Works In Progress

How wonderful it is when you can choose to be in a season of growth (and, after all, isn’t all of life a season of growth?).  It is a luxury, even more so when you are able to dedicate time and effort without guilt.  You can give yourself permission to be messy and imperfect (or just throw any thought of perfect out the window!) while you grow and expand.  Free to take chances, step off the well-worn path and explore new territory. 

I have a tendency to spend way too much time thinking/planning/designing “things”.  It has to do with that “P” word.  I tend to gravitate toward personal growth and development books/audiobooks for their positive content.  While that is a great practice, I then want to get the concept down “perfectly”.  That requires planning, obsessing, researching, and the circle goes round and round.  To the point that I never take the time to actually DO the thing.  Someone once asked me, when I mentioned wanting to do something, “when is NOW the right time to start?”.  NOW!!! The answer is NOW!  It is so easy to hide behind the need for planning, control, and the desire for a perfect outcome; or perhaps the fear of succeeding, that you could put it off forever.

We were walking tonight, and I was enjoying the beauty of these roses.  I had a “lightbulb” moment!  Instead of thinking about my life as a single bloom, I will see my life as the whole plant.  Instead of one bloom that will fade away, I can see places where I have beautiful buds that haven’t opened, some that are just beginning to open, some in full bloom, and a few fading away.  I expect they are seasons of being dormant that WILL be followed by wild explosions of new growth, buds, and glorious blooms.

Best of all, I know that I am my own master gardener.  I am responsible for pruning away the old growth to make way for new, carefully treating any pests that might try to invade or hamper growth.  I will not measure my growth or beauty by comparing myself to anyone else, nor will I try to be something or someone I am not to gain approval.  I am blessed to have a group of trusted friends that help me stay on track.

This is a lesson that will always be a work in progress for me.  That’s okay.  There will always be multiple areas within me that are works in progress.  That’s great!  It’s wonderful to have options.  Take my knitting, for example.  I *could* choose to start one project and only work on one at a time.  When I did that, I found that it was difficult for me to complete the project.  More recently, I have and keep several projects on my needles.  They range in difficulty/complexity, and for good reason.  Sometimes, I just need a mindless knit that is quick and portable.  Sometimes, I need one that requires all my concentration.  Bonus – I finish more projects this way. 

My Grace Lesson – NOW – choose now to grow your life the way you want it.  Put down the books and the expectations.  Get dirty, get messy, laugh, grow, prune, explode into full bloom – all while you let new buds form, old blooms fade, and be full of joy.  You will laugh and cry, giggle and scream in frustration, but get out and live your life.  (Of course, wear your mask, socially distance, and get your vaccine!-Pandemic living, and all.)  No one is more knowledgeable about your life than you, find your crew for support but make sure you are the one in control!

Growing Pains

Growth is a process.  I have heard that if you’re not growing, you’re dying.  Growth is also painful, joyful, scary, tedious, and weirdly liberating.  Growth requires – no, it demands – a generous helping of grace.

Guessing that we would be spending most of our time in Florida pretty much locked down, we decided to use the opportunity to make a dedicated and concerted effort to improve our health.  We chose to focus on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.  That has been going really well, with the exception of initial feelings of being self-serving and not serving others.  Our experience and results are helping us to realize that by taking care of ourselves, we are better equipped to help others.  This should not be news to me.  I have told that very thing to so many Hospice family members and caregivers – but why on earth would that apply to me?  That’s one of the many great things about grace…

We chose to use Noom as part of our weight loss plan.  You’ve probably seen the ads – it focuses on psychology, etc.  For our exercise, we have been walking (a lot!), mostly together.  That allows for a lot of thinking time – you can only talk about “stuff” for a while, then you run out of stuff to discuss. 

Noom is working well for us.  Logging meals has definitely made me more mindful of what goes in my mouth.  The psychology part has been the most beneficial for me.  Having time to consider the subjects, and being fully committed, I am experiencing growth (and growing pains) along with losing weight. 

I am truly an emotional eater and am getting adept at identifying my triggers – and even better at putting the safety on.  Just recently, I was able to identify 4 humungous triggers.  Instead of pushing them to the depths, I carefully examined each one.  Thought about why they were so stressful, and then looked for evidence from past experiences to either confirm or deny the thoughts associated with them.  So far, this is working well.  When I feel the anxiety start to rise, I take a calming breath (or several), and look for the evidence.

I want to share some random thoughts that have been coming up.  I know they are not “breaking news alert” worthy – but I share them in hopes that if you recognize something from this, perhaps you will give yourself a little grace. 

  • Make friends with yourself.  Seriously – treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.  Find a least one thing a day that you like about yourself (body, mind, spirit, ability, etc).  Get over feeling guilty for this.  If others see you treating yourself well – they will follow suit – and treat you well also.  (Trash yourself, and they will treat you with the same lack of respect.)
  • Forgive yourself.  The past is done – let go of the mistakes, the “should haves”, the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” syndrome.  What you have is this moment.  Dream about tomorrow but decide right now to love yourself.  Most likely, you are the one remembering all the bad, the mistakes, the missed opportunities.
  • Congratulate yourself on accomplishments.  Every day is worthy of celebration.  Maybe you took one baby step forward.  Maybe you stayed where you were (but didn’t backstep).  Maybe you went backward a little (but didn’t completely lose all momentum).  Depending on the day – each of those are praise-worthy.
  • Give up worrying about what others think of you.  Concentrate on how you think of yourself.  No one else on this earth is living your life, they are not qualified to chart your course.  (Bonus – when you are working on thinking of yourself and your own progress, you don’t have time to judge others!)
  • Reward yourself.  Kind words, little treats, only you know what will bring you joy.  Sometimes it’s as simple as taking 10 or 15 minutes to sit quietly and watch the world.  I have found a most delightful way to reward and/or comfort myself.  Bill gave me a bottle of “Pure Grace” lotion for Christmas.  This is one of my rewards.  When I am really happy or in need of comfort, I use this lotion (smells awesome) and imagine that I am covering myself in pure grace.  (Which is much nicer than their Amazing Grace, or the Grace lotions that have flower scents that cause me to have an allergic reaction!)  This is simple, might even sound corny – to you.  For me – it is a joy spot in my day.
  • Live life now.  Don’t wait for (weight loss, more money, a better relationship, a new car, etc… fill in the blank).  Honestly – life isn’t going to magically change when one of these things happen.  Your real joy in life will be found in your journey. 
  • Choose your travel companions carefully.  They need to be helping you row the boat, not drilling holes when you’re not looking.
  • Choose activities that fill you with joy and scare you at least a little.  I am having more fun running now than I ever did when I was “training” with a coach or trying to keep up with others.  I am running to please me – not to compare myself to others.  The same with exercise.  Knitting is both a joy and a soothing balm – and currently I have 4 projects on my needles and am thinking about #5.  Why?  Each project is bringing me joy as I work on it.  And each is progressing nicely.  Some might say this is too many – and maybe it is for them.  For me – it is just right.  Cooking is still an adventure and fun activity.  We have added hiking to our repertoire.
  • Don’t aim for perfect.  May as well go unicorn hunting, or searching for doodle bugs.  My grandmother had me hunting for doodle bugs way to often when I was little. 
  • Make your own rules – you are the boss of you (except of course, when violating rules will cause injury or harm!).  Like, if the road is a one way road – be sure you’re headed the right way!
  • Don’t be afraid to change things up.  And keep changing them until you find what works.  Recently I readjusted my daily schedule.  I was getting completely overwhelmed and super stressed.  I changed my daily routine, asked for help to do this from work, and decided to give it a week.  After two days I was amazed at the difference.  My attitude toward work, toward exercise, and toward the minutia of daily “stuff” that needs to be done has improved 100%.
  • Ask for help.  It’s okay.  It helps others fulfill their needs.

All this to say – embrace growth and growing pains.  Slather yourself with grace.  You are a good person, created by a loving God.  He only made one of you – so treat yourself like the rare, precious being you are.  He thought it was important for the world to have one of you!

Unsettling Thoughts

This is an unsettling time.  Growing up, I remember when Inauguration Day was a special day.  We would watch the process on TV with excitement.  You know what else I remember?  I remember that up until very recently, it was okay to have different opinions.  Now I see it dividing families, destroying families, and devastating our country.

It’s like we have two pandemics right now.  The media seems determined to whip the country into a frenzy over both the virus and the political climate.  Not to mention anything else that might spark a controversy.

Have you noticed how everything is breaking news?  Every storm is life-threatening and catastrophic? 

How about this?  We turn off the news, and turn on the prayer?  Prayers for a peaceful transition of presidential power, prayers for a transition from hate to peace – or at least truce. 

Regardless of who you voted for, what you ate for breakfast, the brand of toilet paper you use, or the color of your underwear (if you wear them 😉) – we can be friends?  If we could focus all the energy and money that is being expended on hate and drama, we could accomplish some pretty amazing things.

Random acts of kindness and grace would be an awesome movement right about now – however, I would settle for random acts of civility.

Joy In My Heart!

Do you remember that old Sunday School song – I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down In My Heart?  Well, I’m singing that song from the rafters!

See these feet?  They have been doing great and wondrous things! 

Let me give you a little back story.  When I met Bill, he was a runner.  I. WAS. NOT.!!!  Secretly, I thought it would be cool, but I also knew for certain that I could never keep up with him and didn’t even know where to start.  Life happened, Bill stopped running, and I still never started.  More life happened.  Bill started running again, and at that point, I was starting to get pretty disgusted with myself.  Still didn’t do anything about it.

Life continued to happen.  Bill didn’t run as much but would do substantial walking.  I finally got to THAT point and did something about my health.  I started exercising and eating better – and it worked.  Bill could walk a lot faster than I could, but we would walk together.  I held on to the hope that someday I could keep up with him and maybe run together.  Then I started running (I found a path that was out of public view) and discovered I could.  We did some running together, and then more life happened. 

I continued with my running, but it was a little harder for Bill.  I figured I wasted too much time and we wouldn’t be able to run together anymore.  A while back, I started walking more than running – and that was something we both enjoyed.  I also met some really great walking buddies along the way.

Bill started having some health issues with his heel, and then his back.  It was to the point that even walking was uncomfortable.  I felt like I had lost my desire to run, at the same time, I really missed the feeling after a good run.  Bill was tenacious about dealing with the health issues – and kept at it until surgery corrected the problem. 

With such an inspiration to encourage me, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe – we might have another shot.  Now, I know that we do!  We have been out together several times, running on the beach.  We are both starting back slowly.  It’s only been about 6 ½ months since surgery.  

I understand that my motivation to run has to come from within to be sustainable, and I will still choose to walk with my wonderful walking friends.  But running with Bill, side by side – fills me with indescribable joy (and the motivation to keep going).  I don’t care how fast, or how far.  I will work my tail off to make sure I can stay beside him.  (By the way, his long legs cover a lot more ground than my less-than-long legs do!)  God is truly an amazing God.  By His grace, I have a second chance at doing this simple yet profound activity with the man I love!

Merry Christmas!

For the past few years I have had a love/hate relationship with Christmas.  Specifically since we started our nomadic lifestyle.  Traditions have always been important – brought a great sense of comfort and seemed the springboard to create more memories.  Not having a “sticks and bricks” home, it is really hard to do all the things you do in a house for the holidays.  I know that this is a choice we made – and I will admit that this is one of few negatives of this lifestyle.  I will admit that I struggle with this time of year mentally. 

My growing up years were filled with happy memories of messy, large, happy family and friends gathering to celebrate.  I don’t remember the gifts – but I do remember the love that flowed with abandon.  I just assumed that our holidays were the way everyone celebrated.  Bill came with a different outlook on the holidays, so I had to learn to adjust my expectations.  I learned to scale down what our holidays were.  Now, being away from family and a house, I feel like holidays have little importance other than the interruption of mail, stores being closed, etc.  I am not casting blame – and this is definitely no reflection on Bill – I will completely own “my feelings”.  It is my attitude that needs some work and adjustment.  I really enjoy our lifestyle and the freedom to explore and move about as we please.  My big challenge is to find ways to rekindle my holiday joy (whatever the holiday is).

This experience has given me a lot of insight into those struggling with depression during the holidays (and every day).  This year, more than ever, not having the freedom to gather with family and friends due to health concerns, reach out to friends. 

I have learned much from spending time alone walking.  I have learned that I look forward to talking and listening to others.  I want to really pay attention to what they are saying – understanding more than just the words.  I want to look into their eyes to see if they are smiling or if their words match what their eyes convey. 

I have learned that if you don’t know and respect your own worth, you can not expect others to recognize and respect it either.  If you are constantly making yourself a doormat – you can’t be upset when they walk all over that mat.

At the Exchange (Navy department store), there is a lovely young lady that is a cashier.  Every other word out of her mouth is “I’m sorry”.  I purchased a backpack as a gift, and the exchange went something like this:  “I’m sorry, the store policy is that I have to unzip all the zippers and look inside.  Is that okay”  Me:  “Of course, please don’t apologize for a store policy.”  Her: “I’m sorry.  No ma’am, it’s just that some people get really upset.”  Me:  “You’re just doing your job – and doing it very well.”  Her:  “I’m sorry…” and so it went.  I have learned that the more you apologize to people, the more that some of them will make you feel you have done something wrong. 

I have learned that my “version”/”view”/”perspective” is just that – mine.  No one else can tell me what I feel, what I think, what my “reality” is.  That is simply their opinion (2-cents worth – and probably not worth that!).  When you are able to respect my view, I will respect yours.

Wow – rereading this, and it sure doesn’t sound like Merry Christmas, does it?  I remind myself that I do have a choice about how and what I am feeling.  I choose to be joyful and grateful for the reason for this holiday season.  The birth of new beginnings, the hope of sweet life and growth, the joy of knowing that we were created as unique and wonderful children of God, knowing that love is a gift that each of us a capable of sharing, and peace – knowing that you are enough – just as you are and allowing your soul to be filled with God’s peace.

I think there is a lot of grace in this lesson.  Instead of beating myself up for my feelings, I am able to acknowledge them and move forward.  It will be a very Merry Christmas, because it will originate from my heart. 

My wish for you this Christmas season is that you find comfort and joy in being YOU.  Unique and wonderfully created by a loving God – there are no others like you.  Remember that He cared enough to send His Son to save us all.  Find it in yourself to be worthy (because He already sees you as worthy) of that fantastic and loving gesture!

Big, Huge Grace – Unimaginable Grace!

So, when I was growing up – and to this day – our daily pre-meal Grace sounds something like this:  God is Great, God is Good, let us thank Him for our food.  Amen.  Simple, right?  Every day, at least 3 times a day.  Sometimes it probably sounds like something we just trot out without much thought.  I would disagree – wholeheartedly.  Those may be the words coming out of my mouth – but so much more comes from my heart.  If you are paying attention, you will probably notice that “Amen” doesn’t mean my head pops up, and my mouth pops open.  That’s because my heart hasn’t said Amen yet.

This past week has been so grace-filled – and my gratitude is overflowing.  Grace because I know that I could never do enough to earn the blessings in my life.  We’re talking grace of ginormous proportions. 

I’ve mentioned how well Bill is doing in our other blog. I am so proud of him!

On Friday, the piano keyboard I ordered was delivered.  I took piano lessons for many years while I was in school.  I started to learn on an old player piano.  It had these old rolls with paper, and you would load one and then start pedaling and the keys would play as if by magic.  Later, Mom and Dad saved up and bought a brand new upright piano for me.  My first piano teacher was pretty intimidating, and those lessons were awfully long “half hours”.  Honestly, practicing every day probably wasn’t my favorite thing.  Okay, no probably about it.  Thirty minutes felt more like hours.  Except when Dad would sit in his recliner and listen to me play.  I know that Mom appreciated it as well, but it was often her job to make sure I practiced.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized and appreciated the sacrifices they made for this.  I know that money was tight, and not only did they have monthly payments on the piano, but weekly lesson fees and music books as well.  Recitals were very uncomfortable for me, but I made it through them.

Recently, I felt prompted to start playing again to see if I remembered much and if I was even a little proficient.  Given our lifestyle, I was thankful for having a small Casio keyboard that allowed me to reacquaint myself with piano.  A gifted friend that teaches piano offered guidance and support, and Bill was cheering me on.  One thing led to another, and now – miracle of miracles – I have a full-size keyboard to play.  I am working hard to live up to even a small portion of what it is capable of.  I find that half an hour is definitely not sufficient.  There also seems to be a time warp problem.  I find myself sitting down to just play for a minute, and two hours later I am still sitting there. 

I am ready for stay-at-home shelter-in-place orders.  In fact – bring it on!  I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go out again.  I can work from home, I have my knitting, I have my piano, I have my Bill, I have dogs to walk and miles to log.  I have access to a great exercise bootcamp video and a super workout spot on our site.  Last week, I was able to hit 4 out of 5 days doing a workout in addition to daily walks.  I do miss having my friend to exercise with, and I have room for one more, but I don’t mind solo.

I am grateful.  For so many things – health and a body that is able to move; Bill and my family, a place to live, food to eat, the ability to serve others, a job, and a host of skills that fill me with joy.  If I listed all my gratitudes and blessings, this post would never get done. 

Grace lesson – choose an attitude of gratitude.  When you view life through a filter of gratitude, you will find joy and blessings beyond measure.


The other day, I went on my last walk around Crystal Lake for this year before we head south.  The water was like glass, and the trees with their glorious fall dress were reflected in all their beauty.  A mirror image, it captured the beauty and the clouds in the sky, the pretty reds and yellows and the brown dead leaves.

Reflections (images) are interesting, and for me they provoke the “thought” kind of reflection.  The reflections on the lake seem to be less harsh/clear than the mirror reflections.

When you look at your own reflection, what do you see?  What do you see if you look at a friend or family member’s reflection?

On this particular day, I was reminded of my friend, Judy.  When I see her, I see gentleness and compassion, encouragement, and a sense of adventure.  She reflects these qualities just as the lake reflects the beautiful fall colors.  Judy inspires me to try harder, be better, and make my reflection shine a little brighter.  (And she is helping me rediscover my love of piano to the detriment of her ears!)

Grace Lesson:  Make sure you have at least one “Judy” in your life!  I am blessed to have many people that reflect beautifully.  I have grateful – I understand the value of the gift that God has given me by bringing them into my life.

Don’t Wait…

We just experienced the most wonderful weekend – a time full of blessings and joy.  It was a combination of Dumonts Are On The Road Again and Thelma and Louise roadtripping. 

We spent Thursday through today (Sunday) at Pioneer Trail Campground in Escanaba, Michigan.  My cousins, Janet and Debbie, brought my aunt/their mom, and we brought mom.  It was family time, sister time, cousin time, and it was AMAZING!!!

The weather was NOT spectacular – it was cold and rainy with some wind.  We never left the campground.  We didn’t have great plans to go out on the town.  We talked.  Sometimes we walked and talked if there was a break in the weather.  We laughed, we cried, we ate.  We made incredible memories.

For fun, we all used Color Street nail strips and did our nails. 

For more fun, we roasted marshmallows and made S’mores.  Then we experimented with dipping roasted marshmallows in Baileys, in Kahlua, and in Rum Chata.

The nails, the food, the walks – they were fun.  The weather – we really didn’t care.  I have to tell you, though – the time and the talks – I’ll never forget.  I am so grateful to Janet and Debbie for taking the time to make this possible – grateful for Mom agreeing to come with us.  And to our Knight in Shining Armor – Bill – this man is priceless.  He pulled the house, kept the fire going (even in the rain), grilled our steaks and cooked our shrimp boil – and did it with a smile.  The only guy in the group (except Champ and Murphy – our 4-legger men). 

Grace Lesson:  Don’t wait to make memories.  Family is so precious.  You don’t have to have activities and events planned to have fun.  Set down and talk to each other.  Make eye contact, make heart contact.  Then be sure to thank God for the wonderful people he brings to your life – they are your true treasures.

Joy, Faith, Hope, Encouragement

I think I am couple blogs behind.  I’ve been thinking about these “4 words” for almost a month now.  That’s all they are – 4 words.  If that is where you want to leave them.  I want – am aiming – for them to be more than just words.  In other words, I want them to be verbs in my life, not just nouns (technically the noun form of encouragement would be encourager – and that would be okay).

There is a song that includes the line “there’s always a reason to always choose joy”.  Sometimes that is a challenge.  I lost my wallet a month ago.  There is a slim to bordering on miraculous chance I will find it somewhere in our house.  More likely, I dropped it or left it on a counter somewhere.  Whoever found it chose to avail themselves of the cash inside and not turn the wallet in or attempt to return it.  I had saved several hundred dollars and stashed it in the wallet.  Not smart, I get it – but that’s what I did.  I am (still) trying to convince myself of the joy of starting to save all over again and hoping that perhaps the person who found it really needed that money more than I did.

Even harder – choosing joy when I learned that my uncle had passed away.  I knew he had some health problems – some really tough ones – but this was still a shock.  I’ve written about him and my aunt before.  They have “the Funny Farm”.  There is great joy in knowing him and his family.  Great joy in the wonderful memories that flood my mind just thinking about him. 

Faith – when I choose joy, sometimes it requires me to really exercise my faith.  Faith in things unseen, faith in the goodness of people.  Exercising faith requires me to let go of control (this exercise is really tough for me – harder than pull-ups, fast running, burpees, weight-lifting , etc.).  When I choose to exercise my faith, it becomes easier the next time (just like physical exercise!?!?), and starts to feel very comforting.

I have been listening to Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, Brene Brown, and Tara Brach on audiobook.  If you’re looking for inspiration – check them out.  Zig talks about the importance of being a person than inspires hope and encouragement in others.  A worthwhile endeavor indeed.  If you can set your ego aside, get your focus somewhere other than yourself, sharing encouragement and hope can be an act of gratitude.  It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose or extravagant.  Simply share (honestly) a sense of hopeful encouragement.  You don’t have to look far to give it a try.  And, yes, in these COVID times, you can be socially distanced, appropriately masked and still do it.

When dealing in hope and encouragement, don’t go there if you don’t mean it.  As an example, I offered to start something I thought would be beneficial.  Received very positive feedback and spent a great deal of time and energy in planning.  Reached out for help in implementing – and ….. nothing.  I choose to look at this as a lesson to remind me not to offer encouragement and hope to someone else if I am not going to back up the words.  Verbs, not nouns.

My Grace Lessons:  Choose Joy, Exercise Faith – Share Hope, Give Encouragement


Spoiler Alert – there may not be much grace in this post!

I’m positive that I’m not alone in this – but I am so tired of the mask controversy.  Sick of hearing about conspiracies, hoaxes, political agendas, it’s just the flu, “my constitutional rights not to wear a mask, etc.  Seeing people intentionally gather in large groups and then later seeing the rise in case numbers.

How about this one?  Oh, it’s just “insert name” – I don’t need to wear a mask.  So, tell me, “xxx” is immune to the virus?  Is this because they look friendly/are your friend/don’t look like they are sick?  Besides, they don’t wear a mask around me (and probably don’t wear a mask around anyone else…WHAT???).

I think (my opinion) that our nation has become spoiled and lazy.  There seems to be a pervasive attitude that our comfort supersedes health and safety of others.  When our elected officials make decisions that are in the interests of the general population, they are called idiots or morons.  (Some Michiganders quite proudly display this very sentiment about our governor in their yards and on their vehicles.)  I understand that you DO have the right to freely express your opinions.  I’m just curious about how they would handle the current health situation in the world?

For those who have been unaffected by the virus (and I think that population is diminishing) – what will it take for you to decide this might be a *real* thing?  Will you have to personally know someone that has died from it?  Who, exactly, in your life would you like to sacrifice?  Please enlighten me – tell me your credentials/education/experience with this virus?  What makes you the superior source of information?

If they don’t live in your house or are not in your immediate circle, or if they choose to engage in risky behaviors (even if they do live in your house or are in your immediate circle) – wear the damn mask!  Be bold enough to disregard what that person or others might think.