Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Season’s Greetings whatever holiday you celebrate and where! 2020 has been quite a year. I would say my proudest work accomplishment this year as a Middle School English teacher was putting a focus on Socio-Emotional Learning in my classroom by trying to learn what personally motivates my students with various learning abilities from standard, advanced, to gifted learners. I’m working on building community. One personal achievement I reached this year was maintaining a connection with my students during COVID lockdown in Florida from March to June. I would say that it was really rewarding during a time of uncertainty.
This year, I published one book titled Malachi, Ruse Master. It is not specifically sci-fi, but focuses on a character that connects to characters and events in my Detours in Time series. I really enjoyed writing this one, getting into my character’s head and writing about the struggles of finding your identity when you are a young adult. He works in an unusual job that serves to help him discover many things about himself and his own ethics. If interested, it is on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086VYJYZX
In 2020, I suffered a frozen shoulder and recieved physical therapy for it. I’d been through PT at the end of 2019 for my back and still use some of the principles and exercises I learned. The shoulder recovered, I’m glad to report. In the process, I read and discovered a lot about how our mindset contributes to pain. Some of it is automatic and takes much work to change, but I am working on the mindset constantly. There are many people who helped me and worked to understand me this year, and I am filled with gratitude. I am trying constantly to extend my circle of gratitude for every little thing someone does for me or every attempt at understanding me. It makes me smile more, which makes people respond more positively to me. It seems to pay off for everyone.
COVID anxiety has been a struggle for me, but I’d say it comes and goes, and staying busy or exercising seems to really help. I struggled with anxiety and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder even before COVID became a concern for the United States this year, so fortunately, I was already working on the problem before lockdown occurred and cases skyrocketed. It’s odd to say, but the diagnosis came right on time. I’ve read and studied many books on the subject and took an online CBT course this year. I feel that knowledge and acceptance of our own flaws are both very important. One thing I do regret is my lack of focus, which really got worsened from COVID lockdown. I am able to focus on my work but cannot seem to focus also on writing a book. Never fear! I have an idea in the works, but it will take longer than my former books.
My social life has suffered probably as much as anyone else’s. I have a writer friend I would invite to the house a few times over the summer for coffee and a chat, distanced, of course. My boyfriend and I maintain contact and even went to socialize with some of his friends outdoors on their patio this summer. I had two Zoom meetings with some of the ‘gals’ from work, one of which carried on into a FB group video chat and included some fun app affects!
At least I have my family, I have an understanding significant other, and I have some longtime, trustworthy friends. My mother has had an extended stay at my brother’s house due to COVID concerns, but I am getting her this week. My 24-year-old son and I have been co-existing gracefully, and he is becoming such a generous soul. I remember his teen years, ugh. He certainly has had his own struggles and still has some effects from them. Still, he is finally growing into the person I’ve been trying to teach him to be in the most important ways: gentle, generous, kind to his family members and not so self-centered.
My biggest lesson learned this year is that our mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. It immensely helps a person’s mental health to tell someone about what is bothering them. I have a stressful job, and just discussing with my boss some of the things I have to go through to get organized and handle certain situations provided such a relief. My anxiety, especially in the holiday season, hits at unexpected times, and I’ve even explained to some of my classes that I feel claustrophobic if too many of them come up to my desk. It has helped. I also cannot concentrate if two people ask me a question at the same time. In my everyday life, I’ve been practicing not keeping things in and speaking my mind in a calm manner.
I also asked for help, unashamed, from a good work friend before taking the drive to South Carolina. When asked if she’d ride along with me and maybe take turns driving, she said yes without hesitation, looking forward to time away from ‘mom’ duties. I am so thankful! Having her to talk to on the way up was great and kept me calm when I went 20 minutes past the exit for I-95. We laughed it off and kept on going. When traffic was congested in South Carolina, as usual, I said, “I hate this road,” and she said, “It’s okay, we’ve got this.” It was very helpful, as congested traffic makes me feel boxed in, a result of a car accident I had in 2016. Why am I not over that? Why ask why, just make adjustments as needed.
I know there is a little risk involved there. So, appropriately, my favorite song of the year has been Caution by The Killers. Okay, it’s a love song, but I want to love my life and ponder predominantly on the positives, so it works! The beat and the lyrics are so inspiring!
So, I say, speak your mind, throw caution to the wind! Take a risk. The worst that could happen is that you may not feel accepted by that person, in which case, they don’t deserve your openness. Talk to someone else, then. You will soon find someone who has felt the way you do at some point in their lives. So, I have learned to own my life, my personality, and not be ashamed to share what it means to be me. I may not be able to travel right now, and life and activities may be COVID limited, but I am still going to grow.
This Best of the Year tradition was first brought to my attention by my global blogger friend Beaton. You may visit his blog at becomingthemuse.net and his Best of the Year at https://becomingthemuse.net/2020/12/17/what-2020-taught-me/ You are invited to share your own, and use the hashtag, #BOTY2020.
In my tradition, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and Best wishes for 2021!
This is the post in which I celebrate, or bemoan in a humorous attempt, the addition of another candle on my birthday cake. I am now not as old as dirt, but officially older than dirt. 😉 It happened Weds., sandwiched in between Memorial day and the last day of school, two other things I like to enjoy.
This past Wednesday was a day like any other, except it was the day I celebrated having made another trip around the sun! As”trippy” as that sounds, it makes me feel better about being a year older. So, let’s look back. I was fortunate enough to live in five states before turning eight, thanks to Dad and his Navy career. The dissolution of Mom and Dad’s marriage ending up with her putting her feet down and not having us follow him to the next station after Jax. Such is life. I got schooled in school and then got truly educated in college; I am so greatful for that! I have lived in Jacksonville since age eight, and I’ve been married, pregnant, a mother, divorced, engaged, rebounded, freed. Raising my son was a whole other story, but I did it, all while engaging in a teaching career.
I have raised a son, mostly on my own, but I will acknowledge the help of my mother, my church, and my long-time boyfriend in helping him be part of a community and to learn things I couldn’t teach, like changing the oil or driving a car with a clutch. I know he appreciated that. My mom has been helpful at those times I needed to have a social life and my son couldn’t be left alone, and they were very close when he was younger, since Grandma never had to be the stern one or the disciplining figure in his life, but I’m sure there are many other reasons they had a special bond! I have seen him through some hard times and I hope I helped him out. He has grown a lot just in the years since he turned eighteen.
Then, to put the icing on the cake, or maybe to find my moorings and to not lose myself in the midst of a storm, I finally got a dog and published a fiction book. I am still publishing fiction books! This was part of fulfilling my bucket list, and I am so glad I stopped letting ‘life’ (read that as ‘survival’) get in the way. I started spending a little time now and then with an elderly church member who is in a home, which teaches me a lot about patience and attitude. The gratitude she gives me is humbling. To be honest, I didn’t know I would be doing that; it just struck me as something I should do when volunteers were enlisted. At any rate, here I am in life, not yet a millionaire and haven’t made it to Europe. That’s not bothering me yet. Well, I never did expect to be a millionaire. 😉
I am so much more accepting of myself now, yet I’m still a little bit enslaved to culture’s dictations on what is acceptable. Bralessness is still not accepted. Eyebrows are a must, and that can be a problem for women of a certain age. A pencil is no longer sufficient; now I must have an eyebrow kit. Yes, there is more than one step to ‘doing my eyebrows.’ In fact, I hate spending too much time getting ready in the morning, so most days now, I skip the eyeliner or eye makeup and consider having eyebrows to be my makeup. Plus, clear mascara goes a long way and doesn’t leave raccoon eyes after a day in the humidity of the good old Southeast, U.S.
If I look to my mother and how she has aged, then I have nothing to worry about! She is having fun and has made more friends this last five years than I have ever seen her enjoying. Too many years her life was just work and church, then work, church, and the internet. It’s great to see her enjoying life and aging well, and we still get to spend a good amount of time together. Life is good!
What a lovely weekend it is! Here in the southeast U.S., it will be close to 100 degrees today! I took Bixby to the dog park Saturday, and we could not even last an hour.
There were plenty of dogs, and he loved that, but they all where panting heavily in no time in that heat. At least he drank a lot of water! The dog park is always a treat for me as well; I love to watch dogs play.
I am approaching my birthday this coming week. It makes me look back and ponder my life and choices while appreciating all that has been given me. I have been blessed in so many ways.
This throwback photo is of me in April, 1996, either a week before or the day before I gave birth to my son. All of this talk of women’s reproductive rights gets me thinking. My son was certainly planned and wanted. For those who had a child that was not planned, I honor you as well. No two experiences with motherhood are the same. How different could the pregnancy experience be for someone who is raped or does not have access to birth control? We do not need to move backward with women’s rights, or the rights of any other sort of person! I suppose I’ll be accused of being political. Posting certain things on my Facebook can lead to arguments from some of my staunchly GOP friends. I have some in my family, too. I love them no matter what and try to disagree amicably.
All of this reflection has led to me setting up a separate Facebook to share some poems and past journal entries about my experiences as a woman. Oddly, if I try to boost any of those posts or the page, FB wants an extra authentication process, meaning I will likely be put on a list somewhere. I feel so important now! I am tired of holding my tongue just because I am a girl, and I have never picketed for women’s rights. I am a firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword.
As part of this whole process, I have considered writing some books under a pen name, and do not always feel comfortable sharing certain things under my own name that involve subverting the paradigm or opening eyes to my point of view, so I’m trying it out to see how it goes.
My most recent post was a poem entitled “Sorry,” which is all about the way many of us have been raised to be sorry for so many things, when we just needed to express our emotions or we didn’t want a hug from Dad’s scary old man friend. You know, taught to be sorry when we didn’t live up to others’ expectations of how we should behave as a girl.
I do think this may lead into a book someday, but I have no other details. I am still working on my WIP, Malachi, and I am considering a summer trip to the place which is the setting of this book. Of course, this means I need to get to planning, and I am so behind on that. I can do this!
Why was she always so sorry? (Image via Pixabay).
Thank you for stopping by for my Weekend Coffee Share! I know I have mostly been sharing about what’s going on in my head, but hey, I am doing something about it, because my thoughts don’t eat me up anymore. Have a great week!
I have recently been reminded that I’ve reached my three year anniversary of blogging with WordPress. I have not regretted a moment, except maybe the times when I didn’t feel like I could post more than one a week. This first post was quite fitting, as it documents a turning point of inspiration, and why I bought that little notebook that helped me become confident enough to remember fleeting thoughts and piece them together. I was lucky to win tickets to a rare speaking engagement! Without further ado:
Reflections From July 16, 2015 (that I wrote in my little notebook): My inspiration comes from many people and places, but one that is quite memorable is the poet, Nikki Giovanni. I am fired up right now, because I got to hear her read at a luncheon today!
I love her smile here, and her lack of make-up or artifice. She is herself, at home and comfortable in her own skin. The first day I heard of her, I was not any of those things. I was 20 years old, unsure of myself, finding myself the only one of my peer group in college, and how I got in I wasn’t always sure; I certainly assumed for several years I would not be going. My self-esteem was hinging on some “boy” I was having some “sort of” relationship with while in college. I thought about it, and him, entirely too much. Should I keep it going? Should I forget it, tell him it wasn’t what I wanted or fulfilling me spiritually? Geesh. What a waste of time, mulling over such a wishy-washy situation. Had he wanted more, I probably wouldn’t have, so why wasn’t it that simple for me?
Fact is, I was in college, being challenged, and enjoying that greatly. I was working part-time, not always enjoying it, but I was paying bills, albeit barely. I was going home to an apartment that was partly mine and a roommate who, it turns out, was not as great a friend as I thought. I didn’t even always want to hang out with her. I was not a drunk or a partier, (maybe twice a month), but I was somehow just at an emotional low. Maybe I was short-changing myself? I wanted more emotional fulfillment. So, I had read something by Giovanni and then saw this quote from her, that somehow just really clicked with me; I even copied it down and put it somewhere safe to look at again and again. Here it is:
“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”
I was wasting all this time with some college boy who didn’t even care if I thought about him, living in an apartment with a friend that was no longer a friend, and feeling unfulfilled. The only thing that fulfilled me at that time was diving into the Literature and texts I was assigned. Oh, and some of them really saddened me. There was Gothic Literature such as Mary Shelley. Existentialism. I really felt it all. But I survived. I moved back home with Mom for the remainder of college, continued working, and paid for a lot of my own college. I made time for other friends, and my college relationship pretty much ended when he went away to an out of town school. But Nikki’s words stuck with me. There is a world out there in need, why should I stay in here in my own head worrying about things, when I can go out there and make my world better? And look at all the energy we sometimes spend on an unhealthy or one-sided relationship, or even friendships that no longer serve us, when there is so much more to do?
You could say I live her advice. I suppose the last part of her quote is what I put to use back then, regarding who you should engage among you, and who you should remove. Lord knows, I had to practice it many times repeatedly over the course of my life. I also took a good amount of advice from the Bible, but how confusing that can be to a young person. Nikki’s quote on sick people, hungry people, those needing clothes, is also a reminder to someone like me who had all that I needed. I was getting an education, but it wasn’t making me happy and I felt so alone. I can say that got better. It is also true that I struggled with depression at times. I had to sometimes just do something good for another person in need. Sometimes I had to just get busy and get out of my head. Analyzing existentialism or the deeper meaning of Gothic Literature can be a gloomy subject. But it was very deeply satisfying when I could take a break and do a good thing, or have fun in the sunshine for a while. One day, I would like to be able to consider myself a successful writer. There is no amount of money or number of books I will assign to that. Giovanni herself said something like that today, about how money won’t fulfill you. You just need to have some of it to stay alive. It thrills me to say that Nikki Giovanni has influenced me. I’d like to put that on the back of a book one day!
And as for teaching, yes, like Nikki said, we need more black children to grow up, get educated, and go into space! We need them to become scientists, like Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Who, by the way, is really cool!) It is much needed for the equality of the races. Imagine, if I could turn the right student on to a book about space or time travel, and in turn, encourage him to explore space! Such an honor it would be. It gives me something to remember when I look at that sea of faces every August. They all have the potential.
Nikki also mentioned how our language is changing. (Look at the definition of marriage. Just recently it was decided by the Supreme Court that two women or two men can now marry). Think of the definition of equality; she mentioned how a black man and white woman could not have married 60 years ago. The world is changing and so is our language. We need to observe and we need to write about it. So I am writing right now. She said, “Everyone go out and buy a notebook to write in today.” I already have one. I thought it was lost, but it has turned up again! And I also have this space here for writing. So I am inspired again! Indeed, there is so much to do. Life is good!
Image from Beaton’s blog, becomingthemuse.wordpress.com
18. Travel Experience- I didn’t travel much this year, but I’ve been talking a lot about Rhode Island, so….
Let me show you the view from the Cliffwalk above Middletown Beach in RI. The walk is uphill and long, but the views are breathtaking. I was also looking ahead at my dad and son, who were way ahead of me. That’s okay, I did my best.
19. Function/Festival- Celtic Fest
I’ve researched my genealogy before, but this is the year I got the DNA testing. 50% of my DNA is English, and 5% is Irish/Scottish/Welsh. I’m not sure why they can’t differentiate those, or maybe it is a little bit of each? I do know the Welsh is confirmed, and the Irish is rumored. I also found some Scottish in an online search, but you know how reliable those are. 🙂 At any rate, this festival allows me to enjoy Celtic culture without visiting those blustery, cold places in early March. In fact, the weather here in Jacksonville, Fl is usually quite nice that time of year. The Scottish band, Albannach, is my main interest in the musical bands at the festival. They do a great job of mixing drums and bagpipes and making a beautiful, raucous noise!
20. Fashion/Style trend- I don’t really go for trends these days. I go for sneakers, as often as possible. I probably couldn’t tell you what the trends are. I do, at times, wear snarky t-shirts, because it makes me feel young.
21. The Compliment that Made your year- I was told I was appreciated for my ‘nurturing ‘ nature with students, that we need people like that. It inspired me to give a little more of myself and share my writing experiences with them, because writing has saved my life in so many ways….
22. The best story you heard/read- A man named Paul Crowell helps take care of canine companions to homeless people in San Francisco. A dog is the most loyal companion ever. Many of the homeless are disabled or mentally ill. Helping care for these dogs helps their humans survive life on the streets. God bless this man!
23. Online personality- Juggling the Jenkins. This chick is hilarious. She’s a mom with messy hair and a potty mouth. Her honesty is infectious and her makeup tutorials are a train wreck. I love it, and I totally identify with some of her makeup or product mishaps. Check her out at https://www.facebook.com/JugglingTheJenkinsBlog/
24. Christmas spirit- Best gift ideas: The best Christmas gift is the presence of your loved ones. Enjoy it while you have it.
This was day 3 of “Books I’m Thankful for.” Daily, I’ve been mentioning a book that I am grateful for on social media as we go through this Thanksgiving week. I also encourage you to share yours! This is The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. If you have ever felt like a social misfit, you just may identify with Holden Caulfield. When I read this, I was 18, newly graduated, and a little cut-off from my high school social tribe. I can’t say I felt like he felt, or did the things he did, but I can tell you, what he was going through, I felt like I’d been through it before, right at about year 16 to 17.
Let me quote: “Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know.” When I read a book, sometimes the main character becomes just like a friend, and I am able to shut out the world around me. Some say the character Holden is a sick person. We’ve all been sick at one time or another. Some of us will tell no one. We may only tell parts of it to our friends, but here is a character who will tell you the whole story. I loved that.
Other books I’ve mentioned include: The Help, by Kate Sprockett, Little Women by Loiusa May Alcott, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant, and Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer will likely be my finisher, as it is the first book my mom can recall ever reading to me, which also makes me very thankful!
Inspirational reading by Iyanla Vanzant.
The first book that helped me to love books.
I hope you all have an enjoyable, heart-warming Thanksgiving holiday and plenty of time to read a good book!
As an avid member of the MTV generation, I saw this sort of image every night.
It was somewhere between 1983 and 1984. I was fifteen and landed a steady, or, quite regular, babysitting job. I mean, it was every night and sometimes on the weekends, too. This couple lived in our apartment complex and had two or three kids. Yeah, I’m hazy on whether or not there were two brothers, because the one or two of them presented very little problem except once, however, there was also a little girl who still wet the bed and had a pile of dirty clothes in her closet. These two parents were very busy.
The mother was pretty with dyed blonde hair, and she dressed well. She worked in retail, you see. That meant working several nights and weekends. Her only issue was not being in shape. The little girl told me someone compared her mom to Santa Claus. She was also a cheery woman; I liked that. But the pile of smelly laundry in her daughter’s room bothered me. Mind you, many of us in that neighborhood had to go to the laundromat to do laundry. Her daughter was no trouble and very sweet, she just wanted a lot of attention. Mom worked a lot.
The father was some sort of adjunct professor at night and may have also had a day job; I am not sure. He also was sometimes gone on weekends; I don’t know why. I did not find him attractive at all, and he was fairly quiet, and, in my opinion, seemed a little lecherous. Though that could have been my teenage imagination. I remember one time I had an out of town relative visiting and had to babysit that Saturday morning. Expecting to go home at noon and have lunch out with my family made me quite miffed when the dad got back around 3:00 p.m. He stopped at a store after work to buy a stereo. I felt like this baby-sitting assignment was taking over my life, but I stuck around for the money. After all, I just had to be there, the kids went to bed at their assigned time, and I’d get to watch MTV for a couple of hours.
Once, a friend was hanging out with some guys in the neighborhood and brought them by. I told the kids these guys were my cousins, and I let them come in. One of them was acting funny. That’s what the boy said, and he told his parents later. I don’t know why, and I didn’t suspect foul play; I didn’t really like these guys but thought I’d earn some popularity from letting them ‘hang out.’ It was wrong. I got a talking to by the parents, but I still had my baby-sitting job. They were very busy and needed someone to watch their kids, you know.
I hated not having fun on my weekends. I can’t tell you how many hours I worked for them, but I recall an $80 week and buying a good amount of clothes and shoes. Some of my friends would want to go and do things on the weekend, but I’d be baby-sitting most of the time. Well, it got to the point where I wanted a weekend off and asked a week ahead of time. I was told I needed to find a replacement for that weekend. I had no idea where to turn and did not think that was my responsibility. So I told them I could not find a replacement, but I was going to take that weekend off. They found someone else, and she became my permanent replacement. I wasn’t too upset. It was too bad I lost the job, and it was 6 to 12 months before I found a real job, but I got to hang out with friends a little more. I also stopped falling asleep in my first Mod class. Still, I couldn’t use this job as a reference after the way we parted. It didn’t seem to me they’d give a glowing recommendation since I felt like I left them in the lurch. For a while though, I had been feeling trapped in that little apartment with those kids who really needed their parents, not a distracted teenager warming up frozen dinners for them.
Maybe those parents, in time, got where they needed to be and finally were able to be at home more. I felt sad for their kids; my parents were divorced and Mom had to work odd hours at first, so I understood that. What I didn’t get was why they were living like that. Did they really have to? Two parents in the home; I thought they were being selfish, but maybe that is also my naivete. Looking back, I know I was more judgmental with the dad, especially when he could have been home to have lunch with his kids but instead went shopping. My own dad was pretty absent from my life, phoning it all in from long distance and forgetting my birthday more than once. I still love him, though.
All in all, I learned from the experience. I suppose the parting needed to happen when it did, and I was the catalyst for that. Still, I should have quit a good while before that. I should have given two weeks notice to give them time to replace me. I wouldn’t have felt so irresponsible. When I started driving, I worked a few other babysitting jobs but nothing as regular. That lasted until I got my first real job, that of a fast food cashier and burger slinger. By then, I had learned the right way to resign from a job.
Maybe I wasn’t so stupid in this situation. Perhaps I was just an average fifteen year-old, reacting to way too much responsibility put on me too quickly. I should have been studying more, participating in clubs, and enjoying myself. Instead, I had a learning experience. Go figure…
I’m going to take a Soulful Sunday moment to reflect on the positives: the healing my family has encountered, the second chances, the support with my latest book, the friends I’ve made at work and church, and the long-time friends who still keep in touch. Let’s include my significant other, Kenny, who appreciates my art and respects my time, as he brightens the world with his own creations and remains steadfast through my many dramas. Those who say they “don’t like drama” are just denying their own. We’ve all got it, and it makes us stronger, as long as you’re not creating “the drama.” So I am thankful for that too, as well as the rain at my window and this dog curled at my feet whom I would not have brought home five years ago for fear of allergies and responsibility. My heart is becoming more capable with each possibility I let in. You’ve seen my patron animal here, (the flying squirrel) and you’ll see him again. Every time I’m walking the dog and he sees a squirrel, he chases after it until he’s stuck at the base of a tree, looking up at the squirrel high in its branches, wondering why he can’t just climb up to that high place as well. I imagine the squirrel felt the same when one of his kin just flew off the branch and glided. My dog can do something those squirrels can’t: he can mend a hurting heart and be the most loyal friend ever. Still, when I think of that flying squirrel, I think of the endless possibilities present in this universe, some that we haven’t even yet discovered. We all can soar, we just need to discover our own traits that will make that possible.
The natural/animal world is an endless source of smiles for me!