september scent…

Our first apartment was this great little space, loaded with character and charm. Though we have lived in many different homes over the past twenty seven years, that first place may have been the greatest, at least where uniqueness was considered…

We had moved in, in May.

The carved wood french style front doors sat a top a flight of metal steps, (the apartment was directly above a chiropractic office,) in the small downtown of a city. The history of the building was that a beloved Ob-Gyn and his wife had created the apartment on the second floor of this beautiful, old house, to be their residence. The main floor he had converted into his offices, and the once-carriage-house building in the back was renovated into their birthing center. By the time we came on the scene, however, many years had passed and each unit was rented out individually. Even so, it was a regular occurrence to encounter someone saying “oh, you live in old doc’s place! I had my kids there!”

None of that is remotely relevant to this post, but sometimes a fun rabbit trail of backstory is in order. Today, on this very average first-day-of-autumn, steaming cup of tea in hand, this moment seemed the perfect match for such a thing.

I was working the graveyard shift in those days, at a local food production plant, while my husband worked days at a glass factory. We were young, pretty naive and absolutely broke, but life felt rich despite what our bank account showed.

I had an elderly hispanic lady who lived a few houses down from our apartment, that worked with me. Fun little side note: When I first met her, I hated her. In all fairness, I didn’t like her because she was so mean to me. She didn’t have great english, and when she had been assigned to train me for my very physically demanding (no joke. I’ve never worked so hard, in my life) job, she was awful to me. I was 19 at the time, and honestly just wanted to do my job, and live my life, and also for everyone to love me and find me capable…

It had been a few days after we moved in, as we took a walk one evening, that I saw her sitting on her porch. She glared at me, probably thinking she was cursed that I was her new neighbor. This continued a few times, and then one night at work she gave me a small bag of vegetables from her garden. After some time passed, she approached me and asked if she could ride to and from work with me. She didn’t know how to drive, and it would make it a lot easier if her husband didn’t have to stay up late to take her to work, get up early to pick her up and work a demanding job in the middle. Though I still wasn’t her biggest fan, I was more than willing to help her out. By the time September approached, our long drive out to the Plant was one of the highlights of my day. I loved her, and have missed her since our days together. I can’t imagine how absolutely hard her life was. THAT JOB was hard, and I was young. I also can’t imagine how scary it would be to train younger, more able bodied people, when you desperately needed the job. I wish I had realized these things then, but how could I? I was a baby…

Anyway, it was one September morning after work, as my steel-toed boots clanged up those metal stairs, that the Scent of September met my nose. How I had lived nearly two decades and never experienced anything like it, I’m not sure. Suddenly, bone-tired and weary, I stood traveling through Septembers past. Apple picking in Gem County orchards… laughing with friends… camping in the mountains and bundling up tighter because the weather was cooling quick… angels in leaf piles… horse back rides through a sea of color changing trees… countless mugs of steaming ciders, cocoas and tees… hay rides with boys I liked… bon fires, sleep overs, first dates… walks home from school… bailing hay…

the flood just kept coming.

I suddenly smelled fresh apple crisp, and then the taste of fresh bread with my grandmother’s apple butter. My nose recalled the way that one boy smelled sweet, like honey, and musky like the color of amber, remembering my heart’s pitter patter at the way his smile stirred my soul.

There, on that step, one random September morning, I relived a million similarly ordinary September moments as if they had just happened.

No other calendar day has prompted such a magical montage moment like that, but somehow every year there will be an autumn day to tickle my nostalgic senses. I call it the Scent of September, because I don’t know what else to call it really. Creative, I know…

It always surprises me, catching me off guard.

It also reminds me that this life is beautiful, and magical, and that these moments, though fleeting, live on…

an afternoon…

The afternoon sun poured through the windows. The breeze carried with it the songs of the birds, high in treetops.

Full disclose, though I sat curled up with a book, a notebook and a pen, in the coziest chair my sunporch holds, this is not that porch.

I absolutely adore this image from Arno Smit. I would be in heaven over a room like this, but my husband, ever the engineer, would have none of it. He’d note the plank floor and old everything. It would never fly.

That’s ok, though, because I love this space of ours.

It was this very sunroom that sold us on this cottage, in the first place.

I imagined a napping daybed, for all of those glorious naps that I do not take.

I imagined late nights of cocktails and cards, which this room has proven absolutely perfect for. Beneath its dim ethereal of twinkly globe lights, many a beautiful bottles of wine have been shared over life sustaining conversations. Tears have been shed, cathartically; stories told, life lived.

It is the ghosts of these moments, the ticking away of the seven hundred and thirty-eight days that this room has been our home. We may grumble over the impossibly tiny kitchen, or the minuscule bathroom, but each whine ends in resolution when one or both of us sighs the sunroom…

The jars of tea brewed in this room, the books read, the chapters written… SO MUCH life.

Simply put, it’s a painted concrete slab of floor, surrounded by uninsulated window screens. It isn’t really wired for electricity, as it was a much-later-after thought to the home itself. Even so, realtor photos showed us potential. We looked at the space and knew the life it could live.

The lives we could live.

Lessons in Summer…

And officially, August is behind us.

Back in the day there used to be a seasonal “What I Learned” blog link up, and even though those days are long gone, as I attempt to regain some sense of routine and productivity, I decided keeping track of “what I learned” this summer would be a healthy practice.

With the June-August block of time fittingly in our rear view mirror, I thought I would sit down and take some time to share those things with you.

to slow…

This Covid year had already given us a crash course in slowing, but as the world began to (sort of) reopen, and many people attempted to return to the way they remembered life, before the Pandemic, my summer took me deeper. This slowing, in the warm and muggy summer months felt more of my own doing.

Hammocks and afternoons reading on the porch became luxuries that I could embrace rather than just WISHING I could, because I was so busy all of the time.

Tall glasses of sun tea, and late dinners of grilled fish and vegetables became a standard that we could enjoy because we were present in those moments.

Slow=Present. Connected.

to substitute…

This summer we experienced the major malfunction of our fridge/freezer, costing us a lot of groceries. We can’t really afford to replace it, so we’ve had to be creative about how we place items in it. It’s been fun.

Simultaneously, our most used appliance died. THAT loss hurt. Thankfully we love the company and they replaced it, even out of warranty, though it did take 4 weeks to happen.

In the midst of that four week span of time, our actual oven died.

I say all of this to show that, in a time when we were not wanting to “run to the supermarket” continuously, and our means of meal making was challenging the very way we did things, we learned to substitute.

One silly example: I learned that though I love guacamole on so many things, the walmart brand of single serving guac is actually delicious, affordable and keeps longer than the larger ones I would usually by or make.

That is just one little example of the many ways we learned to adapt amidst the challenges. What we found, now that we are on the other side of that, is that sometimes it’s ok to take the “shortcut” and substitute. We don’t HAVE to make things harder to meet other people’s expectations.

to ask…

June kicked of as emotions were newly high over the murder of George Floyd. All over the internet there was activism, support, and black out challenges to support not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but to continue waking up the world re: the realities of systemic racism and injustice.

Inspired by the Share The Mic Now campaign (of which Glennon Doyle was a founder), I wanted to be involved in something that made a difference. After digging around, and watching others take to social media with similar campaigns focussed within their passion/career field, I was encouraged to launch a Share The Mic Now campaign for writers, and so I did.

At first it was TERRIFYING.

Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that colorblind is the response of a non-racist. To accept all skin colors, you have to be blind to them. I was taught you do not ask someone questions about their ethnicity. So even though amazingly courageous conversations were happening (finally) re: how absolutely WRONG that mentality is, it was still a part of my core. I felt SICK approaching other women and asking them to participate in something BECAUSE they are Black.

But I asked… And almost everyone did.

And then, four weeks later, we did it again.

And the experience CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest way it did this is that it stripped away a wall and created very organic connection between women. Through those adventures I got to know some of the most beautiful and amazing fellow writers. I am so proud to call them peers, and grateful to consider many of them friends.

We have had some hard talks. I have learned (and am continuing to) so much. Connecting with other female authors is empowering and life breathing…

to continue…

Through that experience I learned something else too…

Early on, in June, when I was witnessing the online community ON FIRE over the injustice, while the real world burned too, I heard several prominent Black speakers say that the “support of white people is nice and needed” but that they couldn’t trust it, because they’d seen it before and it always faded when something else shiny and new came around.

I was shocked.

I had said I would read and listen and learn, and I was.

I had committed to placing myself in uncomfortable situations for change, and I was following through.

I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this happen before so I truly believed this was the pivotal point when eyes (and hearts) would be opened. I wasn’t able to see things as so many Black Americans could, because I am white. This isn’t meant to be shaming, and yet, I began to see how so many react as though it is…

The more I learned, the more my vision fine tuned. I was (and still am) changing. There is no going back. It took a little while for me to realize the majority was not changing with me.

People went back to their normal lives, and the spotlight dimmed. It was subtle, but I woke up to this reality like a slap to the face, when a fellow believer verbally attacked me over a social media post. She told me I “was what was wrong with this country” because I believed this was a cause worth fighting for. That i needed to “shut up” and let people go on to their normal lives. The post in question had been someone else’s. I had shared it in a “story” suggesting it was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

Within a week I had women from the Collective Community pouring out very similar stories. We were all sick over A) the disgusting responses of people we had once considered “ours”, and B) so heartbroken because what we had seen was merely a fragment’s fragment of what generations of Black men, women and children have felt constantly. Sobering.

It’s so easy to be swept up in something meaningful, when the whole world is floating that current. When the bend comes, and we have to go it mostly alone, against the water’s strong push- it’s a whole other thing.

Continue. The best news, despite hurt and sadness, is that we find new people we can call “ours”, and those people are way more ours than the ones who came before.

to adapt…

With all of our slow, extra time, we were able to do some things we hadn’t had time to do before. One was finally putting in an outdoor movie space. We’d wanted to do this since we moved here in September of 2018. We had slowly acquired the items needed and even attempted it last summer. We couldn’t figure out how to do it well, plus we were so busy…

But this summer we did it, and it’s amazing! Neighbors love it. We’ve had friends over and they love it. Hands down, the highlight of our summer!

When our local theater opened, last week, we lucked into some passes. Pre-Covid, we were AVID movie goers. We love movies, loved the experience. It was just “our thing”. In fact, we were at the theater two days before they went on lockdown, because I was doing some presswork for a small release. Coronavirus was already a major topic, and we left that screening terrified we were about to die. In the small, packed theater we had fellow patrons coughing here and there, and the energy among us all was stiff and rigid. As the credits rolled, I remember thinking “I feel like this was emotional and I should be crying, but honestly I just want to get the hell out of here!”

With our free passes, we braved going back last friday afternoon. It was weird. We were actually the only two people there, and had no anxiety about anything. We just didn’t love it. It felt long and uncomfortable. We realized that, although going to the movies had been such a big part of our lives, we hadn’t really missed it. We each admitted that our home theater is so much more fun.

We were both surprised…

What about you? What did this summer teach you?

what i learned…

One of my first ever, favorite blogs belonged to Emily P. Freeman, way back in the early days. I still read and follow her, and find such value in this voice she has developed.

For a long time now, she has sat aside space to share what life’s seasons have taught her, issuing the challenge to her readers as well, and occasionally I have. One of the things I am trying to do, this year, is be more intentionally about noticing, breathing, and using this space for such. Reflecting on the winter months of this year seams like a great place to start… Here’s what I’ve learned-

1.} I overcomplicate…

A simple conversation, with a woman whom I respect and value so much, led to the “official” coming together of a group of like-valued women, on a regular basis. While it is mastermind-esque, it is something different too. From the first moment it was clear that this was an important, nurturing and vital space.

For a very long time I’ve dreamed of being a part of something like that, but I have stayed quiet, within that dream. It seemed too big… impossible…not for me. And yet, one silly afternoon conversation became this unboxable thing. While I like to think it hadn’t happened before because life was waiting for us to come together, in that exact moment, I have to admit that I stand in my way a lot. I overcomplicate things, believing they are far bigger than they are… When we get hide inside our thoughts, we miss out…

2.} sometimes over-complication looks like…

Avoidance.

I was playing an odd “dance” with my memoir, for awhile now. I would lose myself in it, for a season, and then when I needed breath I would pull out, and avoid it.

Over and over again.

I am practicing boundaries within my work. Self care through the hard things. Sometimes this is a walk, while other times it may look like losing an afternoon to a shallow book.

3.} I might be a bar person…

My husband is from an alcoholic family, and so our only (shared) experience of people who hang out at bars, stemmed from that. If someone had told me they were a “bar person”, I would instantly picture a falling-down-drunk person, or an intoxicated-fist-fights person. To be honest, I think my imagery may have been heavily influenced by movies and tv too…

But the thing is, there is something really special about finding a spot that feels like yours. I place that is not home, where you can sit with your spouse and just breathe. Take in the live music, maybe dance a little, and enjoy the company of friends.

4.} If you look, you WILL find it…

In my line of work, I have a lot of women who confide in me that they are desperate for a community of women who see them, love them and find value in them. This is an ache I identify with. Much of my adulthood looked just like that…

We are so fortunate to live in an era where there are worldwide, online communities, connecting people with commonalities, 24/7. It is amazing really. I’ve known this, but it wasn’t until this particular season when I really had my eyes opened to the powerhouse of community that we can become a part of, through social media.

5.} Five minutes here, really helps…

I have lived a majority of my adult life procrastinating the more tedious “chores”, in life, pushing it until I had more time… These same columns of tasks would travel, from day to day, on my agenda. Whenever my eyes would land on them, I would feel equal parts shame and guilt. My negative self talk would chime in with words like lazy.

It didn’t seem to matter that there may have been 73 tasks on a particular days list, and I accomplished all but the Tedious Four, that rolled over, yet again. LAZY, I’d think. Lazy? SMH.

Then I began to realize a few minutes today, does make it easier. It sounds so simple, but I just didn’t get it. Its like I’m finally growing up!

6.} it is ok to say “no”…

As I transitioned through December, and into the start of this year, there were a few areas of life that I had to strongly evaluate. Things that I was a part of, that were only leading to overwhelm.

The guilt was HUGE, as I cut those commitments. There were people who were disappointed, but I had to acknowledge that I was allowed to choose things to fill my time that kept me on the path I needed to be on. Maybe, to outsiders, this sounds selfish.

In truth, I needed to be free to invest myself in my biggest priorities. Being spread too thin meant that nothing was getting enough of me.

What did you learn, during this winter? {Also, have you entered to win two Fandango movie tickets? The winner will be chosen tomorrow.)

never too old…

I have, for a long time now, been inspired by the people who challenge us to reflect back on our growths and progress. The very act leads me to more intentional choices. For a long time I’ve followed along as Emily P. Freeman has blogged these things, and once or twice I may have even half heartedly played along.

The truth is, that at the start of every month (and every season) I determine that I am going to create a place for inspired reflection, within this space. And every single month there is something that happens, which makes me release myself from that plan.

Every single month.

So, throughout January I was adamant with personal notes (in my planner) that I would NOT let this fall to the wayside again. And then, as January wrapped up, what happened? I was hit with a blinding aura followed by a cluster migraine that dominated my brain for the better part of five days… As I reentered life and began to take note of the work I needed to make up, the glaring realization of yet another month failed, smacked me right in my side.

Maybe it is February fourth.

Maybe it feels too late, like what’s the point now?

If that’s true, ok. I’m here anyway…

In January I learned-

  • I cannot hold any element of my reality to an unrealistic ‘one size fits all’ standard.
  • How absolutely valuable and motivating it is to have a trusted group of women who I know will offer me honest feedback, speak truth to/over me and inspire me.
  • Oddly, a lot about sugar.
  • How my illness has affected so many parts of my life, most unexpectedly being my tastebuds. Every single day, dietarily, is like a trip to the Craps table in Vegas…
  • That bouncing/dancing/exercising on a rebounder is maybe the most fun way to burn calories EVER. (then you add in all of the amazing benefits it offers the body, immune system, etc.) win/win!

In her email Emily asked three thought provoking questions, for reflection…

What was my most life-giving YES this month? I would have to say it belongs to an opportunity that I can’t publicly share just yet, but it will be amazing and I can’t wait until I can!

What was my most life-giving NO this month? Ohh… I had been leading a small group for a few local women whom I have grown to cherish. While I really value them, and loved our time together, I came to a point work wise where SOMETHING had to go. It was a good thing, but hard too.

What is one thing I want to leave behind, moving into February? Looking for reasons to bundle up with Netflix. I know, it was cold and grey out. I had flare attacks. I get it. But also, a lot of those times I could have actually slept/rested, or picked up a book. Netflix has become too easy. I don’t want to leave down times like that, behind me. Just the ALWAYS resorting to that choice…

On that Note- What I watched and enjoyed:

Anne with an E season 3

Younger

Jojo Rabbit

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

What I read:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January (beautifully written but, in the end, not my style of book.)

The F*cK It Diet (still reading this… but it is BRILLIANT and necessary!)

Real Life Changing Discoveries:

My Rebounder (this isn’t my first rebounder experience. This thing is THE BEST rebounder we’ve ever seen though. At least for under $100)

Dog Hair Roller (If you have pets… this may be your best purchase. CHANGED OUR LIVES!)

Things I did and LOVED:

  • sent handwritten letters every week.
  • kept my Christmas cards hung up all month. My husband was annoyed, but they brought me so much joy! (they came down 2/1 because I love my marriage)
  • continued listening to the Catlick podcast. (HOOKED!)
  • Coffee dates with my husband. We’ve had some RICH time together in our local coffee spots.
  • Time out, quiet Sundays.

Did you salvage any January growth/amazement/accomplishments/discoveries? If so, I’d love to know!