A Life Well Lived

My husband constantly asks me, “What do you want me to _______?” Fill in the blank. I attribute this behavior to laziness; it is easier to ask me than it is to figure things out for himself. It drives me crazy, but after thirty three years I have given up. I answer the question then let him do whatever he wants. Most often he does the exact opposite of what I say. It is one of those funny behaviors that people who have been married a long time often do as a result of years of give and take.


But I do nothing without consulting the Father.

John 5:30a

This verse jumped out at me this morning as I asked God to show me what I was to write today. I opened my Bible to John and picked up where I left off. Jesus had healed the lame man and was then confronted by the religious leaders about breaking the rules. What happened next is what we in the south refer to as a “come to Jesus meeting.”

Jesus took the church leaders to task and in so doing said so many profound things including giving us a glimpse into the relationship between Father and Son. Jesus could have done everything he did on his own without consulting the Father. But he didn’t. He is our example, our guide, our teacher. Remember the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets? Here is the answer. He would do nothing without consulting with the Father.

I fail at this most days. I get busy or distracted. I wonder how my life would look if I began my day, before I even get out of bed, thanking God for the new day and asking him what he wants of me that day. Do I expect an audible answer? No. But what I know is that in the course of the day something will jump out at me like this verse did, and when I do what is before me I will have done what God wanted of me that day.

At the end of the day, this is a life well lived.

Blessings to you…Sheryl

Out Of The Fog: What Happened To 2021?

I feel as though I have been living in a fog the past two weeks or so. The last thing I remember was researching and writing about Charles Schultz and the significance of A Charlie Brown Christmas. And now here we are, January 4, 2022. The simple story is that I got sick. Covid test was negative, I only took one; however, the symptoms were very much like a friend of mine who did test positive. In addition to the physical symptoms, I was in a mental fog. I just existed, interacted when needed but basically was not mentally with the program. I felt like I had hit a brick wall, both physically and mentally. Fortunately by Christmas Eve I felt well enough to host my family and then I collapsed for another week. And, that brings us to today.

Onwards Into 2022

I have the well deserved reputation for starting things but never finishing them. Call it short attention span or creativity run amuck, whatever causes this personality trait, I wish there was a vaccine for it that actually worked. Therefore, there are no big resolutions. I don’t need the baggage of failing yet again – said very tongue in cheek. I don’t really feel bad about quitting; I accepted this part of me many years ago and I avoid people who try to make me feel bad.

No, instead of resolutions I have a couple of things that I am calling my Focal Points for this year. No specific tasks or firm goals, just areas of my life to focus my heart, mind and body. We will look back at the end of the year to find how this focus shifts the quality of my life from so-so to rich and full.

God

Without God nothing makes sense. This is a complicated subject in many ways. My relationship with God is uniquely mine. I have written about my move away from organized religion. But I have not moved away from God, in fact that relationship is stronger than when I depended on an organization for the definition of my relationship. I feel a definite tug on my heart to give back and do more. Now that I know we are staying in this community I want to get involved somewhere – maybe even get to know my neighbors, most of whom are new. There is much I can do to move outside of myself and allow God to work through me. It just requires leaving the house occasionally.

Family

Family Fun

We are all born into a family and then we go into the world and make our own families. These days what is considered a family doesn’t look like it did when I was growing up. Friend circles, blended families, adopted families all fill the need we have to belong.

In June we made room for our oldest granddaughter to live with us. The details aren’t important. She needed a safe place to land and we are that place. In six months she is well on her way to creating her own life and learning what it means to be an adult. It is a joy to watch the transformation. This move caused some stress in other areas, but as the months rolled by, those things began to ease and it all culminated with the best Christmas we have spent together, maybe ever. Our daughter, son-in-law, and other two granddaughters joined the three of us for an evening of laughter, giving, eating and love. It was the perfect ending to a crazy year.

So, this year I will focus on my family – the one I chose. I married a man and received a daughter in the deal. These relationships deserve my time and attention and quite frankly, I love being the mom who sets the stage for family fun. Also, while we have our granddaughter here to care for the house and the dogs, we are going to do some of the traveling we have been unable to do in the past. Our lives together have always been focused on externals – parents, child, grandchildren, ex-spouses, etc. Our life has not been our own, but now it is our time. We have earned this, and will live out the motto, “If not now, when?” Neither of us are getting any older.

Home

Christmas at Stately Means Manor

We have vacillated for many years on whether this is where we would live forever. I wanted to move; he didn’t. Just when I got him to agree (despite little voices of doubt in my head), we moved heaven and earth to make room for a teenager. Shortly after that I realized that my home is here. I have bargained with God for years to let me live somewhere else. It has only taken me thirty three years to finally decide to settle down and stay put. So, I will now focus on making this house the home I have always wanted.

Kitchen Remodel

First comes a new kitchen. Other than new appliances and my attempts at DIY, this kitchen has not seen an upgrade since it was built in 1985. It is time. After the kitchen I will move outdoors. We have a large backyard that has never been used. That is going to change. My goal is less grass and more fun. I want this to be the home our family wants to gather to make more memories.

Continuous Threads

Textile collage: “Security”

I come from a long line of creative people and I must have a creative outlet. One day, as I looked at one of my grandmother’s quilts, the name Continuous Threads came to me and I knew I wanted to use it in some way. I saw myself and my desire to repair her quilt as a way to continue her life and story. I got nervous because I knew I didn’t have the skill set yet, so I set it aside. But, this will be the year I will patch, mend and sew to bring this cherished quilt back to life.

It has been a journey of a couple of years, but the vision is beginning to form. For now I am learning all I can about hand stitching and embroidery including reading books about the historical aspects of textiles and their relationship to us and our quality of life. The past seventeen years have been very much wool, hand spinning yarn and knitting focused, but now I am ready for something different. I am ready to create with needle, thread, fabric and assorted found objects that tell a story. I am ready to mend clothes and my grandmother’s quilt. I am ready to weave cloth for uses I haven’t even determined yet. I am ready to learn and share with a younger generation so that these skills continue to be valued and passed to along. Our history matters.

Textiles Tell Stories

If this subject interests you as well, I have an Instagram account, @continuousthreads as well as Continuous Threads, a separate website and blog for my textile adventures.

Onwards Into The Future

With my new focus this year I am not promising a posting schedule that life can erase in the blink of an eye. I would like to post once a week and have it be an informative and entertaining glimpse into my life. But, truthfully, from now on I write this for my family and a few close friends who care. I want to leave something behind. I have no biological legacy, but I have left a trail of Sheryl everywhere I have been in my life. For the most part I think the trail has been a good one but I’m working very hard to stop over thinking and analyzing. It is a worthless waste of time and emotion.

So, there you have it. Out of the fog of 2021 (how appropriate the year ended in a state of mental fog?) and into the light. It is going to be a good year despite what goes on in the world around us. By staying connected to God and focusing on living a life that is full of loving kindness to all who cross my path I can’t go wrong and the trail I leave in my wake will make the world a better place. What more can we ask for in life?

Until next time,

Life Inside My Head

The morning sun casts a golden glow across the landscape of my backyard. The sky prepares for the new day with a color that is reminiscent of sapphires. Soon dawn will give way to daylight causing the deep, rich blue to fade like a pair of jeans after years of wear. A new day has begun. A new day of a new week. What lies ahead? I know I must step out into the world to find out. No more staying home and pretending. Thus begins the internal dialogue.

Morning Rituals

I reach for my coffee cup. It is empty. Time for the next step in my morning ritual. First cup of coffee means writing my morning pages. The dumping ground for all the crap that circles around in my head. I need that place to rid myself of so many random and distracting thoughts. “What did I do before morning pages?” I mutter as I head back to the kitchen for my second dose of delicious, hot caffeine.

Morning ritual number two is coffee and 200 mg of Sertraline, which is the real secret to my sanity. My mind is an interesting place to live. And I live in my head. I live several lives in my head; not in the multiple personality kind of of way, but in a fantastical, what if kind of way. One day I dream of a quiet life in a small town and the next I am craving the excitement of big city living. The only life I no longer dream of is a rural farm life. I have come to grips with the reality that I was born in a city for a reason and until HGTV made so many different lifestyles look attractive, I never considered the rural life. It looks romantic and fun on television but the reality is that it is filled with the kinds of wildlife I really prefer not having as neighbors and the work is hard and dirty. I have the greatest admiration for those who are made of sturdier stock than myself and can live that life. I know my limitations.

While I don’t want to live a rural lifestyle, I need regular doses of nature to feel connected and whole. That is the reason I am headed to my personal getaway this week. I think I could live anywhere if I had ways to reconnect with non master planned nature. There are so many state parks in this country I would love to visit. I have a plan, but it must be strategized and implemented carefully so that I don’t send my husband into his corner to prepare for the boxing match of dreams.

Fear Of Decisiveness

I look around the suburban home I have lived in for 33 years, contemplating the last segment of life. I am a realist. I understand that I am living in the latter years of my life, and while I am not giving up to sit and rock – although I do love a good upholstered swivel rocking chair – I am likely making choices that will dictate where and how I live for the rest of my life. “We are only moving once” were the emphatic words of my husband when I discussed possibilities that would enable us to have the best of all worlds. Again I remind myself to “pick your battles” and retreat from this discussion.

I have no answers. I wish I had a crystal ball and knew definitively what we are supposed to do. So many people our age move closer to their kids and grandkids yet we are considering moving further away. In this modern age of connectivity we don’t have to fear loosing contact or being left out of each other’s lives by the distance between our homes. And yet…old fears of being alone crop up from my subconscious. These fears and doubts make me fearful and anxious. When I am fearful and anxious I attempt to fix all the ‘problems’ myself. It is as if when I put them in a box and tie a ribbon around them life will be perfect and all will work out just like in every fairy tale ever told. That, however, is not real life.

Tune To The Right Station

Real life is living each day being tuned in to God who doesn’t dictate a path but rather allows us to make choices and then learn from those choices. I am not a believer in cosmic fate; a predestined life that only has one outcome. That is terrifying. I know I would see something sparkling then wander off my path in search of the magic jewel and end up in whatever version of hell might really exist. It is much more comforting to know that God loves and guides. There are many paths that each life can travel, some better than others, but it isn’t an all or nothing game. Thank goodness.

So, when I get my brain into a tizzy over the future, I need to remember to step back and just live today. Go out into the world and make the best of today and let tomorrow take care of itself. And so, here I go.

Seeking The Still Small Voice

Planning

In less than a week I embark on my three day retreat in the woods. As is typical for me I am planning my entertainment first. I will take care of other details such as food and clothing after I know I will not get bored and resort to driving to civilization for a quick dopamine fix. The weather is not cooperating so no flannel shirt and matching bandana for cute matchy-matchy pictures with Maggie, but I will find temperature friendly attire in which to document our big adventure.

Going Analog – Almost

I am vacillating on how much technology to take with me. The cabin does not have WiFi, so I will have to download entertainment should I choose to watch. But…I am leaning towards leaving it all behind and only use what is possible without a connection to the internet. I will have my phone so the possibility exists to partake should I choose to do so. I must download media first so there has to be forethought and intent. Today, a week away, I am resolutely in the camp of music only. I’ll let you know how that goes as the week progresses.

Currently this is my entertainment packing list:

• Kindle

• Sock knitting project plus a back up if I get bored or finish

• Journal with favorite pen

• Morning pages notebook

• Books: The Artist’s Way, The Creative Cure, Faith Of A Writer, Bird by Bird, On Writing Well, and American Primative by Mary Oliver

• Bible

• Binoculars for nature watching

I am craving solitude and silence. The guest house has a special box for phones. It isn’t mandatory and the phones are retrievable at any time, but it is a tangible act; a willingness to set aside the attachment to devices for a prescribed period of time. I will keep in touch with my husband who will worry the entire time I am gone. I will text him each morning and evening to let him know I am alive and well, but then the phone goes back into the box. I will wear my Apple watch which has a locator on it so that if I am walking Maggie he can see where I am. I consider this as much for my safety as his peace of mind.

What Lessons Are In Store For Me?

For one thing I hope to be reminded that I am enough. I am capable and I can survive on my own. It is one thing to be safe in my home alone; it is another to be in the woods, possibly with no one around for miles. I have lived in a large and often scary city most of my adult life and I have succumbed to the fear. I need this adventure for me.

As you can probably tell by my reading list I want to learn and grow as a writer. I hesitate to even use the word ‘writer’ about myself as I don’t have, what I perceive to be, the requisite education for such a title. And this is precisely the fear I am seeking to overcome. I believe I have been given a gift. Writing gives me a sense of purpose and fullness unlike any other creative pursuit. I have pursued many things; all have led to a sense of emptiness and defeat. I write and I feel fulfilled. I click ‘publish’ and I have accomplished my daily goal. Therefore, I suppose, I am a writer. My seeking is about the direction of my writing and am I doing all that I am able and born to do? My heart’s desire is to write even one blog post, story or essay that resonates and makes a difference.

I want to be ensconced in God’s creation while leaving myself open for whatever it is I need to hear. Reassurance. Direction. Guidance. Comfort. It could be any mix of those things or possibly something I haven’t even thought of yet. I am open. I want to be still and sensitive to the still small voice of God. That gentle nudging or the sudden confirmation that I am going in the best direction for me. I don’t want to miss anything because I am distracted.

As I stand poised on the precipice of a new chapter, I feel like a dandelion puff. I am full of life experiences and ready to send them out into the world to plant, germinate and grow to repeat the cycle. If I send forth seeds of love, empathy, kindness, and humor there are no boundaries to what God can do with my tiny little effort.

Happy Mail Day

Orchard Lane by The Fiber Seed

Yarn and fiber lovers everywhere can identify with the this picture and the title of the post. Anytime we receive beautiful yarn in the mail it is a very good day. This particular yarn is hand dyed by a small company run by a husband and wife team. She is the artistic one and the face of the brand while he handles the business end of things. They worked yarn shows together back when we could do those things in person. Now they must rely on online and wholesale sales to support their family. I was the first store in Texas to carry their yarn; I love it and them to this day.

For the non-fiber folks out there let me explain what is so great about this kind of mail as the concept can be applied to many different hobbies or passionate pursuits. As a former yarn shop owner I helped many a person figure out what to make next. For, you see, the making is just part of the process. Making something – no matter the medium – is as much a heart process as a physical one. We aren’t laboriously working away so our families can have warm garments this winter. We are using our hands and minds to create something new, often for the sake of making something new. The satisfaction is in the making. This is why so many knitters and crocheters give their items away. We are creators.

Planning

A new project begins with planning. Sometimes know exactly what we want to make and other times there is just an itch to knit, crochet, weave, or whatever yarny pursuit is desired at the moment. In my case I have a December wedding to attend. The dress I have to wear has short sleeves and even in south Louisiana, a December evening can be cold. So rather than buy a new dress, I invested in this beautiful yarn made by someone I adore so that I can knit a wrap to wear. I knew the minute I saw this colorway that this is the yarn for me.

I had a pattern in mind, but now that the yarn is here I will look again to be sure the original idea is still what I want to make. This could involve hours of looking online at patterns and projects others have made with this or a similar yarn. My husband could not understand this kind of effort. Just get the yarn and make something was his advice until one day I turned the tables on him.

Wandering through the aisles of our local Academy Outdoors and More store, enduring his endless pondering over what kind of hunting items to purchase, I said, “Why don’t you just buy something and use it?” He looked at me, puzzled and was about to make a sarcastic retort when the lightbulb went off. Now he got it. The planning and shopping, thinking and dreaming are crucial to the creative process.

Anticipation

Once the yarn is ordered then I sit and wait…and wait…and wait some more. It only took about a week but it felt like forever. Anticipation is always the most exciting part of the process. It is the time when the imagination runs wild as I think about the colors, the feel and smell of the yarn, and the feeling of casting on, knitting, and seeing what I envisioned come to life. It is magical. It is addictive. And it is the addictive part that can get folks in trouble, but that is for another day.

Someone once told me that we all need something to look forward to. It is what gets us through the drudgery of everyday life. Even if life is great, looking forward to something allows the creative part of our brains to go on vacation. Twice a month I meet a friend for either breakfast or lunch. It gives me two guaranteed things to look forward to every month.

Delaying gratification and having things to look forward to are so very important. Try it. You won’t regret it.

Creating

The next step is the actual execution of the plan. Casting on (the act of putting the yarn onto the needles forming the stitches to knit) and then actually knitting the item. This part provides hours of restful pleasure. The act of actually doing that thing you’ve looked forward to for so long is incredibly rewarding.

Sometimes things don’t always work as envisioned, or the pattern is more challenging than anticipated. That is ok. There are things to learn and grow from there as well.

Lessons From Happy Mail Day

1. Plan then purchase something online and enjoy waiting…dream a little. Be like Ralph from A Christmas Story who waited for his decoder ring only to be disappointed in the end. Not everything we dream up or plan for works out, but there is pleasure in the waiting and dreaming.

2. Always have something to look forward to. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – in fact it is best if it doesn’t cost much – but it should be something that brings you joy and is just for you.

3. Create. We have been created to create. This doesn’t mean you have to be an artist, crafts person, it just means you use your mind and your hands to make something new. Plant a seed, cook a meal, rearrange the furniture, organize a closet, plan and execute a fishing or hunting trip, plan a picnic, take a drive just to see where the road leads. Life is a grand adventure…live it to the fullest!

As The World Turns

Once the title of my favorite soap opera, As The World Turns is now just a descriptive phrase for life in the midst of Covid-19. The earth keeps rotating; life moves forward, day into night and back to day…and if we aren’t careful the mundaneness of it all can and will destroy our very soul. But take heart! Each one of us has the power to break free and soar. Johnny Rose and his intrepid family showed us how this can be done in the now iconic television show Schitt’s Creek.

Photo Credit: Usmagazine.com

Lessons From Schitt’s Creek

For me one of the joys of the past few weeks has been the discovery of Schitt”s Creek. I have not been living under a rock, but until the Emmy’s last year I had not heard of it. When I noticed it available on one of my multitude of cable channels I thought, “I need to watch that someday.” I never did. Then it popped up on Netflix. Now I could watch it sequentially – as it must be for full enjoyment and impact – and continuously. The continuous watching just seems to happen. I tell myself I am only going to watch one episode and before I know it my butt has been glued to my recliner for several hours. At some point I realized that there is an end point and I don’t want that to come too soon. I must savor the morsels of poignant hilarity parceled out by the Rose family and their newfound friends in Schitt’s Creek.

There are many parallels that can be drawn between life during a pandemic and a life of financial and cultural exile. As I envisage the many similarities and the mercurial peregrinations, I cannot help thinking that a pandemic does not a life make! When one person shines, we all shine. Warning, my vocabulary has been permanently influenced by the verbose Moira Rose.

The pandemic has been a barbarous infliction on all of humanity. The hows and whys aside, the trauma and pain suffered has been catastrophic. However, we, as human beings are nothing if not resilient. There has been good forged in the fire of pain.

Like the Rose clan exiled to the town of Schitt’s Creek, many families have been forced to share very close quarters which has led to dragooned intimacy and the ensuing drama. The Rose family had grown comfortable in their estranged and dysfunctional life which was fertile soil for comedy. In less glamorous ways don’t all families settle into a comfortable way of interacting such that it takes something dramatic to change?

As vaccination rates increase and restrictions decrease, life is beginning to return to “normal.” What have we learned that should permanently change how we live?

Take nothing for granted.

Every aspect of life is sacred and should be protected at all costs. Friends, family, health, freedom, speech, religion…all are under attack and deserve defending.

We are more alike than we are different.

We are living in a time when those who wish to rule over us try to maintain their power by pitting one group against another. It is commonly called identity politics. I believe that most people want the same thing – a safe place to live, food to eat, education for children, the ability to work and self mobility, the opportunity to excel, worship, love who they love, live a quiet and peaceful life.

Live Boldy

We are not promised a tomorrow. Live through fear by taking chances, trying new things, living someplace new, experiencing something you have only dreamed about. I have a dream of living somewhere different and have found that place. This place has the kind of historic home I want to live in, it has all the amenities I am looking for and is close to all my family (within two hours counts as close to me). I am ready to live that life. How about you?

~Sheryl

A Very Good Week

I came outside later than usual today. It seems that every day of the week, or at least Monday through Friday, a different neighbor is having their yard mowed first thing in the morning. I am sure it has always been this way, but now that it is disturbing my peaceful backyard time. I am annoyed. We are coming to the end of the growing season, so maybe this will change. One can only hope.

Friday Reflections

Each Friday I am going to examine my week and see how I did in my effort to build the life I want rather than just living in reaction to what comes to me. On the whole, I think I did well. I took more steps forward and can call this one a win.

There were frightening events that happened to people I care about as well as family members. In my fear and dread I turned to God and allowed Him to do His work. I was available but knew this was not my battle to fight. It is a helpless feeling to know a grandchild is suffering and in danger. It is not my job to rescue, though that is my initial impulse. It is my job to cover her in prayer and let God and her parents do the work.

I took proactive steps in the planning of my kitchen remodel as well as purchasing a few plants that will, if I keep them alive, end up in one corner of my garden or in pots on my patio.

I Knit

I took time to knit.

Katie’s Kep – A Fair Isle style hat.

I’ve always been fascinated with stranded color knitting. Living where I do there are few times when such a garment is wearable. I decided that the experience is worth it even if it only gets worn once a year. This is the annual hat design for Shetland Wool Week, a celebration of all things wool in the Shetland Islands. My Scottish heritage and my love for the television show Shetland, determined that I give it a go. This is the perfect knit for my ADD type personality. Every row is different and the color changes are charted. Slowly, row by row the design emerges. I lost the blue ball of yarn I intended for one of the patterns. After days of looking for it I decided to just use what I had on hand and make the best of it. This green, brown, white and gold hat will be my ‘sunshine through the trees’ hat.

I Stitched

Mindful stitching with coffee.

I worked a little everyday on my mindful stitching. Repetition yields peaceful consistency. I am not enjoying working on this muslin. My next piece will be linen…preferably hand dyed.

Hand dyed thread.

I received three spools of hand dyed thread for embroidery. They came from a lovely young woman (@gatherwhatspills) I follow on Instagram. She also has an Etsy shop and I couldn’t resist these beautiful little spools of thread. I am saving scraps, and hunting for just the right inspiration to use them. It will be special no matter what the project.

That was my week. There was more, I cooked some delicious meals, I planned for my kitchen remodel, and I slept…really, really slept. My body and spirit were exhausted. All in all, it was a very good week.

I pray that each of your days moves you just a little closer to living the life of your dreams. Until Monday…

~Sheryl