Changing Me With The New Season

IMG_7541Spring is coming. So far March has been mostly blustery and the past few days have been gray. We have gotten some beautiful spring like days that have served to remind me of days to come. The crocus and daffodils are in bloom. I am anxious to pack up the sweaters and pull out the warm weather clothes. Soon it will be warm enough to get the kayaks back in the water and spend time outside. I am seeing and hearing more birds and I know soon will see the twitterpated squirrels dancing around the yard.

I am also thinking about what there is to prepare. It is almost time to ready our small garden plot for planting vegetables (which to be fully honest, I will then proceed to ignore for most of the season). The flower beds will need weeding and mulching. I am looking forward to the day I can throw open all the windows and bring in the fresh spring air and pack away all remnants of winter.

Spring brings new life, new thoughts, new goals. I have been focusing on newness in my career; it is now time to work on a makeover for my body, For too long, I have been carrying around extra weight. Now that I am hitting a milestone age, I know it is time to get serious about losing it. I want to make sure that I do what I can to improve the odds that I will be around for years to come. Writing about my next stage in life has helped me find a career direction; hopefully writing about this will help me find a solution for my body as well.

My age I know is making my body conspire against me to make this all more difficult. My lifestyle and diet could be better. I have started to work on that. I am not yet back to my old habit of walking daily, but am walking more often. I have made some changes to our diet, but need to focus on that more. I know that both of these will make a difference, and I need to do more as well. I know there are programs out there to help but don’t really think they are for me. I don’t do well with boot camp style encouragement and am not comfortable with any classes that happen in mirrored rooms. However, I could use encouragement from a buddy, to get me out and moving. The dog has taken it upon herself to try to fill that role. I need to listen to her more.

I am also trying to become more social. For years, my social life revolved around my children’s activities. Now those activities are done, and I am finding myself spending too much time inside, like a hermit. This is not a role I like at all and this needs to change. With the new season, I look forward to news of street fairs and similar events. I need to make plans for fun, even if it means penciling in a trip to a local lake for an afternoon of kayaking or a nearby park for some hiking. This can actually serve both goals. If anyone local has any ideas to share, I’d love to hear about them.

A Long Overdue Thank You

lavender hydrangea

I am thankful. This is true most days, but I do not express this emotion nearly enough. Last week, the wonderful parenting magazine Mamalode published my essay thanking my labor and deliver nurse, from 20+ years ago. I should have sent a note, with yummy food, all those years ago. But, those days, like so many since, filled up and wet by faster than I care to think about.

I think all of us can remember a nurse that made life just a little bit (or a lot) more pleasant for us. Most of the time, I do remember to get out a verbal thank you, but sometimes, it just isn’t enough. I doubt that it will, but I would love it if this simple note found its way to that wonderful woman who gave me some extra confidence that early morning so many years ago.

You can read about that morning here.

Reflecting and Moving Forward

butterfly in Shenandoah National ParkIt seems that I have set a path, career-wise, and I have been wondering which direction to now take this blog in. Of course there is more to me than career goals and more areas in which I can grow. This seems like a potentially interesting direction to take from here. Before moving onto that new path, however, I want to share how thrilled I am to have my work go up on not one, but THREE wonderful sites last week. Picking favorites is difficult, so I will share them in chronological order.

First, I am again up at HER VIEW FROM HOME, a site I discovered a few months ago. This is not only a lifestyle website, covering all aspects of life and home, but also a wonderful community that has welcomed me and made me feel very much at home. It is actually this community that inspired me to write this piece about what home means to me:

Home Is Not Just a Place

My second post is also my second time at BONBON BREAK, which has a unique format of “rooms,” which quite honestly you can spend hours exploring. It is a great place to go for advice, activities or recipes. Here I am in the Family Room, talking about making Want-tos from Have-tos:

How To Escape Your List of Have-Tos

My third post of the week is at PARENT CO. MAGAZINE, a great website for parents of children of all ages, with stories that can make you think, learn, laugh, or cry. You can read about one way my kids have changed my life – they make me cry.

My Kids Make Me Cry

I hope you can find the time to check these out and if you like them, please share. I am a fan of all three of these sites and encourage you to explore them and also read what other people are writing. I believe that we all can learn from each other and think there is tremendous benefit from having what I call “Me too!” moments, those times when we learn that someone else has experienced the same thing. In the meantime, I will be writing away and sharing more as they are published.

Thanks for reading!

Kimberly

Back in the Word Game

I am very happy to be back in the word game. Though I have seen my name and words in print many times before, I am still thrilled when I get the letter (or more often these days, email) telling me that someone else likes what I have written enough that they want to share it with their readers.

Just three months ago, I started down a new path and right now I am feeling very good about it. I feel that I am able to once again call myself a writer. I have always been amused at the reaction I get when asked what I “do” and give this answer. Many people are awed and most will ask what I write. Since I really don’t like talking about myself, these conversations sometimes get uncomfortable for me. I don’t think writing is all that special, after all, many people write something every day. Having said that, I will admit that being a writer is hard, but not for the reasons most may think. The writing itself I find easy, it’s the process of getting published that is difficult.

I attribute my ability to string words together in a way that makes sense to the fact that I was blessed with a family that put value on education. From a young age I was surrounded with quality reading material. I spent allowances at the bookstore and hours at the library. Writing was a natural extension of that. Organizing my “word vomit” (as I referred to it when I worked with high school students on their writing) to me is like a puzzle, fitting the pieces together where they belong. (In the old days, I actually did much cutting and pasting, with scissors and glue.)

Deciding when a piece is ready to submit is the real challenge. Over time, I have learned that nothing is truly “done.” It may reach a point where it is good, but it is always possible to make improvements. As a writer, resisting the temptation to keep making changes is tough. Hitting “send” on a submission is something I usually do quickly, before I chicken out and change my mind. And then there is the waiting.

Waiting to hear back from an editor can be stressful. I try to send and then forget, resisting the urge to compulsively check my email several times a day (yeah, I sometimes do this). Getting a rejection sometimes stings, a lot. Weeks with only rejections are especially difficult. This is where readers come in. Like any other field, praise is music to the ears. Hearing that I have touched a reader, getting that “Me, too!” message touches me. I write because I need to, for me. I share it so that others can read and hopefully discover something. Maybe I can share information I have discovered myself, maybe I can make someone feel less alone, maybe I can simply brighten someone’s day.

Much has changed in my life over the past three months. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have an identity all my own (not simply someone’s mom or wife). I have made new friends and, based on the comments I have gotten, have touched a few lives. I don’t think it is possible to adequately show my appreciation for each of you who is taking the time to read this, and anything else I have written. Each time I see that someone has shared my work, I am, quite honestly, awed. The fact that someone likes what I say enough to share it with others means very much to me. I have wondered if I will ever get used to that feeling. Truthfully, I hope I don’t. I think that “Wow, they really like me,” (with Sally Field’s voice in my head) is a good thing. Without readers, there would be no reason to publish. It is my readers that keep me submitting and inspire me to write more. So, THANK YOU READERS! You get me through the dark spots and make me want to give more.

Be Kind

Last week was challenging. I could not shake a mood that can only be described as Eeyore-ish and felt trapped. The weather had some influence. On more than one day I told the dog that it was too cold, there would be no walk around the neighborhood. There were really no errands to run (and did I say it was too cold to go outside?) and the only news on any of my submissions, was either a no or simply the sound of crickets. By Friday the weather had eased a bit and I had some errands that could no longer be put off. Though I was not in a social mood, I really needed to get out and around people.

I was in no particular rush, but noticed that others were. Without realizing it, I had chosen the lunch hour to go out and there are an amazing number of people shopping at lunchtime the last workday before Valentine’s Day. I dodged shopping carts flying around aisles while I meandered through Target, collecting the few items I needed. In front of me at the cashier was a woman with two young children. After she paid, she was talking with the older of the two (about whether they would get a snack and what it would be) and had not yet moved the stroller away from the register. Since I had only a few things, the cashier rang up my order and she was still there, right next to the register which is where I needed to be in order to pay for my items. I saw his agitation, but since there was no one behind me, waved to him that it was okay. She did then turn and see me, apologizing. I told her it was fine, then paid and went on my way.

At my next couple stops, I encountered an unusual amount of parking lot traffic and saw others getting impatient, mostly due to lines and register issues. I was in no rush, so I simply stayed out of the way of those who were rushing and tried to express my patience with those who were flustered, like the woman who was having a difficult time finding a parking space and then making the turn into it, thereby holding up traffic. The occupants of some cars developed snarly faces, but there was nothing I could do to hurry things along, even if I was inclined to do so. Flustered people usually take even longer to do things, so I waited, and smiled. Then I was on my way.

This weekend I saw a post that talked about Random Acts of Kindness Week. While I didn’t look at my shipping trips as acts of kindness (and I question the validity of “random” acts if one is going to then tell the world about it), I remembered that I had in fact been kind. In thinking about it, I realized how being patient helped me. I could have sighed and huffed, and complained about lines and people not being aware of others, but then I would have gotten cranky and the trip would have been unpleasant. Being patient didn’t cost me anything and being anything other than patient would not have changed the circumstances at all.

I am what I call a “chronic volunteer.” I think my family will agree. I started volunteering at age 12, as part of a Confirmation project, and never stopped. I am not rich and unless I win the lottery (unlikely, given that I rarely play) I don’t expect I ever will be. So, forming charitable foundations is not likely to be in my future. Rather than giving money, I give time. It makes me feel like I am making a contribution, to making the world a better place (and no, I was not a Girl Scout as a child). Yes, there are benefits to volunteering, such as learning skills, which can then be added to a resume, or the possibility of scholarships or other awards. None of these have motivated me, though I have not been above touting these perks when trying to convince others to join me in a mission.

Today I see that it is Random Acts of Kindness Day. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit, has ideas to get people started and is recruiting RAKtivists, what they call “kindness ambassadors.” In addition to a number of ideas to spread kindness, their website also offers inspirational quotes and stories, as well as curriculum and resources for those working with groups to promote kindness (which can also translate into improved emotional and mental health). Although, as I already mentioned, I am not fond of the idea of bragging about being kind, the website points out that sharing your stories can help inspire others to be kind, starting a ripple effect. This is something I will have to keep in mind.

I understand this, but wonder if we can just be more public with our acts of kindness to begin with, like an instance I witnessed several years ago. I was in line at the grocery store with two women in front of me. Not that it is relevant, but the first woman was younger than I and the second, older. As the first woman paid for her order and gathered her things, she turned to the woman behind her and handed her the bouquet of flowers she had just purchased, indicating they were for her (it was clear that these two women were strangers). The older woman was flustered, and protested, but the younger woman insisted, saying that she made a point of regularly purchasing flowers to brighten someone else’s day. There was a gracious “thank you,” and the first woman was on her way out the door. This whole exchange took a matter of minutes and was quiet and subtle, but those in the immediate area were aware of it and touched. It brightened the mood for us all.

This is a sweet example, but it doesn’t take much to be kind, every day. Those of us who have been gifted with height have an obvious advantage in many stores. I try to be aware of my surroundings and notice if people are struggling to reach things. Often I am asked for help; sometimes I just notice and give it. In recent years I have become more aware of how challenging it is to not be able to do things for oneself and having to rely on others. Asking for help is difficult, helping (or at least offering to help) before someone asks is not. Is this sort of kindness something to be celebrated? Personally I think not, but it is something we should do anyway.

So today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. Do something nice today, but not just today. A check of the news shows too many people not being nice. There is power in people working together for the common good. Let’s work together to make the world a kinder place.

Looking Back and Forward, With My Favorite Person by My Side

13088blogLife is very different today than that afternoon 28 years ago.

I look at the photos and am struck with not how young we were (though there is that) but how incredibly happy we were. Our faces showed incredible joy, hope, promise. We were right to feel this way, but we had no idea of how life would challenge us, what obstacles would be thrown in our path, how difficult things would sometimes get.

I remember looking into the eyes of the man I adore on that day and seeing complete confidence. There was not even the slightest indication that he was nervous or questioned this very big step we were taking. This fact terrified me. I had been certain that he was the one; that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man, but I hadn’t realized that he was just as sure. The intensity of his gaze unnerved me a little. The conviction in his voice while committing to me, “Til death do us part,” calmed me. We really were doing this.

Over the years the feeling of complete joy has not been there every day, but the happiness has been present overall. My husband has given me a lot. He has given me tangible gifts: diamonds, pearls, candy and flowers, but more importantly, so much more. We quickly went from newlyweds to parents and had all the joys and challenges that come along with it. After our second was born, I was gifted the chance to be a stay-at-home mom, something that I was clearly meant to be. For a while, he worked 50 and 60 hour weeks to make this work. Children three and four came along and he continued to provide. All the while he was doing this, he was still giving of himself.

He provided emotional support, through mommy melt-downs and personal disappointments. No matter what his other obligations were, he managed to find a way to be present for anything of importance to me. He has taken on responsibilities that no one else would or could and stepped in when he saw there was a need. He also has pushed me to be, well, better. I am the person I am, largely because of him.

More recently he has thrown his full support behind my dream: to actually make a living as a writer. He has been patient and encouraging and likely has no idea how very much that means to me.

The 28th anniversary may not seem like a milestone for most, but it is for us. This is the year that our lives are taking a turn and we are looking up an unknown path. Our kids are not quite on their own, but they are also not quite here. Where we are going is not yet determined, but I am happy that I know who I am going with. I look forward to the journey.