blogging, but I sure have felt them.  A few of my wonderful friends who so kindly follow my blog and read my writing have asked when I’ll write again.  My writing pal has offered to meet up a bunch of times.  I’ve thought of things I’d like to write about.  But I just haven’t written.  The truth is I’ve kind of been in a bit of a slump for a while with writing. And with a few other things.  And the slump has lasted longer than I’d like to admit, much longer than comfortable. I thought about bringing back my blog lots of times, but I just did not do it. I even taught my first graders how to blog and they do it every week, but still, I did not do it myself.

One time that I thought a lot about getting back to writing was around the new year. (Is March too late for a New Year’s Resolution?) I took a walk back in December, on New Year’s Eve and, looking for a little inspiration with which to start the new year, I listened to an episode of the “Good Life Project” podcast called “Close the Books.”  In that message, Jonathan Fields, the founder of the Good Life Project described a process that business owners would do at the end of each year called “closing the books”. They would note debits and contributions to their financial accounts and try to make sense and balance of their money situation. Where does it make sense to continue spending? What revenue sources filled our accounts? Are we wasting money or resources in any areas? How can we plan to either continue doing what fills the accounts and stop doing what drains the accounts in the year to come? And then, close the old book and open a new one.   Jonathan explained how we might apply the same ideas to our everyday lives – work lives, personal lives, habits, activities, relationships.  He talked of looking back on the year and thinking about things that were deposits in your life. What added to your account, your life?  When I did that, I quickly thought about writing.  When I was writing on a regular basis last year (and the year before that when I first started this blog), I felt this positive addition to my days.  I got a good energy from creating something.  Even if no one else were to ever even read it, I liked the act of creating something.  I also liked how writing changed my outlook on things, my attention to my days.  Because I was looking for something to write about, I often paid attention to what was happening around me in a different way.  If something touched me or was bothering me, I could share it or work it out in my writing.  Sometimes writing helped me find a new perspective on something.  I liked the days when I was writing on a regular basis, so I thought back in December that I would really start writing again.  But I didn’t.

I slumped on through January and February. I mean, who really wants to do anything in January and February?  We’re supposed to be hibernating, right?  Except hibernating and slumping didn’t feel so good for very long and the friends kept asking and I wanted to write and I kept remembering that I told myself I would write again. But I didn’t. And then one day I just said, “Yes.”  I said yes to my writing pal. I said yes, I would do something to try to un-slump myself. I said I would show up and write and so here I am…writing.

I got a new book last week.  I buy a lot of books when I’m in a slump.  Truth be told, I buy a lot of books all the time, but still, this book helped in my un-slumping.  The book is called “The Endless Practice” by Mark Nepo. In the first several pages he tells about how zooplankton make a daily journey from the depths of their water habitat to the surface.  It’s a matter of feeding themselves and protecting themselves, and in the process of this, they also filter the water they inhabit and so contribute to the health of the larger world around them.  Nepo makes the point that in life we humans do something similar as we go back and forth between nourishing ourselves, filling, gaining energy and being drained, or needing to protect ourselves.  It kind of made me feel a little better about drifting away from some things that I know are good for me.  That it’s sort of the natural course of things to go back and forth, to hibernate and then wake up, to be down and then get up. Maybe I could drift and return a bit more frequently, like the zooplankton, but still.

So I might not have made that New Year’s Resolution happen, but any time really can be a time to close or open a new or old book, to swim up to the surface,  I think. My plan is to try to continue to write on a regular basis again, because it’s one of the things that makes me feel good, that fills me up and helps me filter the world.   Here goes again…

photo-100

I didn’t make the New Year’s resolution, but I did make it to see the New Year sunrise. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Advertisements

Seasons

As I begin to type this post we are preparing for some more snow to fall here.  Also, it will be the first day of spring.  Are these two things really happening on the same day?  It’s got me thinking about seasons.  The literal season change from winter to spring of course, but also, the bigger seasons of our lives, which don’t change as predictably or on designated days.

I live in a location where we get to experience all four seasons.  And lately they’ve been a bit extreme, especially the winters – record low temperatures, like just one measly degree, and a parade of snow and ice storms.  One might ask why people would choose to live in such weather when there are plenty of places in the world where the sun shines and the air is warm most of the days.  In fact, I am that “one” asking the question to myself many a day as I strap on my glacier-grade coat for recess duty.  On those days, if I’m just considering the weather, it feels like there is no good answer.  I might nearly be tempted to start packing a U-Haul and head south.  But then…then…

…then comes this time of the year.  The light changes, the sun hangs out longer and one magical day…I don’t need a scarf!  I can see the grass again, it starts to turn green, the songbirds serenade the sunrise and little buds pop out on brown branches.  The winter seems utterly unbearable at times, but the spring always comes.  And after all, as John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”

I’m sure that people who live on tropical islands do enjoy the warmth of their yearlong summers just fine without ever having to pull on their mittens, but there’s something to be said for coming through the cold and dark season.  It’s such a good lesson from Mother Nature to us about our own lives.  A few years ago I went through a pretty tough season which, (even though I do believe that nothing “just happens”) happened to coincide with winter, and a wonderful coworker-friend of mine gave me this beautiful book called, “Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered.” It’s filled with inspiring words and pictures by artist Nikki McClure. And to accompany the gift my friend wrote a heartfelt note to me in which she encouraged me to take comfort in the rhythm of the seasons.  She wrote, “just as the trees and the rest of nature, you don’t have to flower right now, you just need to survive.  Every day from now, the days are getting longer and you are heading out of the darkness.  Be guided by the healing power of nature which is always renewing itself.”  A little while later, she gave me another thoughtfully chosen card and it said, “Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.”

That was years ago. And she was right.  That season passed for me and life came back and seasons have come and gone in between. This winter was not at all like that one a few years ago.  Though the weather was a bit rough at times, my life actually had a good amount of growth, lots of good times and flowering.  But every spring since my friend gave those beautiful words to me, I have thought of them.  So if winter tries to linger on and keep us inside with one more day of dark and snow, or if life throws a storm of unwanted stuff our way,  we don’t have to worry,  the spring will come.  Even when it seems like it won’t, we can rest assured,  it will. It will.  Perhaps we just got a few extra dollops of sweetness for the warm days ahead.

photo-85

This morning– the sun shines, the trees are dotted with sweetness…”Be conscious and hold on as we spin around the sun one more time.” ~Nikki McClure

 

 

#18 – An Invisible Thread

It’s a book I read.  I read it in the summertime actually. I’ve been taking advantage of some Christmas vacation days to catch the blog up to real life time.  Here’s a little something…

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place and circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle.  But it will never break.”  This book tells the story of the connection between the author, Laura Schroff and a little boy named Maurice.

In the 1980s, Laura was successfully working in the advertising business in Manhattan and admits that she barely noticed 11-year-old Maurice begging for money as she passed him on the street one day.  She said that his call for spare change, at first, seemed like nothing more than noise.  She said it was the kind of noise that New Yorkers learn to tune out.  She ignored him.  She kept on walking. Until something made her stop. Something made her go back to him and she took him to McDonald’s for dinner.  Then she went back a week later and took him to dinner again.  She went back again and again and what started as a weekly meal developed into a life-changing relationship for both Laura and Maurice, a connection that would last for decades and counting.

Throughout their meetings Laura learns the difficult details of Maurice’s life, living in poverty, surrounded by drugs and crime.  She buys him a watch so he will not be late for school, packs him lunches, takes him to baseball games, meets his teachers, does his laundry, worries about him, listens to him.  She becomes a sort of mentor/parent to him. Throughout the book, Laura also shares stories of her own childhood and how her relationship with Maurice expanded her family and happiness.

Something about acts of kindness always gets my attention.  I almost just called this a “random” act of kindness, but really that’s exactly the author’s point. She didn’t think her actions that first day were random at all.  She felt there was some force that drew she and Maurice together, that they were destined to meet, connected by one of those invisible threads. What if that’s true for all of our lives? I think it’s a nice thought – to imagine all those invisible threads connecting me to the people in my past, present and future.  It makes me think of lots of happiness and fun, family and friends and love and lessons learned. Plus it’s kind of exciting to think about who I’m connected to and haven’t even met yet! Do you believe that ancient Chinese proverb?  Either way, we definitely need more courage and kindness like Laura’s in this world. Read the book! Or at least go be kind to a stranger.  I’m going to try to.

#18 – Wild

It’s the book I just finished reading!

Wild is the true story of Cheryl Strayed’s eleven-hundred-mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.  At the age of 26,  a few years after her mother died of cancer and her marriage ended, Cheryl decided to start walking, all by herself, in the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon all the way to Washington State.  She was not an experienced hiker and was at a very low place in her life.  At times, her journey across the land seemed to break her down even further.  The book starts like this: Continue reading

#18 – Then Came You

It’s the book I’m reading.  Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner.  I was into her books a while back.  Did you read Good in Bed?  How about In Her Shoes?  Cameron Diaz starred in the movie version of that one.  I sort of lost interest in her books after the first few, but I decided to read this one after I listened to an interview with Jennifer on NPR.

The book is told from the perspectives of four very different women.  Jules is a student at Princeton, deciding whether or not to donate her eggs and use the money she would be paid to send her father to rehab.  Annie is a wife and mother of two, also looking to make money for her family.  She considers the role of surrogate, but has to grapple with the feelings of her husband and children.  India has recently married the man of her dreams and desperately wants to have a child with him.  Bettina, India’s step-daughter, thinks that India only wants a child in order to assure her inheritance.  Their lives converge as they deal with the issues of motherhood, family, and finances.

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

It’s chick lit, easy to read, even though the topics at hand are big ones.  Weiner is a Philadelphian, just like me, so I enjoy how she works the city into her books.  The story keeps reminding me of a conversation that I had with one of my college girls in which we realized that we are now too old to donate our eggs.  Not that I ever really wanted to but, boy, that growing old thing just comes at ya early and from everywhere!  Good thing I have my list to distract me from my rotting eggs!

See my nook?  I love it!  Didn’t think I would.  Got any good reads to suggest?

#13 – No Tomato

If you know me, you know that I do not like tomatoes.  Specifically, it’s raw tomatoes that I have a problem with.  You will never, not ever,  catch me eating tomatoes in my salad or on a sandwich.  At a restaurant, I always place my order with “hold the tomatoes.”  It’s one thing about me.

Tomato (Tamatar)

Tomato (Tamatar) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really wanted to name the blog “notomatoes.”  But, alas, that is taken.  Of course, it is.

Because tomatoes are gross and lots of people hate them.

I just wanted to clarify.  I won’t be posting tomato recipes, or planting tomato plants or saying nice things about tomatoes.  Just so you know.

I probably will be reading this book.  And you should too!