Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Back in the Day

Yesterday Julia and I were riding in the car. I forget her exact question, but my response was to describe to her what it was like to be a single 20-something independent woman with a cluster of good friends. She wanted to know what my social life was like when I was ... oh, about 24.

It was quite good!
Biloxi beach trip, late March, maybe 1987?
Julia keeps in touch with her friends via computer or cell phone. They text or skype. I told her to imagine her social life without any form of computer and no personal phone, just a landline house phone. Bemused, she asked how we planned things.

Bemused, I tried to remember. I think we planned ahead better. We contacted each other during the week and assumed we would do something on the weekend -- whoever was available. Was Wendy out of town? Did Beth have a date? Well, then Lee, Darlene, Sheila, Lissy, and I would hang out. Generally, most clusters of friends need: a driver, a house, a fun person, a money person. By the time we were in our early 20's, we all had jobs, cars, and apartments, and most of us had some cash, so we were capable of loads of fun. We didn't assume we could do anything at the last minute though. If you waited to the last minute to have fun with your friends on a Friday night, you were likely to be home alone.
watching a movie at Lee's apartment -
I'm in my loud and fun mood.
People planned house parties. A couple of weeks ahead, we'd hear by word of mouth that Wendy was having a Hawaiian luau in her backyard. That party would be the topic of conversation in our big group (about 50+ singles who were vaguely connected via the same church). By the time we all showed up at Wendy's, the anticipation was palpable. Everybody looked great. Romantic sparks were likely to fly. Somebody would start talking about the next event.

I remember one bizarre night when I had nothing to do on a Friday evening. Nothing!At the time, my roommate and I had no T.V. Personal computers did not exist in 1987. It creeped me out to be in my apartment with only books to read and a big stereo (complete with turntable, receiver, tape deck, and two massive speakers) for entertainment.

I miss those days. Life was quite real, tangible, tasty. Interactions were eye-to-eye. The food you saw was smelling good  on a plate in front of you, not sizzling on a facebook ad. TV, magazines, and movies existed, but TV was full of commercials, magazines were for teenagers and old people, and movies were only at the cinema. "Home" was just a place to sleep, store your clothes, and host an occasional get-together. All the fun happened elsewhere, with friends.

I miss those days. Guys had to work hard to get you on a date. There was less to do at home, and more to do elsewhere. Shopping for clothes wasn't an online experience; you went to McRae's with friends and giggled in the changing rooms. You spent hours driving around town in a car, checking out guys' houses that you had crushes on, strolling into the pizza parlor, sitting down, sipping a drink, driving some more. You squeezed into bench seats and sang along with the radio -- the radio! Everything took time. Time is valuable. So every interaction, every friendly exchange, had value. Life was slower because it took more time to do anything, but you savored it too.

I lived without the internet until I was about 36 years old. I lived without a smart phone until I was 51. An unconnected life feels normal to me, and I still view this machine as only a tool. It's a device, it's fun, and I can set it down if I need to. I don't think Julia and kids in her generation view their web-connected computers that way. An online life is deeply embedded in who they are.

The video below is a TED Talks by a woman who went off-line for a year. Later, she and her husband moved to rural Idaho to live off the electric grid with their three kids. She addresses an issue I hadn't considered:  Living an online life causes you to be addicted to the constant personal feedback and validation it gives. Online, you express yourself and people respond. They tell you your blog post is wonderful, or your profile pic is wonderful, or your instagram photos are wonderful. What if nobody ever told you that your expressions of yourself were wonderful? What if you had to satisfy yourself merely with the joy that the expression itself gives? Would that be enough?

It was enough for me when I wrote bad poetry in college. It was when I played the piano alone at night. It is for anybody who does his thinking and arguing internally, and his brilliance never escapes his own head. I don't want to think we've grown a whole generation of humans who suffer with the insecurity of needing constant online validation. Have we?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wearing Compression Pantyhose

I inherited my mother's bad veins. After a doctor visit, and a visit to a vein specialist, I returned for a Doppler ultrasound of both my legs. The results surprised me. I have severe reflux in both legs. That means that the valves in my veins aren't closing properly, and blood is going back down in my veins. Eventually this can cause swelling, although I don't have that yet. I don't have the ugly little spider veins; those wouldn't be worth addressing. I have bulgy varicose veins, and after being on my feet for an hour or two my legs ache and I have to sit down. That is SO "old lady"!!

But wearing compression hose is also quite "old lady." I feel like there's no hope for me to be young and 17 ever again!! Waaaaah!

Alright. I'm over THAT :)

I was prescribed compression hose, and I giggled and thought, "I'll never get those." But the reality is that if I don't wear the hose my legs will worsen until I need the light surgery to skinny up those vein valves, and afterward I'd have to wear the compression hose anyway! So I bit the bullet, bought the hose.
They don't look too bad.
These things are so sturdy. I've been wearing them about three weeks, and I've only put two runs in the left leg (grr), but they are up high and don't show. The compression is strongest around the ankle and gradually decreases as you go up the leg. I was afraid that the part around the body (the panty part) would be uncomfortably tight (remember the support hose of days gone by?). But no! That part is not compression, and it's comfortable to me all day long.

That's saying something from a woman who hasn't worn a pair of pantyhose in about 8 years because I loathe pantyhose.
I'm still accepting the fact that compression hose are probably my future for the next 30+ years. When I see ladies strolling in Oriental in their beachwear with their bare legs and flip-flops - ladies far beyond 30 or even 40, mind you -- I must realize that I no longer have that bare-legged freedom. Sigh. But I do have legs that feel very, very good when wearing the hose, and very good afterward too. I'm supposed to wear them morning to evening, never to bed. Mine are 20-30 mmHg. (mmHg means millimeters of mercury -- a measurement of pressure felt by the wearer.) They last for 6 months (supposedly). They cost me $135, although perhaps I could get them a little cheaper online. I try not to think how much that will cost me the rest of my life, total.

I recommend this if your legs and your physician require it of you. I'm hoping to avoid the swollen ankles, painful legs, limping, and general immobility that comes with age, if I don't care for my legs. If any of you have any comments or advice about compression hose, please contribute!

Friday, June 24, 2016

For Lisa: The Hippie Farm Mama Look

Lisa, from Pen and Ink, asked me to show the sparkly thrift store skirt. I'm calling this my hippie Bohemian look, or whatever adjectives you care to toss around. Casual, Feminine. Cotton. Cool. Drapey.
A close-up of some of the bling
On the same day, I bought this one, my favorite:
Both these first two skirts have an underneath panel that goes from the waist to mid-thigh, 
a kind of slip, so I don't have to put on my polyester slip. Yay!!
A while back I bough this one at the same store.
I wait until they have a sale where everything's $2.
This one I bought there also, over a year ago, in a slightly thinner stage, but it still fits.
You'll notice a red theme emerging here. Not sure why, but I don't wear red, and I don't own red shirts.
This one's not all cotton, but it fits the bill.
Adam says he prefers skirts that fall from the hips and are full.
He does not like pencil skirts.
Good thing, then, that it's been years since I resembled a pencil!
I was down to one stained red t-shirt, so today (during their $2 top sale) I went to the thrift store and picked up THREE tops! I'm utterly spoiled for ever again shopping at a regular store.
The only label I could find that would fit this post is "fashion," but I'm not quite sure about that one either ....

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fabric and Yarn

Adam is the starcher and ironer around here. I care not a bit for ironed clothes. He, however, dips his pants, shirts, and shorts in liquid starch, dries them on the line, and irons them faithfully. Our ironing board has been the bane of his clothing existence. I think we found it in the basement of our house in Statesville, back in the days before he ironed. The cover is really atrocious.

See what I mean? And the pad underneath is antique.

I personally thought the cover was shudder-worthy, but Adam doesn't care to replace it, as long as we could find a new cover. But the covers at WalMart didn't fit, and they cost about $20!

Nasty old drawstring in a nasty old casing (above) and look at the archaic underneath snaps (below)!
I told him I could make a new cover, so we picked out some fabric -- 
Waverly, which is a decent brand -- a thick, sturdy cotton fabric.
I began by sewing a thin hem all the way around, to stabilize the edge. 
Then I sewed a slim elastic all the way around too, folding the hem over it as I went 
and pulling the elastic quite tight around the hose and back end, but not so tight on the sides.

I'm quite pleased with how snugly the nose end fits, and to assist that, I added two bands of elastic that run underneath the board. This is some thick, hardy elastic I cut off a new pair of sandals because it made the shoes uncomfortable. But it was perfect for this project.
Not very attractive under there, but we really only care how well it works.
I was so afraid I'd cut the fabric too short and would run out on the other end ... that (you guessed it)
 I had too much. I tucked it together and put a fat safety pin on either side. 
Adam says he doesn't use that end anyway. Well! So much for that practical sewing!
Just as I was walking out of the fabric department, I saw this stuff, and I simply could not resist!
It will be an apron.
Now, on to the loom. Here's the scarf I'm making now. That's my sparkly $2 skirt from the thrift store, underneath :)
For the warp I'm using crochet thread again, a variegated purple/green spool that was on clearance at WalMart.
For the weft I'm using this lovely lavender that I bought 
after Christmas at Hobby Lobby. 
It's luscious.
I'm adding a little accent of this silver yarn that I found at Weaver's Webb, 
the sinfully guilty yarn store that sucks you in and spits you out only after 
you've emptied your wallet.
This will be another one for fall sale at the farmers' market. I'm eager to see how quickly they sell, and which ones are oohed and awwed over, and which ones are deemed ugly. You never know!
That's what the fingers have been up to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Whirlwind of the Past

Sometimes I have a night when sleep evades me and my mind dwells on the past. Not in a morbid way, regretting sadnesses or mistakes. Just contemplating the many years and trying to see a pattern, a plan in it. There was a bit  of chaos in the past 25+ years, and since I know we weren't behind the wheel, I'm assuming God was.

But when I look back at the children's early years, raising them, school and t-ball and homeschooling and moving again and again. Girl Scouts and Christmas trips. The discipline and the tears, the math and the fun field trips, the squeezing into the car with a dog or two -- all of it seems like a whirlwind. If you've read Dante's Inferno and remember the level of hell where the lovers suffer, it's a little like that -- looking back at the decades of my life with my family is like viewing a whirlwind, and then stepping into the whirlwind. It's fast, chaotic, almost furious, I long to catch a glimpse of something tangible, but each image flits past. In the rushing images of the past, I try to reach out and grasp a firm hold on each child, so I don't lose them, but it's all a mirage.
not all of these are mine!
I felt sad last night, thinking of those years as so fleeting and so vague. Perhaps I was too busy? Too occupied frantically trying to hold things together? I was working so hard to make sure each child had a good education, ate well, had enriching activities, spent lots of time outside, had friends, used his or her imagination, took the SAT, went off to college. Then I drew a deep sigh of accomplishment and turned my attention to the next one in line. And before I knew it, and after years that seemed both long and fast, it's over. (Almost.)

If you've never read the short story, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," you should. An old lady on her death bed rehashes and relives her life, and she has alternating feelings of accomplishment, failure, and longing to do it all again. I always squirmed when I read that story because I know she is a pathetic character, but I feel a connection with her. I would go back and do it all again. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I would. To have the children little again? I would do that. To hold them in my arms as babies. To wash their clothes and make their pancakes and mix their bottles and vacuum their rooms and buy them snow boots. I wish I could do it all and know that each deed is not tedious but a gem. Of course, it's only a gem in retrospect. If I were doing it all again -- all of it -- it would be tedious again. Perhaps that's part of the curse.

I need to shake these thoughts out of my head because we're starting on a new part of life, a fresh start with the children (nearly) out of the house and pursuing their own wonderful dreams. And wonderful they are! But I miss them. Mostly I feel I did not adequately get to know them while I had them. I watched them, oh, I watched them. I do know them well. But I never let them know that I knew them -- I don't think I let them realize that they were known and desperately valued. Not enough.

For the young mothers out there, I cannot tell you to do it differently. You just do it. Try to tuck away memories in photos or mementos or family jokes and private memories only you know. Engage your children in real conversations. I spent too much time teaching them. I should have spent more time just talking.

Eventually I fell asleep, and this morning the sunlight made things feel better. If my children are reading this, I love you and miss you so very much. Run after those dreams, and when you have those precious grandbabies, let me squeeze them tight, let me talk and not teach, tell them silly stories. Live your lives more slowly than I did. May your whirlwinds not turn so fast.

A friend posted this on her blog, and I copy it here. The quote is from Naomi Nye.

"There is a Thai saying: ‘Life is so short, we must move very slowly,’ ….
Being busy has become our calling card, our sign of success, our obsession—
but poetry doesn’t want us to be busy. 
When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. 
Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause."

A rapidly moving swirl. Viewing my past with glances. I want better for the next decades of my life. May God bless me with a slower pace.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My attempt at Mrs. Belz's writing exercise:

If you read my last post and tried the creative writing prompt at the end, here's mine:

Our first date happened on August 8, 1988. He makes grilled chicken sandwiches while I scrub laundry, and the old kitchen is musty and warm with our shy conversation. The recollection of lengthening shadows is like a promise.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rainy Day Mutterings

I wish I could say it was rainy enough to warrant the amount of time I've spent inside today, sorting through old boxes of stuff. It needed to be done. I'm trying to cram boxes and bags of my stuff and the kids' stuff under the guest room bed. The time had come to address two huge boxes of school records and old family documents. Just stuff.
Happily, I reduced it all down to one bin!
Sadly, the bin has no lid. Those folders and papers you see are just a fraction of the old teaching documents I keep from the three schools where I taught high school English (and a little history and Bible). My mind is flooded with memories both happy and sad. I found old checkbook registers and an old calendar from 2003, the year we moved away from Alabama. That was a very hard, gloomy year when Adam was so sick, lost his job, and we moved in with my parents. It was also a glorious year of finding diagnosis and treatment for him! But oh the work, stress, and worry we went through to get there! Words on a screen simply can't convey the weariness of life that year. I felt our family was overshadowed by a dark cloud of sorrow. But all of that passes with time.

Through it all -- illness, many moves, friends found and lost, laughter and anger and despair -- I taught school. I educated so many children. If I wasn't homeschooling my own children I was teaching full-time in a school. How did we do it all? How did we cope with the constant waves of gaining and losing in life? It wore me out.

For a great teaching experience, I must say that my best year was probably our year in Massachusetts. Not that I didn't love teaching at Cono in Iowa, where I learned to be a teacher, nor that I didn't appreciate my years in Statesville. But that one year in Upton, MA I had more freedom to teach what I wanted and how I wanted. I gathered about me all the American literature and history and all the ancient literature and history that I loved. And with a small group of students (maybe 13 total?) we fleshed it all out. I chose my own textbooks and compiled many documents from public domain. We studied more, and more deeply, than any other year.

I homeschooled for ten years ... eleven (I think) if you count what I did with Julia this past year. I've kept only a smattering of books from all those years with Christian Liberty.
Adam just reminded me of how thrilled we were each year when the curriculum boxes arrived! I'd forgotten. Those years were certainly not all gloom and hard work. I especially cherish memories of field trips with the children. I loved those.

I want to share one more very special thing with you, for those of you who love creative writing. The woman whose classes I inherited at Cono Christian School, Jean Belz, gave me a writing assignment she'd used, and I've loved it ever since. I wish I could find the original light blue page she wrote on, but it's tucked away somewhere unknown. But I made copies for my students, and here is one:
Here's what you do. Write a paragraph of three sentences. The first sentence should be in past tense and contain a particular date. Mrs. Belz writes, "I was married on October 15." Simple enough. She always wrote simple, direct, elegant prose. The second sentence should switch to present tense, moving the reader into the event. This sentence should be complex and descriptive, engaging as many of the five senses as you can reasonably do. She writes, "On that day the sky is deep blue, the trees are on fire, the garden stuff is stowed away, and the wood fires send out marvelous fragrance." The third sentence is quite fun. From the lists you see on the page above, choose one item from each list and combine them to make this third sentence. She chose "The effect of autumn is like a dream."

The finished product is a perfect whole, and my students produced some fun paragraphs using this exercise. It's useful for beginning writers who don't think they can write; it gives them enough guidance to bring them along, and always produces a satisfying result.

Why don't you give it a try? Leave your paragraph in the comments, or you can do a short blog post about it on your own blog, and leave a comment or link so we can follow along and read it. Okay? Ready ... set ... go!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Herbal Tea

I often long for a warm drink in the evenings but don't want caffeine. Last night I visited the herb garden and concocted a tea of my own. And I lived to tell about it!
The four herbs I chose were (bottom to top) lemon balm, mint, hyssop, chamomile.

Reading in my rather new herb book, The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices, I learned about the properties of these four plants.
lemon balm: lowers blood pressure, relieves insomnia, treats colds and flu and indigestion
mint: relieves tension and insomnia, aids with digestive disorders, has a lovely flavor
hyssop: treats coughs and sore throats, used as an expectorant
chamomile: tea is refreshing, digestive and mildly sedative, reduces inflammation

The tea tasted faintly of mint and was delicious. I would like to drink teas like this in the evening to help me sleep, relax, and digest well after dinner.

As I picked these herbs and brought them inside, rinsed them and put them in the tea pot, I found in myself the slightest hesitation. "What am I doing?" I thought. "I don't really know what these plants might do to me. What if they're too strong? What if they make me ill?" And I had to laugh at myself ... because honestly, most people think of homemade herbal "remedies" as little more than hocus-pocus. We act like there's nothing in them, and those who use them are silly and misguided. Why concoct balms and salves and tinctures at home when you can pick something up at the pharmacy?

And of course that's even scarier. We seem to trust anything a pharmaceutical company might proffer and take it with a glass of water without batting an eye. But when some herbs from our back yard, boiled in tea, are offered to our lips? We flinch, just a little. I know I did.

That's because we've been conditioned, I think. I firmly believe we should be more cautious about how many OTC  laboratory-produced chemicals we pop every day, and be more willing to look at nature around us for some solutions. They're right under our noses, and yet from ignorance we miss the help they could give.

Lately I've tried a simple one, after Adam's altercation with poison ivy recently. When I get a mild skin abrasion or irritation on the farm, I pick a few leaves of plantain, tear and crush them, and rub them vigorously on the irritated spot (usually a run-in with a vine or other prickly plant). Both times I've done this, the itch immediately disappears. Plantain is a natural skin healer. It may not work 100% of the time; you may sometimes need a bottle of something from the drug store. But much of the time it'll be perfectly adequate, quick, immediate, and free. All you have to know is how to identify it. And that's not hard to learn.

 I'm looking forward to learning more of these natural remedies in years to come. Our grandmothers and their mothers knew them. We've just lost this knowledge along the way.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Badger on the High Seas

My dear Mags -
I'm relieved to inform you that at last my hostess has pulled me and my traveling paraphernalia from the yellow envelope and appears to be preparing me for my voyage home. I began to be apprehensive for my safety! She delayed so long, I thought certainly she'd either kidnapped me or forgotten about me entirely!
She permitted me to lean against her paint brushes and observe while she filled out my passport booklet and perused the annotated copy of our book. I think she loves my kitchen, although why she's fond of my old bathrobe and slippers that are ... how did Mr. Graham say it? ... "down at the heel," I don't know. I wish the author had not included that description of my hibernating attire. It's so hard to maintain one's dignity while in pajamas.
She painted you a little card by way of apology, I suppose.
Her skills being limited, I'm relieved she did not attempt to render myself or my friends on the page. I recommended that she add some faint greenery in the background, which she quickly did.

Hopefully, my dear friend, I shall be on my way soon and be happily ensconced once more in your home with your boys. What a relief that will be! Tell Ratty and Mole to keep Toad out of trouble until my return.

Yours affectionately,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Male Pattern Stupidity

That's Adam's phrase, not mine. :)
I was peacefully killing English ivy this afternoon while the lawnmower hummed happily from the orchard, when Adam's voice came bellowing over the grass: "Mary Kathryn! Mary Kathryn!"

I knew he'd either found a pot of gold, or he'd injured himself. He'd injured himself.

"Do you need 9-1-1?" I bellowed back.

"Hmm." He was indecisive.

His ankle was bleeding all over. He'd taken off his sandal. (Yes, he was mowing in sandals.) His sock was soggy. He thought he could maybe walk to the car. I yanked a damp hand towel off the clothesline. He propped his foot on the dash, pressed the towel on his ankle, and we headed to the clinic two minutes away. They wouldn't see him. "He might need an x-ray. We don't have an x-ray machine. You should go to the E.R.," they said.

The hospital is a half hour away. That's when I knew that Male Pattern Stupidity would take up my afternoon.

We'd never heard of the Minor Emergency room. There, they don't have three policemen sitting around guffawing and talking about Donald Trump.
I didn't take a photo of the initial wound because some of you are queasy. Between visits of hospital employees we waited at least 20 minutes. In the end it took over three hours, but that's how it is, yes? He had an x-ray. Nothing was broken. And whatever had spun out of the undercarriage of the lawnmower and sliced into his leg, it wasn't still in his ankle either.
A nice P.A. named Natalie stitched him up. She has twins, and although she's 30 years old, we declared that she didn't look a day over 20. That's how we know we're old: 30 year olds look like they're 20.
Three stitches, that's all. Hardly seems worth going to the E.R., but you can't know until you've been there.
While there, we visited a very ill parishioner in the hospital -- first I visited, then Adam went afterward, limping all the way. When we got home, both of us had only one thought: going straight to the orchard and seeing what in the world had hurt him so badly. Was the mower broken? The force of impact and the amount of pain he'd been in indicated it was something more than a little branch or a pine cone. We mow a lot of branches and pine cones. It didn't take long to find the culprit.
Pardon my wet hand. I'd just done dishes.
Copper wire. Not the first thing you'd expect to find in an orchard, between your grape vines and your apple trees. We used to laugh about our previous owner in Statesville. He was a gardener and the backyard soil was chock full of plastic plant containers and long pieces of metal pipe. We did scratch our heads over him. But Mr. M., the quirky Frenchman who owned this farm before us, I guess he was secretly growing copper in the orchard.

Adam admitted to Julia that if he'd seen that copper wire lying on the ground in front of the mower, he would have mowed right over it. I think most men would have. Nobody wants to turn off the mower, walk around, and pick up every little wire and string on the ground. It's the copper inside that's the killer though. Mr. M. apparently used it to tie up his scuppernong grape vines. He was handy that way, using anything at hand. (sigh!) Adam blames it all on Male Pattern Stupidity, and I suppose in this situation it applies as well to Mr. M. as it does to him.

We're resting on the couch now. The dogs and cat and chickens (and worms and bees, I hope) are all taken care of for the night. See y'all later. I'm pooped.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Adam and I have talked for years about how to have a happy, satisfying marriage. He's changed a lot in me. He's changed a lot himself. After 27 years together, we've developed some helpful habits to ensure a contented union -- we're not perfect (or even close) and we still argue and hurt each other sometimes, but we both believe the same thing:

It's absolutely important to be kind.

Unkindness and meanness will kill a marriage faster than anything. And I don't just mean divorce. You can live together and still have a very dead marriage.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman have been studying marriages for decades. Here's a great article, "Masters of Love," about their gradual conclusions of the many couples they've observed.

"Kindness ... glues couples together," it says. "Kindness ... is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage."

I wasn't good at kindness when I first married. I was more interested in right and wrong, i.e., whether Adam was doing right or wrong. Because I was quick and hard-working, I always assumed that I was doing right. So if we were at odds or arguing, I assumed he was wrong. The Gottmans call it "scanning the environment." I was "scanning him for what he's doing wrong and criticizing, versus respecting him and expressing appreciation." Ouch.

That was me as a newly-married 26 year old. We immediately had three kids in four years, and since I did most of the hard work in that department too, I considered myself to be doing all I possibly could. So if there was anything lacking in life, I felt it was Adam's fault. I was all into finding fault. Kindness rarely entered my head. I'm not sure how much it entered his head either, but we muddled through.

In the past five or ten years, we've grown to appreciate the simple attitude of kindness. It's not even acts of kindness necessarily ... nothing big. Not flowers (although flowers are lovely) nor chocolates (although they're appreciated). Kindness can be a smile, a word, a compliment, a touch, a kiss or hug. These kindnesses expand to real generosity when given under stress or weariness. When you're tired after work but you reach out to your spouse instead of indulging yourself, that's kind and generous. When you've done dishes four nights in a row but you willingly do them again even though your feet hurt, that's kind and generous.

This kind of generosity, according to the Gottmans, is another sign of couples that will stay happily together.

One thing that struck me in the article was the third choice among couples. 1) Divorced, 2) Together and happy, or 3) Together and unhappy. Nobody wants #1 or #3. But #2 comes only with kindness and generosity. Kindness is in your marriage vow. When you vow to love your spouse, you're vowing kindness. "Love is patient; love is kind ...." If you love someone, you'll be kind to them. Sounds simple, but so many marriages are bereft of kindness.

"Contempt ... is the number one factor that tears couples apart," say the Gottmans. When two people daily practice unkindness (just the absence of kindness) contempt quickly follows. It's easy to see in couples who are habitually unkind. They're both reading that lack of love and sending it back. How easy it is to hold someone in contempt who is unkind to you daily for no real reason!

Marriage is years of habits. Each day both spouses practice staying together happily or hurting each other. Adam initiated a shift toward kindness in our relationship, an indication of his spiritual leadership in our marriage. After he did this, I found myself wanting to reply in kind. When two people are mutually kind and generous to each other, a marriage is daily strengthened. It's a joy.

The article is worth reading for everyone and is helpful in all relationships. But it's a great diagnostic for marriages. Adam and I are still learning, but I think we've overcome some of the biggest obstacles of the first three decades of marriage.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Hello, Stranger

What's that country song? "Hello, stranger. It's been a long time...."
What's happened to my blogging mojo? I haven't blogged since Monday? I checked my blogging numbers this morning. Gulp. 2011 was my best blogging year thus far with 453 posts. Wow! Much more than one per day! I must've been wearing y'all's eyeballs out :)
But the following years were no slouches, with numbers up in the 300's and 400's. Then in 2015 I plummeted to only 194 posts.

And so far this year ... only 51. Yikes! Or as my kids say, "Yikes on bikes!"

Am I running out of things to say, or worse yet, things to think? Golly, I hope not!

When planning this particular blog post in my head (which I did while drifting in and out of sleep this morning, so don't expect much), I reasoned that I'm writing less because I'm working now. But that's no excuse; I was working full-time in the classroom with four kids at home during my early blog years, and it didn't slow me down.
But this year I started a second blog. That must be it! But no ... if I add the two blogs together, my total posts this year amount to only 96.

So now I sit here scratching my head and wondering what exactly is wrong with me (aside from the usual).

Interesting ideas do still rumble around in my head. However, I don't flesh them out like I used to. I don't wrestle with ideas and make them submit until I come to conclusions. And then I don't write my musings down (obviously) because they remain unformed and confusing.

This I find disturbing, just as I mourn that my writing habits have similarly ground to a halt. In that light, I share the following link with you that I found on a friend's facebook page. (Where did we get any ideas before facebook?) Author Ann Lamont (whom I've never read but hear is quite good) talks about finding time to write. I imagine you could put any creative activity in that blank: "finding time to __________." Paint? Play the piano? Throw pottery?

The article is Time Lost and Found.
Maybe her secret mojo is the dreadlocks.
I don't think I can go that far, even for writing :)
Her first paragraph is a doozy, but you'll have to read it yourself. Later she lists off a few of my own excuses and reasonings regarding writing, and says that I am sincere but delusional. And I'm sure she's right. Her honest, brutal questions bore into her students' guilty regrets, but she's right. Do I need to watch an episode or two of "Escape to the Country" every day in order to cope with life? Should I sacrifice my time on facebook (which is already greatly curtailed from what it was)? Ironically I would then have missed this article altogether.

I must carve out a piece of time for the thinking, and the turning-thinking-into-finished-ideas, and the writing. Is that really what I want? Do I want writing that much? Was it just a phrase of life like teaching and child-rearing that passes after a few years. I mean ... have I replace writing with yarn? Bwahaha!

That's maybe not funny.

In the back of my mind my characters and plots sit in their dark corners, waiting. They are grumpy and tired of my excuses. I use them to help me fall asleep at night; I ruminate on which parts of my sequel to Three Against the Dark I should cull out because they're no good. The book is about 3/4 finished and has been for years. These lengthy indecisions put me to sleep.

And you see that even the thinking about how I'm not writing is something to blog about. I've often wondered if blogging itself is keeping me from finishing my books. If I stopped working, would I write? If I broke my leg and stayed in bed and the internet stopped working for a month, and I had nothing else to do ... would I write? 

Anne seems to say yes, that it's simply about time. If you carve out the time, you will write. But the thinking comes before the writing, and one must birth and nurture and hack away at the ideas first. And what Anne wants for her students, for me, I tell myself vainly, is "to be deeply and truly present" for those we love. And for ourselves. This is a spiritual pursuit, I suspect -- to get rid of the mad hurry and the pressure to achieve and produce.

Except the pressure to produce writing. Is that one okay?