My Favorite Things

I responded to a friend’s internet challenge, to post a list 3 positive things a day. When another friend started as a result of my challenge, I committed to an additional seven.

Here’s the first batch of positive things, and I hope they brighten your day.

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Day 1:

  1. I’m grateful to my son who mowed the yard even feeling crappy and in intense humidity — it was a pleasure to drive down the street to home.
  2. I’m happy that I knit. I could give all 21 slots with a knitting related post.layout2_r1_c2
  3. I’m with Kim that cats make me smile. The world is better place because of our feline companions.

Day 2: 

  1. My garden has given us fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini, as well as lots of Tomatoesonvine2basil.
  2. I am lucky enough to have a granddaughter.
  3. Evenings are getting cooler in Asheville–so much less need for AC, and more chance for open windows, bird song, and breeze.

Day 3:

  1. machine-bestI appreciate breathing…all through the night. I got a loaner C-PAP machine and sleeping is true rest again. What a joy!
  2. I woke early this morning, and one of the first thoughts was “what am I grateful for?” — I attribute that lovely waking to this challenge, which has re-focused my mind on the positive in life.
  3. I’m grateful for metaphoric and literal “off buttons.” There’s a time to walk away from drama and ugliness (as well as a time to act) and knowing when that it lifts a weight and frees the mind and heart. That’s a miraculous thing.
  4. –Oh, and a bonus 4) — I’m grateful it’s Friday after a good week at work.

Day 4:

  1. beautiful bird croppedBirds — when I step out my back door each time I leave the house, there are always birds there — in the trees and scrub, on the feeder, winging by. Bird song and that exquisite flash of upward wing never fail to make my own spirit soar. What a gift that is, through good and bad times, just a bird can make me smile.
  2. Jon Stewart is always guaranteed to make me laugh. He reminds me (in a good way) of my late husband, Dennis, who also could always make me laugh.
  3. barilla3Good Gluten-Free Pasta is no longer a contradiction in terms. There are several mainstream brands making gluten-free versions and this puts some old favorite dishes back on the menu.

Day 5:

  1. zen051Celebration (1)Friends! I could leave it at that, but especially the unexpected close friendships of adulthood. Good friends laugh and grieve with you, make meals, trade favors, secret jokes, and masses of understanding and acceptance. God Bless Good Friends.
  2. With said friends, we drank a bottle of cheap (3.99) red wine that was good!
  3. There’s a new produce stand in my neighborhood. An enterprising older man from the Islands, or even perhaps Africa (lovely lilting accent, gracious and warm manners) has taken a vacant building and desolate lot over — he’s put up a large roofed area and has tables and tables of beautiful fresh produce. I stopped for the first time yesterday and bought 4 tomatoes for $2! We talked about things for a bit and then he gifted me with a giant organic tomato and wished be a great evening.

Day 6:

  1. I love the way Facebook helps reveal social connections and make them visible in ways I never paid attention to before social media. The spread of this lovely challenge and the interesting variations it has taken fascinate me. Like an old-fashioned game of telephone, spreading the message changes the message and the messenger.telephone game (237x136)
  2. When I stop and think of it, I realized I have been much loved in my life — many of those have left the planet now, but the love doesn’t go away. It lives in me and my memories and I can continue it on by loving others. What beautiful magic that is!
  3. It’s Monday morning and I feel no dread or sorrow or anger at the prospect of going to work this morning and the rest of the week. That’s a blessing — if you’ve ever experienced those feelings in response to work week, you know. It’s also a privilege to have meaningful work in a pleasant setting with good co-workers. It’s one I pray every worker can have. When I center myself around the thought of how blessed I am to have that, I feel the glow of gratitude and joy seep through me and a smile spread across my face.

Day 7:

  1. Gorgeous George

    Gorgeous George

    Pretty much the whole internet agrees with me that kittens and cats are an endless source of fascination: more personality and energy packed in those springy bodies than can be contained, so it leaks out in extreme cuteness and apparent wisdom. When I need to laugh, a silly kitten attacking something harmless with such zeal can always do the trick. And isn’t it great that there’s no prescription cost, or anything….

  2. It’s the last few days of August and I’m not dreading September. Between world events and personal losses, the 9th month had assumed a pretty bad rep in my mind. This year, it’s pretty much just another month — I’m excited to see fall arriving while I mourn the loss of fresh tomatoes and basil. I see the sky lightening in the morning a few minutes later each day. But I don’t want to take to my bed with the covers over me! There’s a song “Wake Me When September Ends” that used to match my feeling, but now it’s just a song again. Since I loved September and its promise of autumn and new starts, I’m grateful to have it back.
  3. Sisters. I have only one official sister, who I love and adore and hope to continue laughing, playing, cooking, knitting, arguing and hugging for decades yet to come. I also have several sisters of the heart that joined my inner family over the years, and they too are a whole bouquet of graces.


With special thanks to Kim for starting me on this, I say with joy, And So It Is.

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More Shop Talk

I have some more photos Josh and I took over the weekend. It’s looking more finished now — though there is plenty more to add and I still need more shelves.

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Did I mention I finally named my business?  I’m nearly official (have to bring the dba form to the clerk’s office this week).

Vintage Octobia:

Crafts & Collectibles

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Trading Spaces

ImageYesterday afternoon my son and I spent several hours moving my glassware and knitting to a new space at the Asheville Downtown Market.  I have a long way to go to get the booth exactly like I want it, but I’m pretty pleased with the progress so far.

This weekend will mean some serious rummage store shopping for more shelving; and an evening spent tagging my collection of coin banks, some more craft supplies, a handful of very sweet trinket boxes, and the latest scarves.

This is so much fun!

Getting Back on Your Feet


budget_storyThis may be the hardest part of a financial crisis. It’s officially over – In my case, I got a new job: I start next week and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m also, frankly, looking forward to getting a real paycheck again!

Unemployment saved me, certainly, and I am most appreciative of the safety net it provided. It would have been an awfully long way down without those benefits. I was fortunate, too, in that I did really want to go to school, and was able to access a federal program called the Worker Initiative Act. This paid my modest tuition and less modest books at the community college, and allowed me to collect unemployment while I was “retraining” for a new career.

I’m just past the midpoint of the last full semester. One more course this summer and I’ll have the AAS in Business Administration. None of those things would have been able to happen without a robust network of assistance, options, and community and personal resources.

I got to breath, grieve, regroup, focus on the future, and keep my house and car… by the skin of my teeth, but I managed.

My new employer is willing to work with me some scheduling accommodations so I can finish in early May – saving me from that tough choice of finishing school or grabbing hold of an opportunity. I’m not being forced into that unpalatable set of choices.

Reality Check

So, with all this good news I’m relaying, why do I say this is the hard part?  Well, the crisis is over, and that means a whole bunch of assumptions and beliefs we hold about how things are supposed to be get triggered – crisis over? Cable TV back on? Paycheck coming? Eating out more often? Work wardrobe needs reburbishing? Ooohh, new clothes and, wait for it, new shoes…..aaahhhh.shoes

But the difficult reality is that there is no money to these things for a while. Breaking even will be triumph enough for the first few months. So much has gone unattended. Things have been back-burnered, let slide, pushed down the line…. whatever your favorite cliché. To not leap into fresh disaster (another food metaphor: from the frying pan into the fire) takes a very simple task: Planning….

Okay, I take it back, it takes a very complex task: Planning…..

I really is a little of both. Here’s what I want: I want everything that’s been on my wish list for the past 22 months. I want several pairs of new shoes, I need a tune up and new tires for the car, I want home repairs to the floors and gutters, and heavy yard clean-up, and a better television (you know, for with that new cable service. I need to get to the dentist and want to tune up my sewing machine.   I want to rebuild my tattered IRA account start the climb back up from crisis to stability.

This is a lot of expectation to lay on a simple little paycheck. Will this suddenly turn me into a master planner, able to exert unnatural discipline in the face of temptation? I’ll craft the perfect, magical budget that will simply follow itself, that’s how perfect it will be.

Now, back to our reality check:  I didn’t win the lottery, I got hired by a lovely local nonprofit (I won’t mention them by name since I don’t yet know their social media policies).

Please allow me to proclaim again, in all seriousness, I am extremely fortunate. I will enjoy the job I’ve gotten, my skills and talents will be appreciated, I’ll have the magic phrase: paid medical benefits. I will clearly be better off within a few weeks of my start date.

But then what?

I need – more than all those other wants and needs spurting out above here – I need to get a plan and prioritize what I’m going to do.

A Whole New Kind of Pyramid Scheme

pyramid_schemeHere’s where Financial Literacy 101 helps. Begin at the biggies – you know, rent or mortgage, utilities, car payment, regular medical expenses, insurance and so forth. Write down what the cost is each month for the items you know, put a guess in the spots where you don’t know and we’ll return to them later. Get a broad idea of how much it costs to live each month. We’re looking for the basic nut – the amount you must have to stay safe and warm and dry. These items all stay pretty much the same each month, so the financial pyramid now has its base.  The next level is the regular expenses that aren’t the same amount all the time – food, gas, usage-based utilities, etc. These make up the middle chunk of the pyramid. The amounts vary, but they happen each week or month and you can, with a little review of your spending, develop a pretty keen sense of how much these represent each month. NOTE: this is fertile ground for trimming expenses down the line.

Finally, the top of the pyramid. This is the chunk that breaks off and slams you periodically. These expenses represent the apparently random ones that are actually startlingly predictable, but on a longer curve than monthly. Over the course of a year, these expenses are bound to occur. The amount, timing, and particulars may change, but they happen. Imagine driving a car that never needs repair and maintenance? If there were such a thing, we’d all be riding in one.

Here’s one of the big secrets of budget planning: everything we own, everything tangible, is subject to breaking down, wearing out, or becoming obsolete (just think rotary phone if you doubt me). So we’re going to always be in the midst of fixing or replacing one thing or another. Holidays and birthdays roll around with boring predictability (so why do they always take us by surprise?) The question is often pay now or pay later. Regular maintenance reduces long-term repair costs. Setting aside money in advance each month towards these costs reduces stress, credit card interest, late fees, and insanity.

Not a Quick Fix

It can easily take a year of building reserves for these irregular and periodic expenses before you can draw against your own savings to meet an “unexpected” expense. Just keep socking the allotment you’ve determined aside, again and again, until it works. There’s a great moment of pride and relief the first time your car breaks down and it’s like, “so what, big deal. I’ve got the money…. I just need a ride to work while it’s in the shop.”

Starting Now

I haven’t even started work yet. I won’t have a paycheck for several more weeks. I have new expenses to consider and old ones to whittle away at. But all a person can do it begin. Gather the information starting now. Write down the expenses, keep the receipts, think before you buy – oh, and never, never shop when you’re hungry.

 

New obsessions

Aside

Among the many wonderful contributions technology has made, I count Pandora Radio. Take a moment or two to plug in your favorite bands or singers and writers, and voila, a personalized radio station on the computer/. I’m been listening a lot lately while I learning to quilt.

This is all a result of my annual pilgrimage to Mary’s House, where every surface and wall space if heavy with dolls in handmade dresses, and quilts, doll to miniature size. Exquisite quilts and dolls that range from (imho) strange to heart breaking in their beauty and grace. Her girls are obviously loved (right Marlana?)

For years now Mary has been encouraging me to try quilting.

I’ve held out until now. My knitting horizons have expanded to greatly with lace and the socks I’m working on (my car knitting), but I wanted a new passion to switch off with. I’m a mere beginner, but I have access to expert technical and artistic advise and a love for fabric, color, and patterns,
I see a bed quilt or ten in my future…

Commitment

What a loaded word!

Do I need to commit? Or be committed? Or is it a singular thing,once accomplished and then done.

I am using this space today to announce my re-commitment to myself: my health, my energy, creativity, ability to move, and change and keep my being whole and happy.

I am recommitting to the image of myself at 19, full of joi de vivre, energetic and at ease.

Let’s see what happens next.

I Blinked….

Wow! It’s November 1st and I’m wondering where the last couple of months have gone.

I’ve been in school, getting that rhythm back after 20 or more years. I’ve been struggling to learn to live on less while still feeding my raging yarn and knitting obsession.

I’ve given up Farmville but am firmly in the grasp of a Zuma Blitz blitz.

I’m knitting hats for the local folks from Occupy Wall Street — Occupy Asheville is a pretty mobile group and it’s getting cold out there (it was 28 degrees in Asheville this morning, which is ridiculous for the south on November 1st).

What else….

I fell — a little over a week ago, and slammed my knee HARD. The bruising and swelling is finally going down. It was a reminder of how bad my walking ability was a year ago, and how far I’ve come back to better health.

Swimming!! I joined the gym and starting doing mild water workouts. I’m really enjoying it, though I no longer can do the hot tub because of leg circulation impairment. Still, a hot shower gets rid of most of the sore muscles. The water is a blessing for me: I feel weightless and graceful, and can float and bob effortlessly. I do a lot of treading water and just paddling around. Keep moving is my main rule.

I keep moving in other ways too. The deep wounds of losing my job — being laid off with no warning at all — still resonate in me. I am moving forward into this new life, but I am still troubled with some fairly obsessive thinking about the old job and what happened. Since I know there answers that will change anything, I turn my thoughts as soon as I can. In the meantime, I try to hold them lightly… and let them drift away on the currents of the water as I swim… so I just keep swimming.

My Bunny Timer

So, I’ve started meditating every morning, for 15 minutes.

This is no small accomplishment — everyone knowns that getting a new piece of morning ritual in place takes some doing. I felt a little smug about it. I have friends who have been serious about their practice for years, and yet find the morning time to be the most challenging for them.

Removing as many barriers as possible between me and my new practice meant I needed an easy timer of some kind to signal that I was “done.”

Lest I continue to take myself too seriously, I selected my new meditation tool with special care:

Take that ego! You’ll find me and my new bunny egg timer in my rocking chair again tomorrow morning.  Maybe tomorrow’s mantra should be “What’s Up Doc?”

It’s Tarot Tuesday Once Again!

Clinging to the Past

Well, that will learn me! I haven’t been back to my blog site in a month, and thought, “how lovely, I can re-enter easily by drawing a tarot card at the Osho Zen Tarot  site!” So what do I draw, this:  Yuck!  I don’t like it at all.  Which is probably just why I needed to have it pop up for me. 

One big question that runs around in my mind is, what’s the difference between remembering and clinging? If I think about people and events gone by, and I have good or bad feelings in this moment because of my thoughts, is that clinging to the past? 

Maybe it’s about recognizing that it’s my thoughts in the here and now about the past that are causing the feelings I have. I’m having the feelings right now, after all.  But, feelings slip away after being felt, and new ones, and new thoughts and sights and sounds take their place.

There’s where my opportunity to cling or release comes. I thought my thought, remembered my memory, felt my feeling… now, what’s next?

Struggling to bring my blog into my present is what’s in front of me at the moment.  This wonderful on-line journal has served me so well!  I hope it’s been even half the pleasure for y’all as it has for me.  I’m not closing up shop — but rather dusting things off, ready for a new season of sharing. 

So, thanks for the memories yet made, and the thoughts and feelings not yet experienced — future, here we come.

 

From the Zen Osho Tarot commentaries:

These tenses–past, present and future–are not the tenses of time; they are tenses of the mind. That which is no longer before the mind becomes the past. That which is before the mind is the present. And that which is going to be before the mind is the future. Past is that which is no longer before you. Future is that which is not yet before you. And present is that which is before you and is slipping out of your sight. Soon it will be past…. If you don’t cling to the past…because clinging to the past is absolute stupidity. It is no longer there, so you are crying for spilled milk. What is gone is gone! And don’t cling to the present because that is also going and soon it will be past. Don’t cling to the future–hopes, imaginations, plans for tomorrow–because tomorrow will become today, will become yesterday. Everything is going to become yesterday. Everything is going to go out of your hands. Clinging will simply create misery. You will have to let go.

Osho The Great Zen Master Ta Hui Chapter 10

 Commentary:

The figure pictured in this card is so preoccupied with clutching her box of memories that she has turned her back on the sparkling champagne glass of blessings available here and now. Her nostalgia for the past really makes her a ‘blockhead’, and a beggar besides, as we can see from her patched and ragged clothes. She needn’t be a beggar, of course–but she is not available to taste the pleasures that offer themselves in the present. It’s time to face up to the fact that the past is gone, and any effort to repeat it is a sure way to stay stuck in old blueprints that you would have already outgrown if you hadn’t been so busy clinging to what you have already been through. Take a deep breath, put the box down, tie it up in a pretty ribbon if you must, and bid it a fond and reverent farewell. Life is passing you by, and you’re in danger of becoming an old fossil before your time!