September: Grow Grapes

One of my goals this year was to grow grapes.

Muscadine grapes are indigenous to the Carolinas and I thought this would be the perfect variety to grow. They need sun, 20 feet of trellis, and a friend to pollinate. My backyard, like the rest of my landscape, is in a sad state of affairs. There is so much work to be done, grading the yard, removing weeds, and getting a plan together – I will need professional help. Because of time and money, I can’t plant this year.

I made this list of focus points for the year back in January, in our old house. Moving was still a “maybe someday” conversation. I had no idea how much of a roller coaster 2017 was going to become and how much would change in my world.

My September focus is indeed “growing grapes” – what other goals did I have for this new minimalistic life? What was I going to accomplish here that I did not/could not do in my old huge house?

Live with less stuff. Invite people over for meals. For tea. Focus on my crocheting, spend time on the deck, get out into the garden, focus on my health, my husband’s health, and those around me. Travel more. Get back to those free spirit days I had in a 1 bedroom apartment in a midwestern cornfield. Gone are the days of maintaining and cleaning a huge property: I have always been content with less stuff. It’s time to start living that.

I am going to share this contentment with those around me. I’ll always be a shy introvert – it’s who I am at my core – but perhaps it is time to blossom in being about the Lord’s work through hospitality.

Perhaps I will serve muscadine grape juice to my guests next year.

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August in Review

My goal in August was to exercise everyday and get back to being physically healthy.
Because of life, I was unable to exercise everyday. One weekend I needed a break from the rat race of life. Another weekend was in the midst of a 14 day stretch of work with a double shift in the middle of it. My body revolted after that with waves of sheer exhaustion that forced me into bed at 5pm on Day #8. For the first time, I’m realizing I’m not 23 anymore. It’s rather sobering at 35.

I did manage to get to the yoga studio and I felt like a new person after that workout, with my unlocked hip flexors. I made a point to run more through the neighborhood for cardio: I made it a priority instead of an option. I’m still slow and lumbering; sometimes I walk more than I run. I can’t seem to get in the groove with my playlist. I think it is just where I am in life.

I’m also realizing that despite cooking at home, we eat a lot of meat. I need to find some more vegetarian recipes to add to my repertoire. More fruits, veggies, and grains I’m sure would make a world of difference as well.

August made me focus on my physical health, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was needed in my world.

Michigan Musings: Port Austin

The morning ride to Port Austin always started before dawn in the western suburbs of Detroit when I was a kid.

My younger sister and I would pile into the car with my dad; my mom would drive up at a more respectable time with my grandparents. I was always enchanted by the sunrise. This time of day was foreign to me and it only added to the adventure. We’d barrel through the city’s interstates before taking the exit for M53, or as my ancestors called it, Van Dyke; this artery would take us to our final destination. As the road retreated back into suburban Detroit, the further we drove, the more country it became. The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by fields, microscopic one stop light towns, and signs reminding us to share the road with Amish buggies.

2 hours later, we’d come upon the largest city in the thumb – Bad Axe. Van Dyke turns here, so you have to follow the signs, otherwise you’ll be lost among an endless cornfield heading in the wrong direction, as we did one year. We’d stop here for food, now that our bodies were fully awake, as was the sun. As one who hated breakfast food, my dad managed to get me hooked on McDonald’s breakfast burritos on one of these trips.

A half hour and more fields later, we’d arrive at our destination: Port Austin, Michigan. Population: 800. Van Dyke ended at a T stop for the simple fact that Lake Huron and the city marina were directly across from this main intersection. You could see the lighthouse, which warned ships of the shallow waters since the 1800’s. We always turned left. ┬áMy heartbeat would quicken the moment I saw the lake.

I rolled into this town for the first time in summer of 1989. I had never seen the ocean, but to me, this was the ocean. This was amazing. I belonged here.

August: Exercise Everyday

As my sweet summer begins to wind down, and the scale is a few pounds heavier than it was in May, August’s theme is to exercise everyday.

While I believe the sheer amount of stress I was under this spring helped keep my waistline trim, I want to maintain the weight in a much healthier manner. I used to walk 2 miles on my lunch break, but the hot summer air has kept me from that. I sacrificed running, rock climbing, and yoga to paint the house so I would have some semblance of order in my life. With the bulk of the house preparation complete, it is time to focus on my health and keep moving forward with life.

I am still carrying the stress from earlier this year. I tend to keep all my stress in my hips, and my hip flexors are so locked now I don’t remember what unlocked felt like. The only way I know how to unlock them, outside of a chiropractic visit, is Bikram yoga. I need to get back on the mat.

There is a 20 pound kettlebell weight in my office; I don’t use it as much as I should. My arms and back are proof of this. Everyday, with the exception of something on fire, I am going to pick up the weight and do a few reps.

I’m hitting the jogging trail more often, but I walk a lot when I run, probably due to all the muscle tension. Rock climbing needs to be a priority as well.

My husband and I have 2 big hikes planned for the fall: one in the mountains and one on an island, so there is preparation involved to keep this exercise ball rolling after August fades.

I am ready to be physically healthy again.

July in Review

July highlighted my brown thumb tendencies, as well as the noxious weeds that seemed to pop up in my marriage.

Plant wise, I did well. I kept my ajuga transplants watered and so far they’re still green. I transplanted an upset, poorly placed gardinia, but it hasn’t quite decided to live or die yet. Nonetheless it has been given ample amounts of water and soil.

Having a smaller house with less to manage has improved life in other areas, namely the garden. I’m more inclined to walk outside to check on things than my old house. There was so much surface area to clean, walk through, and maintain. My next feat is to get the yard landscaped. But first, gutters!

As for the marriage bit, things got better as the month progressed. At first, even after a good day, we were arguing. Sometimes I think he just likes to pick fights. His love language is words of affirmation, perhaps more acutely so, which probably exacerbated an already flammable situation. Every time I think the worst is over, we hit another rough patch. It’s almost like clockwork. I really hope we have turned a corner; I think the vacation helped. We never used to be so ugly to each other. I must learn to respond by standing up for myself and not defaulting to complacency when he’s in my face telling me to go….well….you can fill in the blank.

As with growing plants and marriage, time tells all.

And fertilize/mulch as required.

Sobering

“Sober means I’m not getting drunk. I have a glass of wine or a beer now and again. So what? It was never my intention to stop drinking forever.”

These words were hurled to me as I confronted my favorite addict after I found a poorly hidden empty bottle of wine. They claimed they were 75 days “sober.” And by their definition, perhaps. But for a known binge drinker, I doubt that’s the case. I’d also like to mention all this drinking was done in secret – as was their addiction; their family was oblivious, because they would have gotten upset. And rightly so.

The addict then proceeded to make me sound like I was the crazy one. A master manipulator, there was no confession of wrongdoing or relapse. It was in-your-face defiance with their version of sober. The bait and switch made me feel cheated, hoodwinked, and the structure of trust came crashing down; that will have to be rebuilt. Again.

I liken it to having an affair on my husband with a guy named John (this is for comparison only, I’ve never cheated on my husband). An event caused me to confess, with tears, that I was ending the affair, profoundly sorry for the pain I caused, and I was again faithful to my husband. And so the marriage rebuilds. Then, my husband comes home after work several months later to find another man’s coat had fallen between the couch and the end table. His heart races as he asks me who’s it is.

“Oh, it’s John’s,” I’d say. “He came over today to watch a movie with me. We’re not sleeping together anymore, we just hang out, go to lunch and stuff, and have been for awhile, I just didn’t tell you because you’d freak out about it. I said I would stop sleeping with him, which I have, not that I would never see him again. John and I have a friendship that goes way back and he’s so interesting and nice to have around! What’s so bad about me having a friend over? It’s not a big deal!”

My husband would not think this was okay. No reasonable spouse would think, hey she’s right, I’m totally overreacting! I’m sure something would happen down the road, regardless of my good intentions, and I’d wind up back in bed with John: past behavior is an indicator of future behavior, like credit scores. My husband’s anger would boil over and he would give me an ultimatum: John or him.

I would be angry back, saying it’s unfair just because I spent the past few years sleeping with John and now that I’ve mended my ways, everything is fine, and trust should be restored.

Yet this is the argument I’m having over 2 carbon atoms with a hydroxyl group hanging off of it – alcohol.

There will come a day in the not too distant future where a line will be drawn with that ultimatum: family or alcohol. Personally I’d choose alcohol: it has no accountability.
The entire premise for my addict’s continued use of alcohol all revolves around them and their wants and needs. The fact that their use is destroying their family does not register.

Perhaps that is the most heartbreaking part of this whole painful situation.

I covet your prayers at this time.

My Writing Routine

As a writer, unless I have a pressing deadline or project – or become spontaneously inspired – I don't have much of a routine. I know. I'm working on changing that.

I read this book that revolutionized my writing approach. Free writing and pomodoro timing was a brand new concept to me that I quickly worked into my writing habits. Free writing made the first chapter of my book possible, as I had all these stories and research to sort through – I was able to organize and write simultaneously.

Pomodoro time was essential to my technical writing course with all the reading and essays to write. It gave me a sharper focus, running against the clock knowing I could take a break soon. Without these skills, I would be struggling.

My sitting room is where my iMac lives and all of my writing takes place there. It's decorated in minimalistic Ikea furniture and stays uncluttered. The walls are cyan, my favorite color, and it has a calming effect on me. Pictures of my ancestors are everywhere you look.

For blogs, I write in a WordPress window. My book, and other large projects such as proposals, are conceived in the best word processing program of all time, Scrivener. While I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of all its bells and whistles, it continues to amaze me at what can do. The composition mode is my favorite: a beautiful background of a field in Germany with my writing overlayed on a page – nothing else to distract from the words at hand. It gives such clarity and focus. I'm not sure what I would do without it.

As for the routine, I simply need to write more and on a regular basis, not allowing weeks to slip by with no words on a page. My new job has helped to give me space to explore this, luckily, as time is at a premium in this season of life.

Writing Challenge Day 30: One Thing You Look Forward To

I eagerly look forward to days of smooth sailing and routine.

I long for days where I’m not on the front lines of a loved one’s secret alcohol addiction. My soul is already weary from my world turned upside down this spring, and my anger is ebbing into complacent apathy; fighting back only makes things worse. I keep soldiering on, but my pace has slowed and I long for rest that never seems to arrive.

I want to enjoy life by having friends over with tea, using hospitality to do the Lord’s work. This includes crochet projects for the homeless and giving of time, talents, and money to those around me in need.

With this enjoyment, I truly want to experience joy – something my Generlized Anxiety Disorder deprives me of – I obsessively worry about everything – especially the patients I see. I’ve gone days with my stomach in knots, eating only enough to survive, worried sick that I may have hurt someone.

I want to lead a joyfully quiet life, focused on the Lord.

And I look forward to the day it becomes a reality in my little world.

July: Break Dead Plant Cycle

I have a brown thumb. It is neither green nor black: plants either thrive or die for me. Most die, to be honest – but I have a prayer plant and several succulents still alive and prospering. Fruiting plants are my nemesis: they will make green leaves, flower, and fail to produce fruit.

The Dovecote is a blank slate in terms of landscaping and I am excited to get a design and plants in the ground. I doubt it will be this month due to travel and the heat of a Carolina summer.

I have a small garden of potted plants and so far they are happy. I hope to steward them well enough to break this cycle of dead plants and add them to my landscape design. I transplanted some ground cover (ajuga) and I am making every effort to water and check in on them. The smaller house I hope will draw my attention to them and not get lost in the shuffle.

My marriage, like some plants, has begun to wilt. It’s been a struggle lately, to the point of where we’re arguing even after a good day.

We need to break this cycle and restore the browning leaves and parched soil. I want bountiful green leaves, deeply seated roots, and soil conditions that encourage growth.

I want life to blossom on all fronts.