Two Little Birds

Earlier this week at church, we had a “paint and sip” fundraiser for an upcoming missions trip. It was my first time participating in a paint and sip (the sipping was sparkling cider and hot cocoa). The attraction to the event was that it was a fundraiser and the painting was two birds in a tree.

As I have been gradually settling into the house, it has been fun for each room to have a theme. In the apartment, the only room that really had a theme was the kitchen. The theme was fruit. In the house, the fruit theme does not seem to really go anymore. The kitchen theme is now birds.

The bird theme simply fits. The cats and I both love all of the windows in the kitchen because they are optimal for bird viewing. Since I live with two indoor only cats, bird watching is their primary form of “outdoor” entertainment.

The kitchen windows are original to the house and an unusual size for modern day window treatments. I purchased fabric and have hand sewn curtains not only for the kitchen but also for most of the downstairs of the house. The kitchen curtains are red cardinals on a blue background.

The kitchen walls are blue and I have exposed red brick in half of my kitchen. Red and blue come naturally to the room.

Our new Fiesta dishware are solid colors that will go with any theme. So the key decor elements to the new kitchen theme of “birds” are the curtains, the wall calendar, and the tea bag holder. I am also looking for bird place mats. I may make them myself – we will see.

With the paint and sip at the church this week, I have added my painting to the kitchen to complement the bird theme. In addition to being my first paint and sip, the painting was significant to me for another reason.

The example painting showed two black birds sitting in a tree looking up at a red heart. I was the only one in a room of about 20 who painted my birds something other than black. For me, it was very important to specifically paint a blue bird on the left and a red bird on the right. I made my heart pink so that I would not have both a red bird and a red heart.

Why was I so specific on this painting?

For me, the painting signifies a way to include Kip and Kitty (both deceased) in the new house. Yes, I brought their urns to the house when we moved. However, I hold some guilt over the fact that when they were both alive, life was very difficult for us.

Kip and Kitty had both experienced homelessness with me. I’m pretty sure that months on end of living in the car may have been a contributing factor to Kitty’s anxiety disorder. When I bought the house, it was a huge relief to have permanent housing – something I have struggled to obtain my entire life. I first remember being homeless at age 4, and it occurred on and off for many years after.

Kip and Kitty did not live long enough to see the house. They never experienced “permanent” housing, although the 14 years I spent in the apartment was the most stable housing experience in my life up until the last 6 months I was in the apartment.

So, the blue bird on the left in the painting is for Kip. The red bird on the right in the painting is for Kitty. Blue was Kip’s color, and it seemed to fit his personality. Kip was very happy-go-lucky, and blue makes me think of a blue bird of happiness. Kip was also left hand dominant. I did a red bird for Kitty, because red was always his color. His favorite blanket was red and Kitty was primarily right handed.

I’m also drawn to the old legend surrounding red cardinals. There is a saying that a red cardinal is like a loved one in Heaven saying Hello. In the few months we have been in the house, we have seen both blue birds and red cardinals outside.

It’s probably really corny, but for me, this painting of two little birds helps me feel like Kip and Kitty are included in the house even though neither of them lived long enough to see it. Kitty had been with me almost 19 years before he succumbed to cancer. Kitty was with me longer than any human being in my life. Kitty was with me through every major struggle.

Jude and Simon are here now and are benefiting from the stability that has finally been achieved in my life. I’ve never seen Jude as happy as he is being in this house. His attitude since being in the house is like night and day from being in the apartment.

The three of us are very happy in the house. The painting of the two little birds in the kitchen makes me fee like Kip and Kitty are in Heaven looking down on us. I’m sorry they aren’t here to see the house, but I know that Heaven is a much better place to be. And who knows? Maybe in Heaven, Kip and Kitty are in a house just like this one waiting for me, Jude and Simon to join them.

 

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Three Years After Facebook

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One of my friends whom I have known for almost twenty years lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago. This is someone with whom I also worked at two different places of employment. At one job, she was my supervisor, at another job, I was her’s. Even though we no longer work together, we have remained friends through the years and many different life events.

My friend was fortunate in that she, her husband, and all three of their dogs were able to escape the fire safely. The house, however, is a complete loss taking multiple fire departments over 12 hours to battle the blaze. The fire made both local and regional news channels at stations 60 miles away.

I spent some time over the weekend talking with my friend trying to figure out how to best help her. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose absolutely everything. Many people think that minimalism is some cold-hearted philosophy that centers around getting rid of everything and having empty rooms.

While I do have empty rooms, minimalism is not about getting rid of everything. Minimalism is about surrounding yourself with what you truly love and focusing on who matters in life. I simply cannot imagine losing everything like that. What I have in my house is only what I love and what brings me happiness.

During this conversation with my friend, one of the comments she made stuck with me.

She said that she was glad I had reached out to her because she had been thinking about how my Christmas card and letters were next to her chair.

Since deleting my Facebook account three years ago come the first week of February, I have been focusing more on being present in my relationships. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me by receiving my complete attention when I am with them. I don’t want to miss out on the important moments in life because I am too busy scrolling through a social media feed or trying to get the right photo to post online.

This blog is my only form of social media. I have no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, nothing.

Three years after deleting my Facebook account, I still have no regrets. I could not be happier with my choice.

Back to my friend … this person is one that I try to send a card to either monthly or every few months. There are a few people in my life that I write to on a regular basis to keep in touch since I am no longer on Facebook.

I do not often get a response from the people I write. That’s fine. Life is busy between work, kids, and life. I totally get that.

What really touched me about my friend’s comment was the knowledge that she actually reads my cards I send every so often. Not only that, but she seems to look forward to them.

She lost absolutely everything in her home and one of her (I’m sure many) thoughts was, “oh, your letters were right next to my chair.” I’m sure her thought stemmed more from remembering her house and the familiarity of it than from my actual letters.

I told her I would send her another card. I did. I tried to keep it light with little to no house stuff. I’m pretty sure one of my last cards was full of first-time homeowner news (like my lawn mower adventures last fall) and I’m sure that’s the last thing she wants to hear about right now.

Now, if I had been on Facebook, I would have known about the fire a lot sooner than I did. Apparently, she posted it to Facebook about an hour into the blaze.

I truly don’t understand how people can have the emotional strength to not only live their life, but actively report on their own personal tragedy while it is happening. It’s not a judgement, it’s just an observation of something that I no longer understand.

When I had a Facebook, I remember doing the same thing. Every inane thought and one-liner to major life events was documented online. For me, social media made everything become more dramatic that it needed to be. It’s like jumping up and down in the middle of the street screaming “look at me!”

I, personally, am so happy to have the drama removed from my life. I have enough drama at work. I don’t need drama in the virtual realm as well.

Three years post-Facebook, and I don’t miss it at all. I still get the weird looks and comments of “you should be on Facebook.” I don’t think so. Sure, I may miss out on things by not being online. It takes me a bit longer to learn things when my news sources are the paper (yes, paper) newspaper and the radio. However, I still keep in touch with the important people in my life and know what is going on with them.

I treasure my relationships more because I actually put forth effort into maintaining them. It’s one thing to mindlessly scroll through your phone pushing the “like” button or typing “I’m so sorry” giving virtual support and quite another thing to actually pick up the phone and ask someone “How are you? How can I help?” and then physically, emotionally and spiritually help them.

Community is what happens in real life. Who is going to be there for you when there is no wifi?

Recently, I have heard that some people are choosing to delete Facebook due to the privacy drama going on. Drama is still drama. It has been there since the beginning of Facebook. It’s just a question of what kind of drama you are willing to put up with and how much of it. Apparently, people have a lower tolerance for privacy drama than for emotional drama.

I’ve spoken with some people who rely on social media for information, and no matter what happens will not delete their accounts. That’s fine. To each their own.

There is a certain fear of missing out (FOMO). For some people, FOMO is real. They will not get rid of social media due to FOMO. For me, I can say that when I was on Facebook, there was no FOMO. I did miss out. Big time. I missed out on important things in my life and I missed out on people who were right in front of me due to my preoccupation with social media.

Three years post-Facebook, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. I am present for the important people in my life. For those of you who stay on social media due to FOMO, think about what you may be missing in real life by using social media.

Social media does have it’s merits. As someone who lives in a rural area, I can see how social media would be helpful for people who feel isolated. Just keep in mind are you using social media to connect, or are you isolating the people around you in real life by using social media?

Social media use is a personal decision for everyone. I’m just here to tell you that if you are thinking about deleting social media, you are not alone. I have done it and am much happier for it.

Every so often, you will hear about a social media experiment where someone agrees to go off social media for a year or so, sometimes to get some money. There are articles on the internet about going a year without Facebook. In fact, I did a blog post about it. Part of the reason why I did a follow-up post in year two and now in year three is to show that leaving social media is sustainable.

It is not only sustainable, but my stress levels have decreased and my happiness has increased since leaving social media.

While it may have taken me a little bit longer to find out about my friend’s situation without social media, once I found out, that does not change my reaction to what happened. Without social media occupying my time, I actually have time to respond to my friend in a caring way beyond just a comment on a post. I have time to be there for someone in real life who needs a friend. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

Three years after Facebook. I have no regrets.

 

Welcome, Storm Harper!

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Frequently cursing snow, storms, ice, and winter, the fact that I am excited about a snowstorm is momentous. So momentous, we should talk about why this storm is exciting.

This is my first significant snow storm my first year in my house as a new homeowner. We’ve been getting snow since October, and I have been loathing it for the past four months. Driving since my stroke is a challenge, and driving in winter since my stroke is a near impossibility I somehow manage to overcome. Not to mention, snow cramps my training schedule. I can’t run in snow.

When we first got snow in October, I felt a twinge of happiness. With snow, I don’t have to deal with the grass. Mowing lawn is a problem for me. I injured myself severely for weeks and almost required physical therapy to overcome the injury. This is why I now pay for lawn service and was happy when it snowed. Snow means no grass to have to maintain.

I had 11 days off for Christmas vacation and was hoping we would get a storm then so I didn’t have to drive. We didn’t get one.

The best part about winter storm Harper is that it came on a weekend. Monday is a holiday, so I have three home days. As long as this thing wraps itself up tomorrow so we can dig out, I should be good.

There was 2-3 feet forecast for my area. I’m not sure how much snow we actually got, but there is well over a foot.

Luckily, we got the light and fluffy snow. I shoveled a few inches yesterday afternoon and again last night before bed. They had forecast 1-2 inches of snow per hour in the overnight.

I’m thankful that with all the snow we got, I have power, heat, water and food. I don’t have to go anywhere until Tuesday.

One significant change now that I am in the house is that the road is plowed. When I was in the apartment, our road was never plowed. When we got 4 feet of snow in 2017, the county decided to plow the road on day 3 of that storm and ended up getting the county plow truck stuck at the end of the road (and the road still did not get plowed). The snow plow was stuck at the end of the road an entire day before they could get it out.

My house is in a Village, and the Village plowed the road. Yay (and thank you)!

A second significant change now that I am in the house is that there are not snowmobiles directly outside my bedroom window at 3 am. When I was in the apartment, it was near a snowmobile trail. The snowmobiles would decide to deviate from the trail and ride through my backyard. I was often woken up in the middle of the night by the roar of the machines and their headlights shining directly on my bed. Thankfully, again, the house is in a Village. There are no snowmobiles directly outside my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning anymore.

This storm is so significant that when I went outside today, I had to wear my snow pants. I have not had to wear my snow pants since that big storm back in March 2017.

I made a snow angel. In my own backyard.

Sure, I’ve made now angels before. This was my very first snow angel in my OWN BACKYARD. I just think it’s really cool.

I mean, it’s not like I have to go to a park or something to make snow angels, only to have them destroyed by people running and sledding around. I made a snow angel in my own backyard.

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We are really fortunate that we got the light and fluffy snow.

I shoveled it. One of my neighbors has been using his snowblower to help me this winter when we get a good amount. We have had many times this winter when we get 8-9 inches at a time, like that first snowfall in October. I’m pretty sure this is our first storm that is well over a foot.

However, my neighbor’s snowblower is not working right now, so I was shoveling. I would have shoveled anyway. While I am grateful for the help, I try not to rely on it completely. I shoveled the front walk and the sidewalk. Unfortunately, if the utilities need to read my meters, they’re going to be screwed, but whatever. We have a lot of snow, and I’m one person who weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. I’m just happy the sidewalk and driveway are done.

We got so much snow I didn’t quite know where to put it all. So, I got out the trusty wheelbarrow that I used for the leaves in the fall. I am so blessed that the people who sold the house left me some tools in the garage and basement. The wheelbarrow is one of the items they left me. Today I used it to take snow from the end of the driveway (where the road snowplows tend to “block in” driveways). I got sick of putting snow on the shovel and then having to walk it to the pile at the side of the house, so I was happy I thought of the wheelbarrow.

I am able to shovel snow with much more ease that I can use a lawnmower. I may despise snow, but snow is easier for me to maintain than grass. I prefer grass and sunshine. I just can’t maintain a lawn. Oh, the joys of homeownership.

I have been thinking about getting a snowblower. However, given my physical inability to handle a lawn mower for the grass, I am thinking I would have the same challenge with a 40 pound snowblower. I’ve been spraying the snow shovels with cooking spray. Luckily, this snow is light and fluffy, otherwise I would be screwed.

I’m actually looking to purchase a snow sleigh in lieu of a snowblower. I have heard that snow sleighs are the next best thing to a snowblower and are easier for those with physical challenges and those who are older to handle. We will see about that. I am going to have to order a snow sleigh because everyone here is out of stock. Hopefully, I will have a snow sleigh for the next storm to try out.

Clarence (the outside homeless cat) is nowhere to be found. I do not see any little paw prints or anything that looks like a cat trying to get through snow. Hopefully, where ever he is, he is warm and safe. It is supposed to be 30 degrees below zero tonight and tomorrow. If Clarence does make it here, there is the cat shelter in my garage for him, and I replace the food and water twice a day. I’ve also been taking a microwaveable rice bag, heating it, and putting it in the cat shelter to try to provide a little heat.

Feral cats have their hiding places, and this one has survived this long before I lived here for the winter. Hopefully he is someplace where he can weather this storm and make it another year.

The last reason why this snowstorm is significant is that church was cancelled today. Yes, church was cancelled. Whoever heard of that? I have heard of school closings and business closings for snow, but not church. Every single business I have worked for over the past 25 years, with the exception of my current employment, has followed the schools for snow closures. However, there is no school on the weekends.

There is so much snow, there was no church today.

I think that is the other reason why I was so happy to make snow angels today. Making a snow angel for the first time in my own backyard was kind of a way to make a happy sign to God to say thank you for this house.

Along with all the snow, we have to get through the below zero temperatures tonight and tomorrow, hopefully, we can continue to weather this storm safely. I feel very privileges and really blessed that I am handling it as well as I am. Well, given that it is a weekend and I don’t have to call into work helps also.

Hope that everyone out there is warm and safe with water and food in this storm. Be well!

Welcome, Storm Harper!

 

 

Ferals in the Neighborhood

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Jude and Simon love looking out windows. They are avid bird watchers. One of the things I knew we would miss when moving from the apartment to the house was the sliding glass door that was on the second floor apartment. The cats loved looking out this and watching all the birds in the trees.

Even though there is no sliding glass door in the house, the cats are enjoying all of the windows just the same. We have finally settled into a routine and I have identified Simon’s favorite window and Jude’s favorite window. When I identified Jude’s favorite window, I took the cat tree and put it in front of it. The cat tree was in front of the sliding glass door in the apartment, so now it is in front of Jude’s favorite window in the house. Simon’s favorite window in the house already has an ample perch for him to bird watch. (He sits on a chair.)

Something new that we have all noticed outside since moving to the neighborhood are outdoor cats. The apartment was on a very busy highway and all cats were indoor only. We never saw any outdoor cats at the apartment. There are many outdoor cats in the neighborhood at our new house.

I have pretty much been able to figure out which cat goes to which house. I may not know all the human neighbors, but I know all the neighborhood cats and roughly where they belong.

There is one cat that I jokingly call Jude’s girlfriend. We will call her “Lucy.” When Jude sees Lucy out the window, he gets really still and intent. He watches her closely. If she is walking down the sidewalk and leaves his frame of view, he will race to the next window just to see her. He does not seem agitated or aggressive, just very, very interested. Lucy seems interested in Jude too. The closest she has come to looking at him through the window is our front steps.

There are other cats Jude sees out the window, who must be male. Jude puffs all up and growls. Sometimes he even turns around and growls at Simon because he cannot take out his aggression on the outdoor cat.

There is one cat in particular that upsets Jude and he continuously takes it out on Simon. Simon is black and white. He is pretty much equally black and white. The outside cat in question is also black and white, except this cat is almost all black with just a little white on his chest. I think Jude gets confused because the outside cat looks so much like Simon and then takes out his aggression on his brother. We will have to work on that.

We have already had well over a foot of snow and days below zero. As winter has progressed, I have noticed that I do not see the outdoor cats anymore. They are being kept inside their houses, which is great. They should be inside when it is negative 12 out.

The one exception is this black cat with the little bit of white on him who absolutely pisses Jude off when he sees him outside. Since I have gotten sick of just referring to him as the outside cat, I am calling him “Clarence.”

I am pretty sure Clarence is homeless. Like genuinely homeless.

He is the only cat in the neighborhood I still see outside in bad weather. He is outside all the time. I see his footprints in the snow all over.

As the temperature has plummeted, I am concerned. I see him huddled in places.

My garage door is open year round. There isn’t really anything in the garage except garden rakes, snow shovels and the garbage can. I firmly believe that a garage is for parking my car inside not for storing stuff. I refuse to be one of those Americans who has a garage so full of stuff that you can’t fit the vehicle inside. I have a hard time putting the garage door up and down, so I just leave it up. Apparently the prior homeowner did the same.

The point is, my garage door is up, and I noticed that Clarence would dash inside to hide from the elements. It makes sense. It’s probably one of the easiest shelters for him to find.

I probably shouldn’t have done this – I’m either a sucker or just a soft heart, but I went online and read about feral cat shelters. I strongly dislike the idea of Clarence being outside in such frigid weather. I’ve been homeless myself and I know how much winter sucks without permanent shelter.

I made a feral cat shelter out of a storage tote, some styrofoam, and one of my old space blankets from a marathon. These are the blankets they drape on us after a race to retain heat. They work. The website said to use straw, but I couldn’t find any. It said not to use blankets or towels because they retain moisture, but I did put a fleece blanket inside in lieu of the straw.

I put the cat shelter up on a pallet in the garage to keep it off the cold concrete floor. I have no idea if Clarence actually goes inside for warmth or not, but I feel better knowing it is there as an option for him.

On the days the thermometer has dipped below zero, I took one of my microwaveable rice bags, heated it and put it inside the shelter twice a day.

People have been saying that I will now never get rid of him. Some people say I should just let him in the house. My thought is that I don’t want him in the house. I am okay with him outside. I already have two cats and they are all I can deal with as far as family members. Ideally, I would like to either trap, neuter, release (TNR) or trap and take him to a shelter. We will see.

Part of the reason why I think he is truly homeless is that he is very skittish. He runs away. The only time I see him is through the window. If I am outside or open the door, he runs away. He is either not used to humans period or was/is abused. All of the other neighborhood cats are friendly. They will at least walk past you on the sidewalk and some will even rub up on your legs if you let them. Clarence is not friendly. At all. He is also the only neighborhood cat still outside in all weather and temperatures.

The other thing I noticed was Clarence licking my front steps for water. I felt bad. So, sucker again, I set out a water bowl. I just don’t think any human or animal should have to go without water. That’s not right.

I figured that if I am wrong about Clarence being a boy, that I would just call the girl Clare. Clarence is the name of the angel in the Wonderful Life movie. However, I am pretty certain Clarence really is a boy. His footprints are rather large, plus Jude strongly dislikes him.

The other reason why I am pretty sure Clarence is a boy is that someone sprayed (peed on) one of the snow shovels outside. I am pretty sure it was Clarence. I don’t think he has been fixed. While I am not sure if he is actually using the cat shelter or not, it is pretty clear that he is marking that space as his “territory.”

This whole experience of outdoor cats is new to me. My cats are indoor only because they are beloved family members and I would be too worried if they went outside. Various people tell me not to feed them or whatever because then you won’t get rid of them. But if they are truly homeless, shouldn’t we try to help somehow? Trap, neuter, release (TNR) to reduce the homeless cat population or trap and take to an animal shelter to be adopted. I cannot take strays into my home, but I can at least help support the homeless population. I can’t just leave them outside to dehydrate and freeze.

Right now the only homeless cat in question is Clarence. I have read about feral colonies on the internet. There is not currently a colony here. All the other outside neighborhood cats appear to have houses. Except this one.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Trying to change the life or make a difference in the life of one person? I’m just trying to offer resources to a homeless cat to survive the winter. I am pretty sure that he would survive without my help, but as someone who has experienced homelessness in my own life, I just can’t stand by and watch.

Do you have feral cats in your neighborhood? Any experience with building outside cat shelters? How do you interact with homeless cats?

 

Happy Veterans Day

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Happy Veteran’s Day. This is the phrase I was attempting to say two years ago today. I’m not sure exactly how it came out, but that was the day I landed in the hospital with stroke symptoms. Today is my 2 year anniversary of the day that changed my life. Nothing has been the same since. I’ve had to slow down whether I like it or not. And, I don’t, by the way. I don’t like it – the slowing down or all the changes.

To celebrate the 2 year anniversary of my stroke, I participated in communion at church today for the first time in my life. Today was the first time that communion has ever been accessible for me since the onslaught of the multiple food allergies in my mid-20s. The most difficult allergen to avoid in this situation, is egg. Have you ever tried to find gluten free bread that is also egg free, dairy free and completely nut free? Let me know, because I don’t think it exists on a widespread commercial basis.

Someone at church went out of their way to find a local bakery in town who was willing to take on, tackle and accommodate all 5 of my food allergies. It was achieved successfully. I can’t tell you what it meant to be able to participate in communion with everyone else today and not be left out. It’s one of the few times when I have actually felt like God loves me. Someone actually baked something that didn’t kill me. There’s a first time for everything.

This is significant because I’ve been struggling lately. Ever since I bought my house, I’ve been experiencing negativity from the community. Pretty much, I’m being kicked while I’m down. I’m still down, by the way. But at least I’m not being kicked any more.

There are some people in this community who are not pleasant to me due to one of my “identities.” It happened again today. I try to blow it off and balance it with all of the people who are going out of their way to make me feel welcome. I figure there is no point in trying to make anyone else happy. I’m just going to be myself and people can either take it or leave it. I think that’s a pretty good attitude even if it doesn’t make the hurt any less.

Even though my life feels like a free floating shit show with no anchor right now, I am thankful and grateful for so many things. I just need some time to get my feet back under me.

I still have challenges post-stroke, but am considered “fully functional.” I am thankful that I am healthy, working, providing, and running. Running is definitely the greatest gift I have ever received in life. My goal for 2018 this year is to exceed the number of miles I ran in 2017. That would be an improvement.

I’m happy that two years after 11/11/16, I can say “Happy Veterans Day,” and it actually comes out sounding like “Happy Veterans Day.” I’m not in the hospital connected to tubes and machines being rushed into a machine that takes photos of my brain.

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service that allows us to be free.

 

 

A Day of Rest

 

 

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This morning during children’s time at church, the speaker was asking the kids if they knew what day it was – besides Sunday. One of the children responded “a day of rest.” The answer that the speaker was looking for was World Communion Day. Now, before I lose all of you who are non-religious, let me just say we’re going to run with the day of rest idea.

Rest. We all need it. I spent 20 years working 3 jobs, going to school full time, sleeping 4 hours a day and yes, working 7 days a week. Burning the candle at both ends for so long was probably a contributing factor to my stroke which has forced me to slow down. I am now physically able to work only one 40 hour a week job and I average 9-10 hours of sleep per day.

Every once in a while, we need a day off. A day off needs to happen more often than “well, its a holiday and my work is closed, so I’m home.” We need to schedule regular days off to rest and recharge ourselves.

If you give and give without taking time to replenish yourself, not only will you crash and burn, but you will drag everyone around you down into the searing fireball you have become.

We all need a day of rest.

I thought about how my life and my Sundays have changed in the past 5 or 6 weeks I have moved into the house. In the apartment, the bunny ears on my TV set received 12 channels. I’m not huge on TV, but I enjoyed watching baseball Saturday nights and football every Sunday.

The bunny ears do not receive any channels in the house. That’s fine. I’m content with the DVD player. I am so busy with house things that I very rarely have the time to sit down and watch something anyways.

I remember moving into my house on a Thursday. That Sunday, a friend had come over to visit. As I sat with my friend on the front porch, I told them “you know, this is the first time I have sat down in 4 or 5 days.” My life has been that way ever since.

For more than a decade, Sunday was my day of rest. I called it family day. I would do my long run for running or marathon training, then the rest of the day was dedicated to spending time with the cats and being a vegetable on the couch watching football.

Now that my bunny ears do not have reception to see football, Sunday has turned into a house cleaning day. I have my cleaning divided into sections to make my life easier. On Saturdays, I typically clean upstairs and work on outside chores. On Sundays, I typically clean downstairs and do the bulk of my cooking and baking for the week (I freeze meals, remember).

Sunday is no longer a day of rest.

This week is a 3-day weekend. It’s Columbus Day, or as some people call it “Indigenous Americans” Day. Sometimes I think of it as “Guy in a boat got lost” day. I digress.

Here I was all excited about a 3-day weekend. What have my 3-day weekends looked like in the past? Beach days, football, reading, hiking, running. All fun things. I could typically clean my apartment in about an hour. Then I was off doing some fun thing or just lounging like a vegetable relaxing.

With that in mind, the prospect of a 3-day weekend was exciting. Has it been? Primarily no. I have been doing something house related every single day. Even though Saturday afternoon I did take a 2 hour timeout to have a bonfire in the yard, it was not relaxing. I look at my to-do list and am overwhelmed. I have so many things to do.

What happened to my 2 item to do list? I feel like I’m buried.

The good news is that I have not been driving on the weekends. I have made a conscious effort to park the car in the garage Friday nights and to not drive until work on Monday morning. So that means I am either at home or only go someplace within walking distance. I feel like since becoming a homeowner that I have not stopped or sat down.

Well, I have sat down, but usually for an hour or two respite, then I’m back up tinkering again.

I think it was helpful when I had TV channels on my bunny ears that sitting down and watching football on Sunday afternoons was a way that I forced myself to take a day of rest.

Now that my bunny ears do not have reception, I do not experience that day of rest I had.

There is a local radio station that airs NFL football games on the radio of a “local” team. It may be that this afternoon I have to sit and listen to football on the radio in the same manner I was planting myself to watch football on the TV.

It’s the only thing I can think of to force myself to slow down. Otherwise, I keep getting up and doing things.

So I’m going to try listening to football on radio today to observe the day of rest.

But first, I’m going to make a loaf of allergy-friendly banana bread.

How do you observe a day of rest?

 

My First Art Show

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With my photo on display at my first professional art show – The Regional Photography Exhibit sponsored by the Cultural Council

I have the honor and the privilege of having one of my photos chosen for the Regional Photography Show this year held by the local Cultural Council. It is my first professional art show. Never before have I even submitted my work for anything.

As you can see from the opening reception photo above, the work I submitted is the piece that has been the cover photo of this blog from day one. I have never used any stock photos on this site. All photos are my original photography.

Granted, in the past few years since my stroke, most photos have been of the cats or whatever is immediately around me. You have to go back in the archives to see more of my landscapes when I was physically able to travel around more to the beaches and parks. My disability has kept me grounded and closer to home more than is normal.

My work will be hanging in the public library all month, along with some other very stunning and brilliant work. It is very humbling to see whose company I share.

The opening reception was an amazing opportunity to connect with the other photographers and artists. It meant so much to me that some of my coworkers and other of my community friends were there for the reception. I think next to buying my house last month, that my first art show is the highlight of my year.

One of the questions that was asked of us right before the show was hung was if our work is for sale and the price. I did not respond with my work being for sale. I don’t take photos to make money. I take photos because I enjoy it. Then, I post them here with some ramblings about my life at the moment for everyone to enjoy. So my photo is just hanging in the library for everyone to enjoy and it’s not for sale.

When my photo was chosen for the exhibit, I had it professionally mounted and framed. It is so much better than the $10 Walmart frame I had it in. Once my work is done being in the show, it will return to the space it occupies in the hall between the bathroom and bedroom. Except when it returns, it will be in a much more professional form.

I deeply appreciate all of my readers and everyone who visits my blog. No offense, but having one of my photos in the public library for the month is a little bit more amazing. It’s hanging in the library where I live for people in my community to see. That’s kinda cool.

However, I never would have made it this far or even had the gumption to enter the contest if it hadn’t been for the past 3 years of this blog. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being there. I just keep going trying to rewind real slow.

Thanks for supporting my work by reading me. This art show is dedicated to everyone who has been following my journey showcasing my work on this blog.

Lost Races & Pixies

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I despise selfies, but here is the pixie.

With my pixie, I can fly. At least, according to Peter Pan, all it takes is pixie dust to fly. I had my hair cut into a pixie last week. I have never before had my hair shorter than a bob. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I wish I had done this, oh, say 7 or 8 marathon medals ago.

I’m quite overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility I have right now, so I am trying to make myself as low maintenance as possible. Since I have to take care of everything and everyone else, this way I don’t have to worry about taking care of me. To add onto the increased responsibilities, I have been having trouble with my health. I don’t feel 90% anymore. Each day is a struggle.

When, I had my stroke in 2016, that was the Lost Year when I did not have a race. Unfortunately, after only a half marathon in 2017, I have another Lost Year  – 2018. Let’s not make a habit of this.

With the financial burden of paying 65% of my income in rent over the summer, I was not able to properly fuel (read: buy groceries and eat enough) or even drive to the running trail to be able to train. With all my money being sunk into getting this house and preventing us from becoming homeless, I also do not have the funds to travel to Connecticut for the race I had planned.

Mostly, it is lack of training. When you are barely able to afford food to eat every day, you cannot keep nutrition up to be able to train for a full marathon. It’s just not possible. Being a person with multiple severe food allergies, that meant that food pantries are not a resource to me. While my mortgage is quite a few hundred dollars less than the rent increase that was thrust upon me in May, I can’t train for a full marathon in less than a month.

Combine that with the health problems I am currently having, and I am not even able to salvage a half marathon. I was hoping to run a Veteran’s Day race, but that is not happening. Training for a half would have had to start at the beginning of September, and I am only able to do about 2 miles a few times a week right now. At least I’m running. That’s always a positive.

Another Lost Year is both sad and it pisses me off. I had a solid base of 4-5 mile runs multiple times a week and was all set to start marathon training when the housing crisis hit. So, I guess this year is the Lost Year due to the housing crisis. I hate the feeling of knowing I am registered for a race that I am unable to run.

On the plus side, since my financial situation has improved with the house, I finally had the extra $25 for a hair cut. This pixie is the best decision ever. I hate bangs. I hate hair in my face. This hair style is perfect. I don’t fight with my hair at all anymore. It is literally wash and go. Running with the pixie is amazing. I need to keep the pixie for my next full marathon. This is the best running hair cut ever.

My one concern is that people still know I’m female. I figure if someone thinks I’m a boy, I can always put a bow on it like Hello Kitty. So far, no one has mistaken me for a boy. Everyone has either made a positive comment or kept their negativity to themselves.

I figure since the house is my midlife anti-crisis that this new hairstyle can be my midlife crisis. I just didn’t wait the six months until my 40th birthday in March. I may not believe in pixie dust, but with a pixie haircut, I sure feel like I can fly when I run.

Since 2016 was the Lost Year due to my stroke, maybe 2018 is the year of Lost Races & Pixies. Hey, if I think about having two lost years, I’m going to be depressed, so you have to put a little creativity in it somehow.

My goal right now, if I can get my health to cooperate, is to at least be back to the solid 4 mile base before the snow flies this winter. I am also looking to swim this winter for my cross training. We will see how that goes. My stamina in the pool is not great. Swimming will definitely help work other muscles and increase my endurance. The only challenge is finding a pool schedule that works with my work hours.

Swimming in the winter with a pixie should be a good choice as well. The pixie dries fast, so I won’t have to worry about the hassle of swimming with long hair in the winter.

I have no regrets about this pixie. I have had no tears and no sadness over my hair. It’s a little odd. I have gotten bobs before, and cried and threw a fit trying to “style” it out of my face for running. With the pixie, I have none of those frustrations. This is literally the best hair cut ever.

For the record, when she cut all my hair off, it was more than halfway down my back going down to my butt. Now its short and spiky. I love it.

So if this is the year of Lost Races & Pixies, then so be it. That just makes my 40th birthday something to look forward to in 2019. That means the 2019 running season will have to be amazing. Hey, I got the pixie to fly.

Don’t Fill My Space

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Owning a home is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is overwhelming. I have finally come to the conclusion that I at least need help with the grass so that I can regain some sanity. Between trying to take care of everything inside and outside, I am losing my mind. I am constantly exhausted; falling asleep pretty much as soon as I sit down at the end of each day.

I am very fortunate in that I have many good friends who have been helping and supporting me in this process. Many people have lent their time to helping me. Some people have brought me practical items – wine (consumables always welcome), screen for my vents, hedge clippers, etc.

Most people know that I am a minimalist. As a new home owner, I am already overwhelmed, so the last thing you should do is bring me a car load of stuff to overwhelm me even more. Yes, I did move from a 600 square foot apartment to a 1,600 square foot house.

Don’t fill my space.

I have spent the past 14 years in stable housing. Except for the particulars necessary for home ownership (like lawn care items), I have what I need. In fact, I was surprised to find that I have things in every room. I was honestly expecting to have empty rooms when I moved into the house, but that was not the case.

I had to purchase three new towels when I moved into the house due to the water problem at the apartment. Normally, as a minimalist, I would have taken the three stained towels from the apartment and donated them to the animal shelter. However, as a new homeowner, I have actually kept those three stained towels in a bin in my basement – I have used them twice to clean up water in the basement due to washing machine mishaps. For the record, the washing machine issues have been addressed. The basement is completely dry now, and I am laundering loads of laundry with no issues.

One of the splurge purchases I made after I moved into the house was purchasing blue Adirondack chairs. I have always wanted blue Adirondack chairs. I got four of them for my front porch. I purchased four because people have been visiting me in groups of two or three people at a time. I have had more people visit me these first two weeks in my new house than visited me in all the 14 years I spent living in the apartment.

I figure that the four chairs are a good purchase, as they can also be used in the back yard for the fire pit when we have a housewarming bonfire. I have to figure out a date for this event when I am not feeling overwhelmed and if it finally stops raining.

The four chairs will be able to be moved indoors this winter so that I can have game night at home. I definitely have the space for them. By having open spaces in my home, I have the space available for what is most important in life – family, friends and fun.

So if you feel the need to bring me furniture or other indoor household items, please don’t. I have all that. I have been living independently. Being a minimalist in a larger space does not mean that I am going to start accumulating items. It means I finally have the space for the most important things in life. In my apartment, three people felt cramped. In the house, there have been four people here at a time, and the house still feels huge.

The cats have been settling in and  enjoy running and playing. They go upstairs and downstairs all the time. I have been finding their toys strewn about, so I know they feel comfortable here when they are home alone while I am at work.

At the end of the day, the only thing that needs to fill my space is love. I have that with my family and the presence of my friends. Don’t fill my space with things.

Midlife Anti-Crisis

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The midlife crisis is a way to rage against complacency, stagnation and stability. Tales of shiny red corvettes, new hair styles and relationships embody the stereotypical midlife crisis. Midlife is typically the time when you “arrive” in life – you are well-established in your profession, are comfortable in your mortgage, and are raising a family with a long-term partner. The midlife crisis is a way to shake up the hum drum of the everyday.

I’m here to tell you that I am NOT having a midlife crisis. I’m having a midlife ANTI-crisis.

Remember my housing crisis (genuine crisis) I have been having since May 2018? Well, here we are in September 2018 and I have effectively solved my housing situation.

I bought a house. #Boom. #ProblemSolved

I have never even lived in a house in my life and now I own one. Over the course of my life, I’ve gone from homeless to home owner.

While most people my age are trying to shake things up a bit, I am looking for stability and a sense of permanence. I needed a place to live that I could afford and keep my family together. Since the new landlord that bought my apartment building raised the rent to well over 60% of my income and is going pet-free, I needed a place to live.

All the rentals in my area are “no pets.” Or, they only allow one pet. Would you be able to choose which of your children to put up for adoption in order to keep your housing? Me neither. We are a family and we stay together.

The only viable option for me to be able to keep my family together was to buy a house and I have done so. By the way, my mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is almost $400 a month LESS than what the new landlord was going to charge me in “market rate” rent.

I’m going to live in this house until I die. While most people are bored with life, I’m just getting started. This is my midlife anti-crisis.

We just moved in last Thursday and have been here less than one week. Within the first 24 hours of home ownership, I already had an “idiot call” to the plumber. I broke down sobbing one night at bedtime saying I wanted to go home, but didn’t know where that was. I have used every tool in both my toolboxes. I don’t know the names of the tools, but I know what they do and I have used them all.  

I have a real mailbox with a real flag for the first time in my life. I have curbside garbage pickup for the first time too. I have more cuts, bruises and sore muscles that I have ever had in any of my 15 marathons.

I have been on vacation from work during this, and have pretty much “vacationed” at Lowe’s – I’ve been there every day. Some days, I’ve been there twice. I have been amazed at what I can fit in my 4-door sedan, and humbled by the many people who have been helping me and checking on me.

I successfully assembled a lawn mower and used it. I bought an old fashioned push mower. I only have .11 worth of grass to be in charge of. I mowed my own lawn for the first time. Mowing a lawn is some level of hell Dante forgot to mention in his inferno, but now that it’s done for the week, it’s kind of comical. One of my neighbors came out to check on me, and I could not tell from his reaction whether he was laughing inside, genuinely concerned about my efforts or both, but I’m sure I amused the neighborhood.

I have a detached garage and this was my first time in 24 years of driving that I have had a garage in which to park my car. Someone came to visit me while I was assembling the lawn mower, and I texted them to say I was “in the garage.” Hey, it was exciting to me.

I have a front porch where I’m writing now. I don’t think I have sat down for 4 days straight. I have plenty of chairs for all the people who have been helping and visiting. If it weren’t for my friends, I would not have been able to laugh through any of this.

Simon is adjusting slowly but surely. Jude has not left the kitchen cabinetry. I’m sure it will take time. I don’t think they realize what I had to go through to keep us all together. I was so scared that if this had not worked out, we would have been living in the car (again). We finally were able to escape anti-pet greedy people.

My goal is to get settled by the end of this week so that next week we can get into some sort of regular home owning family routine. The past week has literally been the ride of my life. I never thought I would own a home. I’m just happy that I was able to keep the family together.

While everyone else is having a midlife crisis, I am happily learning the positives and negatives of home ownership. Based on my first few days, I can tell you that this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Hopefully, it will be worth it.

So far, it’s already worth being away from the toxic situation I endured with the new landlord over the past few months. It’s scary to think of all the responsibility that comes with a house, but at the same time, I get all the rewards.

So far, the time I spend on my new front porch with friends is the best time ever. It almost makes up for the fact that I sacrificed my camping trip, marathon, and summer beach days. Almost.

I have a lot to learn on this new journey. Instead of shunning responsibility, I am embracing it. This is my midlife anti-crisis.

Welcome home.