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.

Writing Challenge Day 28: What I Wore Today

Today, like most everyday of my professional life, I wore my work uniform: scrub top and scrub pants, coupled with black socks and my new Dansko shoes. My hair is wrapped in a messy bun, still damp from this morning’s shower. Minimal make up and small button earrings adorn my face.

I started the day asleep in socks and sweatpants.

I’ll end the day with the same, but with a t-shirt, until I crawl into bed.
I wish I was more exciting in the wardrobe department. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to wear cute dresses and full make up on a regular basis.

Then again, showing up in the equivalent of professional pajamas isn’t so bad either.

Writing Challenge Day 27: Four Weird Traits You Have

Awkward
I am really awkward. Physically, mentally, and under certain denominations, spiritually. My body is a pear: small on top, large on the bottom. It doesn’t fit into normal business dresses and I can’t pull off looks where my waist isn’t accented. If only I had boobs, everything would be fine. We won’t discuss my hair. Because I am so individualistic, I don’t run with what the crowd is doing, and so I am the perpetual outsider; it can be quite frustrating when trying to make friends or join a group of people. Politically I’m a centrist who leans slightly left. I don’t swallow American Christianity whole. In fact, I don’t ingest it at all. I don’t blindly support political figures based on their rank, party, or stance on abortion. I don’t fit into any of the round holes cut out for me. I’m a parallelogram peg.

Read mood of room
One of my favorite traits I only recently learned I have, is to read the mood of a room or an individual. The key is not to view anyone through a lens: let them tell you what they are about through their words, body language, eye movement, and facial expression. I can size someone up in moments and then tailor my behavior to mimic or complement theirs.

Inability to wear make up
To go with my awkwardness, wearing make up has also eluded me. I was blessed with my great grandmother’s deep set hooded eyes. They’re basically useless with liquid eyeliner. My fancy almond eyed niece tried to help, but it was futile. I’ve yet to wear eyeshadow or eyeliner like everyone else without looking like a lady of the night or a 5 year old was my make up artist. Make up tutorials backfire. Maybe I just need help. Maybe I should stop trying. Maybe I should always look like I just spent a day at the beach with my tinted moisturizer, powder, mascara, and eyebrow pencil.

Great sense of direction
I could find the way out of a wet paper bag. If I study a map, I can recall my location and navigate. GPS is great, but I don’t need it if I have a few moments with a map. Last week I tried to find a way to my new house from the main drag: I had a decent idea where to go, used my compass, and I found it without much effort. It’s a gift. I’m fun to travel with, too, because sometimes I miss turns and find new roads. If you’re with me, adventure is never far away.

Writing Challenge Day 26: Things You’d Say to an Ex

When I was younger, I’d have written a soliloquy about this, covering the chasms of emotion and trying to hurt them with my words as much as they hurt me. Having grown up a bit and moved on, that is no longer the case. I know exactly what I’d say:

“How are you?”

I mean this not as the common American greeting; I’d want to know where they were in life. What people, events, and experiences shaped them since we last spoke over a decade ago? I’d want to know how they really are; without the facade of social media or a monotone “Fine” which is what I got the one time I asked an ex how they were. I would want to dig deep into the condition of their soul, and yet stay detached as an outside observer.

I don’t believe I’ll ever get the chance to ask, but I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I could. Chances are, their memory of me is so dim, it may not even register anymore.

Writing Challenge Day 24: Something You Miss

My college roommate once said she could not fathom how anything mattered in her life until after her first child was born. Since I was only part of her pre-child life, I took offense. The part she so hastily discarded as rubbish is, and always has been, near and dear to my heart.

It was at State University that I learned how to live. On my own terms. That was a luxury I did not have in the house growing up.

And I miss that college life.

I miss the moments of self discovery, learning more about myself and how I interacted with the world.

I miss the reckless abandonment of cross country road trips, spending 2am in a diner, and sipping vodka cocktails on the apartment steps after a long week on a Friday night.

I miss the boys – friends and the ones who would wake up next to me in the morning – where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy with where life took them? Do they think of me as I do them?

I miss the relaxed schedule of classes, without the drone of a long workday, of which pivots everything else in my life.

I miss my sanctuaries of the coffee shop, the running trail, and the 18th story lounge of my old dorm that towered over the city. All of those places shaped me as a writer and provided a sounding board.

I miss the smell of the stage where I worked for slightly more than minimum wage. I can’t recall the scent I used to revel in; I’ve been away too long.

I miss having friends readily available. Now, I have to take in account distance, jobs, husbands, children – the list goes on. Gone are the days of hanging out randomly.

While I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was back in the day, I miss the person that was me. I miss the people my friends were before jobs, family, and life events changed them. I’m much more jaded now than I was – even though I’m childless and driving the same car I had in college. Even I haven’t escaped the sands of time.

While I lost my roommate to the abyss of motherhood and career, a college friend I occasionally hung out with – we ran in different circles – is now one of my closest confidants. She’s the one I call when the pain gets too much to bear. She knows all about the storms rocking my world, and I share in hers. I miss I didn’t make the most of our time when we lived a few moments away from each other; and now a 10+ hour drive separates us.

I’m perpetually stuck between what was and what is. I miss that old life so much, but I am thankful for where I am now, healthier in all aspects of life.

I just wish I could go back and visit once in awhile.

May: Let go of anxiety

My focus for the month of May is to let go of anxiety.

It’s a tall order for a GAD sufferer. I’m starting a new part time job on top of my normal job. I used to have anxiety attacks doing this same job several years ago.

I went to college for this job. I have well over 10 years experience. I need to stop freaking out about everything all the time. I need that confidence boost from April.

While my house is under contract, the deed is still in my name. Our buyers could back out, which is my biggest anxiety trigger right now. Nothing is final until the ink dries on the closing papers.

With the new job, my home life is changing. I’m going to be in a new neighborhood, with new neighbors. My day is going to have new rhythms: there will be things I do there I didn’t need to do at this house, and vice versa. The anxiety of not having a routine – or a place that feels like home – is rough and uncomfortable, like a wool sweater.

Let go and let God.

I’ll keep repeating this until it sinks through my thick skull. How do you let go of something that causes your hand to paralyze around something you cannot drop because it may hurt someone?

I don’t know either, but this month, I will wrestle with it.

April in Review

April proved to be a month that was loaded with opportunities for confidence. We bought another house and plunged further into debt. The confidence to carry that took quite a bit of gumption to pull off, especially as we closed on our new house and the reality of how much I owe literally hit home. But here I am, still going strong. Even more so that we have a buyer under contract.

The money situation really bothered me, so instead of fretting over it and waiting for disaster to hit, I proactively sought a part time job. This job is one I held previously and left because the stress was too much with the panic attacks that followed. But the money is really, really good and the management deck is reshuffled; I’ve been reassured by a trusted supervisor things are better than what they were back when I was there. I don’t have a sunset date on this gig, but I know in my heart it is only for a season. While it looks like our house will sell, I am still taking the job. The money coming in will fund my upcoming adventures, investments (stocks and house projects), and above all, used to further the kingdom of God. That will be determined as the Holy Spirit dictates.

I lacked confidence in a couple of areas: our new garage floor was in a sorry state of grime and dirt. The cleaner I bought was complicated to use, and my test patch only frustrated me further. And so I stopped. Not so much confidence there.

I did find myself consistently praying to God for provisions, a buyer, and friends who are struggling against unfair odds. My relationship deepened with the Lord this month for sure. I completely relied on Him. I pray this does not go away when things get easier.

With all the big life stuff that hit me this month, I feel I did pretty well with confidence. I hope this carries over into the months that come.

Rolling On

With my self imposed spending freeze, as now I own 2 houses, I have become stricter than I ever have with money. No treats for myself, no indulgences (unless there is a gift card involved, Hello Starbucks!). I’m not drinking alcohol, not getting ice cream, not eating at restaurants. I spend money on food – sometimes I stop at the local grocery store for lunch – and gasoline outside of household expenses like electricity. Heaven help me if anything goes wrong with my old car.

This upcoming weekend our neighborhood is having a yard sale. We have many items to sell as we’re downsizing. A friend of mine who is always getting rid of things is also coming to man the yard sale with me like last year. I’ve always made a big breakfast complete with mimosas, which we sipped while people perused our wares.  My friend is pregnant and I am not drinking right now, so our mimosa breakfast is out. I thought I would make cinnamon rolls from Trader Joe’s – the best cinnamon rolls this side of a bakery. But then I talked myself down from that: I do not need to spend the money on breakfast for friends (under $10, but still). I’m on a spending freeze. They are also on a tight budget as well with the new bundle of joy arriving soon.

But as soon as I had squared all that in my mind, I felt a nudge from the Lord: maybe it was more of an eyeroll. “Make the cinnamon rolls.”

With our current house, and the new house, I strive to make it as hospitable as possible. I promised during this spending freeze that I wouldn’t become a miser, and it would not dampen my hospitable home, no matter how much I had in the bank. I may not be able to serve steak and bottles of wine to my friends, but I would do something budget friendly.

And so, “Buy cinnamon rolls at Trader Joe’s” appears on my to do list this week. It is a kind gesture and they are heavenly! I even texted my friend, “Does your daughter like cinnamon rolls?” as her pregnancy has dictated what she can eat. She responded the baby loves cinnamon rolls and is kicking with joy at the prospect of them!

That made my heart happy.

And I am so thankful I have a God, who despite entrusting me with 2 houses on faith and an hour glass of savings, told me to buy cinnamon rolls.

Like Led Zeppelin once immortalized in a song: “And I just keep on rolling along with the grace of the Lord above.”

Writing Challenge Day 22: My Morning Routine

Since taking this new gig, my morning routine isn’t exactly what I need it to be, but for the moment, it works.

I wake up at 0500, saunter downstairs, and feed my inpatient cats. Bathroom and teeth are next. Lately, I’ll find myself taking a 8+ minute nap under an Afghan before feeding the cats. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of a weird dream, and I need a few moments to straighten out my thoughts.

Next, I check my phone and the news/Twitter feeds while my coffee is brewing. Once my coffee is ready, I sit on the deck (during summer) or my sitting room (during winter). I spend these quiet moments in contemplative prayer. My favorite devotion is Pray As You Go, 13 minutes of pure bliss: coffee, quiet, Jesus.

After this, depending on what’s on the day’s docket, I’ll work on my German/French lessons, correspondence, tidy, etc. but only for a few minutes. Then it’s shower, breakfast, and run out the door for work at 0700.

Once my world stops spinning with this house buying stuff, perhaps I’ll extend my bedtime and wake up a bit later. I miss that extra hour in the morning to write. I need to adjust. But with everything else, I feel perhaps I should keep at least one routine normal.