Table for one, please

There are times when I am perfectly content being on my own. Dining in a restaurant is not one of them. Especially on Sunday after church, when it seems most folks are connecting with family or friends, it seems weird to be solo.

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Recently, this was the very situation in which I found myself. Because my daughter just began serving at a new restaurant, I drove there with the intention of being the friendly face in her section. I would give her some encouragement and a fat tip while enjoying a meal with Prince Charming. When he was unable to join, I found myself there alone.

This is what I imagined my experience would be… without the todka vonic.

Sure, I could have easily sat at the bar, but that wasn’t her section, defeating the entire plan. That’s when I noticed a single lady also waiting for an open table. I asked if she was dining alone. When she confirmed this truth, I confessed my discomfort and asked if she would share a table with me. She agreed, and we proceeded to enjoy a lovely lunch.

While we didn’t have a lot in common, our conversation was certainly pleasant. It turned out she had been recently widowed – a major life shift after 35 years of marriage. Grief is a heavy companion in the early phases, and my church experience helped me to proceed with grace.

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I tried to simply be a good listener, but I think I may have been a little too forward in my suggestions for her healing. I tried to frame it with, I know this ___ has helped others, and this ___ has helped me. Be a mentor, volunteer somewhere, find a cause and get involved.

Why in the world would I know what she should do? I don’t even know what I should do most days, and I’ve known me forever! This woman and I had only met a few moments ago. My hope was that she was encouraged, but I’m not sure a bunch of ideas from me provided that. I know better than to offer my opinion so freely. It’s clear I still have work to do.

She did thank me at the end of the lunch, and I found a card to share my contact info. I don’t know if she’ll ever call, or look me up online, but I was glad for our shared time. Neither of us sat alone, and my daughter received her encouragement and a bit of cash.

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My lunch companion shared that sometimes the messages we need to hear come in unexpected ways. The message I needed was that it’s good to reach out to a stranger, and also, that listening is better than talking. Maybe the message she got was to politely decline the next time a stranger invites herself to the table?

This is where having faith comes in. I’m going trust that somehow we both gained something good from our shared table. The next time I have an opportunity to befriend a stranger, maybe I’ll skip it and find the courage to dine alone. Or, maybe I reach out and practice doing a better job of listening.

It’s all about observing, and evaluating, and doing better than we did before, right?

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

 

 

There are no straight lines

Nature is so freaking amazing. I think I could call myself a Nature Nerd. I am one of those people who follows National Geographic on Instagram, and then follows all the individual photographers that are also on Instagram. If I enjoyed studying all that scientific stuff, I’d probably be a marine biologist, but then it would become work. I’d much rather enjoy the beauty of all the patterns instead of figuring out how it all works. So maybe not a nerd, maybe just a fan? Either way…

In spite of a crap ton of homework, I decided to spend a little time outdoors. Last night there was a camp-out on the 81 acres of our church property. I went just for the s’mores, the hayride, and to chat with a few friends. It was so beautiful out! The moon was shining down on us.

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Moonlight & firelight. Photo courtesy of Teresa Gowin.

There was a family of deer hanging out in the field, and the kids were climbing trees like it was their job. I regretted my lack of camping gear, and returned home to sleep in my comfy bed.

This morning, I went on an Eco Meditation Walk at a local park. It was free, and partially guided, and exactly perfect. I spent an hour outside (it was 72 and sunny) gazing at nature. We walked slow, we stood and breathed and listened, we sat and meditated, and then shared our experiences.

Each of us had a unique perspective of our time. One lady shared about having breakfast with the squirrels, as they were all chowing down on pine cones nearly as big as themselves. One lady described envisioning herself as a bird flying around. Another gentleman confessed how much easier it was to meditate in nature than in downtown San Francisco. I tried to articulate how as people we strive to create straight lines, and how we find so few of them in nature.

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Red Bug Slough, Sarasota, FL. Photo credit: merevin.com

Sure, there are trees and plants reaching upward, but none are actually 100% straight. Everything is a little off. In fact, the more “crooked” they were, the more I found myself drawn to them. It was a perfect morning, but nothing was square, or symmetric, or even straight. This is exactly the perfect metaphor for the people in my life.

It seems that none are perfect individually. We all have our quirks and imperfections, yet when we’re all together, it’s beautiful. Each component added to the beauty and diversity of the landscape. It was a profound and delightful way to spend a Saturday morning.

So no matter your schedule or the weather, I hope you get to take a few minutes to soak in some time in nature this weekend. And also, appreciate all the slightly crooked people in your world.

Thanks for reading, until next time…
Sherri

 

 

Why chi-square? Why not a chai latte?

Why questions have got to be the worst. Little ones are such pros at this. And if you have a toddler, you’re probably too dang exhausted to play the never ending game of why. Think of all the fun that Aunties and Grandparents get to have with this question.

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I’m asking myself “Why?” these days. And it’s not productive at all.

Please know that I am not complaining here. I signed up for this. I want my degree, and I am willing to sacrifice some lazy days and Netflix nights to see it through. I love almost all of my classes. Three out of four to be exact. Interesting, useful topics presented by knowledgeable and interesting professors, 75% of the time. Things like the four P’s of marketing, the Theory of Planned Behavior, and how others in China greet one another. All great stuff.

Until it comes to the dreaded fourth course. QMB3200. Economic and Business Statistics II. The QMB is literally Quantitative Methods in Business, and if that gives you a headache, same. You can now be in my support group.

The professor is from India, and he is an engineer by trade. He’s actually brilliant and tries to bring this not-exciting methodology to a place where we understand what in the *#@!  he is actually talking about. But I can’t am having a hard time understanding the concepts and an equally hard time listening to him explain it.

Is it me? Is it him? Is it just the subject? It’s a required class and he’s the only one that teaches it. What can I change? Not much. Okay, maybe how much time I spend on it. Which for this weekend is somewhere around 8 hours already for this ONE STUPID class. Maybe I can try changing my attitude? That’s a bit trickier…

Don’t get me wrong, I am not lazy or apathetic (okay, a tad bit apathetic). All of this can literally be done in Excel or other programs. By other people who perhaps will work in the office next to me. And they can “crunch the numbers” and yes, I will want to know what they mean. But right now it’s kind of like WHY AM I BEING TORTURED THIS WAY?

Remember in grade school when we had to learn long division? And we couldn’t use calculators?

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Yeah, it’s a little bit like that.

Do you know what the entire basis of Statistics even is? It’s all about sample data. The reason you spend a bajillion hours calculating sample data and proportions and all that nonsense is because, according to my professor, we can never know the data of the entire population. Hello? Has anyone at the college level heard of Big Data? It’s going to replace this entire field and future generations will never have to suffer such a terrible fate.

So why do I have to take this class? It’s the same as little kids asking their parents basically any why question. Because they said so, that’s why. Guess I’m still a rebel at heart.

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At the beginning of the semester, I took this screen shot just for fun. Let’s pause and enjoy this moment, shall we? (this is not my current grade at all, btw). This was my grade after basically turning in ONE homework assignment. It wasn’t like the answers were correct or anything. It’s so much fun to pretend I can freeze this score (insert mad woman maniacal laughter).

For the moment, we need to call down all the powers from above that I miraculously pass this course. Because the exam grades are a whole ‘nother story altogether, and I’ve got one coming up fast. If, oops, I mean, when I pass, I plan to celebrate heavily, with champagne and maybe even fireworks.

I’m not sure what the big takeaway is here. You get to be grateful this is not your life right now? Maybe you’ve got an encouraging story to share about a class you conquered against all odds? If you can toss up a little prayer that I’ll make it through, I’d be so grateful.

Thanks for reading, until next time…
Sherri

 

 

 

It was the summer of ’89…

Maybe you weren’t born yet, but if you were, let’s take a little stroll down memory lane. The Berlin Wall came down. Gas was less than $1 a gallon. George Bush Sr. was in the Oval Office. Microsoft released its Office Suite and Nintendo released Game Boys. Hurricane Hugo, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and an earthquake in San Francisco all contributed to a big mess on the home front. The Simpsons debuted, and the first of 24 satellites of the GPS system were positioned in space. It was quite a year.

 

It was also the last time I lived alone. In 1989 I was 21, single and had my very own apartment all to myself. It was on the third floor of an ancient brick building in downtown Muscatine, Iowa. Spoiler alert: I was industrious (shock, I know). There was zero time to deposit the three paychecks I was earning each week. On my occasional night off,  I would walk around the corner to enjoy cold beers and terrible cheeseburgers at Jody’s Tap. It was a season of growth and self discovery, and I was quite proud of my little grown up self back then.

I am a big fan of independent living.

Which is a good thing, as I’m entering this space again. My youngest is moving out this week. I knew this was coming eventually. For years I have been giving pep talks encouragement when mommas are mourning their chickens leaving the nest. You know the one. Read along in your best cheerleader voice, “Good job momma! You raised them well. This is what they are SUPPOSED to do when they grow up and earn their own money and manage their own lives.” Wlaundryhich is all true, but not very empathetic.

Now that it’s my turn to watch the last one move out, of course I handled it like a pro. I was all good…until I saw the boxes.

Y’all, I got a lump in my throat. It didn’t stay there long, but it was there alright.

Good job momma! You raised them well. This is what they are SUPPOSED to do when they grow up and earn their own money and manage their own lives.

It IS all good. She’s only moving about 30 minutes away, so nbd, right? We will set up dates to connect. Basically the same thing we do now. With her work and school schedule, and my work and school schedule, we don’t accidentally see one another anyway. She is graciously leaving a bunch of her shoes here, so not all that much will be different. At least that is what I am predicting. Still, it’s a change.

In the next couple of months, I will downsize to a one bedroom place even closer to work. I will reclaim my independent living. I will clean my house and it will stay that way. I will only have food in the house that I will eat (perhaps no junk will enter?). And I can do whatever I want, so nana nana boo boo.

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Good job momma! You raised them well. This is what they are SUPPOSED to do when they grow up and earn their own money and manage their own lives.

The other one is 1000 miles away and has been there for 3 years now, so I’m getting better at this parenting adults-not-under-my-roof thing. It’s definitely different, but each season brings something good while it says farewell to something good too.

I guess maybe when the last one moves out, it feels like more of a retirement of sorts. It’s the final season of so many seasons. And if you did it even halfway decently, there was some fun and greatness mixed in the mess of it all.

Ecclesiastes reminds me that there is a season for everything. It’s about to be a new season that is very similar to the one in 1989. I am single. I will live independently. I won’t be working 3 jobs, but I’ll be taking 4 classes and working full time. I probably still won’t have time to get to the bank, but hey, I have a smart phone now. And all the modern luxuries that the past 28 years has provided.01caf4927e20a193378c488fa9d2ebd2--our-kids-empty-nest-humor

But still… NOPE! I am okay!! I know it’s an adjustment, but that is life. What was that adage I told everyone else?

Good job momma! You raised them well. This is what they are SUPPOSED to do when they grow up and earn their own money and manage their own lives.

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

Selfie on canvas

In 2013, the word selfie was added to the Oxford Dictionary and was proclaimed “word of the year”. You would think by now that I would be good at taking one, but alas, you’re wrong.

It’s a generational thing to be sure. I know my millennial children have zero issues with taking and posting selfies all day long. Of course they are both wrinkle free and have that amazing metabolism I fondly recall having at that age. Those were the days…

That was never me. I am completely, totally, 100% NOT photogenic. I’m the reason the photographer has to take 72 group shots so that someone’s eyes aren’t closed. I don’t have a side or a smile or a pose. I scrambled to find pics to post on the dating profile.

The struggle is real.

So of course our next painting assignment is a self portrait.

I tried to negotiate my way out of it by offering to exchange the proposed self portrait for a three canvas series as my final project rather than a single piece. That’s a net gain of one entire painting. My professor declined with this inarguable comment. He challenged me with, “Every great artist does a self portrait.”

He knows me, and that I have enough ego to absorb this compliment and calling in one fell swoop. The good news is that I can use a photo – past or present. Oh good, we’ll leave off the neck wrinkles and crow’s feet and leave a young clean face to capture on the canvas.

One evening after a full week of work and school, I grabbed the box of photos and began my quest. Anything stored electronically was too recent. There were a billion pictures of my adorable children, you know, the photogenic ones? But a decent picture of yours truly in her younger days? Not so much.

Sure, there were a few, but I could not use a single one. Between the quality, the background, the lighting, the expression, and of course the closed eyes, they just weren’t quite right.

Rabbit trail: I actually shed a few tears as I reminisced over photos of my grandparents that have long been gone. And those memories of once-small children that no longer sit on my lap for bedtime stories.

Disclaimer: I may have been hormonal.

Warning: Looking at old pictures while hormonal is likely to cause uncontrollable cravings for Breyer’s Original Vanilla Bean topped with Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips and could additionally result in varying amounts of weight gain.

When my search came up empty, I surrendered to using a current selfie. After getting a friend to do some pics, and a ridiculous amount of time playing around with my camera phone, a few decent shots were captured.

The realization I had about myself, and how I feel about my image, was monumental.

In the majority of the old pictures, I did not love myself. I did not even like myself. No wonder none of those other pictures would work! I am glad I have grown and changed and embraced who I am. It’s a tough job, but it is necessary.

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Photo credit: Rita Michelle Baucom

Self love is a critical piece of life, and I finally have it! I am proceeding with this current self portrait, wrinkles and all. It’s about capturing the moment, the season of life in which I find myself.

 

Let the painting begin!

Thanks for reading, until next time…
Sherri

 

 

 

 

Number 14 is my favorite.

Today I bring you some helpful tips for a day at the beach. These are all real things I have learned in my MANY trips to Siesta or Lido or wherever I land. Some of these will help you. Some of these will help the person that camps next to you. Some of these should just be plain old common sense, but somehow are not. 

I wish I could print these and hand them out to every single person who comes to the beach. In all the many languages that would applicable, just to be perfectly clear. We’ll start at the beginning and work our way through…

What to bring…
1. Food and water. This depends entirely on how long you’ll be there, and how many are in your tribe. Figure 3 cold bottles of water for every 45 minutes, per person. If you bring a cooler, no need to overpack, just take the bare necessities. If you freeze your water bottles the night before, and you’re not bringing a ton of food, no need for ice. 

2. The beach bag. When I go, because my kids are big, I only take this. Everything fits, including food & water, or it doesn’t come with me. You’ll be glad if the bag is washable. A zip pocket inside is ideal for phone and keys.

3. A good chair and towel. I bring two towels just in case. A side note, a nice, plush, oversized beach towel is worth it. Really nice beach chairs are worth it. Get the kind that recline. And that have cup holders. And carry handles. It’s a good investment. Unless you never go to the beach in which case there’s no need to continue reading this. Or even subscribing to my blog. I’m not sure we can still be friends actually.

Sorry, I’m sensitive about this. Back to the list….

4. Plenty of sunscreen. And lip balm with sunscreen. You’ll want to lather this on children BEFORE you even leave the house. There’s no stopping them once you get there. Plan to reapply every 45 minutes unless it’s after 4pm. Don’t skimp on this unless you’re going for the lobster look-a-like contest. Or if you’re trying to get melanoma. Remember your ears and the tops of your feet.

5. A noodle or floatie, but nothing that requires blowing up. It’s just too much work. A good noodle is like $3 at Walmart. Keep it simple.

6. A book or music. A note about music…be courteous. Bring headphones. Not everyone will appreciate whatever it is you may be jamming to. Toys if you have kids, and only what THEY can help carry. No need to bring every single thing. Keep them in a plastic container that can be rinsed right along with the toys.

7. An umbrella is a good idea if you have small ones. Or if you just can’t handle the sun. Invest in a corkscrew base so you can actually get it in and keep it in the sand.

Once you arrive….

8. Park in the shade wherever possible. Crack the windows. Don’t leave your valuables out where they can be seen. In fact leave them at home if you can. And remember where you parked.

9. Choose your neighbors wisely. Pay close attention to the crowd. If you want peace and quiet, I suggest avoiding people with small children (noisy), large groups of people (noisy again), or anyone blaring a boom box (just obnoxious). If you have small ones, camp close to the water because they will kick sand on everyone along their constant path.

10. Give yourself plenty of space. Take out your bag, your towel, the noodle, the toys, and give yourself a decent circumference. If you don’t have room to do this then you are obviously too close. Move to a more open space. Try to get there earlier next time to claim your territory. The early bird gets the good spot.

11. Bottoms up! Turn your flip flops over or put them under your chair. I know, that’s not what you were thinking. Trust me on this one. The sand gets hot later, and so will your shoes.

12. ENJOY!! Put your phone on vibrate and put it away. Breathe and relax. But do pay attention to the flags on the lifeguard stands and know what they mean. Green is good!

12b. And if you have small kids, skip the whole breathe and relax thing. You have to watch your kids. Constantly. Make castles with them. Take them in the water. Have fun! They grow up and won’t even let you go to the beach with them one day. Just give them boundaries of how far to go, unless you like panicking when you can’t find them, or you’ve been training for a marathon and want to RUN the entire length of the beach looking for them!

13. Shells and other treasures. Take them home if you like, but only if it’s not alive. Those little crabs can hide, so hold the shell for a few minutes to see if anything emerges. If it’s empty, no worries. You will want to rinse them well and/or soak in bleach water if you bring them home. They can get pretty smelly.

14. DON’T FEED THE STUPID BIRDS!! Please, I beg you, do NOT ever, under any circumstance, feed the birds when you are at the beach. If you learn just this one point, my life is complete. They are like vultures. They are not cute. It’s not cute for you to feed them. They are wild animals and will in fact ATTACK you and take your sandwich right out of your hand. Hide your food, don’t leave it just sitting on a blanket. You – and your neighbors – and every other person on the beach will be annoyed if you blow this one. Me especially.

Upon Leaving….

15. Know when to go. Plan to leave BEFORE your child(ren) go into total meltdown mode. You know them. They will play until they’re exhausted. You simply can’t carry them and their stuff and your stuff. Give them a 10 minute warning, and then pack it up. Let them go rinse all the toys. Then explain there is no more rolling in the sand.  You’ll quickly undo any benefits of relaxing you just got from being there if the exit is rough.

16. Shake it out. When you shake out your towel or blanket, be courteous to your neighbors. Pay attention to the wind direction. It’s not that hard.

17. Throw away or recycle all your trash. There are usually barrels on your way back to the parking lot. Seriously, we all LOVE a clean beach. And littering is just the ultimate show of disrespect to one of the prettiest places God ever did make.

18. Rinse it off. Take advantage of the rinse stations, but please, you can take a full blown shower when you get home. Don’t bring your shampoo, I mean really. Try to be quick here, especially if there’s a crowd. It’s not your personal locker room.

19. Pulling out. Try to be quick in the parking lot as well. There have been fist fights over parking spaces. It’s hot, and it’s crowded. Throw your stuff in and go. No need to doddle when there are 27 cars all waiting for the guy who is waiting for your space. But please beware of the seat belts. These can leave marks that require skin grafts if you’re not careful. Keep a towel handy to assist with the buckling.

20. Rub it in. You probably took at least one photo while you were there. Share it with everyone you know who lives somewhere landlocked. Make it your profile pic. Use it on a Christmas Card. Be grateful for the time you got to spend there, and look forward to the next trip.

If you have any additional thoughts or tips for fellow beach-goers, let me know!!
Sorry it’s so long, hope it was helpful, thanks for reading!
Sherri

Grab a tissue…

I’m grateful that I have an iPhone calendar to remind me of the events in my life. There’s a little dot that shows up on days when something is scheduled. Most of the things that land here are of my making. Dentist appointments, meetings, lunch dates, you know, nothing earth shattering. Just daily life things that need to be attended to. Things that are important, but yet, if I won an all expense paid trip to the Mediterranean, I would cancel them in a heartbeat!

Today has a dot that has already messed me up and it hasn’t even happened yet. The anticipation of it has had me in tears with a lump in the back of my throat. For those that know me, you will know this does not happen often. I am a tough cookie. I don’t cry at movies, not even chick flicks. Love songs cannot make me flinch. I care about people a lot, but tend to keep my emotions in check.

My oldest daughter is flying out to live in another state today. This is the dot that has me all conflicted. It’s a good move, she’s super excited, and I’m excited for her! Last year she moved out, and that wasn’t so bad. She moved an hour away and lived on a college campus. We spoke daily and saw each other frequently. No problem. And yeah, did I mention it was an hour away? That was easy. 

When I dropped her off last year, she said, “Momma don’t cry.” And I didn’t. My quick wittedness kicked in and this is what I said, “If you were marrying a deadbeat loser, I would cry. If you were being sent off to prison I would cry. This is college and this is good. This is no occasion for crying.” And I meant those things. But today is different. Today we are looking at a one way ticket, a thousand miles away. 

For years I have watched others around me hang on to their children and I have been naively critical about that. I have spouted off phrases like… Children are supposed to fly away. We want them to grow up and move on. This is what good parenting looks like. We pour out and teach them and then they are ready to face life and go live theirs! Momma eagles stop lining the nest with feathers. It can’t be too comfortable or they will never leave. I even added how excited I would be when mine will leave one day so that I can do all the things I have been waiting to do. For those of you on the receiving end of these remarks, please forgive me. I had no clue. 

What was I thinking? I would be excited to do what? Buy a plane ticket to go visit her? Ship a box of some of the stuff she didn’t have room to take? To hear how it is when she lands? Ugh. I was so unprepared for this part….(you can grab a tissue and cry with me here).

Today, as we finalize all the last minute errands and the trip to the airport, I will be a strong mommy. Strong enough to send her off with lots of love and confidence! I know she will be fine, and I know her sister will be fine. And eventually, I will be fine too. Deep down, I really do believe this is what our babies are supposed to do when they are grown. And ultimately, I know that God will watch over her far better than I have ever been able to. And that is what gives me peace before I put her suitcase in the car. If I can even lift the darn thing…

Thanks for reading and crying with me…until next time…
Sherri