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

 

 

See Sherri run…

Actually, just read about it. There are no photos to post just yet, but it’s happening. Over the last ten years, I have made the occasional attempt at running.

I chose a helpful app called Couch To 5k, which takes people from the couch to running a 5k in 9 weeks. I am definitely more fond of the couch.

Each week has 3 sessions that are each 30 minutes. Incrementally, the walking time becomes less and the running time becomes more. The “coach” tells you when to start and stop, so it’s super easy to follow. That is, once you have your shoes on and decide to actually listen.

Here was the general sequence of events around my running escapades:

1- Realize I need to lose weight.
2- Decide it’s time to begin running.
3- Convince my friend Julie to join me.
—Note, this was often Julie convincing me to join her.
4- Load Couch to 5K (C25K) and buy a cute running outfit.
5- Begin training for a few weeks.
6- Hit scheduling difficulties.
7- Hit physical difficulties.
8- Hit (substantial) mental difficulties.
9- Quit training before completing all 9 weeks and/or 30 minutes of running.
10- Participate in a couple of races, but fail to run an entire 5k.

This pattern continued for several years. There were occasions when we killed it and did so great! Other nights we skipped it altogether and drank wine in the hot tub. We both believed having a running buddy was our best strategy. It was absolutely more fun, but we never actually hit our goal.

I decided I would try it again, but as a solo mission. While it was easier to plan and schedule, it was more challenging to force myself to get up and go.

With much pride, I can now report that I did not miss a single run! Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday for 9 weeks, this girl put on her shoes and hit the ground running, literally.

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Bonus – early morning sunrise on my running path

While I’ve successfully increased my run time to a full 30 minutes, I’m a bit short of the 3.1 mile mark. I’m going to keep with it though – we’re almost hitting acceptable weather for being outdoors in Florida. This is also the beginning of racing season. Sane people do not run outdoors in the Florida summers.

As my friend Susan put it, “You just have to throw your hat over the fence.” With that, I have committed to a 5k in just 3 more weeks, so it’s over the fence alright. I get to prove to myself that I can run this entire thing without stopping.

This is amazing! Not only am I seeing the positive physical results from running, I am noticing the increased self discipline. It’s for me, my health, and my sense of integrity. It feels fabulous to know that I will reach this goal by remaining focused and committed.

Once you get some momentum going, it’s easy to keep moving in a positive direction.

What goals are you reaching for? It doesn’t have to be a Marathon or an 8 minute mile. Maybe it’s just to work towards something that you didn’t quite accomplish before. You don’t have to wait for New Year’s to set a goal and give it your best shot!

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

Me and my ___ thumb

It’s spring time… which doesn’t mean the same thing in Florida as it does everywhere else. It’s not like we’ve been freezing or shoveling snow for months. It really means more traffic and crowded everything. But still, spring inspires gardening and flowers and such. Soon it will be too hot to exist sans air conditioning and we will be banished inside. Now is the perfect time to do outdoorsy things, such as napping in one’s hammock. Here, let me demonstrate.

IMG_6492While I have perfected this part of the great outdoors, I have not perfected gardening. Not even a little bit. It’s been said that I have a black thumb. It’s bizarre. I mean, my dad is a farmer. Not like a couple of acres somewhere to play on. He is a legit farmer with many hundreds of acres, you guys. This man who shares his DNA with me has made his entire adult livelihood from growing things (are there adoption papers I don’t know about?). My plant care / growth skills are the worst. Silk has been my only hope. As green as his thumb is, mine is definitely not.

IMG_4784Until now. My friend Pat wanted to help beautify my new place with some fresh landscaping. A reasonable and logical fear is that I will kill it all dead. It would then be considered premeditated murder knowing their unlikely survival. I suggested we start small, like maybe a couple of potted plants to see what happens.

outside houseAnd look what showed up on my front lawn? These stunningly gorgeous (and enormous) pots! And the flowers to go in them. Hibiscus, Geraniums and Petunias. These are huge and beautiful and exactly what I would have picked out and paid for if I didn’t have a rap sheet for being a plant murderer. And he stumbled across them for free, just for me. How fabulous!

But now the pressure is on to keep these babies watered and happy. It’s so hard, but for three whole weeks now these happy and bright blossoms greet me when I arrive at my front door.

With my expression of gratitude, I confessed my doubt in my ability to keep these precious plants alive. Pat reassured me when he said, “Listen sis, your dad’s a farmer. I have faith that you can do this. It’s in your blood.”

You see, sometimes our friends have more faith in us than we have in ourselves.

In so many other areas in my life, I am walking on new roads and in new ways. Previous choices and habits and ways of thinking are largely gone. With this new season, I get to choose what I will try (again). One of my favorite people on the planet, Jen Hatmaker, says in her latest book, Of Mess and Moxie, “You don’t have to be who you once were.” This is just one reason that I love her so much. It’s permission to start fresh.

It’s true. I don’t have to have a black thumb for the rest of my life. Yes, I’m busy, but surely I can water plants. It’s not that hard. It’s a simple matter of paying attention. If I want to have dazzling blooms outside my front door, then I can. Especially when I have good friends with enough faith in me to deliver them, pots and all.

IMG_6524I don’t have to let my past define my future. And neither do you. Bloom brightly!

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

 

 

Not looking down

Below are statements that could be contributing to my feeling of overwhelm. Choose the one that is the MOST true:
A) I am a student at an actual University now (not a Community College).
B) It’s my Junior year, meaning upper level classes.
C) I’m taking more classes this semester (four, not the usual two).
D) My brain is older than it used to be.
E) There was a hurricane, traveling, and a major project at work.
F) All of the above

Yep, you guessed it. F is for _____. Congrats! You score 100% on the quiz for today.

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Fifty words about my first Wild Goose Festival

I have heard about this for years now. I have read through every piece of info out there – including blogs of previous attendees. I have spent significant time with those who organize this whole crazy thing. I attended an official One Day Wild Goose – Intersections – in Jacksonville, FL earlier this year. Heck, I even helped put an “unofficial” Wild Goose event together (Hawkins Road Festival) at my home church this past February.

But none of that quite prepared me for this amazing experience last week in Hot Springs, NC. It’s hard to form complete thoughts and sentences (I’m still absorbing and processing), so I’ll just give you these fifty words…

authenticity
people
laughter
mud
funnel cakes
spiders
children
tapestries
thoughts
coffee
music
trees
friends
oatmeal
trinkets
rocks
sweat
stories
glitter
love
rain
Jesus
yoga
inclusion
veggie things
hammocks
books
river noise
freedom
hard cider
conversations
dancing
puddles
fireflies
beer and hymns
port-a-potties
smiles
walking
acceptance
picnic tables
cicadas
prayers
cool mornings
energy
barefoot
art
grace
challenge
dragonflies
community

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And it just so happens that tickets for next year are available if you’d like to join me. Then we’ll see what kinds of sentences you can form at the end. 🙂

Thanks for reading, until next time!
Sherri

 

Stranger things…

The world is a strange place these days. It’s probably always been like this. It’s that now we are aware of it on a global scale. It used to be that only the people who lived on the corner were oddballs.  Now we know about oddballs worldwide thanks to the interwebs.

I’ve got a couple of strangers to tell ya about…

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At the end of it all…

I could be obsessed with time… seasons, schedules and how to pack it all in. I mean, I think about time a lot. Not like the lady in Chinatown who has nine different Rolexes up her sleeve. She’s just trying to make a buck off of unsuspecting tourists.

My one handed watch was gifted to me a couple of Christmases ago. It’s from Switzerland – not the lady in Chinatown – and it was not “a special low price for you today”.

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School’s out for summer…

Please tell me that you sang the title just as I did when I typed it. Here’s a link – complete with bubbles – in case it’s been a while since you’ve seen Alice Cooper on stage.

I just realized how much I can relate to Punxsutawney Phil. Peeking up from the depths of the homework hole, peering around to see if there are assignments due – or classes to attend. Is it really safe to go out and play?

Why yes, yes it is.

I am used to being in school four nights in a row, and doing homework and studying the other nights. I haven’t had to do any of that in TWO WHOLE WEEKS. What??

What in the blazes have I been doing with all of my extra time (besides not writing blog posts, obviously)?

Friends. Beach. Home projects. Netflix. Painting. Books. Did I mention friends?

I have been making up for lost time in the social arena – as in – I’ve been having a good ol’ time since classes ended. Having fun is just as I remembered it, you know, it’s FUN!

I also reached a goal this week in the Toastmaster’s Club. I delivered my 10th speech and earned the Competent Communicator award. For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, let me ‘splain, Lucy.

Toastmaster’s is an international organization that helps people conquer their fear of public speaking. Members take turns giving prepared speeches and talking extemporaneously and then giving and receiving helpful feedback from one another. It’s actually pretty cool and there are some amazing people in my club. I’m growing and improving my ability to speak (and you thought I had that down solid).

Oh, and I hung this up in my office.

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Lido Beach, Sarasota, Florida. Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″

So every day I’m seeing the beach one way or another! This was my final project for my painting class, but I just can’t seem to put away my brushes. There’s another painting nearly finished on my easel and several more lined up behind it. It’s becoming almost as much fun as writing.

With summer, and this recovery of time and energy, I’m going to revisit the whole dating thing. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop if / when it gets interesting. I am honestly not sure where I left off with my alphabet dating drama, so I may just have to start over. We’ll see…

Summer, I’m so glad you’re here. Please stay awhile – I have lots of plans for us 🙂

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

 

 

 

 

Friends with benefits…

Not those kind of benefits. C’mon people! Why is your mind in the gutter? I’m talking about other benefits. Sheesh.

After a couple of less than wonderful dates last weekend, my friend M stepped up and took my mind off my dating troubles. We went out dancing one night and had a blast. Then a couple of days later we went to an art museum and out for dinner. As I’ve been reflecting on our time together, it occurred to me how grateful I am. Here’s the list of some of the benefits of having a bro-friend:

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Benefit #1. Thou shalt not open thine own door.  If he is polite and chivalrous, he will open doors for you. And girls, that’s just something you need to be okay with. If a man opens a door for you, smile and say thank you. Don’t act like he’s just done the nicest thing ever in the history of ever. It’s normal decent behavior.

Benefit #2. Thou shalt receive at least one compliment. If he’s nice enough to be your friend, then he’s likely to bestow a minimum of “hey you look great”. Your reply? Same as above, smile and say thank you. Never argue or minimize a compliment, just receive it graciously. Give him one back – as he probably extended extra effort too.

Benefit #3. Thou shalt not fear for thine own safety. You have a brother at your side who will protect you, not harm you. It’s likely that he will not put any moves on you and this is why you’re friends. You can trust this one. *Disclaimer – if you put moves on him, he may just follow your lead. Sliding out of the friend zone can be a slippery slope – so be careful.

Benefit #4. Thou shalt not have creeps hitting upon thee. Again, you have an instant shield from ass-hats hitting on you. It’s a lot more fun when you can relax and enjoy yourself, knowing that your friend has your back.

Benefit #5. Thou shalt learn something about the male psyche. And perhaps he will learn something about the female psyche. It’s possible! When there is true friendship, it’s easy to be honest and open and even vulnerable. After all, nothing is at stake when you are with your friend.

Benefit #6. Thou shalt not be in danger of becoming an old maid. Sometimes the hardest part of being single is being, well, lonely. Having a good guy friend is better than a romantic date. There’s no pressure, no expectations, just getting out for some fun!

Benefit #7. Thou shalt not be required to shave thine legs (or anything else). Sometimes it’s nice to go out without all the primping and fussing. Throw your hair in a pony, slide on your favorite jeans and a t-shirt, complete with a pair of Chuck Taylor’s and you are ready to go.

Benefit #8. Thou shalt perform at thy best. If you’re the sporty type, it’s okay to own your edge. You don’t have to worry about preserving his fragile ego. Aim high, work hard and do your best to win. Whether it’s pool, darts or corn hole – it’s okay to kick his ass. But be a good winner and buy him a drink.

Benefit #9. Thou shalt say what thou means. Perhaps we lose our sense of self when around someone who makes our heart skip a beat. We may forget how to voice our opinions when we’re weak in the knees. With a guy friend, we have the freedom to practice and not worry about feeling too nervous to say what we need or want.

Benefit #10. Thou shalt establish a minimum standard. Chances are that you will begin comparing other potential suitors against your guy friend. If the new man doesn’t treat you as well as your bro-friend, he’s probably getting cut from the lineup.

So friends with benefits? I’d have to say, absolutely! I think any great relationship starts as friends. As long as expectations are managed and everyone is honest, it can be good. Whether M stays in the friend zone – or moves up – has yet to be determined. For now I’m totally content and grateful for his friendship 🙂

Thanks for reading, until next time!
Sherri