Spring cleaning, done!

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Chocolate milk on my wall

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the new floor…

It’s that time of year when spring cleaning joins the line-up of regular chores. I don’t think spring has really arrived in this little corner of Alaska, never mind what the calendar says. But I’m ready to be out of winter mode, so I’m ignoring the chilly temps, and the fact that yesterday it snowed again. I’m just getting on with my list.

This year spring cleaning comes with a twist.

We’ve moved into our clinic housing twice in the past five months. The first time was in November. The second time was last weekend, after a total move-out the week before to have the flooring replaced.

Let me tell you, that was not in my game plan!

The community owns this clinic housing, provided to us as a benefit to working here, and to their credit, they maintain it nicely. I’m not sure of the processes at work…maybe there was grant funding that had to be used, or some other resource that was specified for maintenance work on these homes. Anyway, right after we moved in, back in November, we learned that the flooring of all six clinic homes was slated to be replaced this spring.

Alrighty then! Let’s just say that information motivated me to unpack very lightly.

Understand, I’m almost always a fan of new and improved, and I’m certainly grateful for any housing updates that come my way.

But, I didn’t foresee it would mean a total emptying out again, and being displaced for a week while the work was done. I had an unrealistic expectation of doing it room by room, sort of a vision of being able to move things from one room to another without moving out.

But nope, it was not to be. We emptied as much as we could into the garage, and the rest went into shipping containers, while we went back to temporary housing.

When I peeked in on the house last week, it looked like a construction zone. Equipment everywhere, flooring in various stages of being torn out and replaced. The appliances, the baseboards, even the toilets were removed so the new installation could be put in, wall to wall. And that’s as it should be.

While the furniture was out, we had a large accent wall painted, and that’s brought some much appreciated color into the every-room-in-the-house-off-white look.

We have new wood-look vinyl throughout the house, except in the two bedrooms, which have new carpet, installed in squares for easy replacement.

The dark floors look great, seams matched and neatly finished. The guys did a good job, and I tried to show a little extra appreciation with snacks and treats over the course of the week, in true Southern style. Southern women have a need to feed, I think. (I don’t know if it’s programmed at birth, or when that response is installed, but the reflex is automatic. People working? Bring food!) I think they got the message that I appreciated their efforts.

The past week has been all about restoring, touching up some walls with the off-white paint, adding a bit more of the accent color, cleaning up, and settling, again. (Putting fresh paint on walls is like a contagious virus…I see the finished look, and begin to think…hmmmm..what else needs a touch of color?)

Aside from the new floors and paint, the upside is that every surface has been wiped and refreshed. The process of ripping up the old material put a fine film of something over all the flat surfaces, so there’s pretty much no inch of this space that hasn’t felt the swipe of my cloth, and a little disinfectant sprayed on to add to the feeling of clean.

I’m one of those odd people, I like to clean, I’ll admit that. But even I don’t usually do my whole space in a week. Looks like I’m on the ball this year, thanks to this floor project. And because the appliances were all moved out to accommodate the work, even the space under the fridge and stove are clean. Aaahhh!

So, if you’re looking for motivation for spring cleaning, just go ahead and replace your floors. I guarantee you, the one will induce the other! Nothing like a little remodeling to get you moving!

Happy spring, happy cleaning, and happy me…new paint on the walls, new floors underfoot.

I’m pooped, but at least for the coming week the chores are already done! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring, glorious spring!

“Let it rain on some days,
Let yourself shiver on some cold nights,
So when it’s Spring you’ll know why it was all worth going through.”
― Sanhita Baruah

After a snowier-than-usual winter, this week brought some sunny days, and with the first day of spring, a spring in my step as well. Sunshine will do that for you, when you live in a rain forest! 🙂

You’d think that in SE Alaska, snow would be common. You would be wrong, at least at sea level, and in this small region of the state. Rain is common, storms are common, but not snow. This year my boots got to walk all over town as I had the chance to wear them most days the past six weeks. I’ve turtle-necked my way through, and now, as April approaches,  I’m looking forward to shedding a layer or two. It will be nice to put away gloves and scarves, and walk out without the extras.

As winter leaves, I feel the flow of spring-time energy. I picked up a paint brush yesterday to freshen up a wall or two; such a simple thing, but exciting after a hiatus of tackling projects. Spreading color on the walls was therapeutic and nourishing, a visible illustration of what I felt happening in my spirit.

I’ve filled the pantry, and after two years of minimal cooking, I’m trying new things, dishing up old favorites, and using cookware that’s been out of sight and out of mind.

I’m reading again, books that speak to my heart, and some new finds prompting me to thought.

I’m thinking of the curious combination of spring strength and softness…the strength it takes for green leaves and tiny flowers to push into the sunlight and the softness of the  early morning sun on my face as I walk to work. I think about the strength it takes to keep moving and growing through all the phases of life and the softness of heart that comes with experience and age. (Sometimes hearts harden with age, but I’m choosing not to do that.)

Strength and softness: that’s the combination I want in my life. I love strength of spirit, will, and courage. I love the softness of kindness, generosity, and gentleness.

Spring reminds me that the harshness of winter is disappearing, and the sweetness of the next season is here.

Seasons exist in all realms of life, and seasons of energy, creativity, and accomplishment are no less real than the seasons of the calendar. Manifesting in different ways, the results are sometimes visible, sometimes not.

I’ve learned that human seasons rarely match up with the calendar. I’ve learned that sometimes you can push yourself into the next phase of life, and sometimes, like a flower waiting to bloom, you have to wait for your next season to arrive. Some things you just can’t hurry.

I’ve learned that you can’t force what isn’t ready. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

When you’re ready for a new season, it will appear. In good time, but not before you’ve done the work to be ready to move forward.

The past couple of years have been quiet, times of growth and discovery. And those times are vital. All humans need time to percolate a bit, time to let life flow around and over, time to make sense of what was, what is, and what’s changed.

I sometimes call it wandering in the wilderness.

Good to do, but also good to come out of.

No epiphany required for the sunshine of springtime to remind me, it’s time to get busy. Time to paint, and plant an herb or two, and a flower or two, time to create in the kitchen, time to shift to a new season.

And while my hands are busy, it’s good to practice the values of strength and softness.

How about you? Are you feeling the pulse of springtime? Tell me about it? I’d love to know what spring sunshine prompts in you!

~ Sheila

No box for me!

Another march this week. Another round of demonstrations, and people holding signs with angry words to get their message across.

What if we held people in our arms, instead of signs in our hands?

We’re a divided culture, in so many ways. Identity politics are everywhere, and personally, I’m just weary of it all.

We’re so flooded with messaging to stand up for this group, stand with that group, to self-identify by race, gender, nationality, cultural heritage, faith, political party, etc., etc., etc.

Can I just be human?

I’m a woman, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a daughter, a friend, a college graduate, an employee, a writer, a Christian, a voter.

I’m all of these things, and more. I’m subtle. I’m nuanced.

I don’t like being pigeonholed, put neatly into any box.

Because I don’t fit neatly into any box.

I don’t want to compete with any group, or feel myself in opposition to anyone. I don’t see myself in a woman vs man world, in an “I win, you lose” life model. I hope we all win. The reality is, though the ideal is to make everyone equal, the words and attitudes displayed by militants in movements reflect more hate than hope. I hear angry demands and harsh rhetoric.

There was a time in this country, and in the western world, when marching for rights was important. Raising awareness was important. Workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights, children’s rights…there was an era when all those groups had to fight to be seen, to be heard, to be represented at the table of democracy, citizenship, and human rights.

And there are still many countries and cultures throughout the world that need to change, need to see all humans as people of value, of worth, and show that care of the most vulnerable in society is a mark of the strongest society. Because when we care for the weakest among us, we show how brave we really are. We show our integrity, as a whole, as a society, as a culture.

I don’t believe we in the United States of America, or in any western country, have it all figured out. We’ll never get it all right; we’re human, and we’re flawed. But can I just say, rather than encouraging people to march, can we encourage people to work?

If you want to make a difference for any group, do something more powerful than taking a day to march for your cause. Show up at a school that needs volunteers, show up at a retirement home that needs people to sit with residents, at a homeless shelter that needs help cleaning or doing of anything useful, at a park that needs cleaning up…you pick your place, choose your gift.

But show up to work.

Every time I see a group marching, I wonder what all that energy and those hours could do if the time was given to productive work? Volunteer work that didn’t charge for service?

What couldn’t we do? What couldn’t we change?

Or better than a one-day commitment, what about showing up every week?

You know, I never valued teachers more than when I subbed in school systems during our early years in Alaska. I saw for myself, first-hand, the struggles, the shortages, the responsibilities we put on the teaching community. I saw their world in a whole new way.

I never understood the world of health care, until I began to work in primary care clinics, and got to see, up close, the struggles, the shortages, the responsibilities we put on health care professionals. I saw their world in a whole new way.

What I’ve learned is this…you don’t march your way to understanding injustice and need.

You work your way to understanding.

You have to see to understand. You have to show up, get involved. You can read about all sorts of issues and problems, you can watch documentaries on TV. But until you see for yourself, you won’t really get it.

Want to understand the plight of immigrants? Find a way to work with immigrants. Want to understand the impact of illegal drugs on our society? Work with people struggling to overcome their addiction, and with families trying to survive the blows to their homes, to the children of addicts.

Want to understand the nightmare of the sex slave industry? Connect with organizations who are working to free people caught in that trap.

The point is, awareness grows when you get out in the community and see, for yourself, the hurts, the losses, the weak, and the vulnerable, the gaps in community and government.

Want to understand how building healthy families strengthens the whole society? Work with children bounced from foster home to foster home. Want to understand the health care crisis? Spend some time in under-funded, under-staffed clinics.

When statistics become faces and names, you’re beginning to understand.

I wish we were color-blind, gender-blind, status-blind, and kind.

I wish we were all just willing to be kind: to give a cup of cold water, to lend a hand; to understand that life is hard, and we’re here to make it easier. If we do that much, we’ve done so much.

Know what I love to see in my FB feed? I love to see positive, to see people doing good, to see people being the change. I love to see people sharing their time, their faith, their talents, their money, their energy.

I challenge you to work rather than to march; to act rather than falling back on mere words; to contribute, rather than criticize.

There’s a story I love. Maybe you’ve heard it?

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer and called out ‘Good morning! May I ask what you’re doing?’

The young man looked up and replied, ‘Throwing starfish into the ocean.’

‘Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?’ asked the somewhat startled man.

The young man replied, ‘The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.’

The wise man was stunned. ‘But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!’

The young man bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the ocean.

As it met the water, he said, ‘It made a difference to that one.’

Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)

The other thing you can do? Look for root causes. See what you can do that gets to the source of the problem. It’s great to throw star fish back into the ocean, or to help people with their most basic needs. But what if you took the time to understand cause and effect, to look for ways to make a lasting impact? That’s how you create real change.

I don’t do heroic things…I’m not saving lives, or teaching children who’ll be the leaders of tomorrow. I bloom where I’m planted, and for me, that means making a difference in small rural communities by helping with health care staffing, helping with loan applications, helping with grants, helping new people transition into the community. I encourage, I feed, I build up. And I write. I try to make a difference by planting seeds, and ideas, and by saying: I will not be put into a box, be made to feel guilty that I don’t embrace identity politics or focus on pieces of myself, as though I can be neatly sectioned.

I beg you, celebrate your life, and the lives around you, by working, not marching. By doing, not just speaking out. By seeing for yourself, first-hand, the issues and causes, before you judge what should be, or should not be. Open your eyes to the needs around you. They’re everywhere, and you don’t have to be a hero to make a difference. You don’t even have to risk much. You just have to be willing to work, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

And please, don’t put yourself, or anyone else, in an identity box. That’s not who we are. We’re all so much more than “just” gender, race, ideology, profession, economic status, nationality.

We’re human. And humans don’t belong in boxes.

 

 

Southern classic, Brunswick Stew

The Alaska days are getting longer. The sun is still up as I leave the clinic at 4:30, a nice change from just a few weeks ago. But there’s a hard frost on the ground most mornings, and we’re nowhere near spring temps yet.

So while spring is on the calendar’s horizon, it’s not quite here in person. I  wear my favorite cozy sweaters, and plan hearty dinners that feed the body and comfort the soul.

One of my favorites is an old traditional stew, one of those Southern staples that has a million different recipes, all labeled “Brunswick Stew,” but really representing a variety of  regional dishes, with everything from chicken to pork to beef to squirrel (does anyone eat squirrel now?) complete with a range of vegetables.

To be fair, I think the recipes with squirrel are mostly from a century or so back. 🙂 (My dad used to hunt squirrels sometimes, and he ate them too. He grew up in the country, and I guess squirrels were a delicacy in his youth.)

My version of this stew is one I inherited through marriage. My husband’s maternal grandmother, “Mom-mom,” used to make this dish, and I make it like she did. At least, I think I do. I don’t know that I ever saw the written recipe, but I watched her make it in my early years of marriage, and I try to re-create the flavors I remember from years ago.

I can give you a list of ingredients, and some general direction. After that, this recipe is  mostly trial and error, and personal taste is critical in finding just the right balance of seasonings and heat.

Brunswick Stew, from Mary Downer

  • Boneless beef roast (or I sometimes use good quality beef stew cuts)
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 or 2 cans Le Sueur peas
  • 1 or 2 cans premium creamed corn
  • 4 or 5 russet potatoes, peeled and small dice
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Heinz Ketchup, to taste
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste

Method: I like to crock pot the beef until it’s fall-apart tender. Season beef with salt and pepper, add water to cover, and set the crockpot to high. I usually cook the meat a few hours, check to see if it easily shreds, and when it does, it’s done. You can section the meat and  pulse it a few times in a food processor if you want. If you use beef stew cuts, the beef will “self-shred” as you add the other ingredients and stir as the stew comes together. Either is fine, choose what you like, depending on how finely you want the meat to be shredded. (The shredded texture is one of the signatures of this dish, this is not a stew with the traditional large chunks of meat. Also, many recipes use a mix of beef and pork, or pork and chicken. I don’t ever recall this family recipe with anything other than beef, but you can mix it up if you like.)

After the beef is cooked, remove the meat and strain the broth, reserving the broth for the stew. If you’re shredding the cooked beef in a processor, this is the time to do that. Place the prepared meat in a dutch oven on top of your range, and add the other ingredients: celery, onion, canned vegetables, and the potatoes. I like to start with one can each of the veggies, you can always add the second one if you choose. (Usually I prefer fresh or frozen vegetables, but trust me, canned is perfect here.) I judge the amount of vegetables to add based on the meat/veg ratio; make your stew to your preference. You’ll see this makes a large quantity when you get everything in the pot. It’s a good choice for a group, or for a week when you want easy leftovers.

When all the vegetables are in, begin adding the Worcestershire sauce and the ketchup. You’re going to want a lot of ketchup, I have easily used a whole bottle, and probably a third to half a bottle of  Worcestershire. (Sorry, I never saw Mom-mom measure this…you have to taste your way through this dish!) You can add reserved broth from the meat to thin the stew if you like.

Here’s the reason for the ketchup: it’s sweeter than tomato paste or sauce, and the little bit of sweetness is perfect here. Don’t worry, it’s offset by the Worcestershire sauce. You’re looking for a reddish-brown color after you add the ketchup, this dish will not look like a red pasta sauce. You don’t want it to be too thick or thin, so add a bit of the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and the beef stock in increments, and give it a few minutes for flavors to blend before you sample. (You can add Tabasco sauce also if you like. For me, that’s an individual add-at-the-table option.)

When I think the seasoning is about right, I put the whole thing the oven, 350 degrees, to cook down a bit.

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I love to make this on Saturday, and let it just simmer away. Give it a stir now and then, add a bit more of whatever you think it needs, and wait impatiently for dinner. After a few hours, you have the perfect winter dish…delicious, hearty, warm, and all you need to add for a complete meal is a spoon. A crusty bread and salad are good too.

Here’s to winter feasting!

~ Sheila

 

 

January gift

The new year brings re-focus, shiny months stretching out before me, just waiting to be filled with accomplishment.

My list is long.

It’s good, on January 31, to be on the other side of holiday travel and time away, to be caught up with my back-log at work, ready to re-engage.

It’s a familiar process, one I repeat often in my digital life.

Now in my seventh year of blogging, I no longer feel defeated by the gaps in posting, by my lapses of creativity.

I’m just happy to be here, thinking, reading, writing, doing my bit.

This year I’m planning another book, looking forward to the energy and the push that comes from the writing, the burst of words spilling onto the screen.

That’s the gift of the beginning of the year, looking ahead, planning it out, putting dates on the calendar…deadline dates, vacation dates, family trips and events.

Time isn’t promised to anyone. But we expect it, we hope for it, we plan for it. We hunger for it.

I’m hungry, eager for the coming year…for the time I’ll spend with family, for the long days of work and fulfillment.

What about you? What have you planned for the coming year? Will this be your time to thrive, to fulfill a promise you made to yourself, or someone else? Will you stretch yourself and be a bigger, better version of you on December 31?

What gifts will the year bring to you? And what will you give in return?

~ Sheila

Word for the year, 2017

It’s that time again. Time to decide what word will define and guide the coming year. I started this practice in 2012, and to date these have been my choices:

  • 2012 – Revision
  • 2013 – Momentum
  • 2014 – Consistent
  • 2015 – Hope
  • 2016 – Thrive

I like choosing a word that’s both positive and implies growth. Growth is a good thing…whether I’m learning something new, stretching my abilities to share with others, or just improving a skill I already have, growth is always my goal.

But desire for growth doesn’t exclude times of stillness, moments of contentment to look around and just be. 

In fact, I believe movement and stillness, growth and contentment, are essential to a happy life.

The happiest moments in my life have been the times I was still and reflective enough to realize, right in the moment, that I was happy…content with what was happening at that very moment.

Growth takes work, requires planning, thought, organizing, time.

Stillness allows me to evaluate and take stock of where I am, what I’ve learned, and what’s occurring in the moment.

Being intentional in my life is a way to express these two distinct states of being…growth-seeking, and being still.

By being intentional, I set the tone. I make the plan, I choose when to say yes, and when to say no.

I take responsibility for growth, and for times of stillness.

Being intentional means living thoughtfully, and that’s sometimes difficult to do. In a culture that moves at the speed of social media, and gets caught up in trends and likes, gadgets and the pursuit of “more,” it’s easy to live in reactionary mode, instead of choosing how my life will look.

I’ve not always done a good job of choosing direction…I’ve been far too passive, far too willing to let other things and other people set my priorities.

This year, I commit to living with intention, to choose how I want to grow, how I’ll serve others, and how I’ll take time to be still and reflect.

The easiest thing in the world is to live in the flow of whatever life we’ve found ourselves in, and the hardest thing is to stand in the middle of that flow and try to control it. Understand, this isn’t about a power struggle with anyone…in fact, to others, my life may look much the same as before.

Or not.

The desire to live with intention is about having an internal monitor, about being self-directed rather than being passive.

So, my word for 2017 is “intentional.”

What about you? Do you have a word to define your coming year?

~ Sheila

Happy 2017!

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January 1st, New York…we finally made it here for a New Year’s Eve celebration, along with 2 million other guests, gathered in the city to welcome the new year with shows, fireworks, food, and good cheer.

It was a beautiful night, cold enough to feel seasonal, warm enough to make walking the city blocks enjoyable. With the lights of Christmas still all around, the city was a-blaze in its festive look, mixed with all the iconic sites that are the everyday New York…the street vendors, food carts, world-renowned landmarks and retailers.

Magic!

I was so impressed with the good manners and order we found everywhere. I’m sure there were glitches somewhere…you couldn’t expect less with a record crowd of 2 million… but all we saw were happy people behaving peacefully, police standing by, providing a sense of security with their presence (thank you NYPD!), and merchants and restaurateurs serving with smiles.

We missed the Times Square events on New Year’s eve, though we saw some earlier in the day, and on Friday. By the time we got out of our play (Hamilton, but that’s another post) at 5:00, access to Times Square was blocked. We opted instead for Central Park, where a concert and fireworks were on tap for the huge crowd gathered there.

Loved it all! And if you’ve ever watched the Times Square scene and thought you wouldn’t want to be in that crowd, don’t worry, you don’t have to be. There are plenty of places to celebrate all around the city without staking out a spot at 10:00 AM on New Year’s Eve.

And now off to celebrate some more! Happy, happy 2017 to everyone! May it be a joyous and joy-filled year for all!

~ Sheila

Spirit of Christmas, through a child’s eyes

Yesterday, we were headed to the Seattle airport to fly to Denver. Christmas in Colorado is always a good thing, and Christmas with our son is even better.

This was a year to celebrate early with the Littles to accommodate shared family time.

I was riding in the back seat with Riley, watching her draw a holiday scene with six-year-old skill, the faces of her stick figures showing that charming combination of cartoon, and child-view of what humans really look like. (Hint, they have very big eyes.)

She was absorbed in her drawing, the others in the car were caught up in their conversations.

Something caught her eye, and looking out the window, she said, “I see homeless!” We were driving past the over-passes in the downtown of Seattle, and you can often spot tents and temporary shelters that homeless folk have set up. Riley has seen those tents before, has a child’s concept of what “homeless” means.

She looked at me with troubled eyes. “Are some children homeless?”

Yes, I was honest with her. There are many homeless children.

She grew quiet, looked thoughtful.

“I want to have homeless children come to my house for Christmas.”

I didn’t try to tell her that’s not really practical, or even possible. I saw it, in a flash of her six-year-old eyes. I saw awareness that she had more than some, and that awareness triggered a generous impulse. It was the impulse of a child, who doesn’t understand the complexities of social issues, or logistics, or the cost of anything.

She just wanted to help children who are less fortunate.

Like many Americans of my station in life, I worry a bit. Especially this time of year. I can’t help but wonder if Riley and Jack will be spoiled, the product of well-intentioned family and parents, who want to give them a good life.

It’s easy to give to the point of doing damage, and while my daughter and her husband are thoughtful about the gifts they give the Littles, they can’t control everyone around them. The reality is that many American children have too much stuff, but not enough of the right stuff.

Seeing Riley’s face, looking out the window, thinking about homeless children who will not wake up to a warm and merry Christmas, I felt reassured for her. She’s getting it, the real meaning of the holiday, which is all about giving…the ultimate gift.

And it made me think…what if adults could be more focused on just doing what needs doing, less caught up in the political / social / financial aspects of reaching out? Yes, I understand that it’s easy to talk about doing for others, but the moment you begin to think about how, you’re confronted with difficult realities. Which is probably why most people, myself included, are usually contented with giving money to charities, and tell ourselves we’ve done our part.

Riley made me think about that in a different way. This year, I want to be more hands-on. I don’t know what that could look like. But I think it could be good.

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You never know what seemingly insignificant moments will impact life. I couldn’t guess, sitting beside Riley yesterday, if that moment will stay with her, shape her in years to come. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I think it was a moment that will stay with me. It was a moment when a child reminded me, in the midst of Christmas travel and gifting and busy-ness, what we should really be about…not out of guilt or pressure, but because sharing with those who have less is the right thing to do. I know that, and I practice that. But Riley reminded me that at least some component of giving should be done in person. That’s when we know the real meaning of sharing…when we connect face to face.

I shared this story to encourage, not to guilt, and to promise myself that I want to give differently. So much of my giving is convenient, sanitary, impersonal. There is value to giving money, I don’t want to minimize that. But I want to acknowledge, it’s not really personal.

Thank you, Riley, for the Christmas lesson, though you weren’t aware it meant anything to me.

And I thought she was the one learning the lessons of life!

Blessings, peace, and Merry Christmas!

~ Sheila

 

 

Let the holidays begin!

December 19, and I feel like I’ve been waiting all year for this moment. After months of thinking, planning, and anticipation, a lot of things have come together.

This year is ending differently than I would have guessed in January. I didn’t foresee a lot of things then that have happened.

I saw the evolution of our lives, swinging from nomadic to settled, once again.

I watched the small clinics we work with lose providers, deal with changes, welcome new faces.

I saw the ebb and flow of relationships, friendships, and partnerships.

I witnessed growth, change, loss, and reality. Well, isn’t every year filled with all of those elements?

I poured my heart into a book, into a site, and into creating an online presence, that, so far, has mostly been a learning tool for me. I could say the same for the book…maybe one day it will be a best seller, but so far that fairy tale hasn’t come true.

And yet…it has done me good. This year has stretched me, surprised me, and humbled me.

I feel so blessed.

And now, after a year full of work and busy-ness, we’re spending the next few weeks with family, seeing the littles, marking the moments, doing it all one more time.

I can’t wait.

And then, on the very last day of the year, my Christmas present…a trip to New York to see a play that’s captured the imagination of many people. Rob surprised me with planning a trip to see the hit show “Hamilton.” And he capped it off with planning a cruise on the Queen Mary II, leaving New York on Jan 3.

We’re ending the year with a bang, and beginning the new year with an adventure.

We don’t own a home, we don’t own a car, and we still work part-time. But we travel, and we have family, and we’re able to do some good in the process.

It’s a rich life, most of which has little to do with money, and everything to do with intangibles.

Every year I feel like I’ve learned so much, so much that I didn’t know, just a few short months before.

This year I’ve learned, again, that life will surprise you when you least expect it. I was reminded that magic happens in the every-day as much as in the once-in-a-lifetime…the settings are so different, but the ingredients that create the magic are the same…love, people, good hearts, laughter…

I was reminded, again, how much I love to travel, and to explore. I’m a nester, and that need has been satisfied, now that we’re re-settled and mostly unpacked. But I’m so glad life gives opportunity to ramble, to trip-plan and day-dream, road-trip and fly.

It’s not the life I imagined I would have, but it’s a good one.

I’ve known holiday seasons that were less than joyful…those come to every life, for many reasons.

Because I’ve known the other kind of holiday, I appreciate what I have so much. To love and be loved, to have friends, to have hope…it truly doesn’t get better.

May your holiday season be filled with love and light, peace, joy, and acceptance…for what is, as well as what you hope for.

Yes, let the holidays begin!

~ Sheila

 

My mother’s table – Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m celebrating this Thanksgiving at my mother’s table, once again.

It’s not often, at this point in my life, that I find myself surrounded by family for the holiday. We often visit in summer, or at Christmas, but the Thanksgiving break is shorter, and makes for a harder trip.

But this year, the stars aligned, and we have a cross-section of ages and family branches, from multiple time zones and states, gathered to share the day and the feast, to tell stories and catch up on news, to snap photos and give hugs. We’ll hear about what’s new, remember what’s past, (and who’s passed), and talk.

Most of all, we’ll talk.

In my mother’s kitchen, around my mother’s table, we’ll talk. The stories will flow, and mostly they’ll be funny. Sometimes the talk turns to country and opinions, and the opinions are always strong, and strongly voiced. But no one is uninvited here, whatever is said. We’re family, and that’s that.

My mother has two tables, in side-by-side rooms. There’s a formal dining room, and we’ll have enough people in the house that both tables will be used.

But it’s the kitchen table where the magic happens.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, when we gather, we eat, we talk, and we laugh, often late into the night.

Like so many families across the country, we’ll do the traditional things, eat traditional foods, and mark another year.

There are some missing from our clan. Some just can’t be here, too far to travel, and too short a break. We’re missing others who’ll never sit with us again. But they’re here in spirit, and in stories, and in the recipes we use, the names we recall…”Papa,” “Mama,” “Daddy,” “Mother.”

The day will be full, and we’ll be full, stuffed with all the trimmings, and all the favorite dishes offered up to mark the meal, to say this is a special time, to remind us of tradition and occasion.

We are thankful, the lot of us. We’ve all known joys, and we’ve each known loss. We’re a cross-section of Americana, in so many ways…from careers to interests to where we live and how we talk. Some accents are southern, some less so. Mostly we’re united by common genes, common faith, and heritage of place and upbringing, though we’ve wandered far and wide from our starting points.

Thanksgiving is a day for many things…a national pause to say grace and peace, to thank and remember, to eat and celebrate. Mostly, to me, it’s about family. Purer than any other holiday for that focus, it’s a day that allows us to be together with no other motive than that…to be together. The food and the other traditions are really the extras. It was never really about what’s on the table.

What we’re really thankful for are the people, gathered around.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May your table be full of food cooked with love, and the chairs be filled with faces you love. As you look around tomorrow, may you know who you’re thankful for, and find kindred spirits to talk and laugh with.

I’ll be at my mother’s table, and I’ll be thankful to see the faces, hear the stories, and feel the love.

~ Sheila