Just Life

Best Seat In the House

Long, long ago (many, many months ago) (so many months ago), Tom and I decided to reconfigure our library room to make it more comfortable for reading and relaxing; to make it more like a comfy den. We even decided to add a TV to the room, which is a Big Deal because we've long been a one-TV family, and that TV lives down in our basement family room (and sometimes, we go weeks without watching it). So this has been a big deal for us - lots of changes and a lot of thinking/considering went into the process.

We ordered two recliners for our new "den" -- to replace a couch that was never really a good fit for the room. And we asked Brian to design and build a custom TV table for us. (Which is gorgeous, and someday soon, I'll share that in a post. But not today. Because TV = still in box.)

But then . . . we had to wait.
It took such a long time for those chairs to arrive!
So long that I almost forgot about them. . . 

Finally, though . . . they are here!
(The furniture store blamed the delay on the pandemic and a surprise foam shortage. I joke that our chairs were stuck in the Suez Canal. Who knows?)


Once the chairs were all moved in and situated, I had Tom choose which one would be "his." Because I really didn't care which would "evolve" to be "mine". (They are the same chair, y'know?) And I knew that "ownership" would "evolve" even if it wasn't clearly defined from the get-go. Anyway, you can tell from the knitting bag . . . and the coffee cup . . . and the wool throw (because air conditioning vent) which chair turned out to be "mine."


I had no idea - until I sat there for a few moments - that "my" chair offers a Big Advantage! From my seat in that particular chair - and without moving at all - I can see my garden to the front (along with a view to the west that offers great sunsets).


AND . . . my garden to the back!


Without a doubt, this is the Best Seat In the House!
(And NO Take-Backsies, Tom!)

Summer of Ease

Coming into this summer season, I really didn't know what to expect. 

Would the pandemic feel "over?" Would we be able to get out and about in more "normal," summer-y ways? Would we be able to gather with . . . people?

And . . . how would that all feel, exactly?


And then, well. Everything just kind of happened at once! All of a sudden, there are places to go. People to see. Things to do.

Life has . . . opened up . . . again.
(Don't get me wrong. You still won't find me in crowds or at a concert or anywhere there are likely to be people of questionable vaccination status, but it all does feel bigger and more wide open again, y'know?)

Right away, early in the summer, I started feeling a bit . . . itchy and sort of stressed out. I had established a routine for myself - a way to get through my days - during the pandemic. And I actually liked it; I was used to it. But, suddenly, that routine was being . . . oh, not really interrupted (although kinda). Just . . . nudged . . . in ways that didn't always feel good. I found I was clutching tighter to my established routine . . . even though I was also adding more people and unexpected - although welcome - events and options into my life. And it was creating a bit of a jumble for me. 

Clearly, I needed a shift in my approach.
And my attitude.

I needed to let things go . . . and be more spontaneous.
I needed to . . . go with the (new) flow.

It's not always easy to let things go -- especially when it's mostly (maybe even entirely) self-driven expectations and artbitrary rules. But it's so awesome when it happens. When you let your fingers stop clutching at the dock, for example, and you let go . . . and just bob along with the current.

This summer, I'm practicing spontaneity. Letting myself off the hook more than I usually do. Relaxing into this "new" reality.

I'll tell you . . . Life is easier this way.
Summer is easier.

Let go.
Find ease.
(Who knew?)


"Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it."
        --- David Foster Wallace

On Filling the Emptiness

Hey, there!
I'm back.
After quite a whirlwind week of joy and activity!

As most of you know, I have two grown kids. Erin . . . who is married to Keith and lives in California (Bay Area). And Brian . . . who is married to Lauren and, after several years out in Boulder, now lives closer by here in Michigan. We all took the pandemic Very Seriously. Erin and Keith have been hunkered down in California, and we haven't seen them since Christmas 2019. Brian and Lauren? Well, we've seen them. But not much. And until very recently, only masked and outside.

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As is the case for so many of you, it's been hard.
Really, really hard.

I mean . . . Zoom calls and FaceTime are great, sure. But . . . they only go so far.

So it was a wonderful surprise when Erin called to tell us she was coming for a weeklong visit . . . having successfully completed her vaccine regimen.

And we had a GREAT time together last week. It kind of makes my head spin to think of all the STUFF we crammed into her visit! Lake time up north. Forest bathing. Birthday celebrations. Actual browsing in actual stores. A bit of gardening. Family time. Watching the entire season of Ted Lasso (yes; again). Tie dying in the back yard (more on that another day). A trip to Lake Michigan. Ice Cream. (So much ice cream.)

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We had a great time.

And now she's back home in California with Keith and their cat, looking forward to getting back to work and feeling more  . . .  connected . . .  again. (Sometimes you just need to hug your mom, y'know?)

And I'm . . . feeling The Emptiness.

I know most of you know this feeling all too well.
That lingering, kinda lonely feeling that shows up when your grown kid leaves after a visit (or you leave them). There's just . . . an emptiness for a few days.


It's real.
And it's . . . there.
And it's kind of . . . icky.

And it happens (for me, at least) even when I know it's time for them to go home again . . . to their life. And it's time for me to get back to my own.

Still. There it is!

When I was suffering from The Emptiness yesterday, Tom made a great suggestion (he's pretty wise most of the time). He suggested I try to fill The Emptiness . . . with Gratitude.

So I did.

I'm grateful that Erin could arrange to come home for a visit.
I'm grateful that she WANTED to come out for a visit; that she wants to spend time with us!
I'm grateful that we had such a fun time together.
I'm grateful for real, in-person, no-mask. . . conversation and sharing and time together.
I'm grateful for an entire week with my wonderful daughter.
I'm grateful for every. single. moment.
I'm grateful that she had a safe journey; that's she's back at home with Keith and her kitty, ready to get back to work at a job she loves. 
I'm grateful that she's happy and settled in her own life.

Really. Could a mom want any more than that?

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The Emptiness . . . is Real.

But Tom was right. You can fill that emptiness with gratitude!

Working From Home

We've been up at our cabin this week . . . and we've come home for a day before turning around and heading back. (Gotta pick up the mail. Water my containers. Check out the garden. Go to the library.) (And do something extra exciting, too!*)

Before heading up north last week, though, I was busy . . . working from home.
My office . . . 


I finally got my containers planted!


Those photos are all a week old now. I'm amazed at how much/how quickly things have filled in since then! It's hot and dry here this summer, so I'm not sure how they'll do longer term. Especially because I'm not here every day to water. But I have a trick up my sleeve! (I just received some self-watering "devices" I'm going to try. I'll keep you posted.)


*And now . . . for the excitement!

Tonight, we pick up our California girl at the airport for a week's visit. I can hardly contain myself! We haven't seen her since Christmas 2019!


I'll be taking a blog break next week . . . to enjoy every moment of Erin's visit. See you in a week! Enjoy yourselves!


Even Up North

A couple of month ago, I shared a post proclaiming my love (and Tom's too) of bulletin boards. (You can read it here in case you missed it.) This morning, I realized that my love of the humble bulletin board extends to our up north cabin!

Here's the view of our back hallway (back hallway? HA! What am I talking about? I mean THE hallway!) . . . 


What's on it?
Certainly not as much "stuff" as we have on our bulletin boards at home. But an interesting collection all the same!

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Something to make you laugh. Some phone numbers. The complete rules to horseshoes. And a spare "head net" for when the bugs are just TOO buggy. (One size fits all.)

For Tom and I . . . there is no escaping the blank canvas of a bulletin board!
Even Up North.


My view from the pontoon yesterday . . . 

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Hope your week is going well. We're heading back home this afternoon. There is excitement afoot . . . 


Rocking the COVID Hair

The New Yorker did a special photo feature last week . . . The Unexpected Beauty of COVID Hair. It's pretty fabulous to see all that gray!

Several of my local friends decided to just let their gray hair grow out during the pandemic. A couple of them are leaving it; a couple of them have decided to go back to coloring. As for me? Well. I already had the gray thing going with my hair. (That was a post-chemo thing for me, when I decided I didn't want to waste my time, energy, and money coloring my hair any more, so my hair has been gray since 2009 when it grew back.) But it's been fun to feel "in sisterhood" with all the others using the pandemic as an opportunity to grow out those roots.

I didn't need to "go gray" during the pandemic (since already did that), but I did use the pandemic as a "cover" while growing my hair longer.

I had actually decided to grow my hair out some months before the pandemic arrived. I had a style in mind back then -- something "to grow for" -- and my hair stylist was helping me "manage" my hair so I could get there - eventually - without looking like a feral animal in the process. 

Here I was . . . back in mid-February 2020 . . . right after (what - surprise! - turned out to be) my last haircut for a very long time! (I thought it was long then. Just sayin.)


I didn't get my haircut again until I had it trimmed up a few months ago. By then, I'd gone through several awkward stages, grown out my bangs, and completely given up on that style I was working toward before the the pandemic hit. (Because who needs to fuss with a round brush and flat iron every day, huh?)

My hair now? At this end of the pandemic?


My hair hasn't been this long since, oh . . . 1983?

Friends ask me . . . what are you going to do with it now that you can get a haircut? And I have no answer. I just don't know. I have no plan for my hair. It's far easier to deal with now than it was when it was fussy and required styling every day in the Before Times. I like being able to pull it back in a ponytail. And I got through the hard part of growing it out when I wasn't going anywhere or seeing anyone anyway. (Besides, Tom says my hair reminds him of Emmylou Harris now. And that is NOT a bad thing.)

So I think I'll just keep going with it for awhile and see where it lands.

(Kinda like I did after chemo.)
Apparently I mark challenging times with a change of 'do.


How about you? Are you rocking any COVID hair?


Don't forget: TOMORROW - Tuesday June 8 - is Read With Us book discussion day for Shuggie Bain. Visit Bonny, Carole, and I on our blogs tomorrow to check out our discussion question posts AND then . . . join us for the Shuggie Zoom later that same evening at 7:00 pm Eastern. Let me know in the comments (or email me) if you'd like to join the Zoom so I can include you on the invitation.





R-E . . . or The Word That Got Away

Although it’s very welcome, the “re-opening” of . . . well . . . nearly everything sort of knocked me for a loop. I knew it would happen eventually . . . that once enough people got the vaccine, we’d surely be able to start moving around and doing things, taking off our masks and worrying if we had anything stuck in our teeth again. (Y’know.) But it just came about so quickly! And it’s been confusing, sort of. Do I wear a mask? Can I eat inside? Should I travel? What is safe, really, anyway?

It’s just . . . a lot of change.
After so much change.
And it’s hard to process and manage. Sure. I’m thrilled. But I also want to be . . . thoughtful. After all, now is one of those Big Chance times in life . . . an iedeal opportunity to rethink the way we live our lives -- and maybe to make some changes.


The other day, Tom shared an article with me about just this kind of thing: taking off our masks and moving forward, but maybe just a little differently. I read it and immediately thought . . . 

YES! It’s a real Re. . . . . .

Ummmmm. What????
Yeah. When I read the article, a word - a perfect word - came to mind for what this article described. Taking off our masks and moving forward, but maybe just a little differently . . . was going to create a Re. . . . .

The perfect word had been there for me, but it was one of those words that turned out to be elusive; one of those words that flickered away before I could grab hold of it. (Don’t be alarmed. This happens to me sometimes with ideas or words. Not a lot, but once in a while. And it has for years and years. It’s not a sign of dementia, and I’m not losing my mind. It’s just a thought that flickers in and out on the periphery of my busy brain before I “catch” it in some way.)

Anyway. It was bugging me so much that I couldn’t remember this word that so perfectly described my feeling when I read that article . . . that I stopped thinking about the article and focused on the dang word! Then, of course, when I was doing something like working in the garden or carting laundry around . . . it would flicker in again, but just for a second. So annoying. And I WANTED that word!


I knew it started with R-E . . . so I started thinking about R-E words. (There are a lot of them, by the way.)

Reorganize? Realign? Reorder? Restructure?

No. It was none of those. Although they could actually work, because they perfectly describe how many of us feel about putting our lives back together, post-Covid.

Remake? Rebuild? Repurpose? Revamp?

No. It was none of those either. But, again, they also perfectly describe our efforts at picking up the pieces after the last year-and-3-months. So . . . they could work, too.

Reconnect? Reconvene?

Nope. Not my word. But most of us are looking for ways to get together with people we’ve missed and gatherings we long for. So those words are also appropriate.

Reiterate? Reignite? Regenerate?

No. Not my word. But, again, yes. That IS what we’re looking to do.


No. But I think . . . closer?

And then, quietly . . . it snuck up on me!


Yep! That’s the one! 

Taking off our masks and moving forward, but maybe a little differently . . . is creating a great RECKONING for us. It’s an opportunity to think about what we want to let go of, what we want to hold onto, and how we want to step out - masks off - into this changed world.


Now that I’ve Reclaimed my R-E word, I’m ready to think more about my own post-Covid Reckoning

Stay tuned!


Speaking of a Great Reckoning . . . Tom’s little “pandemic project” has come to an end! It was fun while it lasted, but he was several exits past “ready” for a haircut.

Before (15 months of no haircuts) . . . 


After (goodbye ponytail). . .


I Blame My Mom

(Not really.) (But kinda.)
(You'll see.)

Last month over in Ali Edwards' One Little Word workshop, the prompt was all about letting go . . . of something. Or multiple somethings. These are the kinds of prompts that I generally roll my eyes at a little bit. (Okay. Maybe it's really the craft part of the prompt that I'm rolling my eyes at. Hard to tell.) But . . . they're also the kind of prompts that get me thinking.

Letting go.
Such easy words to say or type. So hard to put in practice!

Over the last decade+ I've had a enough life-changes thrown my way (a cancer diagnosis, empty-nesting, Tom's work changes, my mom's death, my own "retirement," the pandemic) that I've had a lot of practice with  . . .  letting things go. In fact, I've successfully let go of many, many (many) things. Ideas. Notions. Habits. Activities. Commitments. Plans.

But. There is one thing (and it's a big thing, actually) that is still hanging on. And it is time for me to Let. It. Go.


What is that thing, you ask?

Why . . . It's Arbitrary Rules!

And what is an Arbitrary Rule, you ask?

Well. They are rules I made up for myself. Completely made up. No one made me adopt them. (Well. Maybe my mom.) There are no "stakes" involved for these rule. And yet, for whatever reason, my arbitrary rules are Strong and Powerful. I follow my arbitrary rules To. The. Letter. I stick to my rules, damnit! 

Can you give us an example, you ask?

Sure! Here's my favorite, all-time paralyzing arbitrary rule: "You can't have fun until your work is done." (Variations on this theme include "No dessert until you eat your vegetables" and "No TV until your homework is finished.")

And, yes. Those are totally things my mom said when I was a kid. I'm not saying she was wrong. There are times when you need to buckle down and get the hard stuff done before you do the fun stuff! And there are times when you can use the fun stuff as a reward for getting through the hard stuff. But . . . carrying that arbitrary rule forward and making it a lifestyle choice? Not so good.

I mean, my mom? She was trying to instill a strong work ethic in my growing heart and soul. She was helping me learn to set priorities, and make sure I became a responsible adult who would understand the importance of getting the unpleasant-but-necessary stuff of life . . . done. And it worked. I did become a responsible citizen of the world, able to meet deadlines and make unpleasant choices and take care of the urgent tasks of life.

But there is a way to take that rule . . . too far. To give it power it does not deserve. To turn a good rule-of-thumb-for-living into a hard-and-fast arbitrary rule. The issue? It's when you substitute the word "should" for the word "work."

Here's how that arbitrary rule plays out in my life all too often:  Let's say . . . I want to play around and paint in my sketchbook (fun stuff!). But I also should clean my bathrooms (work). According to my arbitrary rule, I can't play around with my sketchbook until I've cleaned my bathroom. But I really don't want to clean my bathroom, and there is no urgent need for me to clean my bathroom . . . but . . . arbitrary rule: I must do the work before I can do the fun stuff. So I pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram instead. I don't clean my bathroom. But I also don't pick up my sketchbook.

Is this stupid-thinking?
Oh, YES.

Do I know it?

But my all-powerful arbitrary rule tells me . . . I can't do the "fun stuff" until I do the "work." Even when the work is really just a should. (This rule bites me in the butt so often I can't even believe it.)

And that's not the only arbitrary rule I have. There are so many others:
Make sure you know what you're doing before you begin.
Don't start a project if you won't be able to finish it.
Don't make a mess on the dining room table.
Always finish what you start.
Clear your plate.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Sure. These rules make sense in some contexts. And I know my mom didn't mean any harm in knocking them into my head. (Trust me. She lived with plenty of her own arbitrary rules  . . . ) But there you go! Deep-seated, completely arbitrary rules that have the power to paralyze me. And it's time for them to go!

In the spirit of Ali Edwards' One Little Word prompt, I'm working on letting go of my arbitrary rules.

Step one . . .  is naming them and figuring out what they are (which was much harder than you might think).

Step two . . .  is giving myself permission to ban them from my life! (I started by making visible reminder cards I can stick on my bulletin boards.)

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I'll keep you posted! But early signs are good. Figuring out what holds you back is a powerful force. (How do you think I got those overalls stitched up? I definitely had to "eat dessert first" on more than one occasion.) (And that felt great!)


How about you? Got any arbitrary rules you'd like to get rid of???



Sometimes Monday

. . . begins far too early.

In fact, this Monday morning . . . is beginning very early for me . . . with a visit to my ophthalmologist. (Like . . . what-was-I-thinking early.) By the time you read this, my eyes will be dilated and I'll no longer be in any state to use my computer. So I thought I'd just throw out this lovely thought from the poet Maggie Smith. Something to think about . . . until my eyes return to normal.


I really like this question she's asking . . . What else is possible? 
Isn't that a great way to start the day?

I hope your Monday is off to a great start.