About womanwifemotherchild

As a 50+ year old mother of 4, I'm beginning a new chapter of my life. In addition to being a full-time care-giver for 25 years, I've dabbled in writing, poetry, photography, math tutoring, singing, gardening and birdwatching. Here I am, ready for my next adventure...

First Month Check-in

We’ve come to the end of the first month of this new year. The year still feels new-ish, despite some lingering difficulties from 2020. And it’s a good time to check in with our goals and expectations for 2021. (Notice I didn’t use the word resolutions. Goals sound more hopeful, don’t you think?)

Did you set some goals — general or specific, long or short-term, written down or mentally noted — at the beginning of this year? How’re you doing with them? I’m not here to judge, believe me. Instead, I encourage you to ask yourself that question. And if you didn’t set any goals, it’s not too late, you know. Never is. Like I’ve said before, just make them realistic and achievable.

One of my goals is to create new garden beds before this year’s planting season, complete with rodent-proofing. After several design attempts and pricing quotes, I’ve settled on building them myself (with some much appreciated help). The wood has been purchased, other supplies will be purchased soon, and construction will begin in my daughter’s garage (since that’s where the saw is. 🙂 ) It feels good to take steps toward the final goal. Each step is an accomplishment in itself.

I’ve also made progress on some of my writing goals already (although a few have been put off until after the garden beds are built). Today also marks the end of Storystorm, hosted by Tara Lazar, a realized goal of mine in which I had to come up with a picture book idea every day for the month of January. Challenging! And another goal is to create a collage using a new (to me) painting technique. Again, I’ve taken steps in the direction of this goal. (See the photo above.) It’s been fun, stretching my creative muscles! And it’s been a great distraction on cold, snowy days.

Setting goals and reaching for them is worth the effort. However, life is a process, and sometimes goals need to be revisited, adjusted, and refined. That’s ok.  But I encourage you to care for yourself, and those around you, by living with purpose, setting goals and taking daily or weekly steps toward them. Every small accomplishment can be satisfying. And if you’ve taken steps toward one of your 2021 goals, give yourself credit. Celebrate your success. And have a happy new year!

Put In A Good Word

Words have power.

I don’t put any stock in the old adage, “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words do impact us. Look no farther than former President Trump’s vocal accusations of fraud in our recent elections. Or Amanda Gorman’s stirring recitation at last week’s U.S. presidential inauguration.

Words stir our emotions. Sometimes, words rouse people to action. They can soothe, disturb, incite, or unite. How aware is each of us, really, of how our words effect those around us?

Since the transfer of power in our country last week, I’ve seen an interesting shift on social media. I’ve seen hopeful posts about the new direction of this leadership and about the  healing of division. But I’ve also seen an immediate need for many to keep complaining, latching on to the most disagreeable thing they can think of, as if their lives wouldn’t be complete without sowing an undercurrent of constant dissatisfaction. I’m not talking about differing opinions, healthy debate, or trying to right social injustices. But there’s a way to express these without tearing people down or pointing out darkness just so it will weigh people down. We’re all low enough after a full year of living under Covid19’s shadow.

Have you ever pledged to spend a whole day without complaining or saying anything negative? Maybe this is easy for some people — but not for me. And I suspect it’s challenging for most. But I propose that we all try it. That goes for social media posts, too, by the way. And, to take it a step farther, find some good words to say instead. Let our words stir hope or soothe. Let them lift someone’s spirits. Let them call for change in a way that rouses others to positive action. We may find that the hope and comfort and inspiration they offer come right back around to us. Wouldn’t that be a blessing!

So, let’s put a few good words out there… and see what happens. 🙂

Notify Yourself!

Notifications. They flood our inboxes, ding from our phones, and buzz from our smartwatches. They keep us informed — and on edge. That’s life, though, unless you’re the type of person who doesn’t do social media and says so with a wrinkled nose, like you’re handling someone else’s dirty tissue. Are these our only two options? Is there a happy medium? I think there is.

Imagine your friend, or perhaps only a casual acquaintance, calls you on the phone several times a day to tell you what they just ate or to recommend a song they just heard or to tell you a stupid joke someone just told them. Imagine if ten friends did that. Or twenty. Annoying, right? But many of us allow this constant bombardment from our social media accounts and call it normal. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. But missing out is not always a terrible thing.

Several years ago, I turned off all my notifications. It doesn’t keep the apps I use from trying to strong-arm me into turning them back on again. But it’s been worth it. Now, it’s up to me to check my Facebook pages, websites, and other social media sites for activity. What a concept! Choosing to notify myself. (Of course, there’s still the real danger of getting sucked in and spending way too much time scrolling. I keep telling myself to put a timer on before I log in. Do I always listen to myself? No. But at least I know it’s possible to practice healthy distancing from my newsfeed.)

If you’re looking for a way to de-stress in this new year, may I suggest taking control of and responsibility for your own notifications. Stop allowing the apps that are there to enrich your life have so much control. Notify yourself, instead. And happy new year. 🙂

At The End Of The Day

If you’re anything like me, you’ve stepped into 2021 hoping for a better year. The year 2020 went out with a bang. Literally, for me: I hit myself in the head with a metal ladder, requiring a trip to Urgent Care, a single stitch, and a tetanus shot. No permanent damage, though. How did your 2020 end? And how’s 2021 going so far?

I could complain. First, my attempt to replace a beloved pair of shoes (that are falling apart from being worn practically everyday), by ordering three similar pairs online, resulted in having to return them to three separate venues a week later. So much for trying to stay home and stay safe.

I could complain. My elderly mother’s home aide came down with Covid-19, necessitating a test for my mother and a waiting game for me and my sisters who’ve been sharing in my mother’s care.

Again, I could complain. But, on a much larger and completely unrelated scale, a mob invaded the US Capitol, shaking us to our democratic core. The news media and social media sites report on every disturbing angle of that appalling attack. While it’s important to be well-informed, it’s draining and anxiety-inducing to obsess over every scrap of news.

I see an awful lot of people complaining on social media. I see people griping and clinging to the worst of it all. But focusing exclusively on the negative just bring us all down. It really doesn’t help anyone. I’m not suggesting we ignore it and pretend everything’s rosy. I’m suggesting that we shift our focus for the sake of our mental health and well-being.

This pandemic has impacted everyone. Violence and hateful rhetoric impact everyone. Anxiety and depression increase, the more isolated and crisis-focused we are. So I suggest, at the end of the day — literally, at the end of each day — that we take a moment to focus on the positive instead. Turn off the news. Log out of social media networks. Choose gratitude — even if it’s only for the air you breathe or the blanket that covers you. Reflect on something positive that happened in your day. Maybe the sun shone. Or maybe you let someone into traffic in front of you today. Or maybe you had food to satisfy your hunger or you smiled at someone. At the end of the day, cling to what’s good. Practice gratitude. Take a deep breath and try to let go of the negative, the hate, the fear. In doing so, we make 2021 a better year. Are you with me?

Epiphany…

The first picture that comes to my mind is of the fabled three magi visiting baby Jesus in the manger. No one really knows how many magi travelled, guided by that bright star, to find the place. But this week, we celebrate their arrival. I wonder how each of them would describe his own journey and arrival in terms of an epiphany.

At mass this morning, our pastor reminded us of the definition of epiphany — that moment of awakening. Miriam-Webster defines it as a sudden manifestation or perception, an illuminating discovery. Our pastor suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst of epiphany for many of us. What an interesting thought. All this social-distancing and isolation, hunkering down at home, has given us a new appreciation of what we once took for granted. Watching people being deprived of their health, livelihoods, and basic necessities has brought out a deeper and more widespread sense of charity and community. And many people have discovered what’s really important in their lives. Both societal and personal epiphanies have definitely occurred.

So, as many around the world celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, let’s each take some time to reflect on our own personal epiphanies of the past year. And let’s step into this new year with a better sense of what’s truly important and of how we can be our best selves going forward.

Happy New Year! Be safe and be well. 🙂

Happy New Year!?

Most of us can’t wait to slam the 2020 door shut and open a new door into 2021. But, before you put your hand on that 2021 knob, it may be a good idea to reflect on your expectations for the new year.

The easiest way to bottom out by March is to set your goals and expectations higher than even Wonder Woman or Superman have a right to fly. Be kinder to yourself than that.

The pandemic that put a major damper on 2020 is not over. It’ll be months before enough of us have taken the vaccine and developed an immunity. And many of us have suffered losses — of our social lives, of jobs, of income, of loved ones. There’s a lot of grief going around. So, be kinder to others, too.

Expect a slow journey back to whatever you want your new normal to be. If you can help someone else recover, then reach out. Instead of expecting everything to work out for you and your life in 2021, be a part of things working out for someone else. Let’s make 2021 a year of lifting each other up.

And if you really want to make some New Year’s resolutions, make them achievable. Keep them simple and specific. Instead of I want to lose 20 lbs., how about I’m going to choose a healthier snack at 3 o’clock each afternoon. Make a small change and develop a new habit that’ll bring you closer to your bigger goal. Instead of I’m going to go to the gym everyday after work, or I’m going to start running every morning, try I’m going to take a fifteen minute walk on Mondays. Making a simple, achievable resolution may sound too easy, but how many Mondays do you think it’ll take before that fifteen minute walk becomes a true habit? Try it. Maybe by March, you’ll be adding resolutions, instead of giving up on them.

OK. Ready to turn that knob now and open a new door? Go for it.

And have a happier new year!

Peace. 🙂

Christmas Is Coming…

It always feels more like Christmas when the first wrapped gifts show up under the tree. There are no ornaments on our tree right now — just lights and a few ropes of red beads — but the gifts say, Christmas is coming! It’ll be a strange holiday, as I’m sure many Hanukkah celebrations were this year, without the family gatherings. Hopefully, with everyone trying to be part of the solution, instead of part of the Covid problem, we’ll have opportunities to gather in the new year.

In the meantime, we try to carry on. For me, that includes meeting virtually with my local Poetry Circle every month via Zoom. Our December ‘monthly challenge’ was a French poetic form, called a Lai. It required us to write a nine-line poem with a certain rhyming scheme and syllable count. Trying to write in a form like this can feel restrictive. Words need to be chosen carefully and you can’t always write the complete sentence or the full description you wish to share. This makes me think of our experiences during the pandemic. We’re confined. Life feels restricted.

But then, writing within a poetic form can also force you to whittle down your words to the most important ones. No fluff. No excess. You get right to the heart of the matter. And that’s what all this social-distancing and lack of normalcy has done for so many of us this year. It’s made us reflect on what’s most important in our lives — and in the world. We’ve learned some things about ourselves. And we’ve learned to appreciate the little things.

My hope is that each of us takes this holiday or this end-of-year time as an opportunity to reflect and appreciate, and to choose what’s most important going forward.

FYI: Here’s my Lai poem:

Covid Christmas Eve

Carols playing low
Gift-wrap and a bow
Just right
Softly falling snow
Christmas lights aglow
Despite
How I hope you know
I’m missing you so
Tonight

Sounds of The (Strange) Season

O, the weather outside is frightful! The tune of Let It Snow runs through my head as I look out the window this morning at thick fog. It follows a day of pouring rain on top of the remnants of a recent snowstorm. And there’s talk of a nor’easter coming this week. But, I digress. I really want to talk about music, not weather.

Usually, my December is filled with Christmas/ holiday music. I (and I suspect many of you also) used to roll my eyes when I’d hear Christmas music blasting in the stores in mid-November. But these days, the few times I’ve ventured out to the stores, the sound of holiday music is more like a soothing dose of normalcy.

Typically, in December, my a cappella chorus, after polishing up our holiday repertoire for months, would be out in the community singing at assisted living facilities and tree lighting ceremonies. And the church choir would be preparing hymns for our Christmas celebrations. Instead, in what’s become standard Covid fashion, my chorus put together a virtual concert. With the help of our local community television station, we recorded some of our favorites to create a musical celebration we could share safely. If the link still works, you can watch it here: MVA Virtual Concert.

Tonight, in lieu of all those missed church choir rehearsals, our parish collaboration is holding a virtual Christmas coffeehouse via Zoom. I don’t consider myself much of a soloist, but I decided to step outside my comfort zone and volunteer to sing for it. My favorite song of the season is Lo, How A Rose. Every year, I look forward to singing it with a certain friend of mine. (Miss you, Dawn!) I love the harmonies and the haunting melody of this song. I miss not being able to sing it or any other favorite Christmas harmonies this year. Instead, I recorded myself singing the melody of Lo, How A Rose. And tonight, with a little guitar accompaniment, I’ll sing the harmony against my own recording.

These new, socially-distanced endeavors are part of the strange soundtrack of my Covid-style Christmas this year. What does yours sound like?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, however and whatever you might celebrate!

Advent 2020: Four Signs of Hope

Advent is a season of hope.

For Christians, it’s a season of anticipation and preparation, getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We believe that God took human form and came to show us immense love. By participating in Advent, we hope to ready our hearts and homes to welcome more of that kind of love into our lives. Because love is the bottom line, isn’t it?

I’ve been decorating my house this past week, as I’m sure many of you have been doing, too. I started thinking about hope and how our choices of decorations can reflect hope. I’ve also been watching the news, which, again, I’m sure many of you have also been doing. Hope is sometimes harder to find there. But not impossible. Here are four signs of hope that caught my attention this week. Maybe you can think of others.

A Covid-19 vaccine. Several companies have been working like our lives depend on it (because they do) and they’ve finally developed versions of a highly effective vaccine. Distribution is about to begin. Of course, it won’t be immediately available to those of us who fall into the lower risk category. But the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight. If that’s not reason to hope, I don’t know what is.

Snow. I usually start my holiday decorating by adorning our windows with snowflake stick-ons. Then, I pull out every snowperson decoration I own. Some people set up elaborate Christmas villages on fluffy snowscapes. Others inflate snowmen or whole snowfamilies in their front yards. I live in New England, which means there may be snow on the ground for Christmas, but I’ll bet that people in warmer climates still use images of snow in their decorating. Why? Is it because we love snowstorms and shoveling and icy road conditions? I think not. It’s because there’s beauty in snow. And fun. So, we choose to celebrate the good over the not so good, when it comes to snow. We hope for the beauty of a quiet snowfall or the exhilaration of building snowpeople, instead of clinging to the downside of a snowy season. That’s hope in action, in my opinion.

Lights. I like to wrap my Christmas tree in all white lights. It makes me think of a starry sky. And many houses (not mine ;)) are draped in a variety of colorful lights. Some people put electric candles in their windows. Locally, there’s even a zoo, a motor speedway, and a national shrine each boasting light displays worth traveling for. It’s a dark time of year in the northern hemisphere, and celebrating with lights reminds us that darkness, both literal and figurative, is temporary. There’s hope for light at the end of whatever your dark tunnel might be.

Evergreens. Whether you bring in a freshly cut pine tree and pine branches, or you put up a fake tree and light a pine-scented candle, we gravitate toward evergreens in our decorating schemes. Why? This one’s fairly obvious, especially for those of us in colder climates. Trees, bushes, lawns, and gardens go dormant for the winter. A lot of what we see outdoors looks dead. But evergreens remind us that there’s still life in our landscapes and that spring will come again. For me, the smell of fresh pine is the smell of hope.

My decorating isn’t done yet, how about yours? There are still a few weeks before Christmas. 😉 I intend to enjoy every minute of them. Advent 2020 has given me the unexpected gift of slowing down enough to appreciate the season and to savor the hope it embodies. My hope is that you each find that same gift this year. God bless.

So, This Is Advent 2020…

November is almost behind us and Christmas is coming! What a strange Christmas it’ll be. In our family, we’re trying to adhere to the CDC’s recommendations, which means no holiday get-togethers. It’s tempting to forgo the Christmas decorating, too. But that seems kind of like sitting in a corner, pouting, because we aren’t getting our way. So, we forge ahead trying to bring a bit of cheer to our corner of this pandemic-stricken world.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was warm-ish here in New England, so, I hung the artificial wreaths across our upper row of front windows. A strategically placed eye hook above each window makes it a fairly easy job. Those poor wreaths are getting old and dry, which means the bedroom floors needed a good vacuum to take care of the fake pine needles after the wreaths were hung.

Next, I hung several lengths of garland along the front porch railings. A velvety bow at each post festively hides the wires and strings used to secure the garland. Just one problem this year: the bag of old bows was missing. Did I throw them out last year because they were old and faded, with the intention of buying new ones this year? (Your guess is as good as mine.) To compound the problem, I use burgundy bows on my wreaths and porch, instead of Christmas red. With all the premature decorating that people have been doing and the fact that burgundy bows aren’t as commonly available as red, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of shopping for them. I considered making them myself, but all that looping and twisting of ribbon isn’t my forte. (I worked at a greenhouse/florist in high school, but could never match the bow-making skills of the florists there.)

Anyway, first, I tried to buy some online. One site sold them for twenty dollars apiece! I used to get them for ninety nine cents, and was hoping to buy ten, so that was a ‘no’. Another site had suspended online orders due to order volume. So, I got in my van to search the old-fashioned way. Five stores later, I found them. But I could only justify buying six, due to the price. My porch looks happier now. 🙂

For those who celebrate Advent, it started this past Sunday. My husband and I haven’t ventured back to church since Covid-19 hit. We’ve been watching mass online instead. When I was fetching the outdoor decorations in the attic, I came across a set of Advent candles, so about an hour before mass, I scrambled to assemble a make-shift Advent wreath using a party tray, some cardboard and thumbtacks, and an unused artificial wreath. Not elegant, but functional. Maybe I’ll spend a little time this week shoring it up before next Sunday.

These simple efforts have started my Advent off on the right foot, I think. And a little more effort is what I plan to ask of myself this season. What about you? Christmas is coming, so we might as well celebrate however we’re able and try not to think about what we’re missing. Let’s deck our halls and appreciate what we have. Hopefully, next year will be all the more special.