Have you seen my winter blanket?

There are three of us in my immediate family (my two daughters and me) – and in the past six weeks we have all relocated.

Which made me think of my winter blanket. As in, where exactly is that thing, anyway?

Wait, don’t you live in Florida? Why do you even have a winter blanket? Valid question. It’s a bit of a story.

absolutely true

When I was 17 and living up north, I found myself finished with school a semester early and also, without a job. It was the dead of winter and I had not a single thing to do. Reviving my crochet skills, I grabbed some yarn and made myself a scarf. Since that filled about a day and a half, I thought, well, maybe this should be a blanket. I have plenty of time and it felt more productive than getting lost in soap operas.

I would work on it, then get busy and do something else. Then I would pick it back up and work, then run out of yarn. Three years later, I finished that baby!

It was 7’ wide, and when completed, 7’ long as well. There were 4 rows of navy and 2 rows of burgundy, all done with a double crochet stitch, or a half double. Which is a strange term, half double, like isn’t that the same as a single?

When I finished this, I threw out my crochet needle and vowed to never attempt such a project again.

I managed to hang on to it for many many years, even though I’ve lived in Florida for the majority of my adult life.

Once when my younger daughter was in high school, she returned from a football game with this blanket all full of leaves and grass. I almost came undone. She had no idea prior to that moment that I had actually MADE the thing.

And now it’s gone. I have moved several times in the past few years, and it’s been a minute since I even remember seeing it. It’s not like it’s folded up in the corner somewhere and I missed it. This massive wool monster weighs about 20 lbs.

None of the offspring have seen it. And they’ve all handled their life’s belongings, as have I, in recent days.

Maybe I gave it to a friend who was moving up north? Maybe it mistakenly ended up in a goodwill drop off? The mystery has been haunting me for the last few days.

I have often thought if I could choose any super power, it would be to locate lost things. Or lost people, and dogs, maybe even cats?

Have you ever suddenly realized something was missing? And you have no clue as to its whereabouts? Could you use the super power of finding lost things? Tell me what you lost and when!

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Sister love

Sisters. Sometimes this is a challenge, and other times, it’s just flat out beautiful. My two daughters had an event recently that made us all cry. Lemme tell ya all about it. If you’re a softie, pause here to grab a tissue.

This is gonna be good.

Little sister was supposed to hop on a plane with her man for a month in Paris, to be followed by another three weeks of gallivanting around Europe. This trip was cancelled, obviously.

Big sister felt bad for little sister, and decided to surprise her by bringing Paris to her.

Big sister initiated and executed this covert operation. She cleaned, decorated, organized, and invited all of little sister’s besties. She recruited little sister’s man to get her there, fully dressed to the nines. (For anyone that knows little sister, this is not difficult. She lives for these occasions, even when she has to invent them herself.)

Big sister recruited me and my unicorn man Joe to help with food and beverages. Bellinis, Side Cars, Baguettes with Creme Fraiche, Fruit, and Macaroons rounded out the menu.

Little sister was surprised! Tears were shed, hugs were given, champagne was poured, and the whole evening was just so unbelievably touching.

Notice the sign. Soooo sweet!

As the mom of these two sisters, I am delighted and thrilled to see them care for one another so deeply. As a bigger sister, I have tortured my own little a-plenty through the years. I’m noticing how much better we treat one another these days. More acceptance, less squabbling.

Isn’t that the way? The more we age, and hopefully also mature, we realize that arguing and bickering is just wasted energy. Even when issues loom large.

We are all connected. And though we don’t have to agree with everyone, we can at least try to get along with one another. Respect for others goes a LONG way.

You said it well, Aretha

With all the chaos going on in our world these days, it’s a good reminder. If my two children can rise above their history and nonsense, turning something sour and disappointing into something kind and sweet, I feel like there is hope for the rest of us.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Row row row your boat

This little ditty has been in my head for the past few weeks. I’m always rowing my boat it seems, and usually upstream. Against the current. Forcing, pushing, exerting more effort than necessary.

Exactly me.

Until now. Now is different.

…Gently down the stream…

I’m not struggling. I’m not forcing, or stressing, or trying to make progress. I’m floating with the current. Things are flowing. It’s easy. Effortless.

What exactly am I talking about? Did I choose the winning lottery ticket? Publisher’s Clearing House? Is that even a thing anymore?

Yes, it’s still a thing!

I wasn’t looking for a partner. I had actually resolved to row my boat alone, safely, upstream as per usual, without any risk of injury to my heart. This I know how to do. It’s not easier, but it’s familiar.

But then, there he was. Just being my friend. Asking lots of questions and apparently taking notes, because he followed up. He was paying attention.

…Merrily merrily merrily merrily…

I think he’s a unicorn because every single trait and characteristic I have ever wanted is present. The “if I ever get involved again” list is longer than this one.

My actual list has more than this…

And then, like a dream come true, he pursued me, and continues to do so. Daily texts at 8am sharp with sweet and encouraging thoughts. He likes to make plans. He presents options, keeping my preferences in mind and allowing me to choose.

He respects my space and my freedom. If I casually mention an idea or a project, he encourages me to pursue it. He challenges me. He believes in me.

The crazy thing is how easy it is to be with him. I don’t have to contort myself. I don’t have to pretend to like something that I don’t. I am just myself, as real as I know how to be.

And he loves me. Just the way I am.

…Life is but a dream…

I don’t know how to make my friends not jealous. Did I mention he works out, loves art, the beach, kids, golf, Jesus, wine, travel, shopping and now yoga? And he LOVES to cook. I know, right?

It doesn’t seem fair.

But maybe it’s supposed to be like this? Maybe it’s because I finally value myself enough to realize I deserve a solid partner. One who also believes I’ve hung the moon. I had finally determined I didn’t need a man to be happy, or to take care of me. I would row my boat and enjoy myself. But wow, floating downstream with a terrific partner is so nice.

I’m sure there will be bumps or hiccups, but this unicorn man has won me over.

So where it goes from here is not a concern. I’ll just be floating merrily along and enjoying every moment.

Joe and I on Easter Sunday. Yes, he cooked.

Try not to hate me.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Hold on loosely…

Yes, there is definitely a nod to the song by 38 Special, but this post is far from rocking.

It’s heavy, because my heart is heavy for so many around me, and for myself too.

Working at a church gives me a front row to the joy- and the pain – of so many individuals. Most days I’m able to keep enough emotional distance that I don’t lose sleep. I’ve been to more funerals than most, and often it just makes me appreciate life and those around me.

Today feels different. Today is different because I lost a good friend. He was more like a brother. In fact, he called me sis. I’ve known him since 2003 and we even worked together for a few years. His wife and I are very close, and their daughter grew up with mine.

It’s just not okay that this family has lost such an important member. The lucky thing in all of this is that he wasn’t alone when he breathed his last. His wife was on one side and his daughter on the other. He wasn’t in pain. He is dancing with angels, though I’m guessing his dance skills are as terrible and awkward as ever.

One of my fondest memories is the night we drained a bottle or two of wine and tried to determine how I was his sister. Was I his sister – or his wife’s sister? We went round and round and never landed on anything definitive.

But this I know. He was family. And he left too soon. And he will be missed by many. None of us are promised tomorrow. Which is it so important to appreciate each person, each moment, each day.

Hold on tight, but also, hold on loosely.

what I’m learning about grief …
is that it need not be

a heavy gray shawl
to wrap myself in,
clutching my arms tightly
across my chest

nor …
need it be
a granite rock
that I should try
to push away

neither is it …
… at least, no longer …
a vast dark ocean
ready to pick me up
and slap me down
without warning

what I’m learning about grief …
is that it is not me,
but that it offers
to become a friend

a friend …
who will lightly lay a hand
on my shoulder
when tears come in the dark

a friend …
who will laugh
out loud with me
at remembered silly moments

a friend …
who can still hear
the music of our life

what I’m learning about grief …
is that this friend
doesn’t intend
to leave me

but promises
to hold my hand
to carry my memories

a friend …
who will bear witness to my love
as I venture
toward the next day
and the following night


By Nancy Cross Dunham

So tomorrow I’ll bring some food and some tissues, and we will cry and laugh and cry some more. And we will hold on to the memories, and to each other, and trust God for all the rest.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Making room

With all of the lockdowns and cancellations and life adjustments, I have to confess my concerns have been all over the board.

One minute, I’m worried that I’ll die and miss seeing Ellix grow up and my giant bucket list of adventures will remain undone. The next, I’m whining about my cancelled appointments, of which there have been many. So let’s just be grateful for a moment, shall we?

My good friend Christine does my pedicures, and since she can’t do them in person, she is offering a personal pedi supply package that I can pick up at her doorstep. My stylist Melissa texted me the proper number on whatever box dye I can find to cover these roots. I’m mostly thankful for my orthodontist who has been monitoring my progress remotely.

And since you’re probably tired of everything else you’ve been doing lately, I thought I’d provide a nice little distraction for you. I’m sure you’ve been curious, right?

At my last visit in late January, they put a gigantic spacer thing on my bottom teeth to make room for this one snaggletooth. Then three days prior to the next appointment, they were forced to close their offices. My teeth just kept on moving. I’ve been sending mouth selfies per request over the past two weeks as they are allowed to continue treatments when deemed necessary. And wouldn’t you know it, on Friday, they said, come on in!

My doc took extreme precautions, only seeing one patient at a time. In about five minutes flat, he changed the bottom wire and connected the little snaggletooth to allow it join the rest of the row!

And here’s what happened…

Friday morning
Saturday morning

Yes, that’s crazy fast. And yes, it was painful. And also yes, it’s worth it. It feels weird and awesome. Sorry if these grossed you out. There is actually a bigger message here besides my teeth.

It wasn’t the magic of a new wire and a short time span. And it wasn’t that my orthodontist has special skills. All the moving and shifting over the past several months was largely unnoticed. And that was what allowed for this huge shift.

There was finally ROOM.

It’s like this with everything, isn’t it?

If we want things to change or be different, we have to make room. And though NONE OF US asked for this pandemic, or the changes it is causing, it is allowing this for many of us.

We have room now. Room in our schedules and room in our brains. Room to be creative and figure out new ways to do the things we still value doing. Like church, or working from home, or happy hour! Discovering that we didn’t really need a gym membership, or to eat out as often. Looking through the closets and realizing how much stuff we don’t even need or use. Or maybe rediscovering cherished things that had been missing.

What is it that you are making room for?

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Life in a snow globe

No I didn’t move to the Arctic. I’m still in Florida where I belong.

I had snow globes when I was a kid and they were absolutely fascinating. Shake them up and watch it all float back down.

Not all of it floated of course. Just the snow. Or confetti or glitter or whatever it was. The bulk of things stayed securely fastened at the bottom. Where it was supposed to stay.

It may have been this exact one!

Unless of course your snow globe was some cheap-ass souvenir you got from your Aunt Carolyn when she went to the Ozarks – or wherever she went – and then it was a different story. If your snow globe was like that, it could not withstand the shaking. The fixtures were not so fixed, and soon the unglued scenery floated around with the snow.

Of course we thought this was hilarious which only prompted more violent shaking from us, the masters of the snow globe. It looked like the aftermath of a tornado when everything settled.

Eventually, everything settles.

This is what it feels like, doesn’t it? It feels like the world is being shaken up and everything is confusing and out of sorts and a lot of things we once thought as permanent are now floating around.

It’s sad when you look at the things that were once solid. Like spring semester of your senior year of high school. Sports. Prom. Graduation. These milestones that were once fixtures are now up in the air for so many, including my beautiful niece Macy.

Macy, class of 2020. Photo credit Andra Travis Photography.

My world is affected on a much less heartbreaking scale. Even so, I know it’s important to acknowledge and to name those things that I’m grieving, no matter how petty and frivolous. Here’s a short list:
-Not working at the office with all of my coworkers.
-Delaying my orthodontic treatments as planned.
-Not finishing my pottery class which is totally cancelled.
-Not eating in restaurants.
-Not taking a hot yoga class (but thank you Adriene!).
-Cancelling the trip to Paris scheduled for the summer.
-Seeing the hundreds of faces that belong to my church family.
-And the thing that aches most is NOT visiting the cutest baby ever.

If he gets a tooth or starts crawling before I see him again… I’ll just sob.

All of these are now hidden behind the swirling snow (and social distancing directives). I just really want everything to land where it belongs, and don’t we all?

Perhaps, while things are still swirling, we can take a look around and assess what REALLY matters.

Like what? Everything is still swirling! And this exactly why I need to also name the things for which I am grateful right here and now. Some of these could come unglued too, as no one is immune or exempt.

Remembering my faith in God and returning to a regular prayer time. Checking in with my family and friends regularly (thank you FaceTime and Zoom). Having time and space to spend with a new special man. Time and energy to be back in my studio painting. And also access to a private beach during the best weather of the year.

What are the takeaways from this post? Other than the obvious admiration of Baby Ellix and jealousy of the private beach?

Recognize we are in a snow globe right now. Take inventory and name your grief and your gratitude, no matter how big or small. Reach out to your people and let them know you hope they are still there when it all stops swirling. And see what they need in the meantime.

Hang in there everyone. It’s all gonna be okay.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

PS. If you are really struggling right now, there is help. Check out this message from Dr. Henry Cloud and this message from Dr. Brene Brown.

Keeping it real.

Let’s begin by simply saying that it’s okay when plans change. For example, I was going to blog about my recent adventures in pottery class.

Instead, I’m writing about reality, and that it’s perfectly okay to cry.

That’s what happened a week ago when I unpacked my suitcase. That I had packed on Thursday night, prepping for a Friday morning flight to see the world’s cutest baby. The same trip that I felt I could not take when I awoke in a near panic about going.

Continue reading

Stories from 1931, as told by my friend Vera.

Where have I been? No posts from this girl as of late, I know. I’ve been writing elsewhere. Keep reading and you’ll see.

Last summer I began brainstorming some ideas for a new venture. With school behind me, and the celebratory trip to Italy complete, there was time to dream.

My entrepreneurial class in college taught me to look around for opportunities. What did I know? Who did I know? What do people need? What talents could I bring to meet that need? Where was there a gap – or an opportunity?

It hit me like a lightning bolt.

A single powerful lightning bolt lights up the sky. Capturing this kind of photograph is one part skill and one part luck. (Photo: JanJar/Shutterstock)

I began considering the idea of helping people write their memoirs. Let me give some context.

I have been working for my church for years, and part of my job is helping people plan memorial services. And every single time, no matter the circumstances or the age of the loved one, no one was prepared to honor their person.

Families and friends scramble around to find photos, and to choose which song might be fitting. A lot of energy, and plenty of guessing goes into the preparation, all to honor someone – after they are gone. It’s usually pretty rushed, and very emotionally draining.

What about providing a way of honoring the person while they are still here? What if I could help capture the stories, the favorite poems or verses, and maybe Grandma’s secret molasses cookie recipe, and put it all together into a book?

So there is the opportunity. It just so happens that I love writing (duh) and have years of experience in the printing world. I enjoy working with designers, playing with fonts, and helping produce beautiful printed collateral.

I enjoy people and their stories, and have lived in this community for many years. This community being Sarasota, Florida, where the largest age group (30%) is over 65 years old. Our population continues to swell, and age, so perhaps there are some people with stories to tell? I think so.

Last July, Vera and I began chatting about capturing some of her stories to present to her family and friends for her upcoming 100th birthday. She was on board with the experiment, and I suddenly had my first client. We spent time together, flipping through photo albums, and emailing back and forth regularly. Yes, at 99, Vera uses email. She’s quite remarkable!

Now fast forward to last weekend, when we picked up finished books, and she gave them away to her loved ones at her 100th birthday party. We are both delighted with the finished product and, due to demand, are placing a reorder this week!

She loves denim!

It was quite the process, and there were some challenges along the way. This is to be expected in all new endeavors. And now that I have one project complete, I can apply that knowledge and experience to the next one.

Because Vera is so modest, we are not putting an ISBN on this, or making it available for wide distribution. We kept it really clean and left all the juicy stories out of this one (though I heard a few). Maybe we’ll collaborate on a different book and change all the names to protect the guilty.

For now, I’m grateful and honored that she trusted me with her stories. In her words, “It’s the greatest gift I could ever give to my family.” And also, “I finally got a chance to tell the story the way it really happened, and it’s now in print. Often I would hear them retold and they were unrecognizable!”

If you have an idea, try it out! See what happens. You never know what may happen along the way. And if you want to learn more about what my little side venture looks like, you can check my site here.

I’m already working on my next fun blog post about getting clay in my hair, so stay tuned. It won’t take six weeks I promise.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

7 days with baby E

A week ago, I was busy shopping and cleaning and cooking.

And in a blink, the week has come and gone. My daughter, her man, and their beautiful baby, have also come and gone.

Yesterday, I cleaned and tackled piles of laundry. I was glad to have something to do. I may have also rewarded myself by finishing off mostly-eaten bags of chips and random growlers of craft beer that were left behind.

They made it home safely, and I’ve got a mound of stuff to send that wouldn’t fit in their suitcase. I had to bag it and put it by the door so at least I’m not staring at baby things in every corner. My heart just can’t take the constant reminder that they are not here.

The amount of love and support that arrived in gift bags and through time spent is overwhelming. Let’s not forget the gladly loaned baby gear – donated pedicures – and dinners out. Our community blessed my daughter and her little family so richly.

Everyone cried except the baby.

It was a solid event-filled trip for them, which included:
– Attending church and having the most heartfelt baby dedication
– An open house / luncheon for a dozen people
– Naps (not enough, but is there such a thing?)
– Dinner out for Aunty Mo’s birthday
– Mommy & Daddy’s first night out without baby E
– A boat ride in the Gulf of Mexico
– A trip to the mall
– Breakfast out / lunch out
– Hanging out at the beach
– Hanging out at the pool
– Hanging out at the house with friends
– A visit with great-grandparents that live 90 miles away
– And to finish it off, a lovely sunset on the beach

This helps…

So yes, it will be quiet, and baby free, and oh-so-empty for a bit. I’ve already booked my next trip in just 54 days. The only consolation was to begin a new countdown.

Thanks, technology!

It was incredible to see my girl and her man operating as a team around their little one. They were helpful and patient and so loving toward one another and baby E. He is one lucky dude to have amazing parents, and I told him so the entire time he was here.

Our hope is that they are able to relocate at some point soon. For now, we’ll hop on planes and facetime each other and send group texts. Distance is annoying, but love and technology will help us to stay connected.

-To those who survived the bygone era of actual mailed letters, and photos that took a week to be developed, bless you.
-To those who missed hearing the voices of their grand babies (okay, cries more than voices), bless you.
-To those who are unable to travel to hug the people you love, bless you.

If you are lucky enough to live nearby your grandchildren, count your blessings. And don’t wait for a special occasion to invite them over or pay them a visit. In fact, go over right now and tell them you love them. And pinch their cheeks if it’s appropriate! Do it for all of us grand-parenting from a distance.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Sign me up for that!

It’s New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t let this occasion slip by without observation. I’m not doing a 20 things for 2020 list, or telling you how to reach your goals.

My take on entering 2020 is as simple as this photograph.

You could say I was excited!

More specifically, my expression reveals something worth considering as I set goals, make lists, break in my new planner, and generally prepare for a fresh decade.

It’s this: if I am not THIS excited / energized / enthusiastic about something, it’s a NO. It’s coming off my agenda, my calendar, my mind and heart, too. I am no longer interested in anything or anyone who produces a mediocre half-ass response.

Okay, I’m not referring to grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, or filing paperwork. We know these are necessary. Maybe sometimes I can smile like this afterwards – that I did something I didn’t really want to do. But this isn’t about chores, this is about all the OTHER stuff. The extra things, the recreation, the enrichment, the glorious things of life.

What I’ve realized over the past year is that I have had a lot of free time. Some of it was wasted on things that were really not fun or fulfilling. Or spent with people who did not bring out my best. Life is too short! My energy and time are too precious to waste on anything that doesn’t bring this expression to my face.

Or yours! When was the last time you were SO excited about something?

My friend invited me to an aerial yoga class, which I had been curious about, but had yet to try. It was every bit as challenging as it was fun, AND afterwards we grabbed a bite and had a great time catching up.

So it was a perfect GNO, and I was delighted to be where I was, doing what I was doing, and with whom.

I want one of these for my house!

That is what I hope and plan for 2020. That I can be enthusiastic with the endeavors of my choosing that lie before me, and that any company I keep will bring additional joy. As I ponder the future, I know I am going in with a fresh perspective and an optimistic smile!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Thanks for reading, until next time,