Appreciating Spontaneous Moments

It should have been easy. I wrote about showing gratitude and decided to tweet  something I was grateful or thankful for at least once each day until Thanksgiving. It was only 10 days. Wow! Not so easy. Because I was tweeting it, the first things that came to mind seemed so silly. “I’m thankful for my family,” “I’m grateful for the tiny little things that most of us take for granted everyday.” Duh! I wanted to think bigger, so I focused on my students instead of family. (Hey, it was a start!)

In the end, I realize I set this mini-goal to force myself to focus on and make time for that creative part of me that gets pushed aside every year at this time. What is gratitude but finding thankfulness? It’s celebrating some part of ourselves or our lives that is not frequently acknowledged. So, I began to think about the little things that truly make me happy, that make me appreciate my life—now. Not how I’d like it to be, but how it is in the present.

I’ve blogged about some of them in the past: the way I like to wake every morning with the blinds slanted so I can see the sunshine slowly brighten the white pines behind my building, and gratitude for a lifestyle that allows me a day or two a week (even during my busiest time of year) to savor my thoughts with my coffee and write in my journal before heading off to wherever I need to be that day.

Slowly, the things I posted focused on the bigger picture and the spontaneous parts of my day. Rejoicing in the luxury of allowing the creative thoughts to flow for not one project but 3! Changing plans to meet a friend for lunch instead of dinner as planned and then running into another friend who joined us. Learning about my latest book placing as finalist in its category for a book award. The energy and excitement my publisher and editors generated about this news.

Focusing on gratitude worked. By Wednesday, not only was I having a fantastic day in the kitchen, but I was enjoying all the busy-ness of work (my writing and teaching projects). And, the creative juices have been flowing ever since. So, dare yourself to savor the small details in life. Find the positive in the unexpected changes or challenges life provides. You may be surprised by the results. I’m grateful I was challenged—and pleasantly surprised.


Listening to the Silence

It’s the beginning of the first full week of a new month. I actually remembered to turn my clocks back, a miracle actually. (I’m usually one of those people who forget and one year I set it forward in November. That was embarrassing when I showed up really early for work!!)

Anyway, though the clocks back to the regular time, my body still isn’t. When I got up super early this morning it was foggy. I like to see the trees and pond through the fog and then watch as the “cloud” lifts. I make a note in my journal. (Never know when I’ll need the description for a story.)

I was surprised not to hear workers on the golf course or even birds chattering among the trees. In fact, it was quite silent. It was a new sound to experience. I know how strange it seems to say I sat and listened to the silence, but I did. I enjoyed the simplicity of the morning. I reveled in the lack of noise. It was peaceful, relaxing, a fantastic start to the day.

I’m so glad I was up early enough to listen to the morning awaken.

Good Morning, Season!

It’s officially here. “Season” in southern Florida. The grocery stores are crowded with people trying to find the aisle they need. It now takes twice the time to travel down the road than it did just last week.

Snow birds have landed in my town! With them they bring “paradise weather.” The mornings are cooler with lower humidity and warm breezes. This is welcome relief after the thick and heavy humidity and brain-melting heat of July and August. The best part is the sunshine and the rising warmth–around 20 degrees by late afternoon.

Arrival of “paradise weather” is equivalent to the anticipation of spring’s arrival in the northern states. When I was growing up in Michigan, I recall my mother throwing open all the windows at the first of the sunny, warmer weather of April and May. She then commenced “spring cleaning” after being “cooped up” during the winter months. The same is true here, though delayed by months. Everyone retreats during the heat of summer and, now that the climate changes overnight (weather and influx of people and vehicles), we throw open doors and windows, allowing the breeze to blow through the house. Then, sigh with the knowledge that this is the beginning of several months of beautifully sunny days.

So, as I make plans to reorganize my house, commence a thorough cleaning, then a purging of closets, I am also revising my attitude and schedule. Thank you to the snow birds who have alerted me that “season” has arrived. I may need more time to commute to the workshops and classes I teach, but I certainly no longer need to confine my “office hours” to the desk and A/C. I’m looking forward to venturing with notebook and keyboard to the lanai, the pool, the beach, the café, and the many outdoor seating areas at local restaurants.

Good morning, Season. Welcome to Paradise.

Hello to Autumn’s Change

This is been an intense summer. An intense year actually, and I hope that things will now start to settle. It’s definitely the perfect time since autumn is the sleepy evening before winter’s slumber takes hold.

This year has been filled with family issues, illness and heartache. There have also been work issues; chaos at one company but new business to fit in among the tilt and change happening in publishing. So, altogether it has been one intense year.

But the winds are shifting and, though I feel exhausted by all this intensity, something fresh is flowing this way. I can feel it. Things will settle into place because those always seem to at this time of year.

As summer simmers to a close, autumn brews new beginnings. I guess I’ve always felt this way each September as the new school year starts. It’s a change of pace and ripe with possibility. I always got excited about buying new clothes and school supplies and was eager to learn something new. So, as drained as I might feel I’m also very excited by the promise of the coming months.

Here’s to a new school year and all the excitement it holds. Here’s to the new courses I’m creating for two of the programs I teach for, and to the determination I feel for the my writing projects this fall. Happy autumn everyone!

Happy May Day!

May Day, a symbol of  springtime, of rebirth and renewal. It’s exactly the time to celebrate launching a new chapter and exciting things on the horizon. This year it also has personal importance to me since I have finally concluded an especially hectic semester. I didn’t think I would survive, but I did; that alone is worth celebrating.

January to April is always hectic for me since it’s “season” in Florida and on top of teaching college and arts enrichment classes, I offer writing workshops through various venues.  Additionally, this semester I was honored to also be among the inaugural faculty for a first-year experience college course which involved also serving on related committees. My plate was overloaded in trying to balance the teaching, writing, and personal events of the last few months. Having gotten through it with my sanity (mostly) intact and my attitude only slightly frayed, I feel like a champion.

But, despite the “success” of having plowed through the last few months, I did spend the month of April re-evaluating my goals and laying the foundation for new pathways toward my  future. In fact, though April was National Poetry Month, I never had a chance to share any of my poems or those by beloved poets. I did, however, live “First Fig,” one of my favorite poems and the one that led me to discover a favorite poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was definitely burning my candle “from both it’s ends” and yes, it most definitely “gives a lovely light.”

So, it’s time to set off on the pathway I have spent so much of the past month preparing. I’m eager to see where it leads and confident that it will allow me to better balance all those things that are important to me without making me feel I’m not giving life my all.

Here’s to springtime, rebirth, and a fresh start. Happy May Day!

Symbol of Simplicity

Several weeks ago I decided to sprout an avocado seed. The problem is, I’ve been so distracted I failed to trim it back and follow the steps for growing a houseplant from an avocado. By the time I had a chance to plant it, the stem was about 12 inches tall with about six 1- to 2-inch leaves.

I finally made the time to plant it. At first it looked ridiculous in its 6-inch diameter pot, like a stick looming above the soil with a few bits of green at the top. This really bugged me for a few days, and I wondered whether it would end up an avocado tree rather than a plant.

Within a few days, however, I found looking at it calmed me. This stick with a few leaves sprouting from the top, all alone in an overly-large pot became a symbol of simplicity. Simplicity because it looks uncluttered. Just the avocado stick and the pot. Simplicity because it stands tall–lanky but strong and straight despite its environment. Simplicity because it focuses on its purpose–growing. It has now filled out with more than a dozen leaves, several of which are almost the length of the stalk.

My avocado stick is now a plant. It has grown into its pot but remains a reminder to me to focus on simplicity. When I look at it, I’m reminded to keep my life uncluttered, stand tall and strong, and focus on my purpose.

Driving through the Deluge

People often talk about turning life’s lemons into lemonade. Sheesh! I’ll take lemons any day! Add a little water, some sugar, then drink down some lemonade. That sort of problem I can deal with–the “grin and get through it” type of problem.

When life throws problems my way, they come in torrents. It’s  much like the summer rains we get here in Florida. Those usually hit when I’m driving on I-75. The sky opens up like a faucet and even with the wipers on full speed I can barely see the road 10 feet in front of the car. During such downpours, you have 2 choices–pull over and wait it out, or (and this is what most people do) turn on the car’s flashers, slow down, and use the blinking red lights of the car in front of yours to help stay on the road.

Most people do this for 2 reasons. First, summer downpours last 20 minutes or so. Second, chances are you’re driving toward and then through the storm. Even crawling along with hazard lights flashing, the storm will pass by sooner than if you wait it out under an overpass. (And, personally, I feel safer crawling along than parked on the side of interstate.)

Lately, I feel as if I’m driving through a metaphorical deluge. Events just keep happening. I have no control except to try to remain positive. As soon as I think it can’t get worse, some new twist happens. (Maybe this is why I’m not getting lemons–I’d be dealing with bushels and bushels.) Normally such times in my life seem to focus on just my job or just  my personal life. Not this time. This time I’m getting hit from every part of my life and from every side and angle. I don’t know what bad karma I put out there, but it’s dumping on me now! Even with the wipers going at warp speed, I can still barely see where I’m headed.

Luckily, I’ve survived these deluges before so I’m confident I’ll get through this one. Eventually. I also know that during such times I learn who my true friends are and whom I can count on. Sort of like the spring cleaning my mother used to do when I was young, I know that this deluge is helping me wash away all the unimportant things I’ve expended energy on; once it ends I have a feeling my windshield will be squeaky clean and I will clearly know where I’m headed.

As I’m crawling through this torrential rain, I have remembered to thank my friends and express gratitude for all my wonderful students. They have been most compassionate and understanding. Thank you!