Thursday, 10 April 2014

Getting ready to move again...fantasy version

moving day 1800s
I can't believe we're moving again. Enough already!

But since there's no getting out of it, I think I'm going to take a few minutes to create my ideal, fantasy version of this move....

First, all of those already-full boxes and totes in the closets and on garage shelves would instantly resize themselves to fit inside of an oh-so-adorable Container Store box. You know, one of those brand new boxes made to look several decades old? And they would tumble into the box neatly, with nary a spill or a need to rearrange them. All I would have to do is close the box and set it aside for the movers (more about them later.)

All the contents of the kitchen cabinets would suddenly stack neatly, with no need to wrap each and every #$#@ glass and cup and plate lest they break on the one mile journey (yes, that is how far we are moving. Actually just under a mile.)

My home office/studio contents would fit in a tidy pile in one or two totes. Ditto for all the clothes, shoes, coats and other haute-couture fashions from the best stores (cough...TJ Maxx...cough), makeup and toiletries. A petite pile of totes in the front hall.

Upon removing the furniture, all carpets will be found to be perfectly clean, and all walls will have nary a scratch or chip.

The team of 10 clean, hard-working, skilled movers will be oh so careful, and will know exactly how to handle that fragile antique rocker and 19th century jelly cabinet without anyone biting nails or standing by trying NOT to scream. Or actually screaming.

Upon arriving at the new house, everything will be spotlessly clean and ready for our things. The movers will accurately read my carefully written labels and place everything in the correct rooms. Not even once will I find garden tools in the bathroom or a box labeled "Fragile!China and Crystal" under three boxes of books.

The landlord of our old rental will thank us for taking such amazing care of his home, and exclaim in wonder at the decade-old carpet stains we managed to remove during our brief stay. Then he will immediately hand us a check for the full amount of our deposit.

On the first night in our new home, we will have a wonderful candlelight "picnic" in the living room, where we will sit contentedly among the boxes and eat gourmet food while we picture how great the house will look tomorrow once ALL the boxes are unpacked.

Ahhhhhhh.....

Moving isn't so bad....no, wait! Oh, heck....




Monday, 7 April 2014

Reading backwards seven years

I've just spent the morning re-reading random posts from this blog. The first post was over 7 years old. The most recent, only days ago.

Seven years is a big deal in a lot of religions. Heck, just the number seven is important. Big spiritual mojo. So have these past seven years of scribbling my thoughts on a blog taught me anything?

At first, I didn't think so. So many mistakes made over and over. So many false starts and plans-that-didn't-work-out. But the more I read, the more I saw some things I have learned -- and probably need to remember.

1) Love is never wasted. Even when it didn't work out and a friend betrayed you or someone never said thank you for the big thing you did for them or a lover walked away, loving is never a waste of energy. You can never know if your love at that moment changed a life (yours or theirs or even someone else's) for the better. The impact might not show up for years...and you might never know. But it's still worth it.

2) We all have a place that screams "home" to us. It might be where you were born or grew up. Or it might be that town you stumbled on when your car broke down. But there is something in a a place that latches on to your soul and says "You belong."  Pay attention. It matters. (Over a lifetime, that "home" spot can change, as our lives change and our souls grow. Just keep listening. You'll know when you find it. And when it's time to find a new one.)

3) Being a mom is sonmething you do with every part of your being. When it's done with a loving heart, it's not a job, it's not a chore -- it's a form of existing that digs down deep into every cell of your body and changes each and every one for the better.)  Sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes it makes me scream, and sometimes it makes me cry. But I love being a mom with every ounce of my being.

4) Sometimes, what doesn't kill you, doesn't make you stronger. It beats the living heck out of you and leaves you weak and broken and crying on the ground. And even when you do manage to get back on your feet, you're missing chunks of yourself that you would love to have back. But you can't, so you live with the scars and the limp and the nightmares because you have no other choice. Congratulate yourself for every step. It's hard work.

5) There is a heck of a lot more to life that any of us can ever see. It's more than the birth-to-death march (or crawl or sprint.) It's more than the houses and jobs and traffic jams and what-to-wear. There is a meaning and a purpose behind it all, and something that goes on before we appear on the scene and after we make our final curtain call. And not one of us really knows what it is, no matter what book we swear on. We're all just guessing.

6) Most people are pretty good, overall. Even when they act like jerks, most of them have someone they love, something selfless they've done, some wonderful dream they would like to see come true for someone, some great idea or some creative spark just waiting to burst forth. But because of fear or pain or desperate need or getting knocked down one time too many (see number 4 above), they protect their soft inner core by acting like cold-hearted idiots. Doesn't mean you have to trust them or let them hurt you. Just means you have to know that spark is there, inside of them. It makes a difference for both of you.

7) Food doesn't solve everything. But it helps a heck of a lot. Sitting down with someone over a meal or a cup of tea can make more connections, solve more problems and cement more friendships that anything else on the planet. Forget the meeting in the board room. If you really want to get things done, head out for some tacos or a big cheesey pizza together. It sounds weird, but it works.

So there, in a nutshell, are my seven lessons from seven years. Nothing earth-shattering. But maybe not too bad for seven years of on-again, off-again scribbles.

More lessons? Hindsight is better than 20/20. Here's my advice to my 21 year-old self. Sure wish I could hop on that time machine and share it!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Are we teaching kids rules...or values?

I've been hearing a lot of on the mommy blogging world about teaching kids to follow rules. The thinking, it seems, is that too many families have gotten away from enforcing rules. And that is the reason du jour for all our social ills, school problems and economic meltdowns.

And to that I say, phoey. Donkey-dust-and-chicken-feathers. No, no and heck no! If I was a swearing woman, I would swear about now. Because that simplistic approach misses the real problem.

There are PLENTY of rules out there. More than enough rules. And more being added every minute of every day, because we live in a culture in which the solution to almost every ill is to make another rule.

Right now, kids have to abide by rules about what you can wear to school and what subjects you have to take to graduate (regardless of your talents or interests.)

For adults, there are rules about IDs and names and even rules about over-the-counter cold medicines (never mind that the same ingredient can be cheaply bought in bulk online.)  We have size rules for our hand lotion and shampoo when we fly and rules about proving your right to do a really crudy, dirty manual labor job nobody else wants.

What we don't have enough of are values. Not beliefs. Those are personal and in all likelihood should be kept to yourself. (Yeah, I'm not big on people trying to convince other people about faith issues.)

I'm talking about the be-a-decent-person kind of basics. The ones we're doing a miserable job sharing with our kids.  Like....

Be kind to other people (Witness the ever-growing bullying problem and the mainstreaming of hate)

Take care of people who are hungry or cold or sick (Instead we have a war on the poor)

Take care of what you have (Nope. We're gutting environmental protections and alternative fuel research in the name of profit.)

Families matter more than wealth  (Heck with that, we're told. Hire a nanny (at minimum wage) and go for the corner office, no matter what the cost. Your career success comes first! You might even get a best seller out it!)

Learn as much as you can (Hint: that does NOT mean "teaching" kids how to work the standardized test maze. It means learning wherever and whenever you can, even if it's NEVER on the page of a test.)

Believe in something bigger and better and more merciful than yourself  (And no, the Internet doesn't count!)

There are more. The value of forgiveness. Of seeing the worth in every being. The value of honesty, even when it's hard. The value of own up to your mistakes. You get the idea. And I'm sure you could add more.

But if we're rules focused, we will miss the values we should be sharing, encouraging, living.

Sure, some rules are essential for kids. Of course. Trust me, I am not a fan of domestic anarchy. Those kinds of rules become a framework for something bigger.

But if our rules at home and at school are just for the sake of teaching kids to obey rules, rather than passing on cherished values, they're not the right answer to whatever social ill we're trying to over-simplify this time. They're just a box to lock them in.








Wednesday, 2 April 2014

What do you do when you're too stressed to read a magazine?

This was the scene yesterday. All work in by deadline for the month of March. Check. Lawn mowed. Check. Did a long hike in the a.m. with my daughter that counted for both exercise and homeschool. Check.

Should be a good time to sit down with a favorite magazine, right? Especially with my fave drink, iced tea, at hand.

But no. There is so much hanging over my head that I cannot even get through a single article. Heck, I couldn't even focus on the pictures! After 5 minutes, I gave up.

Not a single aspect of my life is under control. My limited clients aren't enough to pay the bills, much less save anything. My kids are facing various health, school and other issues (not because of anything they did, either), and I can't solve most of it, as much as I try.

There are other deadlines looming, and I am struggling to deal with those.

And now it seems that we might have to move yet again, because our landlord wants to raise the rent yet again (on top of the $200 increase last year.) I am tired and overwhemed. I need something to work smoothly. SOMETHING.

There is a Chinese curse..."May you live in interesting times." I understand why it's a curse. And it's eating me alive. Bring on the simple and predictable, please. PLEASE!  A daily walk in the woods or on a beach. A good income. Friends around to meet for supper or a weekend event.  Things going pretty smoothly for my kids.  I want daily life to be, as I heard on a recent podcast,  fabulously ordinary. I can always get "interesting" on vacation instead.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Fighting through the clutter to find meditation

Three days ago, I rebooted my meditation practise after years of neglect.

I knew how much it mattered. What a difference it makes. And yet, I let it slip until it was just a distant memory of what I "used to do."

Three days ago, that changed. For the first time in years, I sat down and rediscovered why I used to meditate. And it was wonderful. That day. And then the next.

But then today, reality hit -- hard. At first, nothing was different.  I sat down and closed my eyes. I crossed my legs into a lotus and linked my thumb and finger.

The usual stream of thoughts came by, and I acknowledged them and went back to counting breaths. That was when the baggage replaced the stream. Suddenly, my mind was a discordant cacophony of every bad decision I ever made. Every time I behaved badly or spoke without thinking. Every time I let someone down. It felt like I was getting slammed up against the proverbial wall by everything I had ever done wrong. I felt like the worst person on the planet.

I struggled to regain control of my meditation. I counted...or tried to. I  visualzed each number being written on a blackboard, a technique that has worked in the past to get me back on track.

And then, thank goodness, it finally stopped. Or at least that deep dive into the worst of my past stopped. Immediately,a new stream of negativity started. It was the to-do lists. The chores. The job hunt. The projects. The clients. All the should's and have-to's. All the things I OUGHT to be doing right at that moment instead of sitting and meditating. Again, awful!

But I stayed with it. I kept trying to count. I tried to acknowledge and let each thought go by. Nothing worked. Nothing!

Until... I started  to focus on the here and now...the feeling of the breeze. The sound of the cat walking past. The sensation of sitting.

And then it happened. All the negativity stoppped. Just as suddenly as the bombardment started, It stopped.

Whatever it was in me that needed to dredge up all of that ugly dirt and guilt gave up. The peace returned. Thoughts still came by, but they were gentle and random, and quickly moved past. I was not stuck in the past. I was not trying to manage the future. I just was. Finally.

And THAT, that moment of now-ness is the reason I have come back to meditation. The bad stuff can happen only any day. It can happen while you're driving down the road or drifting off to sleep or just watching TV.  It can happen when someone says the wrong thing, or brings up an old hurt.

But the good? Yeah, that's something only meditation can deliver. And I'm so glad to be back.

Monday, 3 February 2014

After two and a half years in Texas

After two and half years in Texas,

I have only four 512 numbers in my phone,

I have never gone to the mall with someone other than my family,

never gone to lunch with someone outside of a group event or business need.

never had someone ask me to go out to a coffee house...and actually show up.

After two and half years in Texas,

I haven't been invited to a birthday party

Or a baby shower

Or a wedding

Or dinner.

After two and a half years in Texas,

Everyone I call a friend is at least 1200 miles away

No one has ever come into my house to see me

And there isn't a single door I could knock on and expect a welcome.

After two and half years in Texas,

I have had dozens of empty "let's get together",

followed by countless broken plans

and a few times not even knowing plans were broken until I showed up...and they didn't.

After two and half years in Texas,

I have been treated as a resource, not a potential friend.

Countless people have asked for advice on websites

And social media and writing...

Dozens have told me about their needs

And struggles

And fears....

Then walked away without caring to hear mine.

After two and half years in Texas,

I have been told at least a thousand times

how wonderful Austin is,

how friendly Texans are,

how great is it to live here.

After two and half years in Texas,

I know your words are empty,

your promises are lies

and your welcomes are meaningless.

And I know that however hot your summers may be,

Deep in the heart of Texas, it's nothing but ice.

Monday, 27 January 2014

I am a woman, I have been trained since birth: Poem for my friend's tears


I am a woman
I have been trained since birth to pay attention to the subtle, the unspoken

I will notice when the passionate kisses turn to pecks, the I love you to I care about you, the gazes to glances.

I will fight to hold back the silent tears when urgency gives way to indifference, and humor begins to speak in whispers of mocking

I am a woman and I have been trained since birth to pay attention to the subtle

I will watch with a heavy heart, as gestures of romance become acts of vanilla kindliness,

As passes are by-passed, and my why don’t we's are met with maybe later's

I am a woman and I have been trained since birth to pay attention

You may dismiss my quiet weeping as silliness when stock words of acknowledgement suddenly fill Valentines or anniversary cards

You may respond with annoyance when I ask if you love me

You may tell me it’s all in my head

But I am a woman and I have been trained since birth

Even if no man had ever left me,
I would know.

I have watched men turn and walk away from
Friends
Sisters
Strangers

And I know that the final good-bye
The closed door
The empty room after

Was always sung in the
Missed kisses
The silenced I love yous
The averted gazes




Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Whatever I want to write, from now on

white flower on the porch

This blog started when I wanted to share my experience with friends who lost their home to a fire. I had another blog up until that day, but I felt as though it was too much about things that had run their course and chapters that were closed. I needed a fresh start.

Over the years, this blog has taken a lot of different twists and turns. I've written about my life as a single mom and as a newly married woman starting over. I've written about friendships found (and lost), about faith and dark nights of the soul. I've written about lessons learned with grace, and those learned in pain. For the most part, I wrote from the heart, not worrying about who followed or who shared my posts.

Then I became a "professional blogger" in my work life. And suddenly, I started worrying about reach and SEO and engagement. My writing here became more self-conscious, more strained. And I wrote less. Then I felt guilty about the lapses -- which made me feel guiltier. So I wrote even less. My blog, my way of sharing my world, had become a chore.

And yet, here I am. Back on the pages of This, That and the Other. Writing. Because I need to write. I need this outlet to share the things that don't belong on my professional, image-focused, SEO'd blogs.

I thought about starting a new blog for this new start. But somehow, like a familiar old pair of jeans, I wanted to use a setting that was well broken-in. I wanted to write where I had already written about the beauty and pain and joy and fear and hopes in my life.

So world, I am back. Without concerns about SEO or followers or share rates. I am contemplating moving the whole blog, complete with content from day one, to another platform. And that might happen soon. But regardless of the backend, the home will still be the same. I'm back, world. And ready to write.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Trying to get it all under control

Yeah, I said "ALL". Because I'm crazy like that.

Every once in awhile, I get this insane idea that with the right organizational tools, the right plan, the right schedule, the right commitment, I can finally figure out how to stay on top of my blogs, keep up with my freelance work, keep the house clean, make delicious healthy creative dinners that never cost more than $10 for the whole family, organize and use my coupons to get tons of stuff for nearly free, be mom to my daugher, spend time with my husband, go to services and Bible class every week, do some kind of hike or other outdoor event every weekend, and still have time for my yoga and pilates classes, journal writing, reading and watching an occasional TV show.

Oh and did I mention, keep some semblance of sanity? Because, yeah, I'm crazy like that.

When I write it all down like that, I can see the insanity. But even then, a part of me thinks it's still possible. Or at least more possible than my daily reality suggests. Because the real, daily me is always running at full speed but still leaving half of that list in the "To be done" column by the time I crash around midnight (or one or two or...)

And I wake up, behind on my blog, opting for a quick but not cheap dinner plan, watching my coupons expire unused, floors in need of cleaning and article deadlines looming, all the while dreading the rush of the approaching (or current) weekend which only seems to double or triple my exhaustion and "behindedness" (my new word...do you like that one?)

Why do we women do this?  Because I know it's not just me. I know there are many heads nodding as you read, recognizing your own never-ending list and that feeling that if you just found the right method, it would all fall into place.

I remember years ago reading an article by a woman who was trying to do just that, with a new planner. She kept adding time onto her morning, by scheduling her wake-up time earlier and earlier, to squeeze in things like exercise or meditation or writing. And at the same time, she kept pushing back her planned bed time, so she would be able to get a jump-start on the next day by laying out clothes, setting the table for breakfast or carving out some time to read. But when she put the two pieces together, she realized that her new "schedule" would have had her getting up before she went to bed.

I laughed, but only because I understood. I could see myself making that same discovery. I've bought the planners. I've created the "Command Center" in the house with white boards and bulletin boards and calendars. I've created online calendars and printed and posted calendars and put calendars on my phone that are shared with my husband and daughter's phones. But still, the list never gets done.

And yet, even with years of momhood experience, and stories that point out the futility, I keep trying. So the real question is, how do I stop? How do WE stop? Because all I can think of is heading out to buy a new and bigger calendar.

Do you have a solution? A tool that really does work? Or a technique that lets you step back from the insanity, and manage it somehow?

Can you share, please? Otherwise, I know I'll be downloading yet another planning tool by midnight.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

What a "clean room" means to a teenager

The Before...
We just had yet another round about the room. But this time, I didn't yell or even get mad.  I was too busy laughing.

Why? Because the absurdity of what a teen can call a "clean" room just hit me. Maybe it's because I haven't been sleeping well, and I'm punchy. But it was all too funny to do anything but laugh..

For those of you new to this parent thing, you might not understand. Let me put it in simple terms. Two year olds make a mess. Teenagers give F4 tornadoes a run for their money. 

And then they "clean" it up. And that's where the real fun starts. We had that particular breed of fun just tonight. But I was laughing to hard to haul out the camera, so use your imagination. Here goes...

According to the alternate-reality world of teenager-hood, a clean room may include:

  • Five assorted glasses, cups and mugs
  • Three plates and two bowls
  • My favourite tea pot, the one I said must never, ever, ever, under any circumstances go further than the dining room  (because it was a wedding present and cost more that I could ever possibly justify spending for a tea pot!) 
  • Three pairs of shoes in the hall just outside of the door
  • Two belts on the same hall floor
  • A floor under the bed which was home to a half dozen power cords and headphones, several food  wrappers, an apple core and at least two magazines. 
  • A pile of "I don't know what to do with this" stuff that covers about a 2' x 2' square of carpet
  • A dresser top that I know is there only because I can remember what it looks like from when we moved in.
  • Ditto the bedside table top
  • Ditto the desk top
  • An unmade bed piled with at least half of the blankets, quilts and pillows we own (she likes to make a "nest" to sleep in...oh, wait. She got that trait from me. Never mind...)
I walked in, because she wanted me to see the "clean room". My husband, who had beaten me to the punch, was laying on the floor, laughing. I could not help but joining in. So we giggled. And my daughter giggled. And her friend, who was "helping" her clean, giggled. 

And when we finished laughing, she put on the two belts, and two of the pairs of shoes that had been in the hall (one pair on feet, one on hands), then picked up the long-since outgrown little girl purse from the dresser and announced she was ready to go to Wendy's for a Frosty. as a reward for cleaning her room. 

So.....Dishes removed, space under the bed cleared and vacuumed and the desk somewhat exposed, my husband took the girls to Wendy's for those Frostys

Yeah, according to the "Great and Powerful Oz", or "The Book of Really Good Parenting" (which I am sure exists, but I never did find a copy), we are bad parents.  We should have refused to play along until the room was genuinely clean. We should have used it as an object lesson for responsibility and natural consequences and all the other things the people who have read that "Really Good Parenting" book do. 

But we didn't. We laughed and we bought Frostys

But you know what? I don't care what I should have done. It was worth it for the giggles she gave us. And that's more precious than all the spotlessly clean rooms in the universe.




Friday, 15 February 2013

What you say about social media is NOT what your kids hear

Let me start out by saying that is not yet another post about the dangers of social media profiles, and the world of paedophiles lurking out there waiting to scoop up the names, locations and pictures. That message has come through loud and clear. Got it.

Nope, this is about trying to get kids (and especially teens) to understand that NOTHING goes away online. That the "Delete" button is really just an archive or a "don't show this here now to me" button.

And that colleges and universities are using that information (including what you THOUGHT you deleted) to decide who get in and who gets scholarships.

And employers, legally or not, are using it to decide who gets hired and who gets the boot. And did I mention that it NEVER, EVER, EVER goes away???

So here's how it goes. I calmly tell my kids and their friends that they shouldn't post anything online they wouldn't want their grandmother, teachers, future boss or someday boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife reading. Or looking at. Or listening to. (Yeah, dangling participles galore...I can just hear my English degree adviser now!)

They look at me with sympathy. Poor mom has drunk the Kool-Aid. Doesn't get the world of Tumblr or Facebook. Never mind that online content marketing is my profession. Doesn't matter.

And so they post. And they upload.  Nothing truly awful. Nothing criminal or mean. Just stuff that to an admissions committee faced with 200 completely qualified students and one more slot could mean they come across as a slacker or uncomnmited or that person who's going to penny in the other students on the dorm floor. So they get the dreaded thin letter and someone else gets the welcome packet.

I know that the screaming-until-your-face-turns-blue or lecturing until your tongue is sprained won't get the message across. But ignoring it isn't an option.

So I'm asking you...what if anything has worked for you?  What message, what tool, what piece of information worked?

In the meantime, here's a message for future employers and college admissions boards everywhere. Kids say and do stupid stuff. By definition. Because they are kids. So could you please do everyone a favor and just look away a bit more? Scale back the peeking in where you're not invited. It's kind of like reading your sister's diary...none of your business and probably mostly made up.

Because behind the weird videos and talk about putting a cow on the high school princpals roof, they're good kids.  And odds are they would be good students and good employees.

Oh, and one more thing.  That prank you never figured out when I was at UF? That was me. The early-admissions, squeeky clean honors student. Just sayin'

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Where's my infinity pool?

My mind works in weird ways, especially when I'm way overtired from three nights of not sleeping well (can someone explain to me why the very same dog who sleeps curled in a tiny ball in the living room finds it necessary to stretch out and take up as much space as possible if I let her sleep in our bed?  I mean, seriously!)

Anyhow, yesterday I flipped on the TV and there was this commercial for an addiction recovery center. And it was gorgeous. Women relaxing in fluffy spa robes, yoga classes by the beach, a man looking fit and tranquil resting at the edge of an infinity pool. And according to the spokesman, the whole experience is covered by most insurance plans.

And I had to wonder....where is MY infinity pool? Where is my beach-front yoga class? And why can't I get insurance to pay for any of that?

No, I am not an addict. In fact, I never have been. I don't even drink. Never tried drugs. (My mom did a great job of scaring me out of even experimenting with those -- thank you, Mom!)  But that shouldn't be a barrier to an insurance-paid  fluffy white spa robe of my own, should it?

Now don't get me wrong. I am not belitting the horror of addiction. Or the trials people go through in trying to get and stay clean and sober. I have friends and family members who have been down that path, and I have seen what they have been through. And I'm eternally grateful I did not face those issues.

But in all fairness, shouldn't there be a reward for exhausted moms and dads who stayed addiction-free?  An insurance-covered retreat if you make it to say, 35 or 40 without ever having a chemical addiction? Call it a medical pat on the back for managing to make it through the teen years, college, work, marriage, sleepless nights with babies, school aged kids and moody teens of our own (and for some of us, through in divorce, single parenthood and remarriage, too) , without becoming addicted.

Because, when you think about it, that is a pretty major accomplishment! So I think a completely free week or two at a beach-front spa is the least we could get in return. So do you think we could get this passed by Congress?

Let's get one of those petitions going on Facebook for a mandate to all insurance companies to give unaddicted moms and dads something to look forward to after they face all of life head on. With a fluffy spa robe and an infinity pool of their very own. With three nights of bad sleep and a moody teen at home, it sounds awfully good to me.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Blessing bags for the homeless

Image from Joy's Hope
I was surfing around Pinterest, looking for ideas for our Faerie House for the festival at Zilker Park, when I came across a picture entitled "Blessing Bags".  I had to click in to see what that was about, and then click again to reach the blog post.

What I found was a post from KWAV (Kids with a Vision) about creating these blessing bags to give to the homeless. Homelessness is HUGE here in Austin, Texas, so I was immediately interested.

I've heard people talking about putting some snacks in bags, but this went further. As you can see in the picture, these included soap and Tynenol, toothpaste and deoderant, as well as some food.  It shouldn't feel revolutionary to me...I've done personal care bags for a couple of projects. But somehow, I didn't connect the dots. And I've worked with projects to provide food to homeless and in-need people for years.

Food + personal care items + some change + a bag = something to keep in the car to hand out.

The timing is perfect....

Last night, we were downtown for a walk with a group. My daughter and I stopped to admire a dog who was walking with two young guys -- one maybe in his late teens, one maybe about 20 or so. After petting the pup, the younger guy asked if we had some change we could spare for "a couple of street kids." My daughter apologized that she didn't...and he immediately responded.  "Don't apologize! You talked to us, like we were real people.  That matters a lot."  I wanted to cry. "Like we were real people."?  As though they were less than that??

I dug two one dollar bills out of my purse, and handed them to the younger guy.  He immediately gave one to his friend. They said thank you, and we said good-night and walked on.

After our stroll, we headed back to the car, and passed the same two young men. "Thank you so much again", the man said. "For everything."  My husband, who hadn't been with us earlier, asked why he had thanked us.

I explained.

"All that for a dollar," he asked?

Yup.

All that for a dollar. And some friendly conversation with a couple of strangers.

How nice it would have been to have had a bag to hand them, with some snacks, some personal care things, and maybe one of those silver space blankets to ward off the chill. How nice it would be, when I stop to hand someone a few quarters at a stop light, to be able to add a bag to my gift.

So thank you, Pinterest...and KWAV, for inspiring me. I have some bags to make. (Want to make your own?  Here's my list of ideas!)

PS...The post where the picture came from suggested putting religious materials like tracts ot Bibles in the bags.  I am a very spiritual person, but I have a huge problem with mixing religion and basic needs like food and soap, so I won't be doing that. Just sayin'....

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Seven words for 2013

2013 image
While I was working on some ad content for a client, I came across the website for one of their clients. The site was called Wall Words. I've seen companies like this before, selling precut and custom vinyl words to put on walls in your house or business. 

Like most of them, they had words for holidays, quotes for kids rooms, and inspirational messages for all occasions. But then I saw it. 

"Choose 7 Strong Inspirational Words" it said. And there was a long list to pick from. Single words. 

And instantly I knew that this was going to be the basis for my New Year's project.

I usually do a vision board for the New Year...and I probably will this year, too. But the idea of distilling all of my hopes and wishes and plans for the coming year into 7 words...that was new. And that spoke to me.

I've had enough of mission statements and goals and steps toward goals. I'm exhausted at the prospect of yet another year of writing pages and pages of answers to "insightful" questions or "thought-provoking prompts."

But 7 words?  THAT I can handle.

So I started.

I miss my friends and family back home in Florida, but I am at a loss when it comes to keeping those relationships strong. This summer, I renewed my relationship with my father, but he lives far away, and I don't know how to overcome the years of silence and build on what we started. I haven't found friends here in Texas, and that means I'm usually lonely.

So what one word fits all of these? CONNECTION. I long for connection. I need it, crave it, want it, and hope to figure out how to build it. It's not on their list...but it's the first word on my list.

Next, I have been struggling to find a way to build my freelance business. I was a student, then a grad student, then an at-home mom, and then I became a single mom with a full time job.  Then a better full time job. But with the move to Austin, those corporate positions vanished, and I found myself competing with the just-out-of-college people who are willing to work for pennies.

I have no idea how to find clients and build my base. So from all of that, my next word is FOCUS. I need to focus on learning how to find people who need what I do. And then focus on letting them know how I can help. Again, not on their list -- thank goodness there's a custom option!

The next few did come from the Wall Words list.  SERENITY. I definitely need more of that. Along with the interior peace and quiet that go with it. TRUST comes next. I have some big issues with trust, and although I've improved, there are still miles to go. HEART is another one. I need to pay more attention to heart, and less to the voices in my mind that keep showing me all the reasons I can't do what I want to do, or why it's impractical or who might not approve.

The sixth word on my list is ADVENTURE. I want to be more willing to go after adventures...to take those leaps of faith, to push fear aside more often and just go for it.

My final word is a short one...the shortest of the seven as a matter of fact. But it's the biggest one for me to confront. HEAL. I need to allow myself to heal. Learn to heal. Heal from the loss of my mom, and the unfinished business that was left behind with her passing. I need to heal from seeing the worst of the past in people in my life now.

So those are my goals and plans for 2013. Just seven little words.

Connection
Focus
Serenity
Trust
Heart
Adventure
Heal

Do you have seven words? I would love to hear your words...and your story. Leave me a link with your seven word plan for 2013. (As always, PG, please.)